7 reasons why Kendrick versus Drake is the greatest battle in hip-hop history

OPINION: Kendrick is giving us the greatest performance ever in a battle over multiple songs.

(L-R) Drake (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images); Kendrick Lamar (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

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

The Kendrick-Drake battle has metastasized into the greatest battle in hip-hop history. Why do I say that it’s the greatest ever? I have at least seven reasons. (Which is one more than the 6!) 

1.  This battle gave us what is probably the greatest weekend in hip-hop history. From Friday morning to Sunday night, five new diss records entered the culture. Friday morning was Kendrick’s “6:16 in LA.” Friday night was Drake’s “Family Matters” (along with a video) and then, just minutes later, Kendrick’s “Meet the Grahams.” And then on Saturday night, there was another from Kendrick, “Not Like Us.” On Sunday, Drake returned with “The Heart Part 6.” It was an exhilarating, exhausting and, frankly, frightening couple of days. (Frightening because this beef got really, really dark.)  

I’ll never forget the screaming texts I got. On Friday morning, there was a wave of texts, like 15 people at once, all saying: KENDRICK DROPPED!!! That night just as I was about to start watching “Jerrod Carmichael Reality Show,” another wave of texts washed in: DRAKE RESPONDED! Moments later: NEW NEW KENDRICK! I was flooded. It was so much to absorb. But I also felt so connected to my community — everyone was talking, and this was the only thing they were talking about. And every song came with Easter eggs. Kendrick’s in particular required a special decoder ring and some literary deconstruction to fully understand what he was saying. So each song meant required reading that would help you unpack the songs, and scrolling and texting and Googling and pontificating. I spent two whole days furiously texting and DMing and talking to my most thoughtful hip-hop friends to learn what they saw in these records. It was an extraordinary weekend in hip-hop.

2. This battle has seen Kendrick give us the greatest performance over multiple battle songs ever. You can argue that Ice Cube’s “No Vaseline” or Tupac’s “Hit Em Up” was the best battle song ever, fine. But no one has ever made four diss records as good as the four Kendrick dropped in this battle. Drake is putting out some solid music — “Family Matters” was actually good, which is painful for me to admit, but it’s not nearly enough to keep up with K’s monster output. It’s like Drake’s on the court putting together a respectable 20-point game while Kendrick is manically running around and dropping 81 points.

3.  This battle is genuinely mean. Both men are sitting there trying to think of the cruelest, most hurtful things that they can say to each other. They’re talking about pedophilia and domestic violence. They’re both attempting a complete character assassination. They really hate each other. Like if they’re ever both in the same city at the same time, someone will have to leave. That’s what you want in a battle: genuine animosity. The meanness in this one runs so deep that this battle has devolved into the gutter. It went from who’s the best MC to “You’re a terrible father,” and “You beat your wife,” and “I’m telling your parents that you’re a horrible person and your next show in Oakland might be your last.” It’s mean-spirited even by the wild standards of a hip-hop battle, and I’m here for it.

4.  Kendrick has unlocked a new level in this battle. His brilliance has been on full display. He’s diabolical. He’s an evil genius. I have heard people jokingly say Kendrick has inspired them to be better haters, but seriously, Kendrick has inspired me to try to be a better writer. The complexity of his writing is something to aspire to. Kendrick has had a historic performance in this battle that has elevated his legacy. For the past few years, I‘ve thought that Kendrick should be in the all-time top  5 conversation, but I’ve found that most hip-hop lovers find that idea controversial. It’s not controversial anymore. It was already clear that he is the greatest MC of his generation, but now it’s reasonable to argue that he’s the third- or fourth- or fifth-best MC of all-time behind only the likes of Jay-Z, Nas, and Andre 3000.  

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5. This battle has a critical secretive secondary character like it’s a spy novel or a “Mission Impossible” sequel. Kendrick said on “Euphoria” that there’s a leak in Drake’s camp. He said someone in OVO was secretly working for him. He appeared to prove that by releasing a photo that sure seems like it came from inside Drake’s world. Does Kendrick have a mole in Drake’s operation feeding him information? Well, on “The Heart Part 6” Drake said no — someone in his camp fed Kendrick fake information. But many people are doubting this because if Drake was setting him up why doesn’t he have proof of that? When they make a movie about all this, there will have to be a character on Drake’s team who’s a double agent appearing to betray Drake but is actually tricking Kendrick. Or is he?

6.  This battle has led to big ideas being discussed in the culture. For example, it’s inspired a lot of talk about the meaning of Blackness. Kendrick has repeatedly brought up Drake’s Blackness. Some initially thought Kendrick’s critique of Drake was based on him being mixed. It’s not about that. Drake is Black, but he’s not African-American. Black and African-American are not synonymous. Drake grew up in Canada in a Jewish neighborhood and school, disconnected from the African-American experience. Some people feel like his lack of connection to African-American culture during his formative years explains why he now seems to be more, sort of acting like a Black person instead of authentically embodying a relationship to African-Americanness. Does that mean he’s not Black? No. Does it explain why Kendrick says the way you say the n-word just doesn’t sound right? Maybe. It’s like a college-level course on Black identity is being played out in the comment sections of Instagram.

7.  This battle has led to a deep and angry condemnation of and demonization of deadbeat fathers. I don’t know for certain if the term deadbeat dad actually fits Drake, and for this argument, it doesn’t matter. We have Kendrick, a massively respected MC, on the mic screaming that one of the worst things in the world is to be a deadbeat dad. Normalize shaming deadbeat dads.

This battle has been a wild circus, and I love it. But maybe it could end soon because it’s very stressful having so much vitriol in my ears.

Touré, theGrio.com

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 TheGrio.com/starstories. 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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