Drake and Kendrick Lamar battling it out.

Rap Beef For Dummies: The Beginners Guide to Drake and Kendrick

6 mins read

This May, spring flowers came with an unexpected surprise: intense beef between rappers J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake that took the internet by storm. As a casual enjoyer of all three main players—the self-proclaimed “big three” of rap—I was taken aback by the sheer quantity of history I needed to absorb to even begin to understand the beef.

In November 2011, Lamar and Drake made their first collaboration on Drake’s Take Care album in the song “Buried Alive Interlude.” Just a year later, Drake was featured on “Poetic Justice,” from Lamar’s album good kid, m.A.A.d. city. In 2012, they collaborated once again on A$AP Rocky’s track “F**kin’ Problems” from LONG.LIVE.A$AP. Unfortunately, this is where the collaboration and kindness ended.

In August 2013, Lamar took aim at Drake and other rappers in a feature on Big Sean’s “Control” in the line “Jermaine Cole…A$AP Rocky, Drake, Big Sean,…Tyler, Mac Miller / I got love for you all, but I’m tryna murder you n****s.” Drake responded to the diss when talking to Billboard, saying, “I know good and well that he’s not murdering me, at all, in any platform. So when that day presents itself, I guess we can revisit the topic.” 

More than ten years later, that day crept back up on Drake. In October 2023, J. Cole and Drake’s collaboration on “First Person Shooter ” was Cole’s first-ever Billboard Hot 100 #1 hit. On the track, Cole rapped, “Love when they argue the hardest emcee / Is it K. Dot? Is it Aubrey? Or me? / We the big three like we started a league.”

In response to the seemingly inconsequential line, on March 26, Lamar came in strong on “Like That,” a track that was part of Future and Metro Boomin’s WE DON’T TRUST YOU album. On the track, Lamar rapped, “‘First Person Shooter,’ I hope they come with three switches / Motherfuck the Big Three, n***a, it’s just big me.” 

Sophomore Gabi Jansen said, “My first reaction to Lamar’s bar in ‘Like That’ was just shock. I was just like, ‘Oh sh*t. Something’s about to go down. There’s going to be some drama.’ His bar is what got me into the beef.” 

Senior Dylan Carmel said, “It isn’t too surprising that [Lamar] went bold on this feature. He is so infrequent when it comes to releasing music that he has to find a way to keep his name in circulation with the top current rappers.”

J. Cole quickly fired back on April 5th with “7 Minute Drill,” an anticipated response to Lamar’s diss. And yet, not even 48 hours after its release, Cole apologized live at his annual Dreamville Festival, saying “I just want to come up here and publicly say that was the lamest and goofiest sh*t.” At first glance, many fans took to Reddit, YouTube, and other social media platforms to make fun of J. Cole for this move

“I think he knew his claims were faulty and he ultimately was outmatched so he decided it was better to step out of the beef. In the end, I think it was the right move for him,” said Carmel. Jansen added, “Even though he said he dropped out of the beef because he was protecting his peace, I think another reason he dropped out was because he was intimidated by Kendrick. He didn’t want the smoke.”

“J. Cole came out with a weak response. People gave him a hard time, and so he bowed out. I watched that concert where he talked about why [he did], and I was like, ‘I understand, man.’ I’ve never been a huge J. Cole fan, but he’s real. He’s honest, he’s sincere, and he doesn’t want to be pushed into doing something that seems fake. So I think it was a good idea, and I like all the memes [that came from it],” said social studies teacher Sam Harris.

A meme mocking Drake's response to J. Cole.
A meme on Reddit.

On April 19, Drake released “Push Ups,” a full-blown diss track targeting Metro Boomin, Future, Lamar, and a slew of other rappers. Throughout the track, Drake notably criticizes Lamar’s shoe size, which many have picked out as the line that makes this track lyrically subpar when compared to Lamar’s follow-up diss tracks. 

That same day, Drake dropped “Taylor Made Freestyle,” a track that used AI-generated voices of Tupac and Snoop Dogg. Controversy over Tupac’s voice being used prompted Drake to take the song down from all streaming platforms, but many versions still exist online. 

On April 30, Lamar struck back with the six-minute-long diss “euphoria.” The scathing track targets accusations against Drake of blackface, questionable relationships with underage girls, bad fashion sense, and boring lyrics. In a viral lyric, he rapped, “I hate the way that you walk, the way that you talk, I hate the way that you dress.” Only four days later on May 3, Lamar dropped another track––“6:16 in LA,” where he continued to call Drake a liar and a “terrible person.”

May 3 got even more heated when Drake retorted with an eight-minute diss track called “Family Matters.” Not even an hour later, Lamar dropped “meet the grahams,” in which he speaks directly to Drake’s son, Adonis, saying “I wish your grandpa woulda wore a condom […] let me be your mentor since your daddy don’t teach you shit.” In a shocking move, Lamar then accused Drake of having a secret daughter, rapping, “You lied about your son, you lied about your daughter, huh, you lied about them other kids that’s out there hoping that you come.” 

Despite the overt claims that Drake is a pedophile, to many, the accusation that he had a secret eleven-year-old daughter marked the most surprising claim throughout all of the tracks. “It’s extremely hard to tell whether or not the claim is true because there has been no proof from either side,” said Carmel, continuing, “Because Drake kept his son’s existence a secret for so long, it’s hard to fully dismiss the claim.” 

On that same evening, Lamar dropped his second track of the day, “Not Like Us,” where the accusations of pedophilia against Drake ramped up and took on a more serious tone. He rapped, “Certified Lover Boy? Certified pedophiles / […] Tryna strike a chord and it’s probably A minor.” 

On May 5, Drake shot back with “THE HEART PART 6,” mocking Lamar’s five-part “The Heart” series. In it, Drake referenced the secret daughter allegations, rapping, “We fed you the information / A daughter that’s eleven years old, I bet he takes it / We thought about giving a fake name or a destination / But you so thirsty, you not concerned with investigation.” 

I don’t see [Drake] as an artist. He’s a showman, and he cares about number one records and stuff like that, whereas Kendrick cares about truth and honesty and bringing attention to things in the community.

Social studies teacher Sam Harris

Harris said, “Maybe Drake fed rumors to Lamar’s team that he had another kid he was hiding, and he thinks he’s clever for that. But nobody really cares. The pedophile thing is a big accusation, and Drake hasn’t exactly helped himself with the archival videos coming out of him complimenting high school girls.”

Drake also denied the pedophile accusations, citing that Lamar was projecting his own childhood trauma by quoting Drake’s track “Mother I Sober,” where he delves into his sexual traumas. More explicitly, he says, “Just for clarity, I feel disgusted, I’m too respected / If I was fucking young girls, I promise I’d have been arrested.” He also references Lamar’s alleged domestic abuse against his fiancé, Whitney Alford.

“THE HEART PART 6” turned few towards Drake’s side, and as many newer listeners get involved and educated on the beef, most have joined the ranks as Lamar supporters. “Kendrick’s winning because he dropped ‘Not Like Us,’ which I think is the best of all of them. It’s just devastating, and it’s such a good song. He’s got double, triple, quadruple entendres—it’s masterful, and that’s Lamar. Nobody should be surprised,” said Harris.

Others cannot pick a side. “At the end of the day, I don’t see either of them as winners. I think all the tracks have been sonically impressive and glad that both artists have been motivated to release lots of new music,” said Carmel. Jansen added, “Lyrically, Lamar is a very good rapper and he knows it, and that’s why he was so confident in asserting himself as the biggest name in rap.”

Harris added, “I don’t see [Drake] as an artist. He’s a showman, and he cares about number one records and stuff like that, whereas Kendrick cares about truth and honesty and bringing attention to things in the community.”

Jansen said, “The most unique part of this beef is how widespread of an audience it has reached. It’s brought a lot of attention to hip-hop and rap culture. Even my parents have asked about the beef.” As the conflict continues to develop, M-A students and teachers are looking out for the next big drop.  

“I think this is a very unique moment in musical history. The fact that both these artists hold so much power in the music industry makes this period comparable to Tupac and Biggie’s beef in the ‘90s,” said Carmel. “The conflict also creates tremendous pressure on third-party artists when choosing who to include on future tracks.”

Jansen said, “Whether you’re on Drake’s side or Kendrick’s side, I think we can all appreciate the music. We’ve had literally three drops in a day, and we just need to enjoy that. I mean, ‘meet the grahams’ is a bop, and that’s what this beef is really about, anyways.”

Sonia is a senior in her third year of M-A Journalism and is a current Editor-in-Chief. She primarily covers local news, popular culture, and community events at M-A. She also began "The Music Moment" column, runs the Chronicle's social medias, and regularly contributes to breaking news articles. In her free time, you can find her editing Spotify playlists or reading a great book. You can also find her work on the blog for jwa.org!

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