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The Kendrick/Drake Beef Is Made For The Internet

The back-and-forth rap battle is created for and benefitting from meme culture
The Kendrick/Drake Beef Is Made For The Internet
Image: Kotaku / Frogella (Shutterstock) / Antony Jones / John Phillips (Getty)
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Late Sunday evening, I logged onto Fortnite to enjoy all the newly added Star Wars content, solo-queuing up for a No Build quads match right away. As I waited for the battle bus to pick me up, I could hear one of my teammates loudly playing Canadian actor-turned-rapper Aubrey “Drake” Graham’s song, “The Heart Part 6,” the latest in a series of back-and-forth diss tracks with Pulitzer Prize-winning, Compton-born rapper Kendrick Lamar.

Over the last few weeks, the two have engaged in a tense rap battle in which they’ve lobbed insults at each other’s families, their street cred, and their star power, with Kendrick sharing a series of songs that many believed “flattened” Drake over the weekend. The last shot fired in that salvo, “Not Like Us,” released early Sunday and accused the 37-year-old both of hiding an 11-year-old daughter and also engaging in pedophilia. Not long after the release of “Not Like Us,” Drake responded with “The Heart Part 6,” demanding Kendrick show proof to support his accusations, and suggesting that Drake and his crew had planted these rumors on purpose.

“I think Drake made a good point,” a different player in our quad opined as “The Heart Part 6” played over someone’s headset. “Kendrick has to prove these rumors are true now.”

“Well, no not really,” I replied. “This isn’t a court case, it’s a rap beef.”

All three players loudly disagreed with me, insisting that Kendrick’s only chance of “winning” this battle was by showing proof that Drake had an illegitimate daughter and/or had relations with underage women. They continued discussing the beef, the songs that have come out of this beef, and how each rapper could “win” throughout the entire match, and all I could think about was how this beef is fodder for the modern internet and the subcultures it courts.

Drake in a 2010 Sprite commercial.
Image: The Coca-Cola Company

The rap beef, memefied

Part of the reason Kendrick and Drake’s beef is so perfectly tailored to today’s internet culture is because of how memeworthy it is. The term “meme” was first coined by biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene—Dawkins suggested memes were an idea, a behavior, or a style, mimicked from person-to-person, that could carry and transmit symbolic meaning, as well. Modern internet memes don’t just imply a deep layer of knowledge on a topic, but they also denote a person’s allegiances, their “sides.” Memes are so partisan in today’s internet culture that they were used to help elect President Donald Trump in 2016, and again to spur on the January 6, 2021 Capitol Riots, as detailed extensively in the 2022 book, Meme Wars.

With the Kendrick and Drake beef, someone’s allegiances can be made crystal-clear with a singular photo. Simply posting a picture of Drake’s 2010 Sprite commercial (in which the rapper sips a Sprite and is summarily split into many pieces like a deconstructed robot) implies that Kendrick tore Drake apart. On the other hand, sharing a picture of Kendrick standing next to another rapper tells people you loudly stump for Drake, as Kendrick’s 5’5” height is the topic of much ridicule in the community.

Gamers have also posted their favorite memes, referencing a diverse and eclectic range of games from Fallout to Smash Bros. Some, clearly not plugged into rap music and its relevant beefs, asked the community to help explain the background of this all in Final Fantasy terms, and several people obliged.

Of course, the anime community has latched onto the beef, as Drake’s and Kendrick’s hatred for one another feels ripped from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. Twitch streamer and cosplayer Kayla got back into her Dio cosplay to lip sync several lines from Kendrick’s “euphoria” track, a testament to the character’s legacy as a hater.

The "Not Like Us" album art.
Image: Kendrick Lamar / Google

Even the subjects of the battle are leaning into memes. Kendrick’s “Not Like Us” album art features a Google Maps picture of Drake’s Toronto mansion, with several red and black icons emblazoned on the mansion. Those markers resemble the ones found on maps that delineate where registered sex offenders live. It’s a stark, shareable image that has layers of symbolism, and the internet latched onto it, adding fictional names to his mansion on Google Maps like “Kendrick’s House” and renaming other nearby houses things like “CertifiedKidLover” or “Child MOE-lester,” as reported by Gizmodo.

Drake and the internet 

Interestingly, Drake seems to be losing this battle on his home turf. The rapper has notoriously courted the most perpetually online fans, even streaming on Kick, the rival Twitch platform backed by Tyler Faraz Niknam, Bijan Tehrani, and Ed Craven (the latter two of which own Stake, a gambling website that has been closely associated with Kick streamers). Two of the biggest, most historically problematic Kick streamers recently came to Drake’s defense on social media, with Adin Ross (who was banned from Twitch in 2023 after streaming pornography) and xQc (who signed a $100 million deal with Kick in 2023), posting in support of the Canadian rapper.

But despite some of gaming’s biggest personalities stumping for Drake, Kendrick seems to be winning this culture war. Kendrick’s masterful raps resulted in his diss track getting played in Bushwick clubs and Rick Ross’ Vegas pool party, and his seemingly preternatural ability to predict Drake’s angles have the internet flabbergasted. Producer Metro Boomin dropping a “BBL Drake” beat, which he shared on SoundCloud and encouraged unsigned artists to rap over, promising a free beat to his favorite, just dumps even more ridicule in Drake’s lap.

Drake even tried to entice his gaming community fans, posting a God of War III clip on Instagram as a reaction to one of Kendrick’s earlier disses. The clip included the quote, “The hands of Death could not defeat me, the sisters of Fate could not hold me, and you will not live to see the end of this day!” Later, he clapped back at Metro Boomin, posting a clip from Uncharted in which Nathan Drake laments his ability to “attract the scum of the earth.” Guess he’s a Sony guy.

But even with Drake trying to wade into gaming territory, Kendrick’s supporters seemed determined to one-up him, posting a scene from the Thor/Kratos fight in God of War Ragnarok whereby Thor restarts Kratos’ heart just as it seems like he’s about to die.

“With this Kendrick beef, fans don’t want to see Drake post memes on IG or Twitter. The only way to respond to this level of verbal assassination is by getting in the booth,” The Verge’s Ash Parrish told me via Twitter DM. “And though he has, Drake has lost the rap battle on his home turf of the internet by getting memed relentlessly, as tons of rappers and content creators *the world over* are posting their own Drake disses using producer Metro Boomin’s ‘BBL Drake’ beat.”

Aftermath’s Gita Jackson, who wrote a Tumblr post summarizing the beef that has over 10,000 notes at the time of publication, told me via voice note that the Kendrick/Drake battle transcends the music industry precisely because of the way it leans into internet culture.

It’s not surprising to me that people really like this beef on the internet, and especially in fandom spaces, because in fandom if you are not actively talking about the thing you’re a fan of, you’re fighting with other fans. Beef is a huge part of being in a fandom, and beef that can be collated or annotated with stuff, that’s’ even better for fandom, so text-based mediums for the most part.

And here, there’s so many layers to how much Kendrick hates Drake and the different kinds of ways Kendrick hates Drake, that you could write 10,000 words about this and still not be done with all the details…this has been simmering since the ‘Control’ verse in 2012. It’s been going on for over ten years, that these two men have been both so powerful in the rap industry and hated each other so powerfully.

I think that there’s something about that even for people who are not into hip-hop—especially because it uses the medium of the internet to further all discussion. A lot of the time rap disses don’t end up being released officially because they’re using samples that aren’t cleared and they’re written and recorded very quickly. Here they all get dropped via the different ways people are on the internet—they get dropped on Twitter, one of them was an Instagram reel, Drake is himself very, very active on Instagram, and is currently reacting to everything in his stories.

Jackson then echoed what Parrish and others have said about Drake’s terminally online presence: “Drake’s career is steeped in the internet itself. That’s also the venue he uses to victimize these young girls that he DMs on Instagram…[this beef] is for and from the internet, at least on Drake’s side, and it’s being perpetuated by the internet. It appeals to the very online among us, because it allows us to stake our claim like we would in a ‘ship war. We defend Kendrick because we’re against people who victimize young women and fucking culture vultures, or we like Drake, we’re on Drake’s side because we’re on his side of the fandom.”

A phone displays a website titled "Fake News."
Image: r.classen (Shutterstock)

The burden of proof, the death of beef

Then there’s this “burden of proof” issue, with some seeming to believe that Kendrick can only “win” this beef if he proves there’s truth to his allegations against Drake. It smacks of something currently going on in the gaming industry writ large, highlighted in a recent event in which Nick Calandra from Second Wind was fed false information from a potential source in an attempt to discredit an investigation he was working on.

Drake’s lines in “The Heart Part 6” demand that Kendrick produce paperwork confirming his allegations, and it’s the perfect fodder for an internet trained on dis- and misinformation, for a generation of people who fundamentally dislike and distrust mainstream media. Drake is trying to create his own reality and demand that Kendrick play by his rules, which feels very similar to what it’s like getting into any sort of argument on the internet these days. Post proof of your harassment, post proof that there’s not a cabal of people injecting wokeness into video games, or you lose, liberals.

Even as I wrote this piece, the Drake/Kendrick beef seemed to rapidly approach its own heat death, as the de-facto leader of terminally online men and owner of X/Twitter, Elon Musk, weighed in. “Everyone’s talking about this battle!” he replied to a post from Drake-aligned DJ Akademiks. Later, he sent a crying laughing emoji reply to another post discussing the beef. It’s only a matter of time before he suggests the two duke it out in an X space—oh wait, the Elon Musk/AOC parody account already did that.