The Kendrick Lamar/Drake Beef, Explained

Still, when eagle-eyed fans took note of Metro unfollowing Drake on Instagram—the definitive 21st century signpost of an un-amicable split—ahead of the album’s release, it didn’t take a hip-hop scholar to assume that, as Kendrick would declare, “it’s up.” And for those wondering how a producer-rapper beef would even reasonably play out, Metro makes it clear by serving up a new creative peak on “Like That,” with an obscenely screwface-inducing beat sampling Three 6 Mafia’s “Who the Crunkest” (which itself sampled 80s rap duo Rodney O and Joe Cooley), alongside Eazy-E’s classic “Eazy Duz It” as well as a splash of “Ridin Spinners.” In effect Kendrick and Metro are following playbooks beloved by the likes of Jay-Z before them, or even Drake with “Back to Back,” in dissing your opponent on a song that’s an undeniable banger whether people know the context or not.

But why would Future, who has approximately 30 (thirty) collaborations with Drake, including the 2015 collab album What a Time to Be Alive and two fairly recent tracks on Future’s last solo album, cede airtime on his new project to a noted Drake enemy? No one knows for sure at press time, but it’s possible they have issues of their own. Despite their prolific collaborations, their relationship has had its rough moments from day one. Recall 2011, when an ascendant Future got an assist from Drake remixing the former’s “Tony Montana,” only to publicly bemoan Drake refusing to do a video. And while they toured together in 2016, who can forget that time in 2013 when Future was briefly, allegedly booted off of Drake’s tour for less-than-flattering comments about his music in an interview.

Factor in the name of the album, and Future’s rap on the intro about someone who’s his number one fan despite sneak dissing him on the side, and you don’t need that big of a tinfoil hat to make the leap. Any opinions on the current status of Future and Drake’s relationship is all baseless conjecture for now, but what is irrefutable is that rap beef is geopolitics. One would imagine Drake, who on the chorus of a recent track cheekily wonders what Pluto (Future) would do in a certain romantic situation (answer: not safe for work), wouldn’t simply shrug at one of his most frequent collaborators releasing a project with space reserved for direct shots at him. (That would be like 21 Savage letting Pusha T hop on a track.)

It’ll be interesting to see how this all unfolds, but while it’s understandably taking up a lot of oxygen on the timeline right now, one thing we shouldn’t lose sight of is that We Don’t Trust You is, quite simply, incredible. Sure, beef is cool but so is Future reverting to some of his most historically depraved peaks earlier on the track—do not listen closely if you don’t want to hear specifics of the X-rated scenario that may absolve him of one of his 20 carat rings. He’s blacking out mostly everywhere else on the album even harder; 2022’s I Never Liked You is a great album, but We Don’t Trust You arrives immediately battling for an even higher spot in his storied discography. The same can be said for Metro’s beats; I yelled just as loudly as I did at Kendrick on “Like That” later on at the surprise Rick Ross verse as he glides on the soulful, escalating beat for “Everyday Hustle”… only for the beat to morph a third time as Future returns to take the reins.

Metro’s been talking this album up for the better part of a year, directly acknowledging the high standard set by his and Future’s past work as a unit. They’ve cleared that bar and then some, shaking the rap game up in the process, securing a top slot for a summer outside and any Best Of lists. Silencing all doubters with the music, casting oneself as a step ahead of the competition: it’s energy the late, great Mobb Deep rapper Prodigy would appreciate, which is perhaps why the album is peppered with gripping soundbites from some of his past interviews.

New beef and a handful of great mainstream rap records all before Easter? I thought it was a drought.

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