The biggest losers in Drake’s beef with Kendrick Lamar

(L) Drake. Photo via Universal Music Group. (R) Kendrick Lamar. Photo by HELLE ARENSBAK/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images


Last Wednesday, a friend texted the groupchat: “If Drake diss song fye… what do we do Kendrick bros?” I replied, “KENDRICK GOT HIM RAPPING AGAIN… THANK YOU MR. MORALE!!!!!”

Haven’t you missed this? Drake rapping like he actually cares about the music, not just the money it can make? The last time a Drake song had social media lit up this bright was three years ago with “Lemon Pepper Freestyle,” and that wasn’t anywhere near this level of political intrigue. Are you not entertained?

Three days ago, I too laughed at Aubrey’s Angels. “Don’t let the fact you didn’t understand Mr. Morale have you out here defending Drake,” I joked in the DMs. As things stand right now, I’m willing to say Drake is in a better position than the opposition: Kendrick had some slick wordplay on “Like That,” the Future and Metro Boomin song that ignited this firestorm, but Drake is going for the jugular sans Pet Sematary punchlines.

I too cackled when Rick Ross got on Instagram and declared, “Boy you had 25% body fat with a carved-out six-piece, stop. We know what time it is. That shit cost 40 bands, stop.” As a fellow actor-turned-rapper, Rozay, like Drake, understands that this is theater, not war — you don’t win The Real Housewives by logically dismantling your opponent. But by rallying the troops for a full-frontal assault, Future and co. have tipped their hand in a big way.

We’ve only just wrapped up the first bout, so there’s plenty of time for scores to shift. But no matter what happens when the dust settles, whether Drake wins, Kendrick wins, or Future wins, there are a few people involved in this beef who clearly look like losers right now.

J. Cole

Jermaine Cole, I owe you an apology. I was not familiar with your game.

To be clear: deleting your diss track “7 Minute Drill” is Not Hip-Hop. I’m all for being the bigger person in our interpersonal relationships — Lord knows it’s hard and most people do not want to swallow their pride — but rap isn’t a team-building exercise. You can imagine someone close to Cole, perhaps his pastor or his therapist, encouraging him to move in the spirit of grace and forgiveness, although the whole episode mostly leaves you wishing they would have stopped him before he stepped into the ring. (And not that any major rapper is some great LGBTQ ally, but those cringe “trans fella” bars on “Pi” make you wish Cole had listened to “Auntie Diaries” a few more times before dismissing Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers as “tragic.”)

Nevertheless, Cole was incredibly wise to bow out when he did: what started as a simple sparring match has dramatically escalated. Running away isn’t ideal, but it’s better than being the easiest kill in The Hunger Games.

Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War, “The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace… is the jewel of the kingdom.” I don’t know if I would call J. Cole an underrated gem, but I can definitely tell you he doesn’t fear disgrace!

A$AP Rocky

Not sure why on Earth he would step into this. “Heard you dropped your latest shit, funny how it came and went,” might mean something if Rakim’s latest shit wasn’t TESTING. Or I guess technically it would be the Pharrell Williams-produced “RIOT,” which primarily serves as a reminder that Pharrell is producing mediocre music and mediocre clothes at the Louis Vuitton headquarters. But I digress.

I get that he’s a rapper, but it does feel incredibly tacky to say “Flacko hit it first” about the mother of your children. And Rihanna’s the actually successful one! A$AP Rocky is flexing his girl’s money, and she’s a billionaire primarily because Savage X Fenty is allegedly somehow even less ethical than Shein. Per Remake’s 2022 Fashion Accountability Report, Savage X Fenty “lacks even a Supplier Code of Conduct to define guidelines for assessing factories’ compliance with international labor standards, especially in regard to workers’ health and safety.”

Look, I like some of the recent A$AP Rocky singles (Evilgiane and Playboi Carti assist “Our Destiny/Sights,” Dean Blunt-core “Same Problems?”). But this isn’t a fight he’s going to win.

Metro Boomin

All of this is theoretically great for Metro and Future, who are certainly racking up many more streams off this drama than they would have otherwise. In practice, I’m not so sure. I say this not because Drake is “winning,” but because this beef is now the defining aspect of these double albums.

That was fine for Pusha-T, who was promoting a seven-song EP when he released “The Story of Adidon.” It worked out decidedly worse for Meek Mill: his sophomore album Dreams Worth More Than Money is much better than its predecessor, but its debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 was overshadowed by “Back to Back.”

While I wasn’t wowed on first listen, I’m open to the possibility that WE DON’T TRUST YOU and WE STILL DON’T TRUST YOU will grow on me. But as of writing, I’m skeptical. Just like Drake, Future is too big to fail, and 50 songs in a month is a lot. It would be an unwieldy amount even if all of the songs were uniformly excellent, and that’s simply not true.

Also, sorry but “Metro shut your hoe ass up and make some drums n***a” is crazy, speaking as someone old enough to remember when Hudson Mohawke said Metro didn’t do shit on “Father Stretch My Hands.” He better chop up another super-recognizable sample ASAP.

The Weeknd

This pains me to write, mostly because I had to listen to four shitty songs in a row just to do so. Is this really the same guy who made “Low Life?” The weird moaning on “Young Metro” two weeks ago was fine, but these Soft Cell-wannabe tracks on WE STILL DON’T TRUST YOU… Oof. I know The Weeknd has made a ton of money going 80’s synthpop revivalist, but that’s just not going to net him a win here. “I thank God I never signed my life away” sounds good until you hear Drake reply “Cash blowin’ Abel bread out here tricking.”

All that said: if the weird plastic surgery aesthetic of the After Hours rollout was not a dig at ex Bella Hadid, but a jab at Drake’s alleged cosmetic surgery, we’re gonna have to retroactively give Abel some extra points in this feud. But he’s still in last place either way.