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“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17
Rappers seek to express their ideas in a way that connects with the audience, makes money, and differentiates them from competitors. The greats can coordinate their personal experience, performance skills, the ever-evolving hip-hop vocabulary, and mysterious “x-factors” into an image worth lifting up, listening to, and learning from.
Through and to their communities, rappers may take the role of teacher, social commentator, philosopher, or even serve to exemplify principles like determination or bravery. But rap fame is a complex quest and sometimes an MC can go astray. Sometimes, in the search for that perfect persona, a rapper can leave something behind. Sometimes adaptation becomes transformation and a catalog becomes a lie.
Once upon a time, rappers tested one other.
Now, in the summer of 2015, fans are witnessing an honest-to-goodness rap battle between two stars.
In one corner is Drake, a streamlined, artistic wordsmith hailing from Canada. He is easily one of the most well-known and respected rappers currently at work. In fact, due to his broad audience and global popularity, Drake may be on pace to be the biggest rap musician of all time.
Opposite is Meek Mill, who keeps it real out of Philadelphia. He is even known for keeping it a little too real having just spent six months in jail for violating probation. While behind bars his most recent album leaked. His name is known and his money seems real but his popularity is particular and his fame is complicated.
A few weeks ago Meek was feeling extra real and accused Drake of having a “ghostwriter” via tweet. Specifically, he suggested that Drake’s verse on their collaboration ‘R.I.C.O’ was penned by someone else because … Drake is too soft for his own lyrics.
A few short days after Meek’s charge, Drake responded with a song and the battle was on.
Drake’s response was undeniably swift. Perhaps he had the lyrics ready to go, having been called “soft” before.
Meek was silent. Wait, really? Did Meek Mill just call out one of the biggest rappers in the game with NO dis track in the chamber?
As fans pondered this confusing reality, Drake raised his own bet with a second track. By all accounts, ‘Back to Back’ was the real dis track including classic lines like “trigger fingers turn to twitter fingers.” Drake also dug into Meek’s relationship and co-tour with Nicki Minaj with bars like “you love her, then you gotta give the world to her/is that a world tour or your girl’s tour?”
The Internet went wild and Meek was declared dead on arrival. A few days went by and the tweets, posts, and memes piled up … enough for a background slideshow as Drake performed the dis tracks live.
Finally, Meek replied.
In ‘Wanna Know,’ Meek expanded his “ghostwriter” charge into both a literal and symbolic challenge of Drake’s authenticity. Meek defined the problem as a failed balance of artistic sensitivity and fundamental hood concepts, questioning Drake’s creative legitimacy and arguing that Drizzy changed his style to copycat real rappers: “coming with the same flow, switching up your lingo/ we just want a refund, this ain’t what we paid for … spit another n****’s shit, but you claimin’ king tho?”
Somewhat devastatingly, Meek “featured” the alleged ghostwriter Quentin Miller’s original production of Drake’s hit ‘Running Through the 6 with my Woes,’ asking Drake: “if you ain’t write that runnin’ through the 6 shit/ tell us who the fuck was Quentin runnin’ through the 6 with?”
Following Meek’s entry, many are wondering what the next move will be. Famous rap battles in history – Jay-Z versus Nas, Dr. Dre versus Eazy-E, and so on – have gone back-and-forth until the air is clear even if the score is never settled. In fact, Meek himself has dropped multiple tracks on past beefs.
Perhaps it is a case of “too little, too late” for Meek Mill. Casual listeners were definitively not feeling his flow and most are wondering if all of this was worth it.
For now, Drake’s popularity seems to have held up. But will future listeners squint when Drake raps about crime? Has his reputation for artistry and originality been marred?
Is it over?
Written by: Martin Osborn @o_z.z_y