Listening to Drake and Jay Z's lyrical jousting over the past few weeks has been endlessly entertaining, especially since the shots have been so mild that they're barely doing any damage -- save for some possible irritation on Hov's part. The term "frenemies" doesn't get much use in rap circles, but what else would you use to describe the relationship between two of rap's biggest superstars, who are caught up in a back-and-forth dance of collaborating, then playfully warring with each other? When compared to Jay Z's past beefs, with artists like Nas and Cam'Ron, does this count as a real feud?
Drake still isn't ready to accept his crown for being the king of subliminal shots, but we all know that he's been eyeing The Throne for some time. He flat out denied that he was taking a shot at Jay and 'Ye when he rapped, "I'm just feeling like the throne is for the taking, watch me take it," on "I'm On One" -- but let's be real, no one believed him.
Does Drake respect Jay Z? Absolutely. But does he also think that he's now in a position to battle with the greatest? Absolutely.
It ain't easy to get a feature from Hov, since the God MC has always been strategic in aligning himself with those who are also destined for greatness, but that has worked in Drizzy's favor. Jay has given Drake coveted features on tracks like "Light Up," and, most recently, on "Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music," which has only fueled his confidence. (Not to mention, the hand-written note Hov passed along when Take Care easily outsold Watch the Throne in week one).
Ironically enough, on "Light Up," Jay warned the Toronto rapper about artists trying to come, "with silly rap feuds, trying to distract you," and Drake definitely took his advice. He decided not to bother with a response to Kendrick's fiery "Control" verse, for example, and instead he went for the ultimate target: aiming at Jay himself.
Last summer Kanye West made a surprise appearance at OVO Fest in Toronto and blew a few minds when he admitted to the crowd that, "Me and Hov would've never made Watch the Throne if [Drake] wasn't putting pressure on us like that." With that kind of acknowledgement, can you blame Drake for trying to show out?
On "Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music," right after Jay blesses him with two verses, Drake gets back on the mic and begins with "Look, f--k all that 'Happy to be here' sh—that ya'll want me on/ I'm the big homie, they still be tryna lil bro me, dog." That was Drake's official declaration that he was light years ahead his peers, and already inching closer to the legends.
"On this album I'm extremely aware of where I’m at and nobody can tell me differently," Drake told MTV News of Nothing Was the Same. "I'm the big homey too. As much as I do remain humble and stay cordial, don't think I don’t know."
So, if you've already gotten the co-sign from Jay, and you have Kanye going out of his way to defend your new bromance, why not step up to the plate and take few shots?
Drake was bold enough to criticize Jay's "art raps" in a Rolling Stone interview (he also admitted that Yeezus wasn't so great), which set off a chain of back-and-forth jabs.
Hov got back at "Mrs. Drizzy" on Jay Electronica's "We Made It" freestyle, and Drake was quick to volley back with "just hits, no misses, that's for the married folk," on his "Draft Day" freestyle. Jay returned fire again on DJ Khaled's "They Don't Love You No More," calling Drake "soft as a Lacrosse team"—over an OVO Mike Zombie beat, nonetheless. Drake hasn't responded yet, but we're sure this isn't the end of it.
Jay might be sitting somewhere scratching his head and wondering why the young rapper from Toronto that he co-signed—Drake even appears on Beyonce's recent album—is going out of his way to start trouble, but he probably understands it too.
Karen Civil, founder of KarenCivil.com, certainly understands his tactics. "When I spoke with Drake briefly at the YG 'Who Do You Love' shoot in February, he spoke on competition and wanting to see what hip-hop had in store," Civil told MTV News. "He's getting the opportunity to spar with hip-hop's elite -- this is exactly what Drake wants."
"He's separating himself from the average rapper who would 'never go against Jay Z.' He's confident in his craft, and is up for the challenge. This is what hip-hop is all about."
Rap Radar's content director, Brian "B. Dot" Miller, echoed those sentiments, adding that he doesn't think this will prevent Jay and Drake from reuniting on tracks in the future.
"I don't consider this beef. It's more like tofu," he said. "As a rapper and an artist, Drake and Hov have a mutual respect. Rap is competitive. It's no different than trash-talking on the basketball court. I don't believe a few quips here and there will throw a monkey wrench in their relationship. They make great music together and the fans appreciate it."
With Drake already three platinum albums and a smash mixtape into his career, he's simply pushing boundaries that will take him even further. Sure, there's a chance that Jay might be truly and deeply annoyed by this strategy, but he has to respect it as well. Now we just wait to see how long they keep up the sparring before the next collaboration comes around.