The spat between rappers Drake and Meek Mill is entering its second week, and it’s starting to get ugly. Here’s the shortest possible recap, just in case you haven’t been following every twist and turn: Meek Mill accused Drake of using a ghostwriter for “R.I.C.O.,” a track they recorded together for Meek’s new album Dreams Worth More Than Money. Drake stayed silent until Saturday night, when he released three new tracks during his OVO Sound radio show on Beats 1. One of them was “Charged Up,” a diss track aimed at Meek. Meek called the song “baby lotion soft.” He was supposed to premiere a rebuttal on New York's Hot 97 Monday night, but the evening came and went without a new track. Drake took the opportunity to go on the offensive and released another new track, “Back to Back,” on SoundCloud early Wednesday morning. That’s where we are now.
This may end up being nothing more than a fun summer diversion, but it feels like it’s gobbling up every spare molecule in the world of music right now. And since so many of us at The Verge are passionate and invested in the outcome of Drizzygate, we’ve decided to hash this beef out at the roundtable.
Drake shouldn't have bothered
Jamieson Cox: Say you’re a famous basketball player. You’re not just famous, you’re fantastic — it wouldn’t be a stretch to call you one of the best players of your generation. You can shoot, pass, and handle the ball; your defense isn’t bad. You get voted into the All-Star Game every year, and you’re beloved by fans. It’s hard to dispute your all-around basketball excellence.
Children dunk on their siblings in his honor
Let’s say you have an acquaintance. Your acquaintance's stats are much worse. He’s a rotation player, but a few steps below stardom, and you helped him gain his footing in the league when you played on the same team for a while. Your acquaintance has one specific skill that stands out: he might be the best dunker in the league. There isn’t anyone who can match his ferocity or ruthlessness — there's even a popular series of Vines in which adorable children dunk on their helpless siblings, and it was created in his honor.
You wake up one morning and learn something troubling: your acquaintance has taken to Twitter to talk smack about you. He’s talking about your creativity on the court. He’s telling people you haven’t come up with a single original move, and that you have someone working with you in the gym who invents your every flashy dribble, layup, and dunk. In short, he’s saying you’re a fraud. And to cap everything off, he challenges you to a dunk contest. If you want to prove to everyone that your former friend’s allegations are false, this is the place you’d do it.
The benefits of participating in the contest are obvious. If you win, no one’s going to question your creativity again, and rising to the occasion will be considered a display of cojones on your part. But if you lose — and there’s a decent chance you lose, because you’re going against one of the best dunkers in the world — it’s going to linger for a long time. You could be inducted into the Hall of Fame one day, but a permanent record of your embarrassment will remain on YouTube: that one time you were challenged and ended up with your ass kicked.
But there’s an alternative path. You can size up your acquaintance and his generally mediocre portfolio of skills, and you can tell him that you don’t need to dignify his challenge with a response. Let’s say that someone did help you come with your moves: who cares? You’re still the one who executed them, right? And they’re just one tiny part of your game, right? You’re one of the best players in the game with or without any kind of dunking panache, and agreeing to enter the contest is just validating your acquaintance. You have very little to gain and a lot more to lose, and dunking isn’t an integral part of your play style in the first place.
So what are you going to do? Are you going to enter the contest, or are you going to brush the challenge away like a beetle on your sleeve?
(Drake should’ve ignored this whole thing.)
Drake wins, but Meek matters
Kwame Opam: This shit is chess, it ain’t checkers. Meek started with the profound mistake of getting into his feelings and challenging Drake’s authenticity on Twitter. People went nuts. Drake responded to the whole thing like a PR professional, which is ultimately something he’s far better at. He waited for interest to reach a steady boil, and released "Charged Up" as if on a whim. The crowd cheered! He waited a little more, watched us all tweet up a storm when Meek failed to make a response on Hot 97, and released "Back to Back." The crowd is beside themselves right now. If there was any doubt that Aubrey knows how to work an audience even in the heat of a beef, it should be squashed. Those were just jabs, though. Drake is dancing. Meek by now has no choice but to come out with fire and brimstone to undo some of the damage he’s taken. So he’ll almost certainly come out with haymakers, aiming squarely at Drake’s softness: the mall performances, the Madonna fiasco, and the fact that Nicki was never on his arm. And those blows will land, since Meek is a ferocious technical lyricist.
Drake Brought Meek's Career to New Heights
But Drake isn’t stupid. The man’s ubiquitous for a reason. He gets compared to Kendrick for a reason. (I’m not saying those comparisons are valid. I’m just saying those are the kinds of conversations we have in 2015.) He probably knows Meek will tire himself out throwing punches. He also knows punches like that can’t truly harm him since he already owns up to being a singin’ ass rapper. In a market where Kanye long ago changed the landscape and someone like Future can sell records, Philly hardness isn’t enough to win beefs. It also takes savvy and knowing your enemy. So Drake will keep dancing. He’ll have to punch harder, yes, but he’s also better positioned to outlast Meek. And the killer move? All Drake has to say is Meek matters more now because of this beef. Drake brought your career to new heights, man. "Realness" didn’t. Good job!
If you don't get better, you become irrelevant
But if Meek comes out blazing (and he really has no choice but to), it’s good for everyone. Drake will continue to be one of the biggest hip-hop acts in the world, but Meek Mill will also be a known commodity. We'll forget this beef, but your friends might know his name when they might not have previously. That’s why people say beef is good for hip-hop. It forces everyone to be better or fall into irrelevance.
Meek was smart to start this
Lizzie Plaugic: I think when the supercontinent Pangea started breaking up, it probably seemed apocalyptic. Land masses were colliding! Coastlines were cracking! An entire planet was trying to subtly readjust its junk. But in the end, we got the Earth as we know it (or something).
On July 22nd, Philly rapper Meek Mill gave the Earth another gift. In the days that followed, the air felt lighter, a little more electric than usual. People started taking sides. We hunted down alleged ghostwriter Quentin Miller’s SoundCloud and mined it for anything that resembled a Drizzy flow. Drake released not one, but two comeback tracks. Elaborate conspiracies surfaced. Rick Ross messed up his mathematical symbols. We remembered past hip-hop beefs with nostalgia and reverence. Perhaps most importantly, we remembered Ja Rule.
Meek activated a dormant hip-hop beef volcano
Would it have been more mature of Drake to ignore the whole thing? Yeah. He’s the biggest name in rap right now, and a lot of people aren’t even sure who Meek Mill is. But I’m glad Drake didn’t ignore it. And I'm glad that Meek sent the tweet out into the world in the first place, because it became the rumble that activated a long-silent volcano of hip-hop beefs. Now, the world feels new. This, my friends, is our Pangea.
So I’m Team Meek. Because Meek’s original diss was the 140-character plate-shift for two pretty good Drake tracks, some decent jokes, and a GoFundMe to help Meek pay for a diss track (which has since been deleted). For the last seven days, we’ve had an entire little world of Drake and Meek, and it’s been beautiful. This is an internet fight that you can watch from the outside; a spectator sport for those of us who don’t like balls. Eventually, most of the world will forget about this fight, in the way that most of the world doesn’t think about plate tectonics on the daily. And if this Pangea analogy holds up, it leads to only one possible conclusion: Meek Mill is God, but Drake is Santa Claus.
Drake's making Meek an example
Micah Singleton: Let’s be honest: Drake is the easiest target in hip-hop. He sings, he’s emotional, he’s been chasing Rihanna and Nicki for years to no avail — people have been itching to go at him since he left Canada. Drake's main defense is that he knows his flaws and makes fun of them before anyone else can. He posts the memes and pokes fun at his DeGrassi past on SNL. So when Meek Mill came out with this ghostwriting claim, it became open season on Drake. And the only way to end hunting season is to take out the biggest hunter so viciously that everyone will know this Canadian forest is off-limits.
Drake couldn’t sit this one out. He couldn’t hide out in the YOLO Estate with 40 and Oliver. He had to respond. What I didn’t see coming was this type of response. Drake has eschewed the classic knockout diss track in favor of a Mayweather-esque "I’m going to jab you in the face until I win by decision" fighting style. "Charged Up" was the most relaxed diss record in history, if it was even a diss record. It was like a diss preamble. It was a direct shot at Meek's rapping style, which is best described as yelling with purpose, while Drake sounded like he recorded the song in a library. It also carried a warning of what was to come: "I stay silent ‘cause we at war and I’m very patient / 6 God is watching, I just hope you’re prepared to face him."
Drake didn't even wait for meek to respond
The real flames from Drake came in "Back to Back," which is just mean. Very, very mean. He didn’t even wait for Meek to respond with his own diss track. Drake just hit him again. Mean. Drake is up 2-0. Meek still hasn’t responded. And given his lackluster history of diss records (a history betraying his technical skill), it doesn’t look good for the Philly kid. At this point, there’s nothing left to say.
Who cares? Nicki's the one that matters
Kaitlyn Tiffany: The game of The Hills was built around Lauren Conrad. Her first mixtape, Laguna Beach, dropped before the turn of the decade, and her charismatic aloofness carried her through and out of the TV circuit and into a successful career as an author, designer, and lifestyle brand mogul. She taught us to love ourselves but only if we had style, she passed down everything she knew about the Fame Game, and we embraced her as the wise but flawed (turning down a Parisian internship for a boy with frosted tips?) LC, Queen of the Hills. She was a new kind of celebrity, and some people thought she was boring, but that was fucking nonsense. For a while, she loved a man named Brody Jenner, and said that they were the same person, which was obviously only about 40 percent true.
After LC was long gone from The Hills and its childish games, a bold newcomer made the ill-advised choice to step to her. The thinner, blonder, fiercer girl on the block was Kristen Cavallari, and there was something weirdly charming about the brazenness with which she sharpened her fangs. She swooped right in to stir shit up and to write a book with a slightly better title than any of LC’s books. She was about that money, and about Brody Jenner. She flirted, and oh, how Brody flirted back. LC said she was over it, but it’s hard to believe that people get over Brody Jenner.
Eventually the implied hostility between any two talented public personalities who do similar things as a career came to a head — Kristen Cavallari implied that LC was a "slutbag." It was a roughly hewn diss, to say the least, but as Kristen so helpfully pointed out to LC (with the internet as an intermediary): "No one remembers the nice girl." So LC listened and spun a near-perfect diss track that went something like, "If someone asked me to list three good things about you, I would say you are really good at losing baby weight." At this point, nobody looked good.
In this metaphor, Brody is the only winner. He has not one, but two happy endings — seeing Kristen’s limo off to the airport, and then coming home to LC, who has been holding a victorious still-the-Queen grin in her pocket all this time. He’s the one who didn’t get down and dirty, the one who faked it all — the one who got away.
As Brody and Nicki Minaj know, sometimes it's good to be stuck in the middle.
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