Rap beef between Drake and Kendrick Lamar explodes

US rapper Kendrick Lamar, seen performing in June 2023, has gone far beyond the usual jibes in his feud with Drake (Yuki IWAMURA)
US rapper Kendrick Lamar, seen performing in June 2023, has gone far beyond the usual jibes in his feud with Drake (Yuki IWAMURA)
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A long-simmering feud between rap titans Drake and Kendrick Lamar exploded into allegations of pedophilia, abuse and infidelity over the weekend, sending shockwaves through the world of hip hop and beyond.

Drake, the highest-grossing rapper in the world last year, and Lamar, a Pulitzer Prize winner, have been locked in an escalating war of words in a music genre long known for celebrating and obsessing over beefs between its biggest stars.

But while the pair's previous exchanges have focused on disputes like which man is the bigger star, lyrics in tracks released by both artists over the past few days went far beyond the usual jibes.

"Say, Drake, I hear you like 'em young / You better not ever go to cell block one," said Lamar in his track "Not Like Us," in which he specifically raps about "certified pedophiles."

Los Angeles-born Lamar's lyrics accuse Drake, who is from Canada and is of biracial heritage, of being "not a colleague" but a "colonizer" of Black American culture.

And in another song released this weekend, "Meet the Grahams," Lamar alleges that Drake -- whose real name is Aubrey Graham -- has a secret daughter.

For his part, Drake dropped a track entitled "Family Matters," which suggested infidelity and even abuse in Lamar's relationship with fiancee and high-school sweetheart Whitney Alford.

And Drake denied allegations about underage girls in another track "The Heart Part 6," released Sunday, in which he rapped "I'd never look twice at no teenager."

The barbs have drawn attention among audiences well beyond the usual rap and hip hop devotees.

The feud was the subject of a "Saturday Night Live" sketch this weekend, and detailed chronologies of the duo's insults have been published by mainstream US outlets like the New York Times and CNN.

- 'Inevitable' -

Drake, 37, and Lamar, 36, shot to mainstream hip hop fame in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

They initially appeared on tracks on each other's albums, and even toured together.

In the following years, bitter splits have emerged, as each man forged their own wildly successful path.

Drake last year tied Michael Jackson as the male solo artist with the most number one songs in Billboard Hot 100 history, with 13 chart-topping tracks.

Lamar, whose poignant lyricism runs the gamut from personal insights to systemic issues such as race relations and structural poverty, has been frequently called the voice of a generation.

Friendly competition has deteriorated into open barbs, in a moment that "was inevitable," according to Rolling Stone magazine writer Andre Gee.

"The people who don't understand their rift haven't spent the last 15 to 20 years wanting to be regarded as the best rapper ever," he wrote.

Rap has been closely identified with bitter feuds between its major stars for decades.

In the early 1990s, stars like Tupac Shakur and The Notorious BIG became embroiled in a vaunted rivalry -- egged on by promoters -- between East Coast and West Coast hip hop.

While that dispute ended in violence and tragedy, today's feud -- confined to lyrics and social media posts -- appears to have only whetted the appetite of some rap afficionados for more so-called "diss tracks."

"It's anyone's guess where this goes from here with both rappers digging their heels in and firing at-will to close out a historic hip-hop weekend," wrote Billboard.

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