Why is everyone arguing about Drake and Kendrick Lamar?

Rappers Kendrick Lamar, left, and Drake are feuding through a heated exchange of diss tracks.  (Danny Moloshok (left) and Mark Blinch (right)/Reuters - image credit)
Rappers Kendrick Lamar, left, and Drake are feuding through a heated exchange of diss tracks. (Danny Moloshok (left) and Mark Blinch (right)/Reuters - image credit)

Hip-hop heavyweights Drake and Kendrick Lamar are sparring in an exchange of diss tracks that has sent music fans into furious debates on social media.

The feud has roped in a slew of hip-hop stars, almost all of whom seem to be coming for Toronto native Drake.

"Hip-hop hasn't seen a beef like this since Nas versus Jay-Z [in 2001]," Brooklyn-based music journalist and content creator Jacques Morel told CBC.

"I'm really challenged to think of a time where the two pound-for-pound biggest artists went head to head against each other in a way that gripped not just hip-hop but ... music writ large."

Beef has been simmering

Morel says the beef between Drake and Lamar, who are former collaborators, has been simmering for a decade, with the two exchanging "subliminal" insults over the years.

The current feud seems to have been ignited by First Person Shooter, a seemingly innocuous track from Drake's October 2023 album For All the Dogs, on which he and J. Cole boast about being among the three best rappers in the game — the third being Lamar.

But in late March, Lamar fired a clear shot at Drake with a guest verse on Metro Boomin and Future's track Like That, where he rapped, "Motherf--k the big three ... it's just big me."

According to Morel, "Kendrick's verse is the one that really pulled the fire alarm."

J. Cole responded first, with a diss track aimed at Lamar called 7 Minute Drill, featuring lines like, "Your first shit was classic, your last shit was tragic." Cole later pulled the track from music streaming services. During an April 7 headlining set at his own Dreamville Festival, he apologized — a rare move in a rap beef — and praised Lamar, calling 7 Minute Drill a "misstep" and saying he had lost sleep over it.

Future and Metro Boomin dropped a new album on April 12, which saw guest stars take jabs at Drake. A$AP Rocky brags on Show of Hands about sleeping with a woman fans have speculated is Sophie Brussaux, the mother of Drake's son, Adonis.

Meanwhile, on the track All to Myself, Toronto artist The Weeknd sings, "I thank God that I never signed my life away," which many have interpreted as a reference to his decision not to sign to Drake's OVO label.

Drake responds, Kendrick strikes back

Drake, who is no stranger to feuding with his contemporaries, snapped back the next day.

Snippets of a track called Push Ups leaked on April 13, with the title poking fun at Lamar for posting videos of himself on Instagram doing push-ups.

The song also makes fun of Lamar's height and allegedly small feet, as well as his past pop collaborations: "Maroon 5 need a verse, you better make it witty / Then we need a verse for the Swifties." The track also takes shots at Future, Metro Boomin, rapper Rick Ross, The Weeknd and others.

Within 24 hours, Ross responded with a scathing retort called Champagne Moments, in which he accuses Drake of getting a nose job — a claim Drake refuted by posting a text conversation with his mom — and says the Toronto artist copied his flow from American rapper Lil Wayne (alongside some meaner, unprintable insults).

The feud became muddled when a supposed Lamar response called One Shot appeared online, but turned out to be a fake with AI-generated vocals.

On April 19, Drake dropped Taylor Made Freestyle, in which he suggests Lamar was bowing to corporate masters and waiting for Taylor Swift's latest album to drop before releasing his own diss track. Ironically, Drake used AI on the song to impersonate the late Tupac Shakur as well as Snoop Dogg — invoking two of Lamar's rap heroes in a seeming effort to goad him into responding.

Snoop seemed amused, but Drake took the track down after Shakur's estate hit him with a cease and desist order, calling the use of the legendary rapper's voice an "insult."

This Tuesday, Lamar hit back with Euphoria, a blistering track that questions Drake's attitude toward women ("I believe you don't like women") and calls him a "scam artist" and a "master manipulator and habitual liar."

The track also takes aim at Drake's parenting ("I got a son to raise, but I can see you don't know nothin' 'bout that"), a sore spot for the Canadian after rapper Pusha T ended a 2018 feud by revealing Drake secretly had a son.

The response was a rare foray for Lamar, who is revered as a top lyricist and not someone other rappers would want to take on. Morel said Lamar lived up to that reputation with Euphoria.

"Drake's jabs on Push Ups and on Taylor Made Freestyle were a little childish — calling Kendrick Lamar short, you know what I mean. But Kendrick's response was actually laced with venom," Morel said.

"Kendrick Lamar effectively takes apart Drake and who he is, and his authenticity, piece by piece."

Euphoria also seems to make fun of the Toronto accent and references New Ho King, a late-night Chinese restaurant in the city's downtown.

Lamar drops second diss track Friday

As the internet was still reeling over Lamar's response, he dropped another track on Friday called 6:16 in LA. This time, Lamar goes hard on claims that Drake is hated even by those in his inner circle.

"Fake bully, I hate bullies, you must be a terrible person / Everyone inside your team is whispering that you deserve it," Lamar raps.

Toronto hip-hop DJ Paul Parhar, also known as Mastermind, says it's hard to know which accusations are true, but he suspects Drake has become a target because of his dominance in the industry.

"Listen, anybody that's battling with him right now, he gave an assist to, in one way, shape or form," Parhar said. "People want him to fall. He's been on top for more than a decade. He's a superstar. He's Canadian, he doesn't fit their American hip-hop mould, so to speak."

Morel and Parhar fully expect a response from Drake to Euphoria and 6:16 in LA, and are eagerly anticipating an escalation in the war of words while also hoping the feud stays in the studios.

"It's kind of re-sparked some excitement in hip-hop ... this feeling hasn't been there for a hot minute," Parhar said.

"As long as it stays in the music realm, it's all good. We obviously don't need this to turn into anything else … We don't need to go down the Tupac and Biggie road."