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Cross-border beef: How Drake and Kendrick Lamar's rap scuffle escalated within weeks

Drake performs at the Staples Center on Oct. 12, 2018, in Los Angeles. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

TORONTO — A long-simmering feud between hip-hop superstars Drake and Kendrick Lamar reached a boiling point in recent days as the pair traded increasingly personal insults on a succession of diss tracks.

After a security guard standing outside Drake's Toronto home was seriously injured in an overnight shooting Tuesday, local police fielded questions about any potential links between the feud and the violent incident. However, investigators say it's too early to speak to a motive. 

Here’s a quick overview of what’s behind the ongoing beef.

The key players: At its centre are Toronto rapper Drake, 37, and Compton, Calif.-raised Lamar, 36, who were once friends and collaborators. Lamar appeared on a track from Drake’s 2011 album “Take Care,” while Drake returned the favour a little over a year later by showing up on Lamar’s debut “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.” 

Lamar first poked at Drake in an appearance on Big Sean’s 2013 single “Control,” rapping a verse that suggested he was prepared to eclipse his career, along with other respected stars Pusha T, Meek Mill and A$AP Rocky.

The escalation: Last October, Drake released the track "First Person Shooter" from his album “For All the Dogs.” On it, guest rapper J. Cole refers to himself, Lamar and Drake as “the big three” of rap.

By March, it's clear Lamar didn't appreciate being lumped in with the other two. When rappers Future and Metro Boomin released their album "We Don't Trust You" that month, it featured several veiled Drake insults and at least one overt one in a guest appearance by Lamar. The track “Like That” culminates with the Pulitzer winner refuting any notion of a “big three," saying matter of factly: “It’s just big me.”

"We Don't Trust You" also confirmed a rumoured rift between Drake and his former friends and collaborators. Future and Drake released and toured their 2015 album "What a Time to Be Alive," which was executive produced by Metro Boomin.

In April, a mere three weeks after their first album got the rap community fired up, Future and Metro Boomin returned with a searing followup, "We Still Don't Trust You." The album leaned into Drake's frayed relationships, with one hook sung by the Weeknd, a Toronto singer who first befriended Drake when they were both rising stars. Another track features A$AP Rocky, the longtime partner of Rihanna, whom Drake once romantically pursued.

The battle begins: Within days, Drake issues "Push Ups," a diss track with jabs at Metro Boomin, Future and particularly Lamar, who he implies is soft and lagging behind his contemporaries. He pokes fun at his shoe size and his decision to appear on pop hits by Maroon 5 and Taylor Swift.

A short time later, Drake posts "Taylor Made Freestyle" on his Instagram, which features AI-generated voices of Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg to goad Lamar. The fake Shakur suggests Lamar defend West Coast hip-hop in his name, while the fake Snoop urges Lamar to release a response faster. Drake yanks the song off his socials after Shakur's estate threatens legal action.

Little more than a week passes before Lamar fires back with "Euphoria," an allusion to Drake's executive producer role on the hit HBO series. The track carries notable disdain as he accuses Drake of getting plastic surgery and calls him a bad father. 

The personal insults: Three days after "Euphoria," Lamar surprise drops "6:16 in LA" on his Instagram. The track is co-produced by longtime Swift collaborator Jack Antonoff, seen as a reaction to Drake dragging the pop superstar into the conflict. Lamar mocks Drake's habit of titling songs with times and locations.

Late Friday, Drake went nuclear on Lamar with the seven-minute track "Family Matters," which alleges infidelity and accuses Lamar of abusing his fiancée, Whitney Alford. An accompanying music video features a minivan being sent to a crusher, an allusion to the van featured on the cover of Lamar's debut album.

Less than an hour later, Lamar unleashes "Meet The Grahams," which targets the family of the Toronto rapper — born Aubrey Graham — and suggests he has a secret daughter. "Not Like Us," another diss track, is released overnight with Lamar rapping a series of specific personal insults, many of them surrounding his accusation that Drake is attracted to underage girls. The single cover features a Google Maps image of Drake's Bridle Path mansion.

Drake resurfaces Sunday night with "The Heart Part 6," named after a deeply personal multi-part series of rap songs released by Lamar over the years. This time, Drake claims he fed rumours of a secret daughter through his channels as bait, adding: "I’d never look twice at no teenager."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2024.

David Friend, The Canadian Press

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