The need to compare has long been a component of the modern human experience, and in some respects has even sustained it. But with the helping hand of the almighty Internet, this willingness to dissect apples and oranges with the same forceps has hit steroid levels, as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram users alike simply cannot help themselves in the arena of “this or that.” But this surface-level practice should not apply to a conversation about Kendrick Lamar and Drake, and to do so in this case is a disservice to the former.
Whether you like Kendrick Lamar or not doesn’t serve as a prerequisite to acknowledging the gravity of his brand of hip hop, and the meticulousness with which he makes it even remotely accessible to the public. The sociopolitical value of his storytelling, his sheer Black pride, the professions of spirituality, and his enduring devotion to the less-popular-these-days art of lyricism are all indicators that he is occupying a lane that few of his contemporaries dare to swerve into. And to be frank, Drake is not one of them.
This is not to detract from Drake’s own artistry. There is much to be said about the international flavors he had the gall to blend into his premier “playlist” More Life. He will go down in history for his notable foray into pop behemoth status while remaining in the conversation of rap’s greats. The name “Drake” has surely etched itself into the hip hop history books –– just not in the same chapter as “Kendrick Lamar.”
Let’s refer to Kendrick’s latest effort DAMN., for just a few examples:
I got, I got, I got, I got
Loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA
Cocaine quarter piece, got war and peace inside my DNA
I got power, poison, pain and joy inside my DNA
I got hustle though, ambition, flow, inside my DNA – “DNA.”
Get the Black masses riled up with pronouncements of the gold and grit flowing through their veins? Drake could never.
I beat yo ass if you tell them social workers he live here
I beat yo ass if I beat yo ass twice and you still here
Seven years old, think you run this house by yourself?
Nigga, you gon' fear me if you don't fear no one else – “FEAR.”
Amass the utter fright that comes with stereotypical Black parenting in America, and how that serves as our introduction to fear, even before we step foot into the “real world?” Drake could never.
Produced by The Alchemist? Hosted by Kid Capri? Featuring U2? Drake could never.
I'm a Israelite, don't call me Black no mo'
That word is only a color, it ain't facts no mo' – “YAH.”
See, in a perfect world, I'll choose faith over riches
I'll choose work over b***es, I'll make schools out of prison
I'll take all the religions and put 'em all in one service
Just to tell 'em we ain't shit, but He's been perfect, world – “PRIDE.”
Questioning and challenging the conventions of religion and faith? Drake could never.
Whoever thought the greatest rapper would be from coincidence?
Because if Anthony killed Ducky
Top Dawg could be servin' life
While I grew up without a father and die in a gunfight – "DUCKWORTH."
Slyly narrating a seemingly fictional story of two characters whose fates intertwine and end up being two key figures in his actual life? Drake could never (well, he probably could, but he won’t).
You see, to simply muse about Kendrick Lamar and Drake in particular is to significantly mitigate the Compton native’s blood, sweat and tears, and what they all mean in the culture’s grand scheme. The time, effort and 140-character proclamations spent on creating this clash –– a generally understandable and necessary habit of the culture –– is simply between the wrong two titans. Why? Because the argument between these two must always be shifted to details that pale in comparison to subject matter: sales, charts, popularity, likability, image, and the like. The watering down of K. Dot is the only way a worthy conversation can include Drizzy.
And if I were Kendrick Lamar, I’d be offended.
(Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Coachella)