Last night, hip-hop fans found themselves bearing witness to a heated sparring match between two battle-tested generals. And to think, Royce Da 5’9” and Lupe Fiasco were once allies, joining forces for a brief but beloved podcast run. Alas, those days appear to be over. What began as a bit of healthy competition between two confident lyricists has since escalated as both parties opted to take to the booth.

Though Lupe originally set it off with a freestyle on Instagram, Royce raised the stakes to a new level with the release of “Silence Of The Lambda.” Though he admittedly pulled his punches, at least comparatively to some of his previous disses against D12 and Mistah Fab, Royce took a different approach in asserting lyrical dominance over his newfound rival.

Letting fly a six-minute masterclass in penmanship, Royce employed an interesting tactic, unleashing an unrelenting barrage of dexterously delivered and provocative bars. Though there are certainly plenty of jabs aimed at Lupe, seldom does he go for the extremities, perhaps showcasing a willingness to keep things relatively friendly. The blows he does serve up certainly leave a mark, however, and being that there’s a proverbial tome’s worth of lyrics to unpack, we’ve opted to highlight some of the best bars this feud has yielded so far.

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBDA

Off the bat, Royce makes it clear that he’s not exactly thrilled at the prospect of bullying who he perceives to be an equal, framing it as an inevitable logical conclusion to Lupe’s recent actions. To his credit, he does strike a disrespectful tone in the opening moments, threatening Lupe’s son with violence and likening him to a delusional clone of JAY-Z. As he shifts away from more personal barbs, he opts to showboat his technical prowess with a brutal multisyllabic scheme.

Therefore I'm done promoting the dumb shit
I'll put a hole in your son while he's holding your Sun Chips
While you're over there with a chip on your shoulder
Like you Hova or some shit
Your flow is redundant, I'll separate your body from soul
Now your body is cold, spiraling out of control
Now you're over there, body odor is pungent
For coming out of your body over assumptions

He continues lining up slick punchlines with an omniscient grasp on pop culture- -- “I’ll repo your sweetie’s Bentley” -- before hitting Lupe with a sharp accusation:

Can't expect you to like me more than you love rap beefin'
You respect white people more than you love black people

While he might have continued to hone in on Lupe’s jugular, Royce appears content in simply positioning himself as a figure of mythological stature. He proceeds to rattle off a list of rappers, inviting fans to draw their own conclusions -- though some may raise an eyebrow at a peculiar invocation of Griselda’s Conway, himself a competitor who pounces at the slightest provocation. Amidst the name-drops, a recurring theme continues to establish itself, positioning Royce as an arbiter in hip-hop. From his perspective, toxic behavior must be signalled and spotted, and he wastes little time in calling out those who willingly exploit black culture. It’s unclear as to whether or not he’s suggesting Lupe participates in such behavior, though it’s possible that he does believe Fiasco to be guilty of certain transgressions -- more on that later.

We gon' do this for Kanye, if you can relate, that's Drake
We come shootin' for Conway, Ruger your face back straight
A hundred and seventy on the dash
All the felonies and the demonic acts
With devils like Vlad always selling me all of the trauma back
I speak to cabarets as a deviation of drama
Pastors in wave caps as a recreation of honor
Glad to appreciate black abbreviations of genres
Battle me A$AP, that's for PDA with Rihanna

After switching up the flow for the second verse, Royce elaborates on one of his major issues with Fiasco. A vocal critic of vaccines as established through his 2020 album The Allegory, Royce accuses Lupe of being exploited by the powers that be, judging the Food & Liquor emcee for encouraging his fans and followers to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

The more important the news is, the more distorted the views is
Vax all, they employ Lou to exploit the movement
To know it's cops killing blacks, God is a mortal nuisance
Hole in your top, that's the last straw like quarter juices

As the song winds to its conclusion, Royce takes a moment to send a few shots at Mickey Factz and Loaded Lux, two parties who played a role in escalating the feud during its formative stages.

You been ostracized, you used to rock with Nas,
You was hot July but look at you now, you just Afu-ra
Loaded Lux said if we battle then he gon' sit with Lu'
I told him you're dead if we battled now who gon' sit with you?
I'm the great MC all the ladies see, y'all the latency
In HD and 1080p and this shit for publicity
You and Mick couldn't mix your writtens and spit good as a pic of me

Last but not least, Royce closes out with a final parting shot, framing Lupe as a shell of his former self who turned his back on his formative roots. Not only that, but he notes that Lupe hardly kept the same antagonistic energy when faced with some of his previously-published label woes, name-dropping Atlantic Records CEO Craig Kallman in a line that surely stung.

You forgot the dude who was about the chi who was locked inside
Without him you'd be dead, probably dread standing beside you
Fed salmon and lied to, while the Red camera disguise you
You violent but where was that for the Craig Kallmans and Kaisers?

STEVE JOBS

Two hours after Royce let fly “Silence Of The Lambda,” Lupe Fiasco retaliated with a blistering response “Steve Jobs.” Having the advantage of going second, and thus being able to flip and directly address Royce’s bars, Lupe decided to take the gloves off and get a little more personal. Not only does he belittle Royce’s impact on hip-hop as a whole, but he also likens the Detroit rapper to a recluse holed away in Heaven Studios.

Won’t you tell your n***as get that, 
Take some of your cool fullys and go get some of my shit back
The problem is that you ain’t never had no impact,
Kit-kats and chit-chat and syntax won’t make up for how much you sit back
I think that n***a scared
He never leave Heaven cause he already dead

Though Royce attempted to frame Lupe as a nerd, Lu wears it like a badge of honor as he attempts to flip the diss on its head. Not only does he draw a line in the sand on an academic level, but he also flexes some of the classic records lining his discography.

We both wear glasses
The difference is I was in school thinking it was cool, you were thinking of skipping classes
Listening to your track record I can see you were skipping classics
I did it on my first one and delivered to the masses

Evidently, one of his hardest-hitting schemes is one of his most simplistic; rather than impressing through word play, Lu’s sneering cadence and blunt message is among the song’s most disrespectful moments.

I ain’t even trip when you call me a bitch
I was like look at Salem calling me a witch
Look at how they made him, look at how much they gave him
Look at all the assists --
N***a if it wasn’t for Premier
You wouldn’t be-- if it wasn’t for, if it wasn’t for, if it wasn’t for-
N***a I got a dozen more

Following that, Lupe lets his disdain for his opponent peek through, directly addressing Royce’s menacing son/sun-chip bar as well as his invocation of the late Biz Markie.

Your story crooked and your book too
Past the dumb shit, but you would shoot somebody son holding sun chips?
I wish they would have left Biz here, and fuckin took you
And all your hyper-technical hypotheticals
In life I never met with you, from a distance I accepted you
From the podcast, I’ve been kind of skeptical
This ain’t our first clash, this is just one of the several

He also admits to feeling detached from their recent collaborative podcast, accusing Royce of being aggressive to the point where he needed to be edited. He also slyly acknowledges Royce’s previous line about vaccinations, framing his belief in Dr. Sebi as negatively impacting his well-being.

We had to fuckin edit you,
I don’t know which vegan Detroit vegetable Dr. Sebi diet infected you
To think we share the same metrics or somehow I was less than you
Or I was the type of n***a you could get really disrespectful to

Around the track’s halfway point, Lupe really locks in, accusing Royce of standing idle while Detroit suffers as a whole. He also pokes fun at Nickle’s occasional habit of Instagram rants, generally delivered while pacing around the house. Finally, he takes a shot at Royce’s recently launched Ryan Montgomery Foundation, a foundation aimed to dispel the taboo surrounding mental health.

I’m thinkin won’t this bitch n***a clean up his fuckin city?
I mean you got all of the clout, you can bring all them n***as out
You walk the walk, we’ve seen you walk all over your house
Me and Mickey is geeks, because you got some heat
Like I ain’t go to the closet and put guns all over the couch
Your mental health hotline I think that shit is grown up
But you’re the very last n***a that should be picking that phone up

Clearly inspired by the ghoulish synthesizers, Lupe reserves the closing minutes to achieve beast mode, making it abundantly clear that Royce had better prepare for a different sort of foe come round two -- and rest assured, there will be a round two after this one.

I learned that in the streets, n***a sweeping trash
I was keeping my city clean, while you were somewhere beating a n***a’s ass
That shit is wack, long-live backpack rap
Fuck these Monster-drinking new-age-consicous thinking
Farrakhan-today-gangsta-tomorrow
One-foot-in-they-sorrow-another foot-in-the-trap killers who easily triggered by a little n***a’s attack
Who had the audacity to actually ask rappers to rap

Though he might have concluded on that note, Lupe can’t help but go back for another quick combo, bringing the longtime Bad Meets Evil partnership into the mix while paying Eminem a compliment in the process.

In seven minutes he did it,
If he knew how to freestyle he coulda rented Heaven for seven minutes
And been done what needed to be done by the second sentence
All this extra innings may come across as master -- but my impression's apprentice
Your penmanship has the fingerprints of a gimmick
An affection and an intimacy of impressions of that n***as you friends with
I ain't gotta say it to say it,
I can't even blame you, the n***a's one of my favorites

As the track concludes, Lupe once again issues a proper challenge to Royce: head to End of the Weak and battle in front of a judge. As of yet, Royce has not responded to “Steve Jobs.” While many have opted to grant Lupe the edge in round one, it should be noted that Royce -- in going first -- opted to approach his foe on a more general level. Given that Lupe opted to make things far more personal, it’s entirely likely that Royce will match -- or possibly even double -- his energy in the next round. 

Since there doesn't appear to be any genuine bad blood between the two emcees, we can chalk this one up to a spirited sparring session between two hip-hop masters -- and damned if it isn't entertaining to watch the battle play out. As it stands, a second-round feels like an inevitability considering some of Lupe's lines, and who knows what buttons might get pushed should tempers flare. Now that some of the dust has settled, who do you think won the first round?