Kendrick-Drake beef reaches Congress: ‘Gonna back the American’

Kendrick-Drake beef reaches Congress: ‘Gonna back the American’
They hold national hearings and craft legislation. They represent millions of constituents across the country and are some of the biggest decisionmakers in the world.

This week, they voted on whether to vote to oust the government official who is second in line to the presidency.

But even members of Congress say they are closely following the bitter battle between Kendrick Lamar and Drake in their spare time.

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“There’s no question that Kendrick is the victor,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) told The Hill on Wednesday. “I mean, he’s the better artist overall. He’s a pillar of the culture.”

Bowman started the Congressional Hip Hop Power and Justice Task Force with a coalition of Democrats earlier this year.

The task force wasn’t structured to cover rap beefs, as Bowman noted in an interview, but he called it “a platform and a pathway to policy discussions” that people in the community care about.

“Hopefully, it inspires others to keep the culture going in the most in the best ways possible,” Bowman said of the rap battle, which he also said is “bringing attention to the culture” and “showing the creative brilliance of emcees.”

The battle between Kendrick and Drake, which has roots going back to 2013, came to a head in recent weeks shortly after the release of Future and Metro Boomin’s “Like That,” on which Lamar took aim at Drake and fellow rapper J. Cole, rejecting the notion that they are rap’s “Big Three.”

Drake and Cole were also among a list of artists Lamar called out in his verse on Big Sean’s 2013 song “Control,” along with Big K.R.I.T.; Pusha T; Jay Electronica; Tyler, the Creator; Mac Miller; Meek Mill; and others.

Lamar later remarked on the firestorm set off by that verse — in which he figuratively said he wanted to “murder” his rivals and make sure their fans “never heard” of them — and stressed that those bars were written for “fun” and in hip-hop’s spirit of competition.

“I mean, this is a big part of hip-hop that hasn’t been around in a while,” Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), the first member of Generation Z to join Congress, said in an interview. Frost said he thinks Lamar teed up that “first shot for the culture for hip-hop to bring that back.”

“I think they both brought it to hell, and I think it went somewhere maybe it shouldn’t have. But that’s also part of the nature of this — is they can go that low. So, I think now’s a good time to end,” Frost said.

As for the victor, Frost says, there’s no question.

“I’m going to back the American, as a congressman,” Frost said of Lamar, adding that the Toronto-born Drake has “waved the white flag,” as Lamar’s latest diss track, “Not Like Us,” climbs streaming charts.

Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.), another member of the hip-hop task force, said Tuesday that while she wasn’t caught up on the entire beef, she was leaning toward Lamar’s side, though she’s a Drake fan. She also noted her colleagues have been coming up to her on the House floor to ask her who she is siding with in the battle as fans across the globe are still clamoring over the back-and-forth.

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“This also reminds us, I think, of the power of communication through music and why hip-hop is so important, right?” Ramirez told The Hill on Tuesday, noting how hip-hip discourse has dominated social media in the wake of the battle.

“You’ve got members of Congress in a particular moment, when we’re fighting so many things really asking ourselves, ‘Who is in the right? Is it Kendrick Lamar, or is it Drake?’”

While the congressional debate over the rappers may just be kicking off, diehard fans of Lamar and Drake have feuded for more than a decade over which is the true “GOAT” — the “greatest of all time” — of the genre.

Fans have long pitted the two against each other on the grounds of lyricism, hitmaking and overall commercial success.

Drake had also been known for his acting chops prior to dropping his debut album, “Thank Me Later,” in 2010. Additionally, his 2009 mixtape, “So Far Gone,” had also seen action on the music charts. “Section.80,” Lamar’s first studio album, released in 2011.

The accolades have only piled up for both artists over the years.

Drake, 37, has released eight studio albums, won five Grammys, had 13 songs hit No. 1 in the country and over 70 songs hit Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Lamar, 36, has released four studio albums, has also had three No. 1 hits on the chart, 13 songs in the Top 10, won 17 Grammys and a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for one of his critically acclaimed albums, “Damn.”

By 2016, even then-President Barack Obama had weighed in on the long-running debate about the two, after being pressed in an interview with Adande Thorne, a YouTuber known as Swoozie, for his thoughts on which rapper would win in a hypothetical match-up.

“Gotta go with Kendrick,” Obama said at the time. “I think Drake is an outstanding entertainer. But Kendrick, his lyrics.”

And while Obama has not yet publicly weighed in on the fight, recirculated clips of his response have fetched thousands of likes and millions of views in the past few weeks as many fans argue his years-old assessment has held up as the smoke clears.

President Biden’s camp has also chimed in. This week, his campaign seized on some of the fanfare around the battle with a video hitting at former President Trump on issues like immigration and abortion rights, while featuring one of Lamar’s diss tracks, “Euphoria,” in the background.

With rap beefs now reaching the highest levels of government, the formation of a congressional hip-hop task force may seem obvious to some.

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Hip-hop, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last August, has often been a political tool for Black and brown Americans to highlight topics such as racial injustice and economic inequity. At the time of its launch in February, the task force’s founders said they wanted to continue to use hip-hop as a tool to advance current efforts in Congress.

“At this moment in particular, when you consider the Black Lives Matter movement to the cease-fire movement and the fight that continues for freedom, justice and equality — now it’s time to build political power at a level that’s never been done before,” Bowman said at the time.

But Lamar and Drake’s current feud has also spurred the conversation in other directions, including who is allowed to claim Black culture — and which parts of the culture — and how misogyny plagues the genre.

While the recent battle between Lamar and Drake has certainly hit new heights and pulled in big numbers in terms of streaming, fans have expressed concerns over allegations of child abuse and domestic assault the two have launched at each through their songs.

The authenticity of the allegations remains up for debate, and there’s a history of rappers exaggerating claims in rap battles to hurt their opponents.

In the past, conflict between artists have also become dangerous, with the 1990’s slayings of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. both indicating how the violence of a song can sometimes translate to violence in person.

Fans expressed some concerns this week after a shooting outside Drake’s Toronto mansion left a security guard wounded.

Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who is likely the highest ranking hip-hop enthusiast in the House, wouldn’t say Tuesday whom he sided with but stressed the importance of the battle staying “within the four corners of lyricism and music.”

Jeffries, whose district covers much of Biggie’s home borough of Brooklyn, has paid tribute to the rapper from the House floor in the past and referenced his lyrics during Trump’s 2020 impeachment trial.

“We’ve seen rap battles in the past — most tragically as it relates to the conflict between Death Row and Bad Boy — spill outside of the musical landscape and onto the streets,” Jeffries said, referring to Tupac and Biggie’s record labels, respectively.

“That’s not something that we want to ever see happen again.”

The Hill