Why Are Women Collateral in the Kendrick-Drake Rap War?

For weeks, hip-hop aficionados and gossip hounds have been at the edge of their seats, watching Kendrick Lamar and Drake go at each other’s throats.

And with each diss track, the two MCs have aimed further below the belt. It’s the brawl of the season, one that has sent spectators crashing the Genius website as they attempt to parse all of the rappers’ name-drops, double entendres, and allusions.

Spotify rented a Times Square billboard reading “Hip-hop Is a Competitive Sport.” It’s an analytical workout that has even Swifties redirecting their egg-hunting and textual-dissection skills to hip-hop lyrics.

(The pop star gets name-dropped by Drake, who accuses Kendrick on “Taylor Made Freestyle” of stalling on a reply track to avoid competition with The Tortured Poets Department; in response, Kendrick enlisted Swift’s longtime producer, Jack Antonoff, to make the beat for “6:16 in L.A.”)

But as the attacks have become more personal, dragging in not only the rappers’ collaborators but also family members, the fight has become increasingly discomfiting to witness. Drake has accused Kendrick of cheating on and abusing his wife, Whitney Alford; Kendrick has retorted by calling Drake a trafficker, pedophile, and deadbeat dad to not just one but two children.

These are explosive (and unsubstantiated) claims that invoke the trauma and suffering of a multitude of women. But it’s clear by their talk that neither rapper cares about the alleged victims involved.

The gross irony is that both of them charge the other with being inadequate feminists. “I believe you don’t like women,” Kendrick aims at Drake on “euphoria,” a six-minute takedown titled after the HBO teen drama Drake executive-produces.

The reasons are easy to spot: Drake’s misogyny is written all over his discography and personal record. He covets women but doesn’t respect them, eager to slut-shame when they exert their agency; he’ll give a young fan who was dumped by his girlfriend $50,000 while an audience chants, “Fuck that bitch.”

On 2022’s Her Loss, his joint album with 21 Savage, he condemned the overturning of Roe v. Wade and, later, senselessly accused Megan Thee Stallion of faking accusations against Tory Lanez: “This bitch lie ’bout getting shot, but she still a stallion.” The issue didn’t even involve him, but why not pile onto a traumatized young woman just for the sake of contrarianism, I guess?

Kendrick isn’t exactly a saint either. A verse before on “euphoria,” Kendrick insinuates that Drake has been pursuing underage girls, furthering controversy that’s been swirling since 2018 when a then-14-year-old Millie Bobby Brown revealed that the rapper had been giving her boy advice.

“We hate the bitches you fuck ’cause they confuse themself with real women / And notice, I said ‘we,’ it’s not just me, I’m what the culture feelin,’” Kendrick raps, telling on himself by referring to these rumored victims as “bitches.” If this is an indictment of Drake’s character, then why drag down the young girls with him? Is the issue really their confusion, or Drake’s lack of ethics?

Kendrick doubles down on “meet the grahams,” claiming that Drake’s label OVO is a haven for “sex offenders”: “We gotta raise our daughters knowing that there are predators like him lurking.” (Hammering home the point, on “Not Like Us,” he declares Drake a “certified pedophile.”)

But who is Kendrick to claim the moral high ground when we recall that he has openly supported abusers — threatening to pull his music off Spotify to protest the removal of R. Kelly and XXXTentacion’s music and featuring Kodak Black on his most recent album, Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers?

Drake, himself a hypocrite, pulls a similarly ugly trick by yanking Kendrick’s wife into the ring for bloodying. After alluding to potential unfaithfulness on her part on his initial diss track “Push Up” — “I be with some bodyguards like Whitney [Alford],” he joked — he attempted to escalate with more dirty laundry, calling into question the Pulitzer Prize winner’s racial politics and fidelity on “Family Matters.”

“You the Black messiah wifin’ up a mixed queen / And hit vanilla cream to help out with your self-esteem.” The distress that this might cause Alford doesn’t seem to even register to Drake as he attempts more attacks, culminating in the bombshell allegation that Kendrick beats her. “Your baby mama captions always screaming ‘Save me’ / You did her dirty all your life, you tryna make peace.”

It’s a horrifying image, but for Drake, this amounts to nothing more than a joke. The idea of physical violence is really just another opportunity to make fun of Kendrick’s physique. “When you put your hands on your girl, is it self-defense ’cause she bigger than you?” As if we could expect integrity from a guy who, just earlier on the track, shouts out Chris Brown.

In their fight, two rappers pretend to be allies to women, all while indicating that the worst thing to be is like a woman. They insult each other for being effeminate, Drake dissing Kendrick for being short (“How the fuck you big steppin’ with size 7 mens on”), Kendrick calling Drake out for being girlish (“I believe when you stand next to Sexxy Red you see two bad bitches”).

Weighing in, producer Metro Boomin has issued a “BBL Drizzy” challenge, promising a free beat to the fan with the best verse hashtagged with #bbldrizzybeatgiveaway. The more Kendrick and Drake attack each other, the more they show their own asses.

On “Meet the Grahams,” Kendrick delivers a message to the young daughter that he alleges Drake is hiding — “I never wanna hear you chase a man cause his failed behavior / Sittin’ in the club with sugar daddies for validation” — a message so patronizing it sounds like something Drake would say. The two may be rivals in the rap game, but they’re unified in their willingness to make women collateral.

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