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Rap Civil War: Kendrick Lamar shades Drake and J. Cole

Photo via Genius Images

Tensions in the hip-hop industry have been stark after rap mogul Kendrick Lamar dissed his contemporaries Drake and J. Cole. 

Lamar’s remarks were scattered in a feature verse on rapper Future and producer Metro Boomin’s newest track “Like That,” released on March 22 as a single from the former’s latest album, “WE DON’T TRUST YOU.” 

Lamar, Drake and Cole have long been regarded as the figureheads of 2010s hip-hop. While the artists have collaborated on projects like “Forbidden Fruit” and “Poetic Justice,” their playful rivalry has seemingly turned into a bitter feud. 

Fans are torn between their favorite artists and can’t help but wonder: what sparked this friction? 

It’s no secret that Lamar believes he’s the best. He’s shouted it from mountaintops since 2017. On his track “The Heart Part IV,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper writes, “I’ll let y’all worry about a list, I’m on some other sh– … Yellin’, ‘One, two, three, four, five I am the greatest rapper alive.’”

This braggadocious attitude turned to animosity towards other rap giants with the release of “family ties” in August 2021, a collaborative track with Lamar’s cousin, Baby Keem. 

The verse starts with a menacing line: “Smokin’ on your top 5 tonight.” 

Despite this, Cole and Drake have remained relatively passive. The two artists collaborated on  the track “First Person Shooter,” from Drake’s 2023 project, “For All The Dogs,” in which the Canadian rapper rhetorically asks, “Who the G.O.A.T?” 

Perhaps most provocative, though, is when Cole raps “Love when they argue who the greatest MC, is it K-Dot, Aubrey or me? We the big 3 like we started the league, but right now I feel like Muhammed Ali.”

This was the inciting incident and inspiration behind Lamar’s verse on “Like That,” which has several references to Cole and Drake’s track. 

Lamar makes this beef explicitly clear as he raps, “First person shooter, I hope they came with three switches… motherf— the big three, it’s just big me.” 

Drake appeared to be the primary target of the lyric as Lamar closed the verse with a callback to the former’s album title, saying, “For all your dogs getting buried, that’s a K with all these 9’s, you gon see Pet Semetary.” 

Fans anticipate Drake and Cole’s response and feel reminiscent of an earlier era of both artists’ careers. In 2015, Drake released “Back to Back,” a diss track targeting American rapper Meek Mill. His cutthroat delivery in tandem with clever bars proved to be a memorable banger. 

If the “Hotline Bling” hitmaker can replicate that performance, then Lamar might just have a problem on his hands.

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