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The student news site of Adlai E. Stevenson High School


The student news site of Adlai E. Stevenson High School


Why Kendrick Lamar Lost: A Pyrrhic Victory

Staffer explores Kendrick Lamar versus Drake “rap beef,” analyzes consequences

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are not that of the Statesman publication, but rather that of the writer. The Statesman is committed to publishing Letters to the Editor and staff columns/opinions.

In 2016, Former President Barack Obama sat down with internet personality Adande Thorne, better known as Swoozie, to discuss many events within pop culture and politics that viewers wanted to know. As Drake, fresh off his public feud with another artist Meek Mills, was in the limelight of the times, Thorne asked Obama a question that would eerily foreshadow the the hip-hop scene today: “If Drake and Kendrick Lamar were to get into a rap battle, who do you think would win?” 

Obama endorsed Kendrick Lamar, crediting the success and lyricism of his album, “To Pimp A Butterfly,” as the reason for his triumph against Drake in the hypothetical showdown. Eight years later, this hypothetical scenario has become reality, manifesting into an unapologetic standoff between the two most prominent artists in the genre. But as both artists exchange blow for blow, dropping songs in quick succession of one another, it seems neither can definitively win this battle. 

“This **** been brewin’ in a pot, now I’m heatin’ up” – Drake, “Push Ups”

A composite of the album covers of “Mother I Sober by Lamar and “Scorpion” by Drake is pictured. Drake and Lamar began their careers collaborating on pieces, but are now engaged in a public feud through tracks at one another. (Kendrick Lamar, Drake)

The entire situation has been simmering for quite a while. The start of this conflict occurred right after the drop of “We Don’t Trust You,” a joint project by Metro Boomin and Future. As a feature on Drake’s album, “For All The Dogs,” J. Cole paid homage to Lamar, calling himself, Drake, and Lamar as the “big three” of contemporary rap. Lamar later returned the favor by featuring on Future and Metro’s song, “Like That,” saying that there isn’t “the big three, n****, it’s just big me.”

Following this, Metro and Future would put out an extension of their album, “We Still Don’t Trust You,” in which they and multiple artists would sneak jabs at Drake, adding tension to the brewing conflict between Drake and the rest of the rap genre. On April 13, 2024, Drake formally dropped “Push Ups,” a record that would attack Lamar’s height, the hypocrisy of his past songs, and record deal while also dealing out responses to multiple other artists who had dissed Drake as well. Previous to the official drop, the track was leaked on Twitter.

Drake would ironically follow up “Push Ups” with his next song, “Taylor-Made Freestyle,”* on April 19, in which he would use artificial intelligence to model the voices of Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg, using legendary West Coast rappers to motivate Lamar, a west coast native,  to push out a response. Eleven days later, on April 30, Lamar would drop his highly anticipated response, “euphoria,” in which he would call Drake “a master manipulator and habitual liar,” a foreshadowing of themes he would explore in future tracks. Lamar would use his song to characterize himself as Drake’s “biggest hater,” a true representative of the black rap community and a better father than Drake. 

Three days later at 8:16 a.m., Friday, May 3, with no response from Drake, Lamar would put out “6:16 in LA,” aimed at humanizing himself against the “celebrity, opulent” profile that Drake categorizes him as, while also claiming that he has an insider within Drake’s circle. The track would primarily focus on Lamar, comparing his lack of luxury to his likeability, a characteristic that he claims Drake doesn’t have. Drake would respond hours later to Lamar, around 11:00 p.m. with “Family Matters,” where he would extend his flow and beat from “Push Ups” while spending the second half addressing the concerns brought up in “euphoria,” calling out Lamar’s strained relationship with his fiance, Whitney Alford, and alleging domestic assault allegations against Lamar. 

Drake would also release the announcement of “Family Matters” with the “Buried Alive Interlude, Pt.2,” mocking the collaboration between Lamar and Drake on the album “Take Care” by mimicking Lamar’s vocals and reversing the wordplay to be more critical of Lamar. Minutes later, at roughly 11:30 p.m. Lamar would release “meet the grahams,” singing to each member of Drake’s family and Drake himself, dropping exposes of an alleged daughter, the presence of sex traffickers, and the continuation of the themes of Drake’s lies and deceit under a more sinister beat and violent flow. 

The next day, Lamar would release “Not Like Us,” a drastic change from “meet the grahams,” where Lamar would embrace a West-Coast style beat, doubling down on the themes of Drake turning on his culture by neglecting black artists, being a sexual predator and harboring sex offenders, with the catchphrase of his song reading “they not like us” to insinuate society’s distance from people like Drake. 

After two back-to-back songs, Drake would respond on May 5, a day after the release of “Not Like Us,” with the song “THE HEART PART 6,” referencing a staple of Lamar’s discography in the title and using the song to claim that he fed Lamar all the information about the alleged daughter and express disgust at the insinuations of inappropriate relationships with minors that Lamar alluded to. Drake used the track to defend himself from the allegations Lamar puts forth while revisiting the lack of response from Lamar on the allegations of infidelity, abuse, and lack of fatherhood in his previous tracks. Drake then ends the song by calling his feud with Lamar a “good exercise,” and waits for him to provide proof to his accusations. As of now, May 12 marks the end of the beef thus far. 

“Guess integrity is lost when the metaphors doesn’t reach you” – Kendrick Lamar, “meet the grahams” 

In a frame of his music video for his track “Family Matters,” Drake sits in “New Ho King,” where Drake can be seen talking to his manager Nessel Beezer aka “Chubbs,” referring to Lamar’s lines in “euphoria,” referencing the infamous Toronto restaurant. (YouTube)

After nearly eight records from both artists, the onslaught of accusations and personal details unearthed in this battle signal larger consequences for their futures in the industry. While many still attribute this entire fight as a win for Lamar, crediting his succinct responses and methodical lyricism as the public’s decision for his victory against Drake, it’s readily apparent that no side has effectively won the argument. Amid the mudslinging of accusations and the tearing down of each other’s credibilities, even if one side tore the other down more, the legacies of both these artists are now irreparably tarnished with the accusations of crimes that discredit them as role models. 

While many fans criticize Drake’s response in “THE HEART PART 6” as the weakest response in the battle, the defensive mechanisms that Drake uses shouldn’t be viewed as a sign of weakness but rather as the only effective song at interacting between the two rappers’ claims. In defending himself against the accusations presented, this track is one of the only songs, joined by the likes of “Family Matters,” that effectively interacts with any of the arguments presented by Lamar. 

A diss battle should be viewed similar to a debate, where both parties expose problems and highlight each other’s shortcomings early on, but in the later tracks, should interact with each other’s works and refute aspects that aren’t true. For all of Lamar’s work throughout the fight, it seems he consistently hurls accusations and problems without owning up to any of those pointed out by Drake. 

More problematically, what separates this rap beef from prominent ones in the genre’s history, like Drake v. Pusha T or Biggie v. Tupac, is the morality of the jabs. In previous fights, conflicts between artists would stay surface-level, often targeting artist’s shortcomings and personal problems, but rarely divulging into a battle of who possesses a superior moral character. However, Lamar’s unique approach as an artist is one that has built his platform and music to address issues of racism, inequality, and trauma. This is why in songs like “meet the grahams,” and “Not Like Us” where Lamar morally grandstands on the fact that he is a better person than Drake, without responding to the pending accusations of domestic violence and parental neglect levied by Drake in earlier disses, reduce his credibility and make his attacks less impactful.

So long as his insults are thrown from a position of ethics, Lamar’s tracks feel largely moral as opposed to confrontational, as he continually throws insults at Drake’s character for exploiting black artists as a mixed race man, abandoning his children, and being a threat to women everywhere due to his being. The hypocrisy of Lamar’s lines through jabs at Drake’s nose job or Ozempic medication, while calling Drake a “bodyshamer,” continues this trend of Lamar abusing his moral position just to leverage a win in this battle.  While Drake’s songs, routinely on the subject of the popstar and bachelor lifestyle he lives, make his personality universally disliked, Lamar’s use of the same attacks as Drake belittles the maturity upon which Lamar platforms himself. 

In pursuing the Drake’s moral character, exemplified through laughing and taunting his addictions and vices in “meet the grahams,” Lamar comes off not as the winner, but as an immature bully. In stooping to the same level as Drake, and dropping down to the level of immorality and immaturity that Lamar lords over Drake, he ultimately loses more of his platform amidst the battle than Drake does. 

This isn’t to say that Drake is morally superior or the winner of this battle by any means. Drake’s approach to this battle is what should have been expected: flaunting his wealth and numbers over the lyrical destruction of his opponent. But Drake’s attacks and subsequent defenses were only meant to discredit Lamar and develop his own strength in the battle. And while he may or may not have achieved that strength, Lamar’s silence and complacency in refusing to acknowledge the accusations levied against him handed Drake a win. 

Since the beginning, Drake was always supposed to lose. Pitting a pop star against a Pulitzer prize-winning artist has its clear favorites, but while Drake proved the conceited, irresponsible character that he always was, Lamar seems to have done the same. Both artists, possessing millions of followers, millions of dollars, and immense influence, are responsible for maintaining civility, promoting positivity, and being role models for the people who subscribe to their music. But in divulging to battles of moral character, going against his reputation of being an inspiring figure, it seems the real loser in this conflict is Lamar’s reputation.


Editor’s Note: *The song “Taylor-Made Freestyle” by Drake was taken down on all platforms following threat of legal action from Tupac Shakur’s estate.

All times are in Central Daylight Time (CDT).

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About the Contributor
Eshaam Bhattad
Eshaam Bhattad, Managing Editor of Production
Eshaam is a junior and copy editor on staff. Outside of Statesman, he’s debating for Debate Club, delegating for Model UN, and preparing for his NBA tryout.

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