© 2024 KALW 91.7 FM Bay Area
KALW Public Media / 91.7 FM Bay Area
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Kendrick Lamar is Drake's biggest hater — and proud of it

Kendrick Lamar cannot stand Drake; "Euphoria" lists the ways.
Ricardo Rubio
Europa Press via Getty Images
Kendrick Lamar cannot stand Drake; "Euphoria" lists the ways.

Kendrick Lamar

This morning, the LA rapper released his response in the ongoing feud between himself and Drake, by dropping a six-minute diatribe aimed at Drizzy as a rap artist and, more importantly, as an assassination of his character on a human level.

"Euphoria" not only references Drake's involvement with the MAX hit drama of the same name but also expresses the level of elation Lamar likely feels in finally getting these things off his chest. Lamar's song is the latest plot point in the timeline of hostility between the two rap titans considered to be part of hip-hop millennial Mount Rushmore. This is a timeline that goes back over a decade and was recently reignited in the beginning of 2024 with a storm of messy diss tracks — both authentic and artificial.

On the first verse, Lamar uses a calm, cool yet sinister delivery: "Know you a master manipulator, and habitual liar, too / But don't tell no lie 'bout me, and I won't tell truths 'bout you."

But pretty quickly, his rhymes erupt into tunnel-visioned, blood-boiling disgust on the deepest level. Lamar accuses Drake of being an inadequate father to his son, mocks his Toronto slang, jeers at his rumored plastic surgery, alludes to him being a snitch, calls back to past beefs Drake has remained mum about and even comes for Drake's whole identity, questioning his Blackness. These lyrical shots, while definitely disrespectful, really are not anything too explosive. In fact, these are accusations rap fans have heard before about Drizzy via disses by Rick Ross, Megan Thee Stallion and Pusha T. But at 3:10, K.Dot breaks his usual poetic form to list out every detail about the streaming-era star he just simply cannot stand:

Deployed in rapid succession, this caliber of a callout is so visceral and real that it's exactly what's been missing in this rap beef. To rap fandoms and music critics alike, so much of this high-profile hip-hop clash has just felt off. Synthetic, gummy, uninspired. In the age of artificial everything, even the war of words between Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Drake (plus a few others along the way) has been marked by its detachment from the whole artistic premise of a rap beef — to show off your skills, up the ante and embarrass your opp into submission.

It's been a month (March 26) since Lamar threw the first stone in the long-brewing beef with his sub on the Future and Metro Boomin track "Like That": "Motherf*** the big three, n****, it's just big me."

After J. Cole dropped the track "7 Minute Drill" on April 5 in response to "Like That," Cole rescinded his diss and announced publicly that he was bowing out of the beef completely while onstage at his label's annual Dreamville Fest because, point blank, Cole's heart wasn't in it.

On April 19, Drake finally unleashed his official response to Lamar with "Push Ups," coming at Lamar's past pop-leaning features, his "pip-squeak" stature, mocking TDE's tour sales and even name-checking "Like That" producer Metro Boomin in the process. But the way "Push Ups" was rolled out created a new frontier of Internet Age confusion among rap fans. When it first dropped, some assumed the low quality, online leak was an AI-generated facade and not Drake himself. The legitimacy of "Push Ups" was confirmed by live streamer DJ Akademiks and eventually hit DSPs, but this disorientation created an added layer of internet chatter, one Drake could capitalize on. Proving he was taking cues from social media timelines, Drake doubled down on his response to Lamar with another track, "Taylor Made Freestyle," just a few days later. Only this time, he started off the song with AI-generated verses from the late Tupac Shakur and the very alive Snoop Dogg.

The attempt to irk Lamar with manipulated voices of two West Coast legends was a uniquely 2024-type of move, but ultimately, it undercut any potency of the song. The Shakur estate issued a cease and desist to the Toronto rapper for "unauthorized use of Tupac's voice and personality," and the track was promptly taken down from social media.

Firing back with a track that's as savage and emotional as "Euphoria" on a random Tuesday morning via YouTube is considered an old-school energy in today's era of infinite distribution avenues and a conversation-driving chess move that leads back to one source. This record drips with levels of seething, petty hatred for Drake that's clearly been on K.Dot's heart for years. At its core, "Euphoria" is fueled with begrudged, tired, emotional baggage from K.Dot that's only gotten heavier with time and can't be mimicked or manufactured. It's free of gimmicks, media personalities, gatekeeping or ChatGPT. This beef is over or it's just getting started. For real this time.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Sidney Madden is a reporter and editor for NPR Music. As someone who always gravitated towards the artforms of music, prose and dance to communicate, Madden entered the world of music journalism as a means to authentically marry her passions and platform marginalized voices who do the same.