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Clash of the Titans


 Let me start by saying that I have never really been a fan of Drake, while Kendrick Lamar is among my favorite, if not my favorite, music artists. 

In no way am I saying Drake is a “bad” artist. The first half of his catalog is excellent, and I would be a liar if I said I never used “Marvin’s Room” to cry myself to sleep. 

The popularity of hip-hop has been steadily on the rise for decades, and today it is consistently among the world’s most popular genres each year, and I am not sure if that would be the case without Drake. I truly love hip-hop, and Drake has brought millions of new fans to the genre. For that, he will eternally have my gratitude. 

To say Drake is an impactful and influential artist is an understatement. However… I do not know if he is necessarily as “influential” as he often gets credit for being. While Drake has most definitely popularized the fusion of rapping and singing, he was far from the first, and he is also far from the best.

I’d say it all started with Biz Markie, and after him, Lauryn Hill, Mos Def, 50 Cent and Phonte (for whom Drake has been open about his influence) are all artists who have seamlessly and successfully weaved together rapping with singing. 

I will admit that except for Phonte, Drake’s catalog is generally more consistent than these artists, as Lauryn Hill and Mos Def (now known as Yasiin Bey) specifically have not released music at the rate most fans would hope for them. 

Drake’s best trait is that he releases a high quantity of palatable music at a steady rate, never exceeding more than three years in between releases. In my opinion, the quality of these records is not very musically daring.

In my opinion, Drake hasn’t made an objectively “good” project since his 2015 mixtape “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late”, and since then the plethora of projects he has released are generally very bloated and frankly, boring. 

“Certified Lover Boy” in my opinion is the greatest offender in this regard. It starts strong with “Champagne Poetry” (the phenomenal beat, I should add, is from a far superior song by Masego, “Navajo”) and is followed by perhaps the most boring 80 minutes I’ve ever experienced in my life.

That is how I feel about Drake as an artist; a hollow representative of how hip-hop has transformed from an art form to an assembly line that treats music as a manufactured product to satiate the masses rather than nourish them. 

Now, let me talk about Kendrick. Taste is subjective, but Kendrick is one of the few artists I consider to have a “perfect”* discography. That perfect has an asterisk because perfection in music is an oxymoron.

I won’t pretend that the five-year hiatus between “DAMN.” and “Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers” (Mr. Morale) was not miserable, but ultimately I felt like it was worth waiting for. Mr. Morale was bloated in some regards but in the best way possible. 

Mr. Morale was such a vulnerable project, a tale of Kendrick reflecting upon his rise and plateau, admitting to his flaws and insecurities in an industry that places an unworldly amount of pressure on him to pump out music instead of sharpening his craft.

There are a couple of tracks, like “Auntie Diaries” and “Mother I Sober”, that I’d never listen to outside of the album, but in the context of the album, they add so much nuance to the listener’s understanding of Kendrick’s character.

It truly perplexes me that Aubrey refers to “Mother I Sober” as “that one record where you say you got molested” when it’s very explicitly stated not to be the case. If there was ever a moment where attention to detail was important, I feel like a highly-publicized beef would be the time.

Yes, I am heavily biased, but Kendrick is someone who wears his flaws on his sleeve, while Aubrey waits to have his exposed. Aubrey is the type of person who concealed a child from the public until the truth was forced out of him. 

Drake is an influential but not innovative artist. As Kendrick elucidates in the third verse of “Not Like Us”, Drake has chased the cutting edge of rap that has been set by other artists like Future, Young Thug, 21 Savage, and Lil Baby. 

Additionally, one of the most glaring flaws in Drake’s legacy, a knock on him that goes back to his 2015 Meek Mill beef, is that Drake heavily utilizes ghostwriters. Many prominent rappers use bonus writers to write a song, but you cannot call yourself a top lyricist if you have other rappers write your disses for you.

I have gone over my gripes with Drake as an artist, though I feel I must mention why Aubrey’s character itself is also lacking. For over a decade, Aubrey has formed strangely close relationships with multiple underage actresses and female musicians, most notably Millie Bobby Brown and Billie Eilish. On top of being a trite and uninspired artist, he also deserves to be in prison in my personal opinion.

All of the criticisms Drake has for Kendrick, like his domestic violence or infidelity, are either mere allegations or issues Kendrick himself brought to light on “Mr. Morale”  while Drake has seemingly endless layers of controversy and deceit that will continue to be peeled back. 

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Kaeden Souki
Kaeden Souki, Arts & Entertainment Editor

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