Kendrick Lamar’s Response Was Worth the Wait

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“A Hunting We Will Go.”

That’s the song whose melody Omar whistles in the eighth episode of the first season of The Wire, after he baits Wee-Bay and Stinkum into an ambush, shooting the former in the leg and killing the latter. This is the tune that must’ve been ringing off in Drake’s head as he grew more and more impatient waiting for Kendrick’s rebuttal. Well, it’s finally here — and The King in the North is wounded, ducking for cover like Wee-Bay behind that car.

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“Them super powers gettin’ neutralized, I can only watch in silence/ The famous actor we once knew is lookin’ paranoid, and now it’s spiraling,” is how Kenny starts off “Euphoria,” essentially confirming the speculation that he was making Drake wait on purpose.

I’ve been one of those people preaching patience — mainly because I remember when in order to hear a diss track, you had to either go find the mixtape it was on, wait for it to be premiered on the radio or live on stage, or wait for an artist’s album to drop. A back-and-forth often took months to play out, not days or weeks. Drake took about three weeks to respond to Kendrick’s verse on “Like That,” and has since dropped two songs: “Push Ups,” directed at Rap’s Sinister Six (Future, Metro, Kendrick, The Weeknd, Rick Ross, A$AP Rocky) and the very weird and controversial “Taylor Made,” featuring AI versions of 2Pac and Snoop, which he was eventually forced to take down. And this all of this was happening while he tried to out-meme and out-funny Rick Ross on Instagram, which is a losing battle in itself. The irony of all this is “Euphoria” makes it seem as if Kendrick would have responded earlier if Drake didn’t try to bait him with gimmicks.

But that’s all in the past. Today, Tuesday, April 30, 2024 at 8:24 AM PST (remember the Kobe line from “Stories About My Brother“?,) the King of the West pushed the button on a diss track that is six minutes and 23 seconds of pure, unadulterated hate. And let’s be clear and let the record show: Kendrick didn’t “leak” this diss record to a streamer, or leave any doubt about this track being AI. He didn’t wait to put it on streaming services on New Music Friday, or attach the song to an album rollout. No, he put the song on his YouTube page and tweeted the link out, completely owning the moment. This track is basically that Beef DVD clip of 50 Cent standing outside on a balcony speaking on Ja Rule, shaking his head in disgust and telling the camera: “I really don’t like that guy.”

There are so many things to unpack. First you have the title of the song being “Euphoria” and the definition of the word as the single artwork. I’ll spare you the Genius annotation, but we all know Drake is an executive producer on HBO’s hit show Euphoria, right? The definition can also be a nod to Lamar having a feeling of euphoria after finally getting all this Drake hate off his chest. The song starts off with backwards audio from a scene in 1978’s The Wiz, where the Wizard (played by Richard Pryor) is exposed as a phony. “Everything they say about me is true, I’m a phony…,” the Wizard says. Lamar also mentions the paranoia Drake must’ve been feeling as he waited on this rebuttal. Kenny then flips a switch and goes into overdrive, giving critics and fans what they’ve been waiting for: a real life rap battle.

He throws shots in every direction, telling the Canadian rapper all the money and power can’t stop someone from being lame. He then refers to the game of chicken he’s been playing and asks Drake, “Have you ever walked your enemy down, like with a poker face?” He’s basically saying Drake blinked first after the “Like That” verse shook up the game. He mentions that Drake buying one of Tupac’s rings and using artificial intelligence to manipulate Pac’s voice made the late hip-hop legend “turn in his grave.” And he questions Drake’s “fake tough guy” act, advising him to finish his beef with Pusha T before thinking about responding to him, spitting, “I don’t like you poppin’ s–t at Pharrell, for him, I inherit the beef/ Yeah, f—k all that pushin’ P, let me see you push a T/ You better off spinnin’ again on him, you think about pushin’ me? He’s Terrance Thornton, I’m Terrance Crawford, yeah, I’m whoopin’ feet.”

Kendrick also confirms that this battle isn’t really for fun or for the crown, it’s really about “love and hate” — revealing that he’s also secretly Drake’s biggest hater, rapping, “I hate the way that you walk, the way that you talk/ I hate the way that you dress I hate the way you sneak diss/ If I catch flight, it’s gon’ be direct/ We hate the bitches you f—k, ’cause they confuse themselves with real women/ And notice, I said “We”, it’s not just me, I’m what the culture feelin’.” He’s clearly sick of the Canadian’s sh—t and has been for a while now.

Drake’s “Push Ups” and “Taylor Made Freestyle” were solid efforts, but for my money, they didn’t hit as hard as the “Like That” verse or “Euphoria.” “Push ups” was clever and funny, and he was in a tough spot because he had to respond to like six different people. “Taylor Made Freestyle,” however, showed a chink in his armor. It came across desperate for a response, and it wasn’t very boss-like. I think it exposed how impatient he was becoming, as Kendrick gave nothing but radio silence as rumors started to spread about what he had under his sleeve.

This response was well worth the wait. You can’t put a timer on art, and I’m not putting a timer on Drake to fire back. I hope this rap battle carries on for the rest of the year, because steel sharpens steel and rap music in general can only benefit from this clash of titans.

Now we wait in the arena for the King in the North to gather his thoughts and respond. But, as Omar said, “You come at the king, you best not miss.”

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