The contentious relationship between Jay Z and Drake is one of the more confusing and volatile ones in rap. Since the two first collaborated on "Off That," from Jay's The Blueprint 3 in 2009, they've produced a collage of shady verses, diss-infused interviews, and out-of-the-blue compliments, making it almost impossible to discern whether they're friendly or not.
When Drake's "Pop Style"—an appetizer before VIEWS—came out last month boasting a one-line cameo from Hov and feature from Kanye West, social media was positively bemused. Were all three cool with each other again? Was the Throne truly "back up in it"? Was there a longer Jay Z verse in the stash? Then VIEWS dropped—minus Jay and 'Ye. Drake's explanation to Zane Lowe on the matter is full of awkward body language, copped pleas, and politician-speak that suggests things between Jigga and the self-proclaimed new Jay are a tad frosty (check out the 26:25 mark on the video).
With Jay Z working on his own new music, is the cold war about to heat up? Or are we reading too much into this situation? W
June 2010: Drake hints that Jay has gone from idol to rival.
Drake references his friendship-turned-rivalry with Jay, the self-professed “Michael Jordan of recording,” on the final song from Thank Me Later, “Thank Me Now”: “That’s around the time that your idols become your rivals/You make friends with Mike but got to A.I. him for your survival.” Of course, this arrives just four songs after "Light Up," in which Hov drops in to school freshman Drizzy on the highs and lows of the rap game.
May 2011: Drake threatens to take over the "Throne..."
Drizzy's bravado-laced verse on DJ Khaled’s "I'm on One" includes a not-so-subtle jab at the title of Jay and Ye's blockbuster collab project: “Hate the rumors, hate the bullshit, hate these fucking allegations/I’m just feelin' like the throne is for the taking—watch me take it.”
May 2011: ...then denies it via Twitter.
Mere days after his verse hit the interwebz, Drizzy tries to assuage angry fans by clarifying his intentions: “Hov diss? Hov of all people has not lost it...that's god body flow.”
Nov. 2011: Jay Z congratulates Drake on sophomore success...
July 2013: ...then calls him the Kobe to his Jordan.
Jay continues to make clear to the public that all is good between him and Drake by anointing the Toronto rapper the "Kobe of hip hop" in a #FACTSONLY interview with Elliott Wilson.
Sept. 2013: “Pound Cake” puts the bromance on wax.
At first listen, “Pound Cake,” from Drake's Nothing Was the Same, sounds like young gun versus old guard. In other words, it's passive-aggressive tactics on wax, with lines like Drake's “I’m the big homie, too” set off against Jay bragging that he "had Benzes before you had braces.” But the story behind the song's creation reveals a much friendlier atmosphere. According to Drake, Jay gave him two a capella verses he had recorded during his Magna Carta Holy Grail sessions, a very rare extension of generosity from the god. When Drake came back to him with the verses over Boi-1da's beat, Jay was so impressed that he almost snatched the song back for himself, but relented: “I sent the song back to Jay—and that was when it almost became a Jay Z song. But he’s such a good guy, he was like, ‘I gave you my word,'" Drake explained. "I don’t know what I’d do without that guy sometimes, he’s just full of gems and advice.”
Feb. 2014: Drake mocks Jay Z’s "corny" art references.
Fast forward a few months and suddenly the shade is out in full force. Drake dismisses Jay Z's art-inspired raps. “It's like Hov can't drop bars these days without at least four art references!" he tells Rolling Stone. “I think the whole rap/art world thing is getting kind of corny.”
March 2014: Hov fires back on the "We Made It" freestyle.
Teaming up with Jay Electronica, Hov reminds Drizzy that he's still got it with a fiery verse: "Sorry Mr. Drizzy for so much art talk/Silly me rapping 'bout shit that I really bought/While these rappers rap bout guns they ain't shot and a bunch of silly shit that they ain't got."
April 2014: Drake responds on "Draft Day."
Drizzy slyly responds to Jay’s “We Made it” diss with one of his best verses ever. "Just hits, no misses, that's for the married folk," he raps. "We all do it for the art, so I could never hate though," and then he shouts out the Bay—get it? Later that month in an on-court interview, Drake comments on Jay's absence at a Nets-Raptors playoff game by mocking the OG's snootiness. “KG [Kevin Garnett] is frustrated; the young boys are out tonight," he says. "Jay Z is somewhere eating a fondue plate."
April 2014: Jay Z shoots back on DJ Khaled’s "They Don't Love You No More."
Adamant on having the final say in their yearlong back-and-forth, Jay mocks Drake's reputation for making corny love songs, hinting that he's too weak for rap: "Haters wanna ball let me tighten up my drawstring, wrong sports boy, you know you soft as a lacrosse team."
May 2016: Drake explains Jay’s 1-line contribution on “Pop Style”
Then, after a long quiet spell, the rivalry comes back into the media when Jay and Kanye appear on Drake's "Pop Style." Instead of an insane three-way collaboration, however, Jay contributes a single line, prompting rumors of beef and backstage drama. Drake clears the air, kinda, in an interview with Zane Lowe by admitting that it was Kanye's idea to pull Jay into the song, and that the decision to cut Jay’s verse was ultimately creative, not personal. “I’ve expressed my admiration for Jay countless times," he explains. "Sometimes we just fall on opposite sides of the spectrum in the rap world." Curiously, his comments about his friendship with Kanye are much warmer and more personal.
July 2016: Jay Z maybe sends a shot on DJ Khaled's "I Got the Keys"
"Till you own your own you can't be free/Till you're on your own you can't be me," Jay raps in the first verse of "I Got the Keys," and it's possible that these bars are a response to Drake's "Summer Sixteen" loosie. On that song, Drake rapped, "I used to wanna be on Roc-A-Fella then I turned into Jay." According to Jay, that's not the case.
Feb. 2017: Far from done, Jay continues to send subliminals with the help of DJ Khaled
On the night of Beyoncé's ridiculous loss to Adele for Album of the Year at the 2017 Grammys, DJ Khaled releases a new song, "Shining," that features Bey and Jay. After celebrating his wife's pregnancy, Jay makes time for a Drake dismissal, rapping, "I know you ain't out here talkin numbers, right? I know you ain't out here talkin summers, right?/I know you ain't walkin 'round talkin down/Sayin boss shit when you a runner, right?" It's of a piece with the lines from "I Got the Keys." Now the question is, will Drake respond?