Questlove says I’m looking at the Drake vs. Kendrick battle all wrong

OPINION: Questlove's comment on my Instagram made me rethink the playing field for this beef between Drake and Kendrick.

2022 TIME100 Gala - Red Carpet
Questlove attending the TIME100 Gala on June 08, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TIME)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

It’s horrible that Drake used an AI Tupac to diss Kendrick on “Taylor Made Freestyle.” But it’s also kinda brilliant. The verse he has A.I. Tupac say puts words in Pac’s mouth that he never would have said. He would’ve been Team Kendrick for sure. And you know he would’ve hated Drake (who made a whole TV commercial singing Taylor Swift, so using her to diss Kendrick is silly, but whatever). But that’s part of the joke, right? And it’s a whole nother way of Drake using ghosts. It’s also a clever way of using modern technology to ensure his record gets attention. Some people liked it, some hated it, but either way, we had to talk about it and maybe right now, that’s what this all boils down to. 

“Taylor Made Freestyle” is an interesting strategic move in this battle. The point of the record is, hurry up Kendrick. We’re waiting on you. What’s taking you so long? It calls attention to Kendrick not returning fire quickly. But Drake knows exactly why it’s taking K-Dot so long. It takes Kendrick much longer to write a song than it takes Drake because Kendrick puts much more thought into his songs than Drake does. (#Pulitzer.) McDonald’s can make 50 meals faster than Nobu can make one. Does that make McDonald’s better? I guess in some situations, yes. 

Giving Drake credit for releasing two songs before K releases one full song strikes me as silly, but I hear that a lot. I also hear a lot of people saying Drake is winning. This, to me, is comical. Isn’t battling about showing off that you’re the better MC and making better songs as well as saying things that will embarrass the other guy? Yes, except maybe no.

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My man Questlove jumped on my IG page on Monday with a long thoughtful comment that made me rethink the battle a little bit. Quest said the audience for today’s battle is not looking at this in the same way as the audience that judged KRS-One the winner over MC Shan or Ice Cube over N.W.A. “The audience here is different,” he wrote. “Remember when you felt ‘meh’ about Weeknd’s halftime performance a couple of years back?”

I do.

“And then,” Quest continued, “that 2 sec gif/meme went viral of him running in a maze? Now suddenly it seemed like ‘they understood the assignment.’”

Quest is saying it’s all about the attention economy and capturing people’s attention. Even if your project is “not good” by some aesthetic standard, if it births a social media hit and gets you lots of attention, it’s a win.

Quest continued, “Drake is either just lucky or a genius when it comes to moves as of late—we clowned his dancing in “Hotline Bling” but he knew otherwise.”

His next sentence kinda killed me, to be honest.

“I know we want this to be the ‘who is the most skilled’ blood sport that our memories stored but lol NONE of this is about ‘talent.’” 

He just said there’s no Santa Claus in hip-hop. Is life even worth living? 

“Drake whether quality or not, skilled or not, will meme his [way] to a win.”

He’s saying the old ways of judging battles are over. This is not about winning the way Eminem won when he battled in “8 Mile.” This is about winning the attention economy. Seen the old way, Kendrick will obviously win because he’s obviously the more skilled MC. By far. Like far, far, far. But seen Questlove’s way, Drake is the favorite to win because he’s far, far better at grabbing attention. Seen Questo’s way, this is a prom king varsity QB type against a monk in a battle where the ability to manipulate the internet will determine victory. Drake knows how to manipulate it. Kendrick is pretty much not online. I feel sick.


Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of Masters of the Game on theGrioTV. He is also the host and creator of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s” and the animated show “Star Stories with Toure” which you can find at He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.

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