Kendrick Lamar, Drake, And the Battle for Rap Supremacy

Drake has to respond to be taken seriously as rap's No. 1 act.

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Complex Original

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Written by Angel Diaz (@ADiaz456)

The battle for rap’s heavyweight title is here and it’s more about competition than it is beef. Biggie versus Pac was beef. Kendrick Lamar versus Drake is a high school battle cypher compared to that. But let's not act as if this potential battle isn't important. This has the chance to be something very real: it's a battle for the hip-hop throne left up for grabs by those that ruled before.

Kendrick Lamar didn’t subtly hint at wanting the title with the verse heard ‘round the world. Compton's favorite son rapped his offering on "Control" like a man possessed. It was like watching the end of a TLC match—bloody and battered, he climbed hip-hop’s ladder and stretched with all his might and grabbed the belt. That’s what people don’t talk about. Sure, the verse wasn’t that remarkable aside from the fact that he named names. He's had way stronger outings as a lyricist, but the point was made, the shot was fired.

That verse shut the game down for a week while he and his T.D.E. crew sat back and laughed at the responses. And not to totally discredit Meek Mill's effort, but no one Kendrick mentioned has responded with anything worth merit. The only person people are waiting on is the Canadian superstar I like to call "Wheelchair Jimmy." He responded but not like how rap fans would've liked. He chose to respond in interviews instead of the booth while on the press run for his recent album Nothing Was The Same.

Whenever folks like myself question Drake’s place in rap, his supporters bring up “5 AM in Toronto” and “Stay Schemin’” which are great examples of the former actor’s lyrical ability.

At first, Drake sounded confident, telling Billboard: "It just sounded like an ambitious thought to me. That's all it was. I know good and well that Kendrick's not murdering me, at all, in any platform. So when that day presents itself, I guess we can revisit the topic."

But then during Elliot Wilson's "CRWN" interview, he sounded like he was starting to get annoyed: “That ['Control'] verse was a moment to talk about. Are you listening to it now, though? He didn’t come in there on some wild, ‘I’m in New York, fuck everybody.’ I almost wish he had come in there on that shit because I kind of lost a little bit of respect for the sentiment of the verse. If it’s really ‘fuck everybody’ then it needs to be ‘fuck everybody’. It can’t just be halfway.”

Then during an interview on Power 106's Big Boy’s Neighborhood, Drake sounded like a sadboy when asked about the Kendrick situation, saying that he was over the verse and has no intentions of working with Kendrick any time soon.

Later that week, he told Hot 97’s Angie Martinez: "It just wasn't real to me. I saw him after that and it was just like love, so it's like was that real or was that for the people? Those were harsh words, you can't just say that and see me like, 'Yeah, man, what's up,' pretending like nothing ever happened. That's not real."

Drake doesn’t get it. This isn’t a beef, this is competition. Sport. It's about skills, it's about who's better than who, and more importantly, it's about rap supremacy and legacy. Whenever folks (like myself) question Drake’s place in rap, his supporters bring up "5 AM in Toronto" and "Stay Schemin’" which are great examples of the former actor’s lyrical ability. But what about the majority of his catalog?

All three of his solo albums and the mixtape (So Far Gone) that put him on the map are R&B heavy. So it’s hard for a guy like me—who came up in hip-hop’s golden era—to take him seriously as a contender for rap’s throne. When he wants to spit, Wheelchair Jimmy can rap better than most, but that’s the thing. He would rather address the Kendrick situation in interviews than on wax. I mean, he did put Common to sleep, but that was over a girl. Maybe Kendrick should mention one of Drake’s lost loves in order to get a response out of him. I sure hope Drake takes time off from making ballads to send some kind of shot at Lamar. After seeing that 15-second clip everyone is talking about (I know, some people think he dissed Papoose too, but who gives a fuck?), it's about that time.

Last weekend, people that were in attendance for the taping of the BET Hip-Hop Awards cyphers said that Kendrick let another one off at the Canadian rapper. No one knew exactly what he said until yesterday morning. In the clip, surrounded by his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates, Kendrick addressed Drake’s recent butthurt comments. The self-proclaimed king, said: “And nothin’ been the same since they dropped 'Control'/And tucked the sensitive rapper back in his pajama clothes/Haha, jokes on you, high five, I’m bulletproof/Your shots will never penetrate/Pin a tail on the donkey, boy, you been a fake.”

That high five he gave to Schoolboy Q was so disrespectful, and the look he gave the camera was even better. Kendrick Lamar is not fucking around. We should’ve taken notice after he washed Jay Z on the "Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe (Remix)." But we finally started to pay attention this summer.

That "Control" move was brilliant. It pushed the critically acclaimed good kid, m.A.A.d city to platinum status and put rap’s focus back to lyrics. He knew that it would be foolish for anyone he mentioned to respond hastily, and they haven’t. But now, with the way Drake is handling questions about his name being called out, and the “leaking” of the BET Cypher clip, hip-hop is waiting for the game’s hottest artist to say something, anything.

Sure, he brushed up against a response in “The Language": "I don't know why they're lying/Your shit is not that inspiring'/Bank account statements look like I'm ready for early retirement/Fuck any nigga that's talking that shit just to get a reaction/Fuck going platinum, I just looked at me wrist and it's already platinum..." But man, if you wanna go to war with that as your weaponry, be my guest. It’s gonna take a lot more than rapping about money and album sales to get a monster like Kendrick off your heels.

Along with Kanye West, Drake is the best all-around artist that rap has right now. But rap supremacy has always and forever will be about bars, lyrics, straight-up rhyming. That's Kendrick's forte.

Along with Kanye West, Drake is the best all-around artist that rap has right now. But rap supremacy has always and forever will be about bars, lyrics, straight-up rhyming. That's Kendrick's forte. Kendrick also knows how to make a record—he didn’t sell a million by mistake—so he’s the only real competition Drake has.

Some might say that this “beef” feels forced, which might be the case. But we rap fans are blood-thirsty wolves when it comes to this beef shit. We’re like a mad crowd in the Roman Colosseum, hungry for someone’s head. This competition is exactly the shot in the arm mainstream rap needs.

I’ve personally been calling Kendrick the savior for awhile now, and he’s proving me right. If you want to be the king of this game, you have to snatch the crown and that’s exactly what Kendrick is doing. Drake needs to respond, directly, before the year is over, and it has to be hot fire flames. Because as it stands, Wheelchair Jimmy is looking soft out here. I understand him not wanting to associate with Kendrick at this moment. But he needs to tuck his feelings back in his heart, go in the studio, and come out swinging.

Drake can aspire to be the Lightskin Keith Sweat or the new Marvin Gaye all he wants, but he’s not going to be taken seriously as a rapper, as an MC, if he turns the other cheek. As it stands, Kendrick is on the top step of the ladder with his fingertips on the belt. Will Drake get up off the canvas and knock the ladder down before "King" Kendrick gets a hold of it? Can he prove "haters" like me wrong? We’ll all be here, munching on our popcorn, waiting to see.

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