Fans worldwide have been captivated by the dueling diss tracks unleashed by Hip-Hop titans Drake and Kendrick Lamar–although, beyond mere entertainment, this feud has sparked a profound discourse about the essence and direction of hip-hop’s identity.

By Abigail Chang

This beef has been simmering for over a decade, with each rapper sending not-so-subtle shots at one another. Now, the attacks have become relentless, with both artists viciously targeting the other’s identity and integrity. 

To confine this beef, as only a clash between two rappers would be a disservice; in my eyes, it embodies an introspective struggle that reflects the Black community’s evolving sentiments toward the 50-year-old music genre and culture. Drake and Kendrick represent two distinct ends of the hip-hop spectrum, both innovators and musical geniuses in my mind–still, this rivalry rehashes the decade-old question….”How do we protect hip-hop?” And what does that even mean?  

A tale as old as time will remind you, before the rise of Drake–DJs, A&R’s, Radio Stations, and other artists with established careers and respect from their peers, were enacted as gatekeepers of music and culture. From the late 70s into the early 90s, to have your record played on air or music promoted at parties, you had to pay your dues and pass the gatekeeper test. 

But as hip-hop became more commercialized and marketable to mainstream audiences, things changed. It didn’t matter if the “oldheads,” liked your music, or you. It was about record sales, chart placements, how much money you could bring to your label, and the overall globalization of hip-hop stardom. 

As a result, hip-hop is now the wild wild west, while diversity grows, and anything goes, nowadays anyone can be ‘a rapper,’ and anything can be considered ‘hip-hop.’ 

Now I’m not fully opposed to this, I think intersectionality within music can be liberating, along with being sonically pleasing.

We should also keep in mind, historically hip-hop culture hasn’t always been the most inclusive of diverse identities, particularly women, queer artists, or rappers who just express themselves non-traditionally. So, yeah–there’s some toxicity within the culture that should be addressed… But in this new era of rap, should we just embrace anything that feels liberating and sounds good? 

I think it’s safe to say that Kendrick disagrees. 

Drake V Kendrick: More than music

We haven’t seen a rap beef this compelling since Nas and Jay Z, but the back-and-forth releases from Drake and Kendrick, have unveiled a sinister tension. As allegations of domestic violence and sexual deviance are brought to light, all we can do is await solid proof before passing judgment on both Drake’s or Kendrick’s character.  

I could spend this entire article contextualizing the double-triple or “quintuple entendre” per Drake’s request on Taylor Made Freestyle. Of course, Black Twitter united, dissecting Kendricks Bars as if it were a Jordan Peele movie. I thought it more important to highlight the lyrics that encapsulate each rapper’s perspective and the different aspects of hip-hop and the culture that they embody. 

Kendrick makes it clear from his first response in “Euphoria” that his dislike of Drake goes beyond personal animosity (though he does have a lot of it). Kendrick expresses his disdain for what Drake represents as an artist. While Drake’s “Push Ups” took a more of a battle royale approach. He threw shots at MetroBoomin, Rick Ross, The Weekend, ASAP Rocky, and really whoever else hates Drake these days. Sadly, the shots fired at Kendrick weren’t very captivating. His remarks about Kendrick were superficial, mocking his height, shoe size, and record deal, all while referencing a video of Kendrick doing push-ups–hence the song title… Oh, how clever!

Push Ups

“How the F*** you stepping with a size-seven men’s on?

This the bark with the bite, *****, whats up?

I know my picture on the wall when y’all cook up 

Extortion baby, whole career, You’ve Been Shook Up

Cause Top told you, “drop and give me fifty,”

Like some push-ups, huh” 


For what it was, I enjoyed the track. It was fun, it was witty, it was taunting and provocative, but it was no “Duppy Freestyle, to say the least. But alas, here comes Kendrick in true anime villain fashion, he drops “Euphoria,” exceeding expectations while setting the bar even higher for himself and his opponent.

Kendrick starts “Euphoria” with a reversed sample from the 1978 musical ‘The Wiz,’ quoting Richard Pryor’s Wizard: “Everything they say about me is true.” Here he likens Drake to the Wizard– a figure with illusory power who manipulates others. Kendrick maintains this theme, addressing Drake with a tone of begrudging sympathy, echoing the idea that Drake is portraying himself as someone he’s not. 


“You’rе not a rap artist, you a scam artist with the hopes of being accеpted

Tommy Hilfiger stood out, but FUBU never had been your collection”

–Kendrick Lamar

He also critiques Drake’s portrayal of his racial identity, suggesting that Drake capitalizes on hip-hop culture without fully embracing its meaning or celebrating the entire experience of blackness–another theme he sticks with. Underscored in his playful jab, “We don’t wanna hear you say n**** no moreeee,” which really drives it home.

Before Drake could respond, Kendrick drops “6:16 in LA,” doubling down on his perception of Drake as a terrible person despised by his team. Kendricks hints at having a mole within the OVO camp, which could explain how he obtained alleged receipts and strategically planned each track before Drake’s response. He even foreshadows Drake’s mention of his broken relationship and alleged domestic violence in “Euphoria.”

6:16 in LA

“Have you ever thought that OVO is workin’ for me?

Fake bully, I hate bullies, you must be a terrible person

Everyone inside your team is whispering that you deserve it

Can’t Toosie Slide up outta this one, it’s just gon’ resurface

Every dog gotta have its day, now live in your purpose”

–Kendrick Lamar

14 hours later Drake releases “Family Matters,” a 7-minute track that flips Kendrick’s critique of Drake, back on him. Drake starts by re-affirming his Black identity by using the n-word. He maintains his battle royale approach, dissing all of his detractors. The last few minutes were the most immersive. In addition to several beat switches, Drake directly challenges Kendrick’s character, calling him out for presenting a fake rap persona as well. 

I actually liked this record. It’s danceable, packed with potent bars, and carries a more aggressive flow.

It was interesting to see Drake’s side of this infamous critique and comparison of both artists. Never have we heard the claims of Kendrick’s inauthenticity. Still, Drake mocks Kendrick’s musical activism, suggesting it’s merely a facade, and questions Kendrick’s commitment to his community. 

Furthermore, Drake delves into Kendrick’s romantic affairs while raising doubts about Kendrick’s self-love and Blackness, as Drake accuses him of marrying a mixed woman, sleeping with white women, and not wanting to be around light-skinned people, all because of his alleged self-loathing identity. 

Family Matters

“Always rappin’ like you ’bout to get the slaves freed

You just actin’ like an activist, it’s make-believe

Don’t even go back to your hood and plant no money trees

Say you hate the girls I f***, but what you really mean?

I been with Black and white and everything that’s in between

You the Black messiah wifin’ up a mixed queen

And hit vanilla cream to help out with your self-esteem”


Person vs. Persona, I blame Capitalism and so does Fanon

In an interview with Rick Rubin for GQ, Kendrick Lamar emphasizes his commitment to creating music that reflects his authentic self rather than pandering to what audiences want to hear. This is certainly reflected in his work; he is driven by artistic expression rather than the desire for approval. However, despite his artistic integrity, Kendrick still profits greatly from it. This is where Drake criticizes Kendrick for what he perceives as moral grandstanding. 

Drake criticizes that Kendrick’s emphasis on Black issues and activism is undermined by his participation in an industry that ultimately commodifies black culture–which doesn’t always positively impact the communities that Kendrick claims to represent.

Most folks know that Kendrick does give back, embarking upon countless charitable endeavors in his neighborhood of Compton California, and even transcending across the globe, still, Drake calls into question, Kendrick’s complicity in perpetuating the same exploitative system he critiques in his music. 

Kendrick’s discography varies on his perception of capitalism, although in most songs he critiques its effects on Black communities, while in others he brags about his wealth. It seems as though Kendrick’s moral grandstanding comes from his disapproval of Drake’s specific approach to monetizing his bi-racial, black-Jewish Canadian identity. Of course, coupled with his personal opinion on Drake as an alleged absent father of many–and inappropriate relationships with minors. 

To Kendrick, Drake’s performance of Blackness borders on minstrelsy. This is evident in his response, “Meet the Grahams” which he released just 30 minutes after “Family Matters.” In the ominous track, a tribute to Drake’s immediate family members, Kendrick advises Drake’s son to never code-switch— a practice he suggests Drake is guilty of, akin to conforming to a caricature performed for white audiences. More crucially, Kendrick tells listeners and Drake’s father (Dennis) that Drake has been parading his father to validate his blackness, and thereby his credibility and relatability to Black culture, so he insists that Dennis is entitled to more compensation for Drake’s success. 

Meet the grahams

“Dear Dennis, you gave birth to a master manipulator

Even usin’ you to prove who he is is a huge favor

I think you should ask for more paper, and more paper

And more, uh, more paper”

–Kendrick Lamar

Pusha T, a friend of Kendrick and longtime rival of Drake, echoes the sentiment of Drake commercializing his fathers Blackness, as he articulates in his 2018 diss “The story Of Adidon.”

The Story of Adidon

“Monkey-suit Dennis, you parade him

A Steve Harvey-suit n**** made him

Confused, always felt you weren’t Black enough

Afraid to grow it ’cause your ‘fro wouldn’t nap enough”

–Pusha T

Although Drake is Black, Kendrick critiques that he performs his Blackness instead of authentically coexisting with it. This critique isn’t new; fans, artists, and music commentators have observed for years that Drake often seems like he’s “trying too hard.” 

As I hop in my postcolonial-philosophy bag… I am reminded of Frantz Fanon’s 1952 thesis “Black Skin, White Mask,” which explores his concept of ‘the split identity,’ or ‘double consciousness.’ Fanon explains how the colonized often adopt the identities imposed upon them by their colonizers to gain acceptance and navigate their subordinate experiences. Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of authenticity, self-respect, and respect from the fellow colonized. 

Drake epitomizes the double consciousness, which many of us do–for survival. But what’s interesting is that in navigating his rap persona he appeals to mainstream white audiences with his pop-sound, while simultaneously adopting a gangster caricature to appease the Black community. I mean the guy is an actor, and he’s given us the performance of a lifetime.

Listening to “Meet the Grahams” felt like I was unwillingly drawn into the labyrinth of Drake’s subconscious mind with Chris Hansen (for safety) and Kendrick as my guide. All jokes aside, on this track Kendrick methodically opened every hidden closet in the Grahams’ house, revealing the skeletons within. True or not, the impact lingered– not just because of what was said, but because of how it was delivered. As the song concludes Kendrick blends disgust with a twisted hope for redemption, he lists the lies and allegations Drake has been involved with over the years, further shattering his carefully crafted persona capitalizing on the inauthentic split identity and compelling him to confront his fabrications. 

Meet the grahams

“You a body shamer, you gon’ hide them baby mamas, ain’t ya?

You embarrassed of ’em, that’s not right, that ain’t how mama raised us

Take that mask off, I wanna see what’s under them achievements

Why believe you? You never gave us nothin’ to believe in

‘Cause you lied about religious views, you lied about your surgery

You lied about your accent and your past tense, all is perjury

You lied about your ghostwriters, you lied about your crew members

They all pussy, you lied on ’em, I know they all got you in ’em

You lied about your son, you lied about your daughter, huh

You lied about them other kids that’s out there hopin’ that you come

You lied about the only artist that can offer you some help

Fuck a rap battle, this a long life battle with yourself”

–Kendrick Lamar

Drake’s split identity is reflected in how he navigates spaces concerning race and popularity. Perhaps his chameleon-like tendencies originated as a tactic for social survival, but now he leverages this technique for commercial success, a behavior that can closely be compared to colonization. Kendrick directly condemns this, alluding to the coloniality and the harm that can come from the commercialization of the dual identity in his latest track “Not Like Us.”

Not Like Us: The Tale of Settler Colonialism

“Not Like Us” reinforces the image Kendrick paints of Drake in “Meet the Grahams” but this time, without the ominous atmosphere and gloomy wordplay. On a Dj-Mustard-made West Coast bop, it’s almost impossible not to dance to this beat, as Drake later admits in his following response in “The Heart Part 6.” 

By first establishing the dark matters in a more serious song and instrumental, Kendrick forces listeners to be uncomfortable with him as he explains his thought process. So now, with everything seemingly out in the open, Kendrick uses his artistry and wit to transform these grim topics into something laughable and lighthearted–a genius move! Couple that with the song’s construction for replayable value, including a call and response to audiences, and a catchy chorus that certainly acts as a double entendre. 

He does all this, and proceeds to give us a lesson on settler colonialism in Atlanta at the expense of Black enslaved people–then compares it to Drake’s dual-identity crisis and the commercialization of hip-hop.

Not Like Us

“The settlers was usin’ townfolk to make ’em richer

Fast-forward, 2024, you got the same agenda

You run to Atlanta when you need a check balance

Let me break it down for you, this the real n**** challenge

You called Future when you didn’t see the club (Ayy, what?)

Lil Baby helped you get your lingo up (What?)

21 gave you false street cred

Thug made you feel like you a slime in your head (Ayy, what?)

Quavo said you can be from Northside (What?)

2 Chainz say you good, but he lied

You run to Atlanta when you need a few dollars

No, you not a colleague, you a f***in’ colonizer”

–Kendrick Lamar

As a modern philosopher and music lover, it just doesn’t get better than this.  

Rap culture and music are deeply rooted in social-political experiences, activism, and protest. Overall encompasses the intersectionality of the Black experience; which legal scholar and Professor at Columbia Law Kimberlé Crenshaw, helps us understand as a metaphor for considering the multiple forms of inequality across gender identity, and socio-economic status. That being said, I think Drake sees rap culture similar to how he sees the Black experience–as a monolithic performance, rooted in the identity of “The Gangster,” and “The Misogynist” when in reality it has never been exclusive to these ideologies or lifestyles.

I’ve heard the discourse that Drake’s dual-identity tactics are not exclusive to him, and therefore Kendrick fans and Drake haters alike are hypocrites since they support other artists who engage in the same behavior. Drake is certainly not the only “colonizer” in the hip-hop sphere, and I think we should condemn anyone who performs Blackness as a costume or presents it as a monolith.

Drake’s prominence is what makes him a bigger target. He is one of the biggest artists of our generation, whether folks believe it or not–numbers don’t lie. 

This phenomenon is not new though. Janet Brown’s, “The ‘Coon-Singer’ and the ‘Coon-Song’: A Case Study of the Performer-Character Relationship,” examines the successes of White-Jewish ‘coon-shouter’ Sophie Tucker and Black West-Indian comedian, Bert Williams in the early American pop era of the 20’s. Both Tucker and Williams were guilty of performing in blackface minstrelsy. 

Tucker and Williams’ success illustrates how the commercialization of Blackness has been a profitable enterprise within the country for decades. Especially with the rise of Tin Pan Alley, a district in New York City where Black music styles were packaged and sold to mainstream audiences. M. Witmark & Sons, were one of the first major publishing houses during this time, as they capitalized on promoting “coon songs,” which popularized ragtime, blues, jazz, and other genres of Black music styles.

 Blackness has been sold and consumed as a commodity that transcends even subordinate identities, including Black people themselves in the case of Bert Willaims, and other intersectional identities such as white-Jewish woman, Sophie Tucker. 

This practice shaped the foundation of American pop music, with the successes of Black music styles leading to the promotion of the International Copyright Act of 1891. This act facilitated music distribution and curated a solidified market for investors. After its implementation, the wholesale value of popular sheet music tripled. 

New York University Professor, and musicologist, Matthew D. Morrison, explains the concept of Blacksound in his book, “Blacksound: Making Race and Popular Music in the United States” as “the racially coded sonic scripts that have developed out of the history of blackface performance.” This concept highlights how the manipulation and absorption of the sonic performances by black and other subordinate identities have been central to the development of American Pop music. 

I know I’m in my historical bag but stick with me for a second.. To grasp the impact of Morrison’s idea of Blacksound, consider the role of White production companies like M. Witmark & Sons, who mass-produced, sold, and thus popularized rag-time, and ‘coon songs’ to mainstream white audiences. Witmark published national hits like “My Gal is a High Born Lady” and “All Coons Look Alike to Me.” And I hope by now, you understand the historical context and by the titles of the songs, they were stereotypical pieces of garbage. 

Ironically, some of the most famous minstrel songs were either written or performed by Black musicians; as more attempted to break into an industry that often excluded them while simultaneously parading and exploiting them, figures like James A. Bland were initially denied entry to minstrel groups as audiences preferred white men in blackface.

Yeah. I hope y’all smellin’ what I’m steppin’ in…

Drake’s dual identity is a modern reflection of this historical pattern. His ability to commercialize Blackness, much like Tucker and Williams, is a testament to how deeply ingrained the exploitation of Blackness is in entertainment. The history of American Pop music, coupled with the history of hip-hop as a revolutionary response, puts things into perspective and helps explain why Drake’s approach is both successful and controversial. 

Home is where the Heart is

Drake released “The Heart Part 6” after “Not Like Us” and essentially threw in the towel. He claims that his double agent planted the embarrassing allegations, so Kendrick would look a fool by discussing them, yeah… That narrative didn’t work with fans for a multitude of reasons. Anyway, the track is particularly bad because Drake takes a defensive approach the entire time, which is kinda weird considering he planted these allegations right? It’s safe to say the back-to-back track drops are over now. And the content released in the back-and-forth diss tracks has given us much to think about. 

Being a Black musician in America has never been easy. From the origins of negro spirituals to the monopolization of the pop industry with ragtime and other Blacksounds, Black music has always been a revolutionary act, evolving alongside group and individual identity. 

Hip-hop, a genre still in its infancy at just 50 years old, has seen its marketability multiply and divide, with new artists achieving skyrocketing within the blink of an eye, and more sub-genres emerging as a result. 

Kendrick Lamar stays true to hip-hop’s original essence, heavily blending Jazz, Blues, and even Ragtime in his music. His themes reflect his personal experiences and often reference the Black struggle, paralleling the sentiments of old-school hip-hop. However, I’m not one to look past misogyny, as Kendrick is certainly guilty of this in his music. 

Yet, his latest album reveals a journey of self-discovery and growth. He delves into his past, grappling with homophobia, misogyny, abusive relationships, and self-acceptance. This evolution is only highlighted by his sonically diverse music, setting him aside as an artist committed to authenticity and transformation, truly reaffirming the backbone of hip-hop. 

Drake, on the other hand, seamlessly implements a variety of R&B elements, often adapting and thus popularizing sub-genres of Blacksound like afrobeat, dancehall, and other underground styles of rap. As a fan of Drake’s earlier music, I bask in the emotional transparency he provided. He made it cool–or better yet, acceptable to talk about women affectionately in that sorta–Drakey way. Of course, he too is not exempt from the degrading lyrics made about women, but for the most part, he was certainly a lover boy. 

Now, he often tells stories that blend personal introspection with fabricated experiences, describing himself as a gangster, or “mobster” in his words. The switch between personas, from lover boy to street-boul can make his sound feel diverse but confusing. The most consistent themes in his work are his struggle with the dual-identity and the pervasive wariness of those around him. 

As we celebrate Black Music Month, the legacies of Drake and Kendrick Lamar stand as testaments to the dynamic evolution of hip-hop. Drake’s versatility, and Kendrick’s introspection offer contrasting yet enriching narratives, that we must tread carefully not to reduce their contributions to mere commodification. 

As we honor their impact on the genre’s history, let’s remember the importance of unity and protection within the community. How do we protect hip-hop? We’ll first have to protect ourselves, and each other. Who, and what is the culture? We are hip-hop, and have always been, so, we must grow and evolve while staying true to our roots just as the genre has.

Embracing the words of Angela Davis, by “accepting things we cannot change, and changing things we cannot accept,” these occasional beefs are sometimes necessary. Akin to barbershop debates, or a hair salon debrief. These cultural moments ignite profound conversations like this one, which in turn enrich our understanding of Hip-hop’s profound influence in America and across the world. 

Mann…I just can’t wait to explain this to my nephew when he’s older.