By now you’ve undoubtedly heard, and been underwhelmed by, Meek Mill’s Drake diss song, “Wanna Know.” And yes, there’s a lot of things we wanna know. Did it really take Meek all week to record this? Why did the guy who's known for screaming suddenly start mumbling? If Meek came up as a battle rapper in Philly, shouldn’t he be better at diss records? While we were all left scratching our heads, Drake Instagramed a photo of himself laughing. We’re laughing, too, because the GIFs, memes, and Twitter reactions to Meek’s song are simply way more entertaining than the song itself. But there’s a better reason for Drake to laugh: He knows he’s winning and it’s because Meek is beating himself.
Let’s rewind for a second. About a year ago, Meek Mill was sitting in a jail cell after having his probation revoked. Since then, things have gone remarkably well for him. He got out jail, he started dating his dream girl, Nicki Minaj, and just a few weeks ago he scored his first No. 1 album, Dreams Worth More Than Money. Around the time he probably realized Future made the album he should have, Meek started a beef by revealing Drake uses ghostwriters because—and this cannot be overstated—Drake didn’t tweet a link to his album. The only thing more puzzling than Meek’s reasoning for dissing Drake is that he seemingly didn’t have any bars, much less an actual song, about Drake already in the bag when he opted to ignite a feud.
Since his infamous tweet, here’s a play by play of Meek’s moves:
He shouted out Drake on stage.
He responded to Drake’s “Charged Up” with tweets instead of bars.
He dissed Drake on stage but didn’t rap about him.
Played an ultimately inconsequential show in Toronto.
He promised he’d get in the studio to record a Drake diss.
He tweeted the letter “Z.”
Does any of this sound like the moves of a guy with a plan?
When he did deliver a diss record nine days after starting a feud, the song felt haphazard and disjointed with more skits than memorable lines. The best parts of the song aren't any of the rhymes, either. They're the sinister beat produced by Jahlil Beats (and Swizz Beatz, apparently) that masterfully flips the Undertaker's entrance music, and the already infamous anecdote that Drake got peed on by someone in T.I.’s crew. But even the latter is a wasted opportunity, it’s a story too good to just be just thrown out in the closing seconds. Reading through the lyrics you might discover some of the better lines, but it hardly matters when the song is practically unlistenable thanks to Meek’s garbled delivery. You’re better off reading rhymes Meek’s fans wrote for diss songs and just imagining Meek rapping them.
Drake, on the other hand, has been moving with ease and guile. In the midst of this beef, Drake released “Hotline Bling”—a song superior to most of the cuts on Meek’s album. Drake also didn’t overreact to Meek’s initial tweets, nor did he overpromise. Instead he casually released “Charged Up” on OVO SOUND—the perfect promotion for his new radio show. As soon as Meek gained a bit of momentum by playing Toronto, Drake struck again with “Back to Back” and put Meek on the ropes. And yet, neither “Back to Back” nor “Charged Up” are all that vicious—they’re both just solid. But in the context of Meek’s no show, they feel like uppercuts instead of jabs.
The greatest blow Drake has taken in this entire beef was administered by Funk Flex airing out Quentin Miller’s reference tracks for songs like “10 Bands.” The reference tracks provided fodder for Drake’s many haters, a shrug from Drake’s many ardent supporters, and hopefully a newfound appreciation for the physicality of rapping for anyone who listens to both reference and original tracks. However, Flex damaged Meek’s campaign too by promising a diss record Meek wasn’t ready to deliver. He damaged his own brand as well. Flex and Meek’s failures are lessons in the dangers of overselling.
Despite all this, maybe it’s not too late for Meek to redeem himself. It won’t be easy at this point, especially with OVO Fest this weekend, and Drake poised to unleash the death blow. But sometimes champions rise when you try to kick them down.
Insanul Ahmed is an Editorial Producer for Complex. Follow him @incilin.