Rap Blog: Kendrick Lamar has some advice for Drake

Kendrick Lamar. Photo via publicist.


Rap Blog is a weekly showcase of a standout rap song.

After two beat switches and five minutes of escalating taunts, Kendrick Lamar takes a brief moment to articulate his parenting philosophies. Children need to be taught integrity and discipline; parents have to give them “the tools to walk through life day by day.” These are the day-to-day joys of fatherhood, which as Lamar raps, are as foreign to Drake as these United States.

Despite his professed aversion to smartphones, you can imagine Kendrick scrolling through social media on a MacBook over the last few weeks. Somewhere between waking his kids up and teaching them to pray before bed, he’s been digesting the reactions to “Like That,” “Push Ups,” “Taylor Made Freestyle,” and “Like That [Ye Remix].” That Kendrick and Drake are intense scholars of each others’ work is perhaps unsurprising, but it has given the ongoing war of words an oddly hilarious edge. Hey let me show you I know how to aim a Draco properly, Kendrick tells Drake, and also please do more songs like “Controlla.” The backhanded compliments feel like salt on reopened wounds.

Despite the various differences between them, Drake and Kendrick are both heavily invested in cultural appraisal and commercial reception — this is why Drake calls written verses “freestyles” and why Kendrick Lamar might tweet and delete “billboard can’t be right” — but rap beefs are won in the hearts and minds of the people. Kendrick has clearly learned from “The Story of Adidon” and set out to win not just the battle, but the war: “This ain’t been ’bout critics, not about gimmicks, not about who the greatest / It’s always been about love and hate, now let me say I’m the biggest hater.”

And it’s true: he may have taken the throne from Pusha-T. Paranoid degenerate, woman hater, accent appropriator, six-pack purchaser, deadbeat dad, Canadian — Kendrick stacks an assemblage of insults over three beats, his tone pivoting from exasperated elder to schoolyard bully and back again. Highlights include confusing Joel Osteen for Haley Joel Osment, affecting a Toronto accent (“tell me you’re cheesing fam”), and relitigating Drake’s use of ghostwriters, but these details are less critical than his straight-up hating: “Some shit just cringeworthy, it don’t even gotta be deep I guess.”

On “Like That,” Kendrick was speaking for himself; on “euphoria” he’s a conduit for broader ambient resentment of Drake hegemony. “Notice I said ‘we,’ it’s not just me, I’m what the culture feelin’,” he grins a little more than halfway into the song. Later, he warns, “if you taking it there, I’m taking it further.” One of the most important lessons for children to learn: if you touch a hot stove, you’re gonna get burned.