When it comes to the Kendrick Lamar and Drake beef, we all lose

The rappers have delivered blows to each other's reputations, but at whose expense? The lyrics say it all

By Nardos Haile

Staff Writer

Published May 10, 2024 5:14PM (EDT)

Kendrick Lamar and Drake (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Kendrick Lamar and Drake (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Rap duo Metro Boomin's new diss song "BBL Drizzy" may be running in my head in an infinite loop like an unrelenting "Tom and Jerry" episode, but that doesn't mean I haven't had enough of the testosterone-tinged war between rappers Kendrick Lamar and Drake.

Lamar and Drake have been feuding for months, swinging bloody jabs back and forth on new diss tracks, in a beef that's so juicy, a lot of people online have been comparing it to an enemies-to-lover dynamic. Well, the enemies part is right at least. Their feud has led to numerous surprise releases, accumulating six new songs between them in the last month. If you thought they were beefing over some rapper inferiority complexes — you were wrong. That may be where this beef started but it's certainly not where it landed. Each new song is riddled with allegations of pedophilia, domestic abuse, body modifications, unsubstantiated parentage claims and more.

What once was a battle to clinch the crown of who dominates male rap has now turned into a glorified pissing contestant to see which rapper can out-worse each other. Meanwhile, in the process of annihilating one another, the collateral damage is the marginalized groups they've weaponized against each other.

Whether their bars are meant to expose how either Drake and or Lamar have mistreated the women and children in their lives, they are still being used as a symbol of how they're both better men than the other. To me, this only shows that in the war between Lamar and Drake, there are no winners. It's just the same toxic perpetual hamster wheel showcasing male hip-hop artists do not care about the abuse against women unless it benefits them or is used to cut someone else down. 

The diss tracks do not hit a certain level of venom . . . until Drake mentions Lamar's wife, Whitney Alford in "Family Matters." The Canadian rapper accuses Lamar of domestic abuse and infidelity. "On some Bobby s**t, I wanna know what Whitney need,” Here Drake refers to the abusive relationship between singers Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston. The rapper continued spitting, “When you put your hands on your girl, is it self-defense ’cause she’s bigger than you?” The accusations do not include any details or factual evidence; it is just a way to slander Lamar. The intention of the accusation does not serve actual survivor justice in the hip-hop community. Even if the accusation was true, how would that make a victim of abuse feel any safer, heard or even protected?

Following the incriminating allegations, Lamar fired back with the release of "Meet the Grahams" and "Not Like Us." In the song directed to Drake's family, Lamar addresses each of Drake's family members including who Lamar theorizes is the Canadian rapper's secret daughter. Addressing Drake's mother, Lamar spits with fervor, "Your son's a sick man with sick thoughts, I think n***** like him should die/Him and Weinstein should get f****d up in a cell for the rest their life." Lamar continues that Drake has sex offenders working for him, emphasizing that "A child should never be compromised, and he keepin' his child around them." He raps, "And we gotta raise our daughters knowin' there's predators like him lurkin.'"

The Compton rapper is referring to the longtime, down-low allegations of Drake's relationship with underage girls. However, Lamar comparing Drake to Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced Hollywood executive and central figure sparking the MeToo Movement, is a low blow seeing as how Weinstein is actually a convicted sex offender. Lamar's line sensationalizes allegations leveled at Drake; but it also fails to properly acknowledge that even despite two convictions, Weinstein's power, wealth and iron fist has still granted him an overturned conviction in New York. All the while survivors of his crimes have a chance of retraumatization as he is given a new trial by New York courts.

Moreover, in "Not Like Us," Lamar reiterates to Drake, "I hear you like 'em young" and that people should "hide your lil' sister from him." In a now-viral line, Lamar spits out Drake's self-proclaimed moniker "certified love boy" and instead calls him, "Certified pedophile/Tryna strike a chord, and it's probably A minor." While Lamar has a leg up in the battle because the allegations against Drake are a topic that has outraged people for years, it does not change that the feud has taken a darker turn . . . and not for the better. The way these allegations have been callously thrown around exposes a dark underbelly in rap and hip-hop. Everybody talks, and the culture is well aware of who has been accused of being an abuser or not.

If we were to look at the genre's biggest offenders, there is convicted sex offender and trafficker, R. Kelly, who Drake has sampled in his music and who Lamar has defended when the #MuteRKelly campaign pushed to have his music removed from all streaming platforms. There is Chris Brown, one of Drake's frequent collaborators, who has a legion of abuse allegations attached to him since he was arrested for assaulting his then-girlfriend Rihanna more than a decade ago. Drake is also a vocal proponent for convicted rapper Tory Lanez, the man responsible for shooting Megan Thee Stallion. Also, rapper Kodak Black pled guilty to assault and battery of a minor whom he was accused of sexually assaulting. The self-proclaimed king of rap, Lamar has a collaboration with him on his recent album "Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers." In a genre dominated by artists like Drake and Lamar, their cheap and moral policing essentially means nothing.

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In an exhaustive last effort by Drake to swing public favor back towards him, he released "The Heart Part 6." The song attempts to absolve the rapper of the rumors of pedophilia and a hidden daughter. In a crude line, Drake raps, "If I was f***ing young girls, I promise I'd have been arrested/I'm way too famous for this s**t you just suggested." However, the song did nothing to quiet the allegations. It only showcases Drake's own lack of understanding of abuse. People like Weinstein and R. Kelly were certainly not too famous to prey on women and children. More importantly, their fame, wealth and the protection built from their millions did not stop them — it enabled them and silenced their victims. 

Many critics, fans and even musicians have analyzed the beef and songs to death but The Roots drummer Questlove had the most accurate take, stating on Instagram, “Nobody won the war. This wasn’t about skill. This was a wrestling match level mudslinging and takedown by any means necessary — women & children (& actual facts) be damned."

In the court of public opinion, Lamar has effortlessly held onto his crown by playing dirty. Mudslinging a few pedophilia accusations was enough to knock down the certified lover boy. The war between Drake and Lamar may have kept us entertained for the last month but all that's left is the souring stench of the festering wounds of women. How do we justify our entertainment when the only people being hurt are women? Let's be real; nobody's career is ruined by this. Both rappers have never been more popular. They both are predicted to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 soon. A beef that is so dead set on proving who can out-masculine one another attempts to prove that through who has hurt women in the worst, most grotesque way. "Hip-hop truly is dead," Questlove said. To counter his words, actually, hip-hop has never been more of a tedious cliche. 

By Nardos Haile

Nardos Haile is a staff writer at Salon covering culture. She’s previously covered all things entertainment, music, fashion and celebrity culture at The Associated Press. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.

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Beef Commentary Diss Tracks Drake Hip-hop Kendrick Lamar Misogyny Music Rap Women