“And nothin’ been the same since they dropped ‘Control’/And tucked the sensitive rapper back in his pajama clothes/Haha, jokes on you, high five, I’m bulletproof/Your shots will never penetrate/Pin a tail on the donkey, boy, you been a fake.”
A little over a week ago, a clip from a BET cypher with Kendrick Lamar rapping hit the web and got everyone talking. But unlike Kendrick’s “Control” verse where he brought up many of his contemporaries, this clip has been interpreted as shots fired at Papoose and Drake. No disrespect to Papoose, but this here focuses on Drake because his response to all of this is crucial to his career.
To understand why the good kid is possibly baiting one of rap’s biggest artists, it is important to recognize that Drake likely brought the sneak attack on himself. While being interviewed by Hot 97’s Angie Martinez, Drake said that rap battles are of the moment and for him to get into one, it would have to be warranted because [his] bars would be scathing.
Then when Angie asked specifically about Kendrick’s verse heard round the world from late last summer, Drake replied, “It just wasn’t real to me. I saw him after that and it was just like love, so it’s like was that real or was that for the people? Those were harsh words, you can’t just say that and then see me and be like, ‘Yeah, man, what’s up?,’ pretending like nothing ever happened. That’s not real.”
If this were an actual beef, Drake not feeding into it would be an example of him taking the high-road. It isn’t a beef though. It’s a battle. How was it not “real”? What “harsh words” was Drake even referring to? All Kendrick was doing was going for that number one slot and he did so convincingly.
The response records to “Control” poured in. None of them of them could compete with K. Dot’s original verse even though some came closer than others. (Kendrick even told the press that he found Papoose’s response comical.) And while Drake was not silent about Kendrick’s contribution to Big Sean’s song, he only ever addressed it in interviews. He never did so on wax.
But all things considered, Kendrick Lamar and Drake are arguably the two greatest emcees of now-school rap. And while Drake surely has rap skills (see “5 AM in Toronto”), his body of work as a whole definitely has R&B elements too. And therein lies the issue for him.
The success he has achieved being able to balance rap and R&B is all well and good. However, that is not going to save or excuse him from a rap battle when he is challenged- even and especially if he just dropped a number one album. Couple that with the aforementioned comments he made on Hot 97 about his “scathing bars” and Drake needs to be respond with a battle rhyme in order to continue to be taken seriously as a top rapper. If he doesn’t, someone will take his spot or make him out to be a liar. This whole situation is reminiscent of the Ja Rule and 50 Cent feud from ’02/‘03.
50 was a fearless rap newcomer and Ja was a successful rap star with crossover ability thanks to pop and R&B hooks. When 50 started attacking Ja’s claims of street appeal because his more commercial songs contradicted that, Ja continued to deliver them. However, Ja Rule still maintained that his rap credibility was as strong as 50’s. The problem was that he didn’t have any current music to support the claim. But by the time Ja Rule did get back to presenting himself as a full-fledged rapper with Blood in My Eye, it was too late. Joints like “Mesmerize” and “Always on Time”overshadowed “Clap Back” and 50 Cent mania had begun. The damage was done for Ja’s career.
If Drake doesn’t answer Kendrick directly with a battle rap or at least a few solid bars on the matter, he will likely see the same fate as Ja Rule did. Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” can’t compete with Kendrick’s “Control” verse or his BET cypher clip. Drake’s “Versace” verse can, but with today’s fickle attention spans you’re only a big as your last few records. Fortunately, not too much time has passed yet.
Drake can’t be in a competitive space, talk big game, and yet still be unwilling to actually defend his position (or spend too much time singing). Remember rap is a competitive sport where two is not a winner and three nobody remembers.
What do you think? Sound off in the comments section below!