The idea that Drake took to the airwaves on his own Beats 1 Radio program to address the feud with Meek Mill is kind of amazing in and of itself. It’s the digital-age version of Jay going to Summer Jam or KRS-One sliding tracks to Red Alert. That being said, the desire to have raised expectations for a “Drake diss track” should actually be non-existent.
“Wow, I’m honored that you think this is staged / I’m flattered, man, in fact, I’m amazed.”
If we break down Drake as an emcee, his actual “rap credentials,” in that “OG rapper, eat you up on a track and kill you” sense has actually never really existed. Outside of Kardinal Offishall, name any actual underground or mainstream rap history that had any buzz coming from the 6 before Drake. It’s hard, right? Toronto’s this weird rap pastiche place where Hip Hop was likely more of a pop radio, play whatever American hits are hot on MTV thing than like, really digging into an organic connection with breaking “street hot rap music.” Can’t imagine too many crazy ridiculous rap battles that changed the culture happening in 1980s T. Dot. As well, insofar as America, you don’t see Drake name-checking Rakim or Big Daddy Kane in his rhymes, rather you hear him aligning himself with stars from Houston and Memphis, two top rap locales, but not any that have a deep connection with the first-generation roots of the culture itself, which Meek Mill, being from Philly, has.
“I seen it all coming, knew they were pushing buttons / Easter Egg Hunting, they gotta look for something / Done doing favors for people / ‘Cause it ain’t like I need the money I make off a feature.”
Thus, when you get a Philly guy feuding with Drake, you’re going to get a weird and disjointed matchup altogether. Someone from Philly comes from a school opened by the likes of Schooly D and carried down through the likes of Freeway, Cassidy, Jakk Frost and others who are gifted at delivering tough lyrical slaughters, and for the purposes of this feud, also writing their own bars. A Philly guy (especially Meek) going toe to toe with Drake is comparable to somebody playing chess and thinking they made a dope move, but realizing that their opponent’s left the table and off somewhere else playing mancala instead. You’re left scratching your head and saying, “what?”
“Come and live all your dreams out at OVO / We gonna make sure you get your bread and you know the ropes.”
Drake got in all the jabs he needed to get in, especially the line about Nicki Minaj not getting him starstruck or having a significant other question his skill. Insofar as answering questions about his authenticity, while he didn’t answer the question directly, the idea that there’s so much money for so many people to get paid floating around the OVO camp likely means that we’re looking at a Diddy-esque situation perhaps, without as many rhymes getting written. To be honest, Drake’s probably more concerned with what Nigerian rapper WizKid is releasing, what the latest news is from European Premier League websites and how his daddy can keep meeting so many attractive South Asian women in America. On the scale of “things Drake cares about,” Meek Mill wondering if he has a ghostwriter ranks up there with “what should I eat for breakfast tomorrow?” Given how benignly the issue was treated, it’s obviously not very important to him.
“Rumor has it, there’s something that only I know / Rumor has it, I steer this shit with my eyes closed / Rumor has it, I either fucked her or I never could / But rumor has it hasn’t done you niggas any good.”
Given Drake’s lack of a truly organic and localized connection to the history of “how rap works,” he’s not a rapper who really gets the need to knock a fool out in a rap battle. Instead, he almost lampooned the battle concept entirely on “Charged Up” by doing the lyrical equivalent of trying to either beat Meek to death with a feather duster or, to make an Olympic boxing analogy, beat him by tapping him enough times about the head and body with the whites of his gloves to win. By a classic rap standard, this isn’t a win. But for the purposes of whatever it is in rap that Drake wants to do (he’s arguably on top and it’s his game to lose) this is a prime example of the best of where we’re at. Like it or not.
Marcus K. Dowling is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist with nearly two decades of experience covering music and popular culture. Follow him on Twitter at @marcuskdowling.