A longstanding cold war between two of the biggest figures in rap just went hostile.
What looked like it could have been a benign sample request turned into a whole lot more, as Kanye West and Drake reignited their beef Thursday night. We thought there was a truce but Ye’s latest Twitter salvo revisited some of the biggest drama in 2018 rap. “Don’t play with me.” he tweeted. “You stay too close to be playing all these industry games bro.”
What’s so shocking is remembering that it wasn’t always this way. The relationship between Kanye and Drake was a mix of admiration and competition as the two would engage in a push and pull cycle while both vied to be the center of rap. Below, is a collection of the highs and lows of their relationship.
Say What's Real
Wind back to February 2009. “Say What’s Real” was the first time a lot of people heard Drake go in on the 808s and Heartbreak cut but it wasn’t his first freestyle over some Kanye production, having rapped over “Barry Bonds” and “Swagga Like Us” in the years leading up to 2009. But “Say What’s Real” established Kanye’s link to the universe Drake and 40 would soon build.
“Kanye West shaped a lot of what I do, as far as music goes. Before I met him, I had the utmost respect for Kanye West,” Drake told MTV News in 2009. “I'd even go as far as to say he's the most influential person as far as a musician that I'd ever had in my life."
Soon enough, Kanye began working with the young Toronto rapper, directing the memorable music video for “Best I Ever Had” and helping co-produce and co-write Thank Me Later single “Find Your Love” but it wasn’t long until friction began to settle in. 40 told Vibe Magazine in 2010 that he had been cursed out by Yeezy for "stealing his sound” and Drake was one of many artists asked to contribute to the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy sessions, writing a verse for “All of the Lights” that would eventually be cut from the final version.
Admiration & Competition
2011 and thereafter would find Drake bouncing between admitting reverence for Kanye, careful to avoid stepping on toes when pressed on this subject matter in interviews or going in the opposite direction and sending passive aggressive shots. A cover story in The Source found him in a mood ready to declare war. “My goal is to surpass everything he’s accomplished,” Drizzy said. “I don’t want to be as good as Kanye, I want to be better."
This extended to talking down the heavily rumoured collaboration album between Kanye and Jay-Z soon to be known as Watch The Throne.
"I heard some other guys are coming out with an album, too.” Drake said in a Tim Westwood interview in January 2011. “There's two other rappers that are coming out with an album together... I don't know where they got that idea."
Watch the Throne would have a big effect on Drake, who went as far as admitting “Started From The Bottom” for 2013’s Nothing Was The Same was inspired from listening to “Niggas in Paris” for the first time and trying to create a hook that bounced with a similar cadence.
Rumored Joint Album Wolves
While many wondered about Drake’s other cold war with Kanye’s other rapping partner, by contrast, he and Drake seemed to have a cordial, if not competitive, relationship with one another for years. Drake would bring out Kanye at multiple OVO Fests in this time period, the latter claiming Drake’s commercial success was what spurred him on to keep going. These invitations to OVO Fest suggested the two had buried the hatchet. Things would change at the start of 2016 as both rappers started to include subliminals towards the other in freestyles and loosie releases. Nothing too serious of course - Drake just wants us to know he has a bigger pool than Kanye.
But hints of a collab project between the two started to fester. In 2015, Kanye said as much. During a Breakfast Club interview that year, Ye revealed: "The 'Wolves' song came from a conversation that me and Drake had, when was gunna do an album together, and the album was called Wolves," he revealed.
"I asked him [Drake], and we talked about it, and he said yeah we was gunna do it. And actually, he was sending beats back and forth, I got this one record with Young Thug that I think we gunna put on Rihanna's album."
The two continued to collaborate while we waited anxiously for any signs of this joint album. Kanye’s 2016 album, The Life of Pablo, features a writing credit from Drake on “30 Hours.” That same year, Drizzy reunited The Throne for his own album, VIEWS, with the collaboration "Pop Style."
But, the project looked to be lost entirely after a concert rant by ‘Ye implied Drake and DJ Khaled were gaming the radio system, something Drake took offense to. In February 2017, Drake responded in an interview with DJ Semtex with:
"I’m not really sure what he’s referring to half the time. Because in the same breath, I went from being…like working on a project with him, to him sorta publicly shitting on me and DJ Khaled for being on the radio too much... I’m not sure why we’re the target of your choice that you made that night. And yeah, I accept what you’re going through, and I just go and continue working on my own thing."
Drake released the retail mixtape More Life in March 2017, with one song on the tracklist garnering attention - “Glow,” sporting a Kanye feature and recorded in the summer of 2016, ostensibly for the collab album that never happened.
Checks Over Stripes
In hindsight, 2018 brought an entirely different energy to the Drake-Ye cold war as every grievance these men had towards one another other spilled onto verses, one-off Instagram posts and interviews. Despite Kanye’s 2016 stage comments, Drake travelled to Wyoming to work on Ye, contributing a verse and a hook to single “Yikes.” It was also in Wyoming where Drake allegedly previewed “March 14” to Kanye and was given “Lift Yourself” for use on Scorpion.
Kanye made a major concession when he told the New York Times that he felt Drake was the number one rapper.
“Losing 'ruler,' 'king,' 'crown.’ It was this thing where it’s like O.K., you’re not the No. 1 rapper, Drake’s the No. 1 rapper, but you’re the No. 1 with shoes, or this or that.” He said. “And it’s like yo, no more No. 1s. What’s the No. 1 tree over there? Just be one of them. All of them are beautiful.”
Yet Drake later alleged that the release of “Lift Yourself,” and announcing the rollout of several G.O.O.D. Music albums were intended to interfere with Drake and Scorpion. Nevertheless, it sparked another major falling out between the two. Then there’s Pusha T, a man with his own grievances and agenda towards Drake. “Infrared” on DAYTONA, an album entirely produced by Kanye, contained numerous shots at Drake and his alleged ghostwriting.
This was the last straw for Drake, retaliating with “Duppy Freestyle,” dissing both Pusha and Kanye the same day DAYTONA came out. Rumours started that Kanye was intended to guest on single “Nice For What.” Several days after “Duppy Freestyle,” Pusha responded with “The Story of Adidon,” revealing Drake’s secret child to the world.
Pusha T’s seismic response didn't see an immediate response from Drake, although according to J. Prince the rapper had an “career-ending" record for Kanye West, which Prince convinced Drizzy not to release as it affected "one's livelihood."
Despite the setback, he had no problem sending shots Ye’s way every chance he got this summer. A guest verse on French Montana's "No Stylist" had him warning girls not to wear Yeezys around him. “They wanna link when they got no chunes,” he later seethed on a Link Up TV freestyle, referring to his songwriting credits for Kanye. “They too worried 'bout sellin' out shoes.”
Another form of subliminals the rapper embraced was emojis, sending Kanye into a tiff during a radio interview where he stated: “People be around your family and be in your house and this and that then, they get mad about a beat and send purple demon emojis. I don't play like that, I don't play in that place.” Drake’s response? More purple emojis. Then, of course, there’s “SICKO MODE,” a now #1 Billboard charting song with some notable subliminals that seem too on-the-nose when you remember he and Kanye live in the same Calabasas neighbourhood.
Kanye would apologize in September, denying that he supplied information to Pusha T, taking us to this sudden about-face, where he is now evidently pretty upset about Drake’s sneak disses, rumored involvement in the physical altercation that happened at Pusha T’s Toronto show and lastly, Drake’s continued emoji usage. Kanye would end his barrage by warning Drake not to make any threats towards him or his family. And we expect that J. Prince order to hold? Is this Yandhi promo or have the two reached a point of animosity that’s hard to walk back from?
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