A few weekends ago, Meek Mill and Nicki Minaj sat courtside in Philadelphia. Meek’s 76ers played the NBA’s best team, the Golden State Warriors, and the underdogs looked primed to pull off the biggest upset of the year. They didn’t. Harrison Barnes hit a last-second 3 and the Warriors stole the victory. Somewhere, surely, Drake was quietly texting Steph Curry his congratulations.
Drake wants people to know he doesn’t like Meek Mill. Meek wants people to know he doesn’t like Drake. While that Saturday Meek saw his team lose, Drake watched his team win from the broadcast booth, but even preoccupied with the NBA games, online both rappers reignited their cold war. Drake hosted OVO Radio to debut his new single “Summer Sixteen,” and as he ran his song back-to-back-to-back-to-back, Meek slyly dropped another teaser EP with a hard-to-miss Drake dis. The script deserved a nomination, if not the Oscar.
Now, Meek Mill used to be a Drake fan. Not just a casual Drake fan, but one who recorded one of his best pre-fame songs over a Drake instrumental (“Up All Night”). In 2016, the ground between them even without personal beef couldn’t be wider, as Meek remains committed to harsh street raps and Drake relishes his fourth victory-lap year of rap and pop bending to his whim. No matter the distance between them now, both are rapper still obsessed with relationship: creative, platonic and romantic. That two rappers from opposing sides of the genre did find a creative middle ground shouldn’t be shocking, nor should the fact that it eventually crumbled.
It’s been seven months since the initial accusations of ghostwriting from Meek, and during that time the contretemps has become rap’s most exhausting, feel-bad beef; regardless of who comes out on top of each round, it feels like we all lose. Drake dropped three lackluster tracks devoted to punching down at Meek, but in between released the biggest single of his career with “Hotline Bling.” In the same amount of time, Meek is still reeling from his initial miss, but “War Pain” offers some of the venom that Meek was known to spit back when his braids were still locked. An artistic wash, steeped in unearned drama.
Still, no matter the quality of any dis toward Drake, Meek remains three steps behind the game. If ghostwriting accusations mattered, Drake would still be reeling from “Wanna Know” — instead, the song marked the moment when the public declared that Drake won the scuffle. Meek — with an Instagram caption ready — sniped at Drake comparing himself to Jay-Z on “Summertime Sixteen” mere minutes after the song dropped, yet the consensus was “who even cares?”
That collective shoulder shrug is a response both rappers appeared to gleefully ignore. Meek’s crusade against ghostwriting will continue to fall on the deaf ears of those who just want the pleasure of pop, not a previous generation's hang-ups about authenticity. Meanwhile, Drake’s ability to be so undone by Meek, and his bullying replies, seem below him -- he’s one of the few artists who can still go old-school-rules platinum, and his public platform is infinite. One senses that as long as this whole thing stokes sales and captures headlines, such is the nature of both real and manufactured Top 40 rap beef in 2016. And as Meek continues to face real legal issues, maybe they oughta give Kris Jenner a call.