“They are two gentlemen losing relevance”: this is how and Kendrick Lamar fight the “rap civil war” | ICON

“They are two gentlemen losing relevance”: this is how and Kendrick Lamar fight the “rap civil war” | ICON
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The beef, the battle, the bullshit. There are several ways to call a confrontation between two urban music artists through songs. Confrontation in rap is almost linked to its beginnings, when in the eighties Roxanne Shante, at 14 years old, became the first rapper to start a direct dispute in the genre. Forty years later, pull beef It also serves to compete between two or several artists and gain a little attention from the media, followers and industry. Over the last month there has been one in particular that has shaken the entire sector. The music magazine Billboard has called it “rap’s civil war” in a recent headline. The fight involves two of the best performers on the international urban scene: and Kendrick Lamar.

The artists are two global bestsellers. In their track record they can boast Grammy or Billboard awards, headlining a multitude of festivals, having dozens of platinum albums and exceeding 60 million monthly listeners on platforms such as Spotify. Drake surpasses Lamar in numbers, with 80 million listeners, but Lamar has something that neither Drake nor almost anyone else has: the Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for the composition of his album Damna milestone that made him the first popular music composer to win the award and that elevated rap to a higher dimension.

Critics almost unanimously consider Lamar to be the best rapper of his generation. If urban music is among the most listened to genres in the world today, it is due to artists like them. But having talent does not mean getting along with your colleagues in the sector. In fact, for artists this great, competition only adds gloss to the myth.

At first there were three

Kendrick Lamar and Drake collaborated more than 12 years ago on songs like Poetic Justicebut after that they never got along too well, as they hinted at in several interviews.

They both have a different vision of art. Drake seeks to be a hip pop superstar, a figure as popular as Jackson, whom in fact the Canadian has already surpassed in number 1 on the influential Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the US. Instead, Lamar seeks to transcend with a message, beyond commercial success. The rapper originally from Compton (Los Angeles) talks about anti-racism and denounces social inequality.

For years, the fan phenomenon was speculating about the rivalry between the two as a result of cryptic messages in their songs. However, that “civil war” that the magazine talks about Billboard exploded a month ago when two other superstars of the genre—the performer Future and the producer Boomin—invited Lamar to collaborate on one of the most anticipated works in rap: We don’t trust you (We don’t trust you), which gives its name to a song and also to an album. Lamar also collaborated on the song Like That, number one on various platforms streaming.

“Say, it’s a lot of goofies with a check” (Let’s just say there are a lot of fools with the blue check), Lamar says in the song to Drake and J Cole, making a canine pun in reference to the last album of these two together, For All the Dogs. On his album, J Cole said that he, Drake and Kendrick Lamar were the three best in rap, talking about “big three” (the big three). But Lamar responded: “Motherfucker big three, it’s just big me” (fuck the big three, big is only me). The one from Compton wants to distance himself from the rest. “Prince outlived Mike Jack [PrincesurvivedMichaelJackson”saysLamarinreferencetoDrakeshowingthatPrince’sriskypoliticalandsocialbettriumphedatthesametimeasJackson’sultra-commercialpop[PrincesobrevivióaMichaelJackson”diceLamarenreferenciaaDrakeevidenciandoquelaapuestaarriesgadapolíticaysocialdePrincetriunfóalavezqueelpopultracomercialdeJackson

Metro Boomin at a Tom Ford show in 2018.Roy Rochlin (Getty Images)

Of course, Lamar has gotten a reply. 7 minute drill was the song that J Cole published three weeks ago responding to him on his EP Might delete later. He suggested that Lamar’s career had “gotten worse as The Simpsonyes”. But, honoring the title of the EP, it took little time to remove the song from the platforms. J Cole gave up early. Just three days after uploading it, the German-born American deleted the song from him and apologized. “It’s the dumbest shit I’ve done in my 10-year career,” he confessed to the audience at the Dreamville festival in early April, adding that he felt bad after uploading the song. “How many people believe that Kendrick Lamar is one of the best rappers in the world?” Cole asks while raising his hand before the audience at the music festival held in North Carolina. For many rappers and viewers, that eliminated Cole from the supposed “big three” competition. Thus, only two remained.


From the competition to the schoolyard

As in all great rivalries, sides arise. Inevitably, Metro Boomin and Future — with whom Drake has more than 30 songs — had already positioned themselves in favor of Lamar. But as if the entire music scene had it in store for the Canadian, toads began to emerge. In a new model, We Still Don’t Trust you, others like A$AP Rocky, The Weeknd, again with Metro Boomin and Future, took the opportunity to get involved with Drake in collaborations. But there were also those who did not need to do it in a group. Drake’s former friend Rick Ross spoke on April 15 on Champagne Moments of an alleged buttock surgery on the artist. Kanye West took advantage of the moment to discredit the artist again with a remix of Like That. The feeling is reminiscent of a schoolyard, when a few people join in the mockery of whoever loses in a game.

It was Drake’s turn to respond. Push ups It was published on April 19 and he raps in it. “She could never be anyone’s number one fan. Your first number one, I had to put it in your hand. “You can’t get contracts outside of the States even remotely,” Drake begins the song, again, referring to his unique successes as a rapper and, in a certain sense, how to get a number one – Future’s are only in collaborations with him—they have to talk about him. “What the hell is this, twenty against one?” he asks himself. “Metro, shut up and do some beats”, he leaves a message to the person who has also been his producer. Drake also picks on Lamar’s short stature and asks him to drop “the nuclear bomb he’s talking about” in Like That.

Rapper J. Cole during a performance in Atlanta in 2023.Paras Griffin (Getty Images)

Kendrick had not yet responded when Drake posted a second song: Taylor made freestyle. In it, he speculated that Lamar had not released anything so as not to overshadow the release of his friend ’s new album. In it he also used voices generated by Artificial Intelligence of the late 2Pac and Snoop Dogg, criticizing an alleged cowardice of Kendrick Lamar, since the three are from the same area of ​​Los Angeles and Lamar has always claimed that American west coast. Is it ethical to publish a song with the imitated voice of someone deceased? “It is difficult to talk about ethics in the middle of a beef. Drake’s light, comedic approach suits him very well against Kendrick Lamar’s scowl, but it seems a little ridiculous to me to put great California legends to make fun of the new legend of Californian rap. It is a forced move,” the journalist specialized in urban music Santiago Cembrano assesses about the use of AI to ICON. The move didn’t go entirely well for Drake: after Tupac’s heirs threatened a lawsuit, he removed the topic from the platforms and his social networks.

Although April 2024 has been a historic month in terms of cruelty and impact of beef In American rap, it does not seem that it will reach the escalation of violence of decades ago. No matter how many sounds of explosions that Metro Boomin introduces, the language of war or Drake’s “nuclear bomb”, for journalists like Alphonso Pierre, from Pitchfork, The dispute will remain in songs and will not reach the level of violence that ended the lives of rappers like 2Pac or Notorious BIG, murdered by gangster gangs. “Many rich men arguing”, headlines the British newspaper Guardian in analysis of all the impact achieved.

The confrontation—until now—has been mild, without reaching serious personal issues. “It is as if they were measured without sinking in the mud,” highlights Cembrano. For him, what is important for the public’s analysis is the existing and practically irreconcilable dichotomy between the two rappers when it comes to watching the music. “It functions as an open debate about two very different rap paradigms, both supremely successful by their standards. You know that a style reaches the general public when Drake adapts it or copies it to have great success. Lamar has albums in which he analyzes great human passions and points to great works of art.” They are, for him, two ways of seeing urban music age: “It allows us to understand an era that is closing with its last glimpses.”

“There are several gentlemen rapidly losing relevance due to a generational change,” highlights Alexia G. Ferrer, music journalist from Steel specializes in urban genres. A collaboration between two artists generates expectation and curiosity. “What has generated this beef It shows that the model of absolute titans vying for the throne still has a lot of strength, although it is not clear how it will translate in the future,” says Cembrano. “This goes towards the renewal of the urban scene in general,” adds Ferrer. Be that as it may, the confrontation is not over and the debate will be decided by Kendrick Lamar’s response or abandonment. It could happen at any time.

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