Drake Dissed Kanye West Throughout Their Concert
“Drake don’t do a diss song where it’s an outright head-shot; he’s gonna set it up like war.” – Kanye West
Just weeks ago, Kanye West sat on Drink Champs and went into deep detail about his issues with Drake. The two-part interview was arguably the most significant conversation in the music space for 2021. Expounding on Drake’s beef tactics, West said, “He is gonna do stuff like live five blocks down the street from you, DM every single girl in your family, every single girl around your family, all your ni**as’ girls.” He added, “It’s all psychological. What button is someone gonna hit?” Ye compared his issues with Drake to Mike Tyson’s second bout with Evander Holyfield. While Tyson is remembered for biting part of his opponent’s ear off, history often overlooks Holyfield’s head-butting that allegedly provoked Tyson’s fight-ending response. That sequence of 1997 events marked a career pivot for Iron Mike, the former champ.
In the six weeks since Kanye’s Drink Champs, he and Drake seemed to have reached an apparent peace—symbolism brokered by Rap-A-Lot Records founder J. Prince. November Instagram photos on each superstar’s account represented an armistice after more than 10 years of lyrics, interviews, and all-out warfare that has involved Pusha-T, Noah “40” Shebib, and J. Prince. The last is an entrepreneur whose son presented Drake’s music to Lil Wayne back in 2008 and had a hand in changing pop culture history. The Houston, Texas native, known for a quiet-but-fearsome reputation in industry circles for 35 years, has also been recently sighted with West, who produced early 2000s tracks for Scarface as well as former Rap-A-Lot act Do Or Die. It was J. Prince who intervened in 2018 when Drake, Pusha-T, and Kanye were at their worst—trading diss songs that outed children, mentioned spouses, dug up old photos, and reportedly botched a mega-million dollar brand partnership. Information surrounding Drake’s Scorpion album, his secret son, and more allegedly came from a meeting with Kanye West when the two were working on “Lift Yourself.” West allegedly betrayed Drake by telling Pusha-T, and then releasing a series of albums around the OVO artist’s planned drop date. The onetime record executive and boxing manager-turned-author allegedly prevented Drake from releasing a song said to end West’s career. That verbal cease-fire seemed to end in 2021 when Drake’s Certified Lover Boy contained handfuls of jabs aimed at West (and Pusha-T). Like Scorpion in 2018, CLB‘s arrival was pitted against West’s release schedule. Drake’s latest arrived less than a week after Donda, creating a comparative debate among fans.
As the beef reheated, J. Prince entered Kanye and Drake’s arena once more—with a purpose. As West says he hoped for on Drink Champs, the two superstars agreed to unite to bring awareness to the incarceration of Larry Hoover, co-founder and onetime leader of Chicago street organization the Gangsta Disciples, and help secure his freedom. J. Prince and Ye are seeking clemency for the man who was sentenced to life in 1973. Kanye has previously advocated for Hoover and has referenced his organization, the GD’s on social media and lyrics. Just as J. Prince featured Larry Hoover on the Geto Boys’ 1996 album, The Resurrection, Ye gave space for Larry Hoover, Jr. on Donda. That high-profile LP is competing for “Album Of The Year” at next month’s 64th annual Grammys—the same awards show that Drake withdrew his nominations for. According to J. Prince’s recent interview with Big Boy, Drake initially had “no idea” he would be meeting with West in Houston, when J. Prince brought the two men together, recently. However, the mogul born James Smith was quoted by HipHopWired as saying “That’s something that I moved and got done and eventually we all was able to come together and sit down like men and work things out.”
The meeting led to Kanye and Drake agreeing to do a concert together, for the benefit of Larry Hoover, last Thursday (December 9). Broadcast on Amazon Prime and Music, the event was massive, with over 70,000 in attendance and more than 330,000 streaming concurrently via Amazon’s Twitch channel. While on-screen hashtags, wardrobe, and exclusive merchandise used Larry Hoover’s name, neither performer mentioned the 71-year-old presently housed in Florence, Colorado’s ADX facility.
The concert has been covered for its symbolism—two former foes walking in together, shaking hands, covering songs by one another, and performing their parts from 2009’s “Forever.” It was also highlighted for West reworking a small part of “Runaway” as an in-audience dedication to his estranged wife, Kim Kardashian. However, what most viewers seemed to miss was that Drake’s set included a carefully curated sequence of songs that tell a different story. Episode #71 of Ambrosia For Heads‘ What’s The Headline podcast unpacks Drake’s latest tactic in the art of war.
Previously, Swizz Beatz revealed that Kanye West wished to do a Verzuz competition against Drake. Ye then confirmed it on Drink Champs. Thursday night’s event may have been a similar spirited competition. While Kanye performed hits from his catalog spanning nearly 18 years, Drake chose a very different approach to his set. He focused on selecting songs from his CLB and Scary Hours 2 projects, most of which contained thinly veiled disses of Kanye and his affiliates. In an expansive discography that includes 54 Top 10-charting songs and 258 overall charting tracks, Drake only performed 12 cuts, and eight of them contained lyrics that seemingly took shots at Kanye.
Drake opened with “Wants and Needs,” where he raps, “I probably should go link with Yeezy, I need me some Jesus / But soon as I started confessin’ my sins, he wouldn’t believe us,” and “Sins, I got sins on my mind / And some M’s, got a lot of M’s on my mind / And my friends, yeah, I keep my friends on my mind.” The song continues, “Should repent, I need me some / Jesus in my life / Amen.” After a song that speaks about the idea of “friends” and makes reference to the fact that there is no trust between Drake and Kanye, Drake then launches into his Certified Lover Boy song, “No Friends In The Industry.” The song is an explicit message that he does not have friends in the music business–presumably including Kanye. It features the lines, “No friends in the industry / My brothers been my brothers, man / You ni**as ain’t no kin to me, a fact,” and “I was known for snappin’ when I chat before the app / Stood on everything I said and never took it back / No friends in the industry / I had to draw the line between my brothers and my enemies, a fact / Ni**as love to start the beef, don’t wanna keep it rap / Yeah, you hit us up and now we owe you something back.” The song is fueled with aggression and makes specific references to disagreements that have spilled over from music, into life and business, a set of circumstances that has applied to Drake and Kanye’s feuding time and time again, over the years. Among other lines that seem targeted at Kanye, Drake raps about futile attempts at repairing damaged relationships through meetings: “Ni**as so offensive knowin’ they don’t have no defense / Why they always act like we can fix it with a meeting? / All that linking up, man, I’ma see ya when I see ya.” Drake detailed one such failed reconciliation with Kanye, in an in-depth 2018 conversation with LeBron James.
Later in the set list, Drake performs “What’s Next,” a song that references his closeness to the late Virgil Abloh—West’s friend and former business partner with whom he had a complicated relationship ahead . Drake’s lyrics suggest that he, not West, had the closer relationship with Virgil in recent years. In fact, on Drake’s “Duppy Freestyle” diss of Kanye, he once rapped “I could never have a Virgil in my circle and hold him back ’cause he makes me nervous.”
Drake then performed his collaboration with Future, “Life Is Good,” a song that references robberies on an enemy’s block during a time when a crime spike had been happening in West’s (and Drake’s) Calabasas community. After taking a pause for a few songs, Drake wraps his set with three additional songs that feature lyrics or other jabs at Kanye. He performs the Kid Cudi-featuring “IMY2.” Cudi is another person who was close with Kanye in the past but who seems to have fallen out with him, more recently. The song also features the line “And I’m focused on gettin’ more / They too stuck on gettin’ even, I’m ready for it.”
Next, Drake performs “Laugh Now, Cry Later,” a song where he discusses being tired of beefing with someone with whom he’s been having an ongoing feud, with lyrics like “Tired of beefin’ you bums, you can’t even pay me enough to react.” He follows that with the 21 Savage and Project Pat-assisted “Knife Talk.”. The songs lyrics say “I’ma drop this sh*t and have these pu**ies droppin’ like some motherf*ckin’ flies / Type of ni**a that can’t look me in the eyes I despise / When I see you, better put that f*ckin’ pride to the side / Many times, plenty times, I survived / Beef is live, spoiler alert, this ni**a dies.” Drake literally ends the song with the sound of gun shots.
More than three-fourths of Drake’s set had perceived jabs. Even in reaching into his catalog beyond 2021, for closer “God’s Plan,” Drake spits, “I been movin’ calm, don’t start no trouble with me / Tryna keep it peaceful is a struggle for me / I hold back, sometimes I won’t.” The performer introduced his past Grammy-winning hit with the proclamation that it’s “real fitting now.” While many are believing that Drake is now at peace with Kanye, the analysis in What’s The Headline tells another story—based on facts, lyrics, and history.
The time codes for episode #71 of the What’s The Headline podcast:
1:10 Drake and Kanye West have been fixated with each other for years
2:50 Kanye West and Drake did a massive joint concert last week
7:10 Rap-A-Lot founder J. Prince brokered the recent peace between Drake and Kanye, after years of feuding
12:25 Pusha-T and Drake have were beefing with each other, and Kanye was involved
15:30 Pusha-T revealed to the world that Drake had a son, in a diss record
16:59 J. Prince put a stop to the war of words between Pusha-T, Kanye and Drake in 2018
19:00 The highlights of the Kanye West and Drake concert that were covered by the media
27:38 The history of Kanye West and Drake’s 11-year beef
35:20 Kanye West describes the kind of psychological warfare Drake wages
39:00 Drake is the king of sneak disses
41:30 Kanye West used his concert with Drake to perform a number of his greatest hits
42:30 Drake performed 12 songs; why did he choose these records out of his massive catalog
44:20 Drake dissed Kanye West throughout his entire set
45:00 How Drake used his 12-song set to wage warfare against Kanye
1:19:30 RIP Greg Tate
1:22:10 Dr. Dre has new music coming this week
1:23:50 Russ released CHOMP 2, one of the best Hip-Hop albums of the year
AFH readers can catch regular discussions about the culture on our What’s The Headline. The podcast also has interviews with Joell Ortiz, AZ, Blu & Mickey Factz, Kurupt, Evidence, Skyzoo, Pharoahe Monch, Prince Paul & Don Newkirk, Statik Selektah, Lyric Jones, The LOX, MC Eiht, Havoc, Duckwrth, photographer T. Eric Monroe, and Lord Finesse. All episodes of the show are available to view or for listening wherever you stream your pods.