Hey, Drake and Kendrick. Don’t stop now. It’s come down to this: You must deliver on what would undoubtedly be the most intriguing rap battle since Jay Z and Nas exhibited a heavyweight showdown for the hip-hop ages. Of course if and when this all officially goes down, people will point to Kendrick Lamar’s yet-to-be-aired jab at the self-proclaimed light skinned Keith Sweat during a rhyme cypher taping at the BET Hip-Hop Awards.
“And nothing's been the same since they dropped ‘Control’/And tucked a sensitive rapper back in his pajama clothes…” K-Dot raps, alluding to the explosive August drone verse that got seemingly every blogger, writer and MC into a full-bodied frenzy.
You don’t have to read between the lines to know who the sensitive rapper in question is. Drake, who currently has the no. 1 album in the country, moving an impressive 658,000 copies of his latest work Nothing Was the Same, has gone on record with his thoughts on Lamar name-checking him on “Control” alongside just about every other MC alive and kicking. Some took it as simply spirited competition, praising Lamar for taking rap back to its roots after years of fat cat theatrics and mindless pill popping. Others like Joell Ortiz, Lupe Fiasco, Meek Mill, and Papoose returned serve on wax. Yet Drizzy has seemingly taken it all to heart. During a late September radio interview with Hot 97’s Angie Martinez, Drake seemed confused by the Compton lyricist’s words connecting verbal brinkmanship with real, uncooked beef.
“You can't just say that and then see me and be like nothing ever happened,” Drake said giving a side-eye to Lamar. “That's not like the nature of battling. There's passion behind it. There's anger behind it. Because there's a lot of people that were mentioned that I feel like can't really go back and fuck with that guy after that.”
Just days before, Drake responded to the verse during a sit-down with hip-hop media mogul Elliot Wilson. “That ['Control'] verse was a moment to talk about. Are you listening to it now, though?” YMCMB’s franchise star questioned. “[Lamar] 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.”
And this is why Drake vs. Kendrick Lamar needs to happen…right now.
For the 20-somethings that grew up on 50 Cent engaging in testy feuds with the likes of Ja Rule, The Game, Cam’Ron, Fat Joe and Rick Ross, it’s almost inconceivable to envision a rhyme showdown that doesn’t end with either hands or handcuffs being laid on someone. We could have another iconic LL Cool J vs. Kool Moe Dee on our hands, but beyond a memorable back-and-forth, there are benefits respectively for both parties.
Drake has a chance to definitively prove he's not soft as Charmin toilet paper. No more jokes about how he managed to make a nod to the Wu-Tang Clan sound like a Peabo Bryson ballad. A win for the radio-friendly behemoth would forever silence his longtime critics.
Meanwhile Kendrick Lamar would back up his greatest-rapper-alive claims by topping arguably the biggest hip-hop act in the game today. (Make jokes if you want to. But for this DIY, Twitter-propelled generation that views Kanye West as the Godfather, Drake is this era’s first across-the-board cultural superstar.)
Drake can’t simply dismiss Lamar as someone who is not on his commercial level; not when the California spitter has already skated beyond platinum on his big label debut good kid, m.A.A.d city and is coming off his own headlining summer tour. While the ghosts of Biggie and Tupac still haunt us all with the tragic reminder of hip-hop’s past, there is a chance to add more artistic, competitive stories to the rap battle canon.
In other words, let’s get it on.—Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)