Kendrick Lamar vs Drake: a lengthy history

Cutthroat lyrics, layered songs, implicit metaphors define this year in rap

The first weekend in May was one of the most legendary in terms of rap releases, citing multiple releases by the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Drake. Tracks such as “Meet the Grahams” and “Family Matters” highlighted releases from both artists. 

Their collaboration started in 2011 when the rappers began working together on favorable terms releasing songs such as “Buried Alive Interlude,” on “Take Care.” Their relationship remained progressive for the next few years, releasing “F***** Problems” alongside A$AP Rocky and others. Later in 2013, Kendrick released “good kid m.A.A.d city,” featuring Drake on “Poetic Justice.” 

Around the same time in 2013, Lamar was featured on Big Sean’s single called “Control,” and took shots at Drake and several other rappers. Lamar claimed in an interview with the Breakfast Club in 2013 that he “had love” for all of them, but was trying to “murder them” in the rap scene, intending for a challenge rather than an insult. Drake dismissed Lamar’s verse in a later interview with the Breakfast Club stating: “It just sounded like an ambitious thought to me. That’s all it was. I know good and well that [Lamar]’s not murdering me, at all, on any platform,” Drake said. 

A month later Drake released his third studio album “Nothing Was the Same in which he intended the first verse on “The Language,” as a response to Lamar’s feature on “Control.” Tensions between the two slowly decreased over the next few years, until October 2023.

In October of 2023, J Cole suggested that himself, Kendrick Lamar and Drake were part of modern hip-hops big three, thus birthing the idea of a collaboration between them. J Cole himself has proven to be a lyrical and storytelling genius, with releases such as “2014 Forest Hills Drive and “KOD.” Kendrick declined the offer to appear on the track. Instead he appeared  on Future and Metro Boomin’s collaborative album “We Don’t Trust You” on the track “Like That.” 

Kendrick was a surprise feature on this song, or so we thought. Lamar’s verse was full of disses, especially those directed at Drake and Cole. Lyrics such as “F*** sneak-dissin’ First Person Shooter I hope they came with three switches,” further proves Lamar’s growing hatred for Drake. These lyrics are significant because Drake asked Lamar to be a feature on “First Person Shooter, in which he declined. I took a liking for Like That,” as I felt it not only added some spice to the current rap game, but prompted the first major rap feud of the decade.

J Cole responded to Like That” with the release of “Might Delete Later,” an extended play that included the song “7 Minute Drill” which takes shots at Lamar. J Cole has always been a mediator in rap, and decided to take down “7 Minute Drill,” citing concerns for his security and the future of rap. 

Drake initially had no direct response for “Like That,” but ended a concert by saying; “I got my head up high… and I know no matter what there’s not another n**** on this Earth that could ever f*** with me.” April 13, early versions of Drake’s “Push Ups” surfaced online. Although not officially released until April 19, critics quickly dissected the disses present in the song which included shots towards Metro Boomin, Future, the Weeknd and Rick Ross. 

April 19, Drake released “Push Ups,with the album cover being the SKU (barcode) of Kendrick Lamar’s shoe size: seven. Lamar’s height is also mocked in the song given his stocky five feet seven inches tall build. While the song is great, I believe the lyrical values do not compete with that of Lamar.

Ross responded to these leaks by releasing Champagne Moments” which was a forgettable and outright meaningless diss track. I think that Ross is using this feud as a way to regain his relevance in the modern rap game, as his recent albums have not charted as well as his predecessors.

Drake also released “Taylor-Made Freestyle” April 19, another diss towards Lamar. The first part of the song included AI generated lyrics depicting late rapper Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg. 

Shakur’s estate disapproved of the AI-generated verse and threatened Drake to pull the song from social media, citing the violation of Shakur’s personality and the decision to diss a friend of the estate: “The unauthorized, equally dismaying use of Tupac’s voice against Kendrick Lamar … who has given nothing but respect to Tupac and his legacy publicly and privately, compounds the insult.”

 Drake was subsequently forced to take down “Taylor-Made Freestyle” as a result of these words from the estate. I was very surprised when I heard “Killuminati,” as it was the first time I had heard AI generated lyrics. The song truly shows how easily AI lyrics can be interpolated negatively, thus resulting in further legislative measures to prevent songs like “Taylor-Made Freestyle.” Many people disliked Drake’s use of AI in his song, which contradicted his claims of authenticity.

“euphoria” single cover

After weeks of speculation, Kendrick responded to “Push Ups” on April 30 releasing “euphoria,” which I feel is the best diss track of all time. The song itself has so many layers in which Lamar shows his unparalleled hatred for Drake. 

Kendrick Lamar personally calls out Drake with lyrics such as: “Don’t tell no lies ‘bout me, and I won’t tell truths ‘bout you,” and criticizes his parenting with, “I got a son to raise, but I can see you know nothin’ ’bout that.” He also claims that Drake’s abs were made through plastic surgery. As a final blow, Lamar claimed that Drake sent a cease and desist notice due to the release of “Like That,” through the lyrics; “tryna cease and desist on the like that record? oh what you ain’t you like that record? back to back I like that record, Ima get back to that for the record,” further proved Lamar’s bloodlust for Drake.

I like this song because it seems every single line calls out Drake, especially when Kendrick states that Drake made Tupac “turn in his grave.” Drake’s diss tracks feel off topic in a way, often talking about women and how much money he has, while Kendrick tracks feel more meaningful and layered.  By the end of “euphoria,” it was pretty clear that Drake would have to respond to “euphoria with the same abhorrent energy.

Three days later at 6 a.m. Pacific Time, Lamar promoted 6:16 in Los Angeles on Instagram Reels, which was another diss directed at Drake. The track was produced by one of Taylor Swift’s co-producers, Jack Antonoff, further alluding to Drake’s “Taylor-Made Freestyle. This song proved his true attention to detail, including an album cover with multiple layers. 

“Meet the Graham’s” Album Cover

The album cover itself included ambien pills prescribed to Drake, along with a pair of “Maybach Music gloves and a receipt from a jewelry store in New York City. Though a few of these examples may sound meaningless, Kendrick does a stellar job of making them meaningful through lyrics and allusions in his work. 

For example, the pair of “Maybach Music” gloves suggests that Rick Ross might collaborate with Lamar in the near future. Also included in the cover is a receipt for the ring Drake bought that is identical to the ring Lamar’s fiance has, further proving his pettiness. Lastly, Lamar uses a suitcase identical to Drake’s dad, Dennis Graham, who is mentioned in the song. I think the suitcase might allude to Drake’s dad leaving him when he was five, providing yet another petty detail. The cover art of the single really shows how Kendrick puts time and effort into his projects, which defines why he won a Pulitzer Prize in 2022.

Later that Friday, Drake released “Family Matters,” responding to “Euphoriaand “6:16 in LA”. The music video was the real message, as Drake allegedly bought the Chrysler Town and Country depicted in the cover of Lamar’s most successful album, “Good Kid M.a.a.d. City.” The diss highlighted Lamar’s infidelity to his wife, along with further disses towards Metro Boomin, Rick Ross and The Weeknd. Drake says;

 “Kendrick just opened his mouth, someone go hand him a Grammy right now

Where is your uncle at? ‘Cause I wanna talk to the man of the house

West Coast ***** do fades, right? Come get this ass whoopin’, I’m handin’ ’em out

You wanna take up for Pharrell? Then come get his legacy out of my house

A cease and desist is for h***, can’t listen to lies that come out of your mouth

You called the Tupac estate and begged ’em to sue me and get that s*** down.”

Drake is calling out Kendrick for his numerous grammy nominations along with the death of his uncle, which Lamar talks about in his hit “Money Trees.” He also calls him out for lying about Drake sending a cease and desist letter for “Like That” along with the Tupac estate ordeal. 

20 minutes later that Friday, Kendrick released “Meet the Grahams,which has multiple verses directed at Drake’s family members. Lamar begins the song by saying; “Dear Adonis, I’m sorry that that man is your father, let me be honest / It takes a man to be a man, your dad is not responsive.” Lamar delivers a final blow by saying these lyrics; 

The Embassy ’bout to get raided too, it’s only a matter of time

Ayy, LeBron, keep the family away, hey, Curry, keep the family away

To anybody that embody the love for their kids, keep the family away

They lookin’ at you too if you standin’ by him, keep the family away”

I’m lookin’ to shoot through any pervert that lives, keep the family safe.” 

After this release, It was clear Kendrick had this song ready to release which further proved his authenticity. Many people including me speculate that Lamar may have pre-recorded the track a few weeks prior given his undeniably good flow and wordplay, given the rapid turnaround.

“Not Like Us” album cover

The next day, Lamar released Not Like Us,” which called out Drake for more serious allegations. The cover itself shows Drake’s Toronto home covered in sexual predator pins. Fans of Lamar also took to Google Maps to make new “businesses” at Drake’s house. Names including “owned by kendrick” and “kendrick’s dog,” highlight only a few. The song itself is an upbeat, west-coast club style song, and ratings from critics were mixed. I personally think it is a close contender with “euphoria,” because Kendrick again calls out Drake for being not only a child predator, but a colonizer. In the following lyrics, Kendrick calls Drake out for exploiting less famous rappers for personal financial gain.

The settlers was usin’ townfolk to make ’em richer

Fast-forward, 2024, you got the same agenda

You run to Atlanta when you need a check balance

Let me break it down for you, this the real ***** challenge

You called Future when you didn’t see the club (Ayy, what?)

Lil Baby helped you get your lingo up (What?)

21 gave you false street cred

Thug made you feel like you a slime in your head (Ayy, what?)

Quavo said you can be from Northside (What?)

2 Chainz say you good, but he lied

You run to Atlanta when you need a few dollars

No, you not a colleague, you a f***** colonizer

The family matter and the truth of the matter

It was God’s plan to show y’all the liar

In these lyrics, Lamar calls out specific rappers in which he believes Drake used for fame. This is significant because Lamar is not only dissing Drake himself, but the rappers he surrounds himself with. Streamers such as DJ Akademiks and NoLifeShaq were seeing record breaking YouTube Live viewer counts as they were reacting to the tracks, reaching close to 100,000. 

Overall, Drake and Lamar’s beef is something that the hip-hop industry will not forget anytime soon. I think that Lamar outperformed Drake by a mile. He provided us with a sense of true authenticity, instead of rapping about girls, drugs and other sinful activities present in today’s rap. Drake’s songs were really good as well, especially Family Matters as it provides unmatched flow and rhythm. As for now, It’s unknown what the future of their relationship will be, and if they will ever coincide and release a collaborative album. 

While this was entertaining to watch unfold, I am hoping that this rap beef stays inside the confines of music and doesn’t cross the line we can’t come back from. It was recently reported that Drake’s house was shot at and his security guard landed in the hospital. I hope that, if the allegations and beef are to continue, we get to hear it in the music and not the news.

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