The Kendrick Lamar/Drake Beef, Explained

In another interview with Wilson, this time alongside Brian “B.Dot” Miller at the tail end of the last decade, Drake mused that the next 10 years would be the time for him, Kendrick and Cole really show and prove who’s built to last. Cole made the subtext plain on a 2021 freestyle over Drake’s then-new song “Pipe Down,” rapping “Some people say that I’m running third, they threw the bronze at me/Behind Drake and Dot, yeah, them n-ggas is superstars to me.” He leans into it even harder in his verse on Drake’s “First Person Shooter” with “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.”

On “Like That,” Kendrick is feeling a lot less kumbaya, rapping “Motherfuck the Big Three, it’s just Big Me.” Between that and dismissively observing that “n-ggas cliquin up” earlier in the verse, some could argue that the song also functions as a J. Cole diss as well as Drake. But you could just as easily say the same about Cole’s recent statements that he’s out to prove he’s the best, as he preps his long-awaited album The Fall Off, a Black Album-esque manifesto he’s crafting to ostensibly end all debate. After all, that Big Three line on “First Person Shooter” does end with Cole declaring himself Muhammed Ali, a sentiment he’s been doubling down on in one stellar verse after another for the last few years. He clarified in an interview with Lil Yachty that he never once awarded himself the bronze medal, just merely acknowledged that it was a rampant perception. So in theory, the new Kendrick lines could be received by Cole as the same spirit of competition that he’s been preaching.

But we’ve gone hundreds of words without returning to the duo who delivered this moment: Future, the fourth face on that 2010s Rap Mount Rushmore, and Metro Boomin, the superproducer he’s made some of his most potent music with. There’s a deeper layer to Kendrick choosing a Future and Metro album as the stage to finally go at Drake: Metro has seemingly had his own problems with the 6ix God. Late last year he posted and subsequently deleted a tweet about his acclaimed album Superheroes and Villains continuing to lose awards to Drake (and frequent Metro collaborator 21 Savage’s) album Her Loss. During a livestream not long after, Drake hilariously referenced “the non-believers, the underachievers, the tweet-and-deleters,” adding “you guys make me sick to my stomach, fam.” Despite trading a few more subliminal potshots across Twitter and IG, Metro downplayed any beef, saying that the issue was “not deep at all.”

Still, when eagle-eyed fans took note of Metro unfollowing Drake on Instagram—the definitive 21st century signpost of an un-amicable split—ahead of the album’s release, it didn’t take a hip-hop scholar to assume that, as Kendrick would declare, “it’s up.” And for those wondering how a producer-rapper beef would even reasonably play out, Metro makes it clear by serving up a new creative peak on “Like That,” with an obscenely screwface-inducing beat sampling Three 6 Mafia’s “Who the Crunkest” (which itself sampled 80s rap duo Rodney O and Joe Cooley), with a splash of “Ridin Spinners.” In effect Kendrick and Metro are following playbooks beloved by the likes of Jay-Z before them, or even Drake with “Back to Back,” in dissing your opponent on a song that’s an undeniable banger whether people know the context or not.

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