The Week In Rap: The Great Drake/Kendrick Lamar Rivalry

March 18, 2015 3:30 PM

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The Week In Rap: The Great Drake/Kendrick Lamar Rivalry

This year, the best story in rap — and the best story in music, and maybe the best story in popular culture in general — is the three-way dance that Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Kanye West have been dancing. They’ve all been throwing huge shadows over rap for years, and they’re all entangled with one another in different ways. And even if they aren’t directly, outwardly feuding with one another, they’re absolutely on each other’s minds. At this exact historical moment, rap doesn’t have any one dominant figure. It has these three guys, all quietly fighting to be the one guy. They’re watching each other, planning their moves, acting and reacting. It’s been fascinating. And it’s been this way, actually, for a long time. Drake came out in Kanye’s shadow, making melodic woozy electro-emo in the immediate aftermath of Take Care. And then Kendrick came out in Drake’s shadow, getting a snarly flickering fast-rap showcase on Take Care and then, along with A$AP Rocky, opening the Take Care tour. Drake started out with robotic cosmopolitan sad-bastard new wave because Kanye made that rap’s dominant sound. A couple of years ago, Kendrick was rapping over woozy, drifting synth-strobes because Drake made that rap’s dominant sound. And now all three are on pace to release surprise albums within a few months of each other, and it’s an exciting time to be following all of them. We don’t yet know how Kanye’s album will sound; Kanye’s made damn good and sure of that. But Drake and Kendrick’s albums are both out there in the world now, and they’ve gone complete opposite directions. They’re the odd couple atop the rap heap.

If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and To Pimp A Butterfly aren’t responses to one another; the releases are too close together for that. But both are distilled aesthetic images of who Drake and Kendrick are, and the two records show just how different these two can be. If You’re Reading This is a...

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