Drake vs. Kendrick Lamar: Who Got Round One? The Case for Each Rapper Leading the Feud So Far

After two and a half weeks of anticipation following the leaking of Drake’s “Push-Ups” in mid-April, Kendrick Lamar continued what he started two months ago with his pot-stirring “Like That” verse with his new Drake response, “Euphoria.” Lamar’s haters’ anthem has electrified the internet and put all eyes back on the 6 God to see how he will respond. But after one full official diss track each in the beef, who’s leading on our scorecards? Billboard Hip-Hop writers Mark Elibert and Carl Lamarre present both cases.

Why Drake Won Round One

Drake is a cunning and crafty individual when he’s locked in on a target. He has a way of using his resources in a way that has others come at him with heavy artillery, as one needs to do in the heat of battle. His first diss track in this hip-hop civil war, “Push Ups,” showed how good the 6 God is at taking center stage to rip into his opponents. Kendrick Lamar caught the most heat on a record, and Drake did precisely what people wanted of him in rap beef with his longtime rival: cut the subliminals and go on a direct offense.


K Dot officially started their long-simmering feud with his explosive guest feature on “Like That” off Metro Boomin and Future’s collaborative effort, We Don’t Like You. There were several lines that clearly referenced Drake, such as saying there’s no “big three” in hip-hop when he’s the only GOAT, seemingly a shot at Drizzy’s J. Cole-assisted “First Person Shooter” where the latter nodded to the hip-hop trinity. He also mentioned Prince “outliving” Michael Jackson, another assumed crack at Drake’s line on that same song where he said he was one hit single away from tying Michael Jackson for most No. 1 hits by a male solo artist on the Billboard Hot 100.

Drake caught wind of the shots Lamar took at him on “Like That” and responded just a few weeks later with “Push Ups.” Most people didn’t expect Drake to respond in this manner, as he and K Dot had a lengthy cold war throughout the 2010s and early ‘20s that never really blew up the rivalry as big as it is now. Still, he used this opportunity to dip into his bag of tricks to put out a worthy diss track – one that has people paying attention.

Drake’s creativity has been essential in several of his rap feuds. On 2018’s “Duppy Freestyle,” Drake rapped, “Tell ‘Ye we got a invoice comin’ to you/ Considerin’ that we just sold another 20 for you” and actually sent an invoice to G.O.O.D. Music in the middle of his quarrel with Pusha T.

For the cover art of his 2015 Meek Mill diss track “Back to Back,” Drake used an image of the Toronto Blue Jays’s Joe Carter hitting a series-clinching home run against the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. And he even dropped the song on the same day the Blue Jays and Phillies played against each other. Drake doesn’t do anything by coincidence, and every move he makes is a potential checkmate – with “Push Ups” serving as his latest master chess move.

For starters, the title shows Drake’s knack for using social media as a tool, as it references a viral 2023 video of Kendrick doing push-ups in a park with The Boy using that to ridicule K Dot, and claim he’s better off doing that workout instead of giving him a lyrical exercise.

When listeners actually start the track, they can hear DJ Who Kid’s iconic DJ tagline, which channels vintage rap beef vibes. That “Whooo Kid” tagline was the first thing listeners heard echoing at the beginning of various G-Unit Radio mixtapes, where 50 Cent and his crew routinely annihilated their competition. By using that tagline, Drake was letting his listeners know he wants all the smoke with the DAMN. rapper and everyone else that dissed him.

Drake’s guile was even extended to the menacing production on “Push Ups.” The beat samples The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1997 track “What’s Beef?,” in which the late rapper showed disgust with his peers for not knowing what real beef is, and instead trying to start a feud on wax. Drake had already made several stinging attacks before he could even rap his first few words on the song, which had listeners anxiously waiting to hear what he was going to say.

And with the bars, Drake left nothing on the table – firing at Kendrick in a way we’ve never heard him do before. All the subliminals in the past were focused on Drake claiming he was lyrically better and more popular, but “Push Ups” found the 6 God shining a light on things that people haven’t often said about Lamar, such as hilariously making fun of his short stature and questioning his deal with Top Dawg Entertainment.

“You won’t ever take no chain off of us/ How the f–k you big steppin’ with a size-seven men’s on?,” Drake raps before attacking Kendrick’s diminished stature in hip-hop’s hierarchy. “Pipsqueak, pipe down/ You ain’t in no big three, SZA got you wiped down/ Travis got you wiped down, Savage got you wiped down/ Like your label, boy, you in a scope right now/ And you gon’ feel the aftermath of what I write down.”

Drake even went as far as calling Lamar his child in a clever flip where he said, “What’s a Prince to a king? He a son, n—a,,” a direct response to the pgLang rapper comparing their career trajectories to the competitive ‘80s rivalry of Michael Jackson and Prince on “Like That.” To add more fuel to the fire, “Push Ups” is a catchy record thanks to Drake’s masterful hitmaking ability with infectious hooks such as “Ayy, better drop and give me fifty, ayy Drop and give me fifty, drop and give me fifty, ayy.”

It may not be as hit-worthy as “Back to Back,” which was the first diss record to receive a Grammy nomination, but “Push Ups” will most likely get rotations in various clubs and on radio months from now. Seriously, what’s more annoying than continuously hearing a diss song aimed at you no matter where you go

Regardless of what people feel about Drake, he defended his throne and stood tall against Lamar and everyone else who called him out over the last few weeks that led up to the commencement of this war. But even though “Push Ups” was a strong response and may have given Drake the W in the first round of this hip-hop war, he needs to keep up this intensity if he wants to come out on top.


Drake received criticism in 2018 for not dropping a response to Pusha’s “The Story of Adidon,” despite rumors claiming he had something nuclear in the chamber. He may have gotten out of that with a slight dent in his armor, but the same won’t happen this time if he doesn’t carry this energy into Round Two. We don’t want to hear that he found new inspiration and redirected that energy into himself, as he said about the Pusha T beef on an episode of Maverick Carter’s interview series The Shop in 2018.

He’s made it clear that he won’t be stopping his onslaught against Kendrick, as he did by dropping the AI-assisted (and since deleted) “Taylor Made Freestyle,” where he tried to bait Kendrick into responding to “Push Ups” with fake verses from Snoop Dogg and the late 2Pac. Many felt the move was clever, while others felt it wasn’t a real response. But regardless, each move that Drake makes now has to be better than the already excellent “Push Ups.” If not, he’ll have another L on his resume, and an even tougher one to come back from. — MARK ELIBERT

Why Kendrick Won Round One

17 days. That’s how long it took for Kung Fu Kenny to strike fear back into the hearts of hapless MCs and have all of Aubrey’s Angels squirming in their shoes. As a Drake fan, I was mortified – because “Euphoria” is only a snippet of Kendrick’s madness. After the release of “Push Ups” and “Taylor Made Freestyle,” this was just Kendrick drawing first blood.

Though Kendrick savors the art of storytelling and engages in dad raps about being an all-world father figure, it doesn’t mean he can’t tap back into the grimy menace he once was when he nuked hip-hop with “Control” in 2013. “Euphoria” is child’s play compared to where Kendrick can still take it, and after the opening bell, I have him up in the scoreboard. And here’s why: “Euphoria” was not just a song, it was a cultural earthquake about finally crowning the King of all Kings in this illustrious Big 3 Era that we’re currently in. Drake baited, Kendrick waited, and delivered the first true haymaker of the battle.


With a Teddy Pendergrass sample leading the way, Lamar initially lulled listeners with a calm delivery at the start of “Euphoria,” degrading Drake by calling him a “degenerate” and “scam artist.” Once he settled in and adapted to the beat switches, Lamar seared Drake with incendiary bars. Kendrick went on a callous assault on Drake’s character, strategically aiming to question his integrity as a father and his identity as a Black man. These jabs had previously unsettled Drake, particularly when Pusha T questioned his parenting during their 2018 feud. Kendrick’s decision to bring Drake’s n-word usage to light was calculated, referencing Drake’s feud with Push. The Clipse rapper not only found an old photo of Drake in Blackface but used it as the cover art for “The Story of Adidon,” the record that sealed Push’s victory. Drake’s biracial background also remains a point of contention, as Rick Ross similarly mocked him during their brief feud on his song “Champagne Moments,” repeatedly calling him  “White Boy.” While the racial callouts may seem harsh, rap purists consider them fair game in the battle of wordplay, making Kendrick’s jabs permissible in battle.

Another bar that probably went over many people’s heads was when Kendrick said: “I make music that electrify ’em, you make music that pacify ’em/ I can double down on that line, but spare you this time, that’s random acts of kindness.” in double-entendre form –  also suggesting a baby pacifier — speaks to Drake’s immature music and problematic dating history. Theories have swirled about Drake creeping on underage girls, but while none of those rumors have been proven true, Lamar here opts to “spare” him before escalating things.

What also makes “Euphoria” a more robust reply is the high level of punchlines used by Kendrick in the song in contrast to “Push Ups.” While he isn’t considered a punchline-first MC, Dot had an arsenal of bars scattered in his six-minute demolition of Drake, with some lines even requiring a second glimpse on Genius. “Yeah, my first one like my last one, it’s a classic, you don’t have one/ Let your core audience stomach that, Didn’t tell ’em where you get your abs from,” says Lamar about Drake allegedly getting cosmetic surgery. There’s also a shrewd, but chilling name-drop early in the song: “Yeah, Cole and Aubrey know I’m a selfish n—a / The crown is heavy, huh /I pray they my real friends, if not, I’m YNW Melly.” Melly is currently involved in a double murder retrial, dating back to when he allegedly killed two of his friends in 2018. “Kendrick Lamar is one of my favorite rappers so I feel honored and appalled … I’m a household name — just for the wrong s–t!!!,” he told TMZ following the release of “Euphoria.”


While some may accuse Kendrick of recycling other lyrical attacks on Drake, his performance on “Euphoria” is a testament to his Hall of Fame-caliber. Not only does he deliver a six-minute lyrical tour de force, but he seamlessly transitions between three different flows over three different beat switches, including a nod to Drake’s signature delivery. This performance solidifies his status as a rap virtuoso on the battlefield, especially when seemingly on the brink of elimination. According to the Compton MC, his fiery raid was only friendly fire, which makes his assault that much more devastating. He admits to liking Drake’s “Back to Back” and being a fan of Drake when he’s at his most melodic (as opposed to his most tough-talking). To show even this minimal amount of respect amid lyrical warfare means K. Dot isn’t worried about his adversary.

Lamar’s rebuttal also strengthened his comeback because he treated Drake as if they were back in the playground. Anointing himself “the biggest hater,” Lamar was curt in his response, rapping: “I hate the way that you walk, the way that you talk/ I hate the way that you dress/ I hate the way you sneak diss, if I catch flight, it’s gon’ be direct.” For a feud spanning ten years, it’s refreshing to finally have some actual namedrops and unabashed shots taken, with no physical repercussions. With an electrifying performance that found three different versions of Kendrick eager to seek and destroy, he made sure those 17 days between “Push Ups” and “Euphoria” were worth the wait. The cherry on top? Dropping it at 8:24 a.m. on West Coast time. The significance? The L.A. legend Kobe Bryant donned the numbers 8 and 24. Coincidence? I think not.

Remember, Drake asked for this version of Kendrick to come out. On “Taylor Made Freestyle,” he punked him for allegedly pushing his diss back to allow Taylor Swift’s new blockbuster album, The Tormented Poets Department, to have all the shine. Drake’s baiting hip-hop’s Boogeyman backfired and has given Lamar ample time to whip up a formidable diss that puts the pressure back on him. If Drake’s next track isn’t an atomic bomb, “Euphoria” could be the song to win Lamar the overall war. — CARL LAMARRE

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