Home Arts & Culture Hip-hop is alive, but at what cost? | Arts & Culture

Hip-hop is alive, but at what cost? | Arts & Culture

by cashonbank.com
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Drake and Kendrick Lamar are two of this generation’s most iconic rappers. Both have released chart-topping singles and critically acclaimed albums, cementing their statuses as two legends in the rap world. Prior to the arrival of Kendrick Lamar’s feature on Future and Metro Boomin’s recent hit “Like That,” there hadn’t been much word of any brewing resentment from either side. However, Lamar’s verse on that song opened up a can of worms that no one saw coming.

Let me preface this by saying how much I love to dissect meanings behind lyrics, particularly in musical form. If there’s one thing this public beef has provided, it has given me an outlet to spend lots of time partaking in one of my favorite hobbies. With that being said, this shifted from a fun, light-hearted exercise to a grueling, twisted one. Both rappers put out devastating tracks with lyrics that would warrant cancel culture to strap their boots and get to work. Let’s dig into it.

These two rappers participating in a beef like this may come as somewhat of a surprise — Lamar is a Pulitzer Prize winner who is lauded for his emotional honesty and conscious lyrical prowess, while Drake is most known for making catchy radio pop-rap and starring in a Canadian teen drama television series. This started out mostly playful, as Lamar boasts on “Like That:” “Motherfuck the big three, n**** it’s just big me,” alluding to J. Cole’s verse on Drake’s 2023 track “First Person Shooter:” “Love when they argue the hardest MC / Is it K-Dot? Is it Aubrey? Or me? / We the big three like we started a league, but right now, I feel like Muhammad Ali.” Even on Drake’s two ensuing responses, “Push Ups” and “Taylor Made Freestyle,” the messaging was lighthearted and in the spirit of competition. With future responses, it’ll all stay fun and games, right?

Absolutely not. When Lamar released “euphoria,” everything changed. He spent nearly six and a half minutes peeling back every layer of Drake’s character, a seamless balancing act between humor and evisceration. The track gradually ups the ante with each beat switch, and with each one, Lamar becomes more devious. Lamar spits many memorable bars on this track, but the one that stuck with me the most was “Know you a master manipulator and habitual liar, too / But don’t tell no lie ‘bout me, and I won’t tell truths ‘bout you.” Delivered over a leisurely soulful beat, this proved to be the most conniving threat.

After Lamar dropped “6:16 in LA” on his Instagram a few mornings later, Drake responded that same night with a seven-and-a-half-minute bruiser of a track, “Family Matters,” accompanied by a music video. In similar fashion to Lamar, the song contains multiple beat switches, with each beat switch followed by an increased level of hatred. This song, though, marked the first instance of a truly dark accusation: “They hired a crisis management team to clean up the fact that you beat on your queen / The picture you painted ain’t what it seems, ya dead.”

Kendrick, of course, responded immediately with equally as damning of accusations: pedophilia and yet another instance of hiding a child (see Pusha T’s own Drake diss “The Story of Adidon” for reference). “meet the grahams” is a shockingly evil track with parts of the song devoted to individual members of his family. In the second verse, directed toward Drake’s parents, Lamar spews a litany of horrific things, particularly “Mm-mm, your son’s a sick man with sick thoughts, I think n****s like him should die / Him and Weinstein should get fucked up in a cell for the rest their life.”

Lamar doubles down on his pedophilia accusations on “Not Like Us,” released less than 24 hours later (to be fair, there is video documentation of Kendrick’s claims). The track was produced by Mustard, featuring classic West Coast production along with unapologetically boastful lyrical delivery, all adding up to be a club banger. The song has already done record-breaking numbers and has been played in clubs by DJs around the country. Envisioning groups of people screaming “Certified Lover Boy, certified pedophiles” and “Tryna strike a chord and it’s probably A minorrrrr” in unison double-fisting cocktails at the club is a rather ironic image.

To conclude the back-and-forth (for now), Drake released “The Heart Part 6,” featuring a blatantly dejected Drake refuting all of Lamar’s claims in truly going-out-sad form: mocking Lamar’s molestation story on his song “Mother I Sober” (he needs to train his listening skills, because he got it all wrong) and spitting disgustingly tone deaf pedophilia rebuttals: “If I was fucking young girls, I promise I’d have been arrested / I’m way too famous for this shit you just suggested.”

All of this escalated in the blink of an eye and yielded mostly unfortunate results. The glorification of women’s suffering for engagement and trolling should never be what rap beef is about. With that being said, given the seemingly untouchable status of both of these rappers, it worked. Chronically online Twitter users and stans of both artists have been working overtime reacting, analyzing and battling each other over these abuse and pedophilia claims.

You can acknowledge the validity of their claims while recognizing the hypocrisy of them as well — Lamar associates himself with Dr. Dre, a man who has been accused of violence against women for a very long time. On his last album, “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers,” he featured Kodak Black on three songs, a man who has been convicted of first-degree assault and battery. It would be disingenuous of me to not acknowledge and condemn these hypocrisies, especially since Lamar is promoting a “safety first” message for women in his antagonization of Drake.

Admittedly, I had (and still have) some bias in analyzing this beef. I have been a huge fan of Kendrick’s music for over a decade, and a lot of Drake’s mega pop hits he’s released in that same timeframe I’ve found to be incredibly boring. Despite that, I still think Kendrick “won.” In terms of a lighthearted rap battle, his punches came at better times and seemed to hit Drake’s reputation harder. But the metaphorical crown I’m giving to Kendrick really has no weight — what should’ve been a fun, talent-jabbing rap battle turned into a cancellable narrative-building shitshow. They’re so wrapped up with winning this battle that they’ve forgotten rapping about pedophilia, domestic violence and child abuse are not the “gotcha” punchlines they think they are. Time will go on, and both of these rappers will continue to churn out chart-topping music, but the legacy-tarnishing accusations and shameful glorification of abuse against women are going to be hard to ignore.

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