Battle of the ‘diss’ tracks

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FEUDING in the hip hop and rap genre stretches back to the 1980s. In the 1990s, the feud between Tupac Shakur and Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace was so heated and explosive that it culminated in death and tragedy.

Now, in the 2020s, the decade-long feud between American rapper Kendrick Lamar and Drake from Canada have taken over the airwaves and hip hop culture, especially over the last few months.

Lamar is a Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper, while Drake tied with Michael Jackson as the male solo artiste with the most number one songs in Billboard Hot 100 history last year.

Their latest battle began late March and lasted until May 6, when the final two (or three) songs called “diss tracks” were released by the duo.

Wordplay and verbal gunshots

After a series of back and forth releases of single tracks, Lamar released Meet the Grahams on May 4, and before Drake could respond, he released Not Like Us on the same day as a two-punch knockout.

For Meet the Grahams, Lamar frames the song as a message that is addressed individually to Drake’s family, with the verses layered over a foreboding beat.

“Even if it don’t benefit your goals, do some push-ups, get some discipline. Don’t cut them corners like your daddy did, **** what Ozempic did,” Lamar tells Adonis, Drake’s previously secret son, while also making fun of how the rapper used drugs on his fitness journey.

On the other verses, Lamar verbally reprimands Drake’s father Dennis, who staged an intervention for his mother Sandra, and advises Drake’s alleged secret daughter.

Not Like Us is Lamar’s final salvo and this track will see a lot of play in clubs and streaming platforms due to its catchy beat and quotable lines. It is also a song that Drake will never live down due to Lamar pressing down hard on the allegations of Drake’s paedophilia.

“Say, Drake, I hear you like ‘em young, you better not ever go to cell block one. To any (woman) that talk to him and they in love, just make sure you hide your lil’ sister from him,” Lamar raps 40 seconds into the song’s first verse.

The next lines accuse Drake’s entourage of having drug addicts and sex offenders. He follows it up by referencing Drake’s album, rapping “Certified Lover Boy? Certified paedophiles”.

The verse is finally bookended with a clear example of Lamar’s wordplay prowess, as he raps “Why you trollin’ like a xxxxx? Ain’t you tired? Tryna strike a chord and it’s probably A minor,” intertwining music theory with another paedophile accusation as a double entendre.

Master manipulator

The final diss track in the squabble came from the Canadian on May 6.

Titled The Heart Part 6 – a jab at Lamar’s own five-parter songs – the verses finally sound like Drake’s own writing and not his regular team of ghost writers, largely due to how the song is a cocktail of contradictions and errors.

While Not Like Us takes aim at Drake’s documented history of inappropriate behaviour involving minors, Drake instead chooses to focus his track on claims that he manipulated Lamar into buying information that he was secretly feeding him, such as the second secret child.

“This Epstein angle was the xxxx I expected,” Drake raps, comparing himself to infamous child trafficker and rapist Jeffrey Epstein.

Ironically, Lamar never compared him to Epstein, as on Lamar’s track Meet the Grahams, he says: “Him and (Harvey) Weinstein should get xxxxxx up in a cell for the rest their life.”

In the very next verse, Drake makes another mistake by claiming that Lamar is obsessed with the “paedophile raps” due to being molested as a child, citing Lamar’s song Mother I Sober on his last album.

It is a flagrant misinterpretation of Mother I Sober, which is about Lamar’s mother confronting him on suspicion that he was molested by a family member and Lamar tells her it never happened.

Lamar’s mother also reveals to him that she was sexually assaulted as a child. The verse has not gone down well with listeners, as Drake clearly makes fun and victim blames survivors of sex crimes.

Later in the track, Drake raps that he is “too famous for (sexually assaulting) young girls”, displaying his alarming disconnect from reality, as R Kelly, P Diddy, Weinstein, Epstein and countless other famous celebrities have all been accused and charged with numerous sex crimes involving children.

Mention of Malaysia

To top it all off, Drake then pulls Malaysia into the drama as he gives a death threat, sickeningly likening making the body disappear “like that one flight from Malaysia”.

The other three minutes of The Heart Part 6 is lazily done in a spoken word format.

As of May 8, Lamar has not responded. Though Drake’s diss track is the final one in the feud, the extensive damage from Lamar’s Euphoria, Meet the Grahams and Not Like Us leaves the most lasting impact.

When people are dancing to a song that is calling you a paedophile and club-goers are bopping to the “A minor” line the same day that the song dropped, it is effectively game over.

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