This week Drake will become the first artist since Adele to have the No. 1 album on the Billboard charts for 12 more or weeks. There’s no denying Drake’s commercial success and cultural appeal, and his now seven year run atop hip-hop has proved this to be a seemingly normal accomplishment for the artist.
However while his run seems to have no end, his fame hasn’t come without its obstacles. Be it fair or not, throughout Drake’s career his authenticity as a rapper has been questioned on numerous occasions. Whether you’d deem them fair assessments or not, people have accused him of being a culture vulture, being too soft, and accruing an unfair amount of fame in the rap game because of his start as an actor. Yet, despite being seemingly under constant scrutiny, Drake has always responded well. Whether it be the assumed beefs with Pusha T and Kendrick Lamar, or the one beef we undoubtedly know to be true with Meek Mill, Drake has taken the blows but never reached a 10 count. Shit, I don’t know if he’s even hit the ground yet, and that’s the most fascinating part of this all.
If you’ve read this far into this article, we’re sure you’ve heard of Joe Budden, the New Jersey emcee who is probably most notable to music fans for his 2003 hit single Pump it Up. Budden is also a member of Slaughterhouse gang, a rap group consisting of some of the best lyricists in the game since becoming a collective in 2007: Royce Da 5’9, Joel Ortiz and Kxng Crooked.
Now Budden, an artist who appears to have once been a friend and mentor of Drake’s is now his adversary. Ironically enough, this beef seemingly began after Budden took to his podcast ‘I’ll Name This Podcast Later’ and gave Drake a harsh criticism of his most recent album. Shit got murky from there, and here’s the condensed timeline of events since then:
- Early May: French Montana posts a clip on social media from his song ‘No Shopping’ which features Drake reiterating the one line that people know Joe Budden best by, “Pump, pump, pump pump it up.”
- May-June: Nothing happens, like nothing at all.
- June 5th: Drake releases the track ‘4PM in Calabasas’ on OVO radio.
- June 7th-8th: Joe Budden does his latest episode of INTPL and breaks down why he believes that Drake is dissing him on 4PM in Calabasas.
- June 30th – mid July: Joe Budden releases four diss tracks (Making a Murderer, Wake, Afraid and Just Because) towards Drake, but the French Montana single with Drake’s supposed diss still hasn’t been released. So people may or may not be thinking that Joe is just reaching for attention, DESPITE the fact that his diss tracks are fire and he got at Drake on a lyrical level that deserves respect.
- July 16th: French Montana drops ‘No Shopping’ ft Drake and the masses finally hears Drake diss Budden in full. And with lines like “I’m not a one hit wonder they know all my stuff” and “you let me turn into the nigga that you almost was” it’s pretty clear that Drake had indeed dissed Joe Budden.
- July 18th: Joe Budden goes on the Brilliant Idiots podcast and explains why he continues to drop diss records, and explains the beef between the two a little more.
- July 29th: The video for ‘No Shopping’ is released. Drake doesn’t seem bothered.
Now as a disclaimer, Joe Budden has had the musical upper hand in this back and forth. But while the public hasn’t declared a winner, not making Drake the loser was as much a win for Drake as it was a loss for Budden.
That seems to be the most fascinating thing about Drake. No matter what you may have felt about the former child TV star in his previous quarrels with other rappers, there was no way to definitively declare him the loser in any of them.
The hip-hop fans and the public seem to back Drake in a way we haven’t really seen before, except for probably with Kanye West. Meek Mill exposed Drake for having a ghostwriter, and the conversation became “is ghostwriting really that bad in hip-hop? Isn’t a hit a hit?” Countless rappers have referred to him as soft, and the conversation became “why does hip-hop have to be hard?”
There’s always been a valid shift in perspective in his defense when it comes to rappers shooting at Drake. But this time, not so much. To keep it real, Drake was washed on not one, but at least two tracks by Joe Budden and the questions haven’t been there about a lack of a response from Drake. Instead, the relevancy of Joe Budden has been put into question. People would rather disregard Budden’s validity because of his inability to remain relevant in recent years, than admit that Drake lost. Which is in fact the reason why Drake can’t lose.
Whether fair or not, the rapper has become more than hip-hop, and he knows it as he referenced his extreme level of fame in a bar from his ‘No Shopping’ verse where he says “Bitch I just rap and it went Pop.”
In addition to his awareness of his status in the game, he also made it known on his ‘30 for 30 freestyle’ last year that with being hot comes conspirators whose goal is to end that run, he says:
But I’m not really sure what else you expected
When the higher-ups have all come together as a collective
With conspiracies to end my run and send me a message
40, did you get the message?
Cause I just checked my phone and I didn’t get it
I mean, I say hats off for a solid effort
But we didn’t flinch for a second, we got our shit together
So say what you want but Drake is not just the biggest rapper of the time, but the biggest male artist of the time. It can be Rap beef (win or lose), or authenticity of the art form (responding to bars with bars), and no matter what he has put himself in a rare space where he’s become virtually impenetrable. It could be greatness, it could be planned or it could be a bit of both.
Whatever the answer is, the one thing that remains constant, Drake can’t (won’t) lose.