A History of Rappers Apologizing to Kendrick Lamar

J. Cole's “7 Minute Drill” reversal isn't the first time Kendrick has been the recipient of apologetic remarks.

A performer in a blue outfit sings into a microphone with a vibrant floral backdrop on stage
Image via Getty/Christopher Polk/Billboard
A performer in a blue outfit sings into a microphone with a vibrant floral backdrop on stage

J. Cole dissing Kendrick Lamar on “7 Minute Drill” and subsequently backpedaling will likely set off memes-generating conversation for the foreseeable future. So now is as good of a time as ever to look back on previous instances of Kendrick Lamar-focused regret.

While it remains to be seen what will or won't come of the post-"Like That" landscape now that Cole has rescinded his response (Drake, the ball is in your court), fans can perhaps get a sense of what the future may hold by digging into the crates of the past.

While J. Cole's apology was shocking, he wasn't the first rapper to diss Kendrick or best him and then walk it back. Here's a look back at others who did the same.

J. Cole

Music artist on stage wearing a "Dreamers" jersey and black pants, holding a microphone, with stage lights in the background

What happened?

After Kendrick Lamar name-dropped the Big 3 (and had subtle bars aimed at Cole) on his verse from Future and Metro Boomin's "Like That," we all expected Cole to hop in the ring and spar with his former collaborator. We got just that with "7 Minute Drill," which wasn't a death blow by any means, but enough to be considered a warning shot at K-Dot.

But then...

During the 2024 edition of Cole's Dreamville Festival in North Carolina, Cole spoke on Kendrick, albeit not in the way most were expecting. Cole used descriptors like "lame" and "terrible" when reflecting on his "7 Minute Drill" diss, which he suggested may end up being removed from streaming services. (Notably, the project it's on is titled Might Delete Later).

"Y'all love Kendrick Lamar, correct?" Cole told the Dreamville crowd. "As do I. So I just wanna come up here and publicly be like, 'Bruh, that was the lamest goofiest shit,' and I say all that to say it made me feel like 10 years ago when I was moving incorrectly, and I pray that God will line me back up on my purpose and on my path. I pray that my n***a really didn't feel no way and if he did, my n***a, I got my chin out. Take your best shot. I'mma take that shit on the chin, boy. Do what you do. All good. It's love.”

Good for Cole to choose inner peace and solace over clout and beef that'll clog your arteries. But after J. Cole made a song quoting Jay-Z's "Takeover," he wanted takebacks, and the response from many die-hard rap fans was, "THAT'S SO LAAAMME."

Lupe Fiasco

Music artist performing on stage with microphone, wearing casual attire and sunglasses

What happened?

In January 2018, in a series of deleted tweets, Lupe Fiasco responded to a fan's question and argued that Kendrick shouldn't be considered a "top tier lyricist."

“I’ll put it to you like this. K. Dot is not a top tier lyricist to me and my standards when it comes to punchlines and bars,” Lupe wrote, on Twitter. “His overall lyrics are good, his stories phenomenal, but punchline entendre lyrically I don’t see it.”

That's not all he said either.

“Also the only issue that the world thinks I have with K. Dot and I actually do is that I think his ‘Control’ verse was wack and super overhyped to be a verse claiming you are the best rapper. It was very weird. I was told it was just bait, but still,” wrote Lupe.

But then...

A few months later, Lupe walked back that assessment somewhat, saying in an Instagram video that he was sorry for "engaging and talking about" other artists' careers. “Maybe I should have just left it alone. Even though my impetus was the ‘Control’ verse,” said Lupe. “I mean you put yourself out there like that. So you opened yourself up to critique…I apologize for even engaging and talking about n***as' careers. I’ll never do that shit again.”

Despite his backtrack, Lupe found himself the subject of similar headlines two years later.

Posting this article on Monday, Lupe pushed back, tweeting, "Relax yo... I wasn't apologizing to him lol...I was sorry about the entire shindig because it was such a waste of time and energy in something that actually had nothing to do with me. Keep my name clean...I fear no rapper of any kind or on anytime. K dot solid but y'all need to chill lol."

Tweet from Lupe Fiasco saying "Relax yo..." quoting a Complex Music tweet about rappers apologizing to Kendrick Lamar
Two tweets discussing a misunderstanding, with one jokingly not accepting an apology and clarifying no fear of any rapper

Jay Electronica 

Rapper in a white tee performing with a mic, surrounded by an attentive crowd

What happened?

While everyone remembers Kendrick stealing the show on Big Sean's "Control" and basically turning it into his own song with an earth-shattering verse, it's often forgotten that Jay Electronica had the last verse on that track. Perhaps Jay Elec never forgot getting overshadowed because in February 2016 he dissed Kendrick during a livestream.

"Kendrick would tell you himself he couldn't body me," said the New Orleans rapper. "Kendrick is my son. Kendrick is my baby. Kendrick wishes he could be me." Later that month, Eletronica released the song "#TBE The Curse of Mayweather" where he rapped, "'He’s got 11 Grammy nominations, ya’ll not equal'/ Man, fuck these white people/My grandmother died at 82 scrubbing floors/And n***as still runnin' around beggin for awards,” mocking Kendrick's 11 Grammy nods in 2015.

But then...

By April of that year, Jay was singing a different tune. He asked for forgiveness forpast transgressions.” On Twitter, he wrote, "peace to K dot and TDE because regardless to whom or what we are brothers fighting the same enemy." Sure, Jay Elec to fight all of his enemies, but clearly no one wants K-Dot as their enemy.


Singer on stage wearing a leopard print jacket, holding a microphone, performing at a concert

What happened?

Where were you on the night of Jan. 26, 2014? The night Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop"-featuring The Heist won Best Rap Album at the Grammys. Also nominated in the category that year were Ye's Yeezus, Drake's Nothing Was the Same, Jay-Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail, and most importantly Kendrick's good kid, m.A.A.d city.

You could make a case for Yeezus or even Nothing Was the Same winning, but The Heist beating good kid?!? The second the presenters read off Macklemore's name, that album lived up to its title.

But then...

Infamously, Macklemore was filled with so much white guilt for beating Kendrick that he not only texed an apology to Kendrick, but he then posted it on his Instagram—turning a private apology into a public one. Kendrick reflected on that infamous moment in an interview with Complex in 2015, saying, "He probably didn’t need to Instagram the text. But what’s done is done.”

Bonus: Big Sean

Music artist performing on stage with a microphone, wearing a sports jacket and a cap

What happened?

Although not necessarily an apology, Big Sean and Kendrick were said to have buried the hatchet. Not unlike "Like That," Kendrick's verse on Big Sean's much-discussed track "Control" became a swift scene-stealer upon its release in 2013. In the years since, there has been a ton of speculation from fans and perceived subliminals from Sean that kept "Control" in the conversation.

In 2015, for example, Sean told Complex that he felt there was "a lot of negativity" on the song.

But then...

By 2020, Sean said he and Kendrick had been able to achieve "a good reconciliation." On that year's Detroit 2 track "Deep Reverence," Sean rapped about reaching out to Kendrick: "After what happened to Nipsey I reached out to Kendrick/It wasn't even no real issues there to begin with."

It's great that cooler heads prevailed, but Kendrick's "HUMBLE" and "ELEMENT" were filled with subs aimed at Sean. And like Dot on the later track, "Most of y'all throw rocks and try to hide your hand/Just say his name and I promise that you'll see Candyman."

Clearly, when it comes to Kendrick, few (if any) rappers are really like that.

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