Kendrick Lamar is undeniably the best rapper of his generation. You won’t find many hip-hop heads or music critics who would disagree with that statement. On this month’s cover of Rolling Stone, they call him the “greatest rapper alive.” Even after Jay’s 4:44 or considering Kanye’s catalogue and even if you’re the biggest Drake stan, it’s hard to argue with that either. Kendrick has proven, album after album, that his talent is one of a kind— maybe even the Greatest of All Time. So when he’s remembered in music history, with a list of his accolades, do you think it will go something like this?
Kendrick Lamar: multi-platinum selling artist, music video visionary, Grammy winner, Team Taylor.
Oh yeah, in case you forgot, Kendrick the GOAT is mixed up in the Taylor Swift vs. Katy Perry narrative. I almost forgot.
When Lainey emailed me that Kendrick talked to Rolling Stone about the Katy/Taylor beef, my first thought was, “Why though?” Then I remembered that Kendrick was featured on Bad Blood. He was even in that petty as f-ck video where all of the Hollywood popular girls got together to bend the knee for House Swift. It’s hilarious. Another rapper of Kendrick’s caliber may have reacted to a question about pop stars feuding as an insult. Instead, here’s the Q&A excerpt of how Kendrick handled it:
When you did the Bad Blood remix with Taylor Swift, were you aware that you were taking sides in a pop beef – since she was apparently addressing Katy Perry?
[Through laughter] No, I wasn't aware of that, bro. That's a great question. No! On the record, no. Which makes it even more funny now, for sure. That's far beyond my concern. I have to stay away from that, for sure. That's some real beef [laughs].
The writer makes a point to tell us twice that Kendrick laughed. I picture him doubled over, hysterical at the thought that he was “taking sides” in the drama. It’s the perfect answer. He’s not pretentiously asking to be excluded from the narrative (ahem, Taylor) but he’s still definitively distancing himself from the situation. He doesn’t care. I believe that he doesn’t care. He dropped a verse, got that Bad Blood money and went about his business. Now that he has finally given an answer to the hardest hitting question in pop culture (Team Taylor or Team Katy) can we please excuse him from the narrative? Can we move on to talking about the hardest hitting question in hip-hop: Kendrick or Drake?
The alleged beef between Kendrick and Drake is more healthy competition than petty drama. For years, Kendrick and Drake have been exchanging subtle jabs at each other in songs and interviews. They’ve been battling it out on the charts for just as long. Lainey has referenced this Complex piece before about how Drake and Kendrick need each other to succeed. But so far, in my humble opinion, Drake isn’t even remotely on Kendrick’s level lyrically. When Rolling Stone asks Kendrick whether it’s OK for rappers to have ghostwriters, his response seems to be another shot at Drake, who has been plagued by ghostwriting rumours for pretty much his entire career.
“I called myself the best rapper. I cannot call myself the best rapper if I have a ghostwriter. If you're saying you're a different type of artist and you don't really care about the art form of being the best rapper, then so be it. Make great music. But the title, it won't be there.”
The title won’t be there. That’s pointed, no? I’ve written about Kendrick’s humility before. He doesn’t just strive to be the greatest, he KNOWS it. I also think he just doesn’t like Drake very much. Does this seem like a compliment?
What's your favorite Drake song?
Favorite Drake song [chuckles]. I got a lot of favorite Drake songs. Can't name one off the back. ... He has plenty.
Do you prefer him singing or rapping?
To me, that reads like another subtle jab. He doesn’t commit to picking a song and he laughs off the question. It’s a side-eye. It’s actually a master class in side-eyeing. Maybe I’m reading too much into it but while I am completely over Taylor vs. Katy, long live the Drake vs Kendrick narrative.
The entire Rolling Stone feature is good – really good. You can read more about Kendrick on his process, personal life, Bono and Beyoncé here.