Update: Pusha T has responded to Drake with another highly personal diss track titled “The Story of Adidon.” Listen to it on SoundCloud now. Based on the lyrics — “Surgical Summer, Volume One/ We gon’ take this slow/ We just gon’ peel it back layer by layer” — it’s safe to say Push and Drake aren’t squashing this beef anytime soon.
Drake wasted no time stealing Pusha T’s thunder — and headlines — last Friday when he dropped his scorching new diss track, “Duppy Freestyle.”
Earlier that day, Pusha T dropped his new Kanye West-produced album, DAYTONA, a lean, mean collection of luxurious drug-rap bangers for which the G.O.O.D. Music rapper has become known. The album ends with “Infrared,” which finds the 41-year-old Push hurling insults at Drake, calling the Canadian MC out for employing ghostwriters and lacking authenticity. He equates Drake’s team of writers to the external forces that helped Donald Trump become president and implies that Drake is merely a puppet who relies on gimmicks to score hits, unlike “real” MCs like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole.
To say that Drake didn’t take “Infrared” kindly would be a gross understatement. In typical Drake fashion, he took less than 24 hours to share his own response, “Duppy Freestyle,” in which he systematically eviscerates Pusha T and his label boss, West. Drake calls out the hypocrisy of Push criticizing him for using ghostwriters when West employs dozens of other producers and co-writers — including Drake himself. He slams Push for not even being in the top 5 of his own label — a savage diss, considering how many bottom feeders make up the G.O.O.D. Music roster — and suggests that Push didn’t sell nearly as many drugs as he claims. Drake ends his freestyle by viciously suggesting this beef will actually help Pusha sell records: “Tell ‘Ye we got an invoice comin’ to you / Considerin’ that we just sold another 20 for you.”
This isn’t the first time Drake has fought back against a rapper questioning his authenticity. In 2015, Meek Mill criticized Drake for employing a ghostwriter to write his verse on “R.I.C.O.,” off Meek’s recently released album, Dreams Worth More than Money. “Stop comparing drake to me too…. He don’t write his own raps! That’s why he ain’t tweet my album because we found out!” Meek tweeted.
In less than a week, Drake responded to Meek’s callout with two diss tracks, “Charged Up” and “Back to Back.” At the time, Meek was opening for then-girlfriend Nicki Minaj on her Pinkprint Tour, and “Back to Back” featured the diss heard ‘round the world: “Is that a world tour or your girl’s tour?/ I know that you gotta be a thug for her/ This ain’t what she meant when she told you to open up more.”
Meek eventually fired back at Drake with the half-baked “Wanna Know,” but the damage had already been done. Drake had lyrically obliterated Meek Mill, humiliated him before a global audience and knocked him off his throne before he could even get comfortable. (Dreams Worth More than Money had become Meek’s first No. 1 album just a month earlier. His latest album, 2017’s Wins & Losses, opened at No. 3 and moved less than half of Dreams in its first week.)
Given Drake’s outsize reaction to Meek’s Twitter diss three years ago, the savagery of his “Duppy Freestyle” should come as no surprise. But now, the “God’s Plan” star has picked a better time and a more formidable opponent on whom on launch his latest attack.
By 2015, Meek Mill had paid his dues on the mixtape circuit and earned a reputation as a ruthless battle rapper in his native Philadelphia. He should’ve been able to hold his own against Drake, but for whatever reason — taken by surprise, distracted by his touring schedule, afraid to fail on a global stage — he completely whiffed on his diss track, “Wanna Know.” Meek used Twitter to pick a fight with the most commercially viable rapper in the world when he was feeling his most vengeful and insulated. He punched above his weight, and he learned the consequences the hard way.
Pusha T, on the other hand, didn’t bother to air his grievances on Twitter and instead targeted Drake the best way he knew how: on the mic. Push has been in the game for more than two decades, first making a name for himself alongside his brother, No Malice, in the hip-hop duo Clipse before signing to GOOD Music as a solo artist in 2010. (He especially shines on G.O.O.D. Music’s 2012 compilation album Cruel Summer.) He’s earned a reputation among hip-hop fans as a “real” rapper, and based on the airtight, explosive lyrical content of DAYTONA, he’s clearly got bars to spare if this beef lasts for weeks or months.
It helps that Push isn’t jostling for the same space as Drake either. DAYTONA is pacing to move 65,000-75,000 units in its first week — a respectable figure, but nowhere near the 505,000 units Drake’s More Life moved in its first week, or the 1.04 million units Views shifted in its debut. He’s not on the cusp of stardom like Meek was in the summer of 2015, and thus he has less at stake. Push’s fans will continue to bump his records because they’re loyal and have come to expect a certain level of quality from him. If anything, Drake’s highly publicized barbs will only boost his stature.
Drake knows that, too, which is why, at Pusha’s behest, he followed through on his promise and sent G.O.O.D. Music a $100,000 invoice for “promotional assistance and career reviving.” Or, at the very least, he filled out an invoice and posted it on Instagram. Considering Drake spends 100 bands the way I spend $2.50 on an Americano, this gesture probably amounts to little more than a cheeky promotional tactic. (Not to mention, he almost certainly knew about “Infrared” in advance to cook up such a blistering diss track on such short notice.) And hey, it works.
It’s no secret that Drake is set to drop his new album, Scorpion, in June — he even warns Pusha not to “push me when I’m in album mode” on “Duppy Freestyle.” He’s already topped the Billboard Hot 100 with two singles in 2018, and his latest, “I’m Upset,” will probably pierce the Top 10 this week. Surely Drake dropped “Duppy” to defend his pride, but his social media flexing also suggests he’s having fun and taking this beef in stride.
On the contrary, in the summer of 2015, Drake was still riding his latest mixtape, If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late, and lashing out at his haters on songs like “Energy”: “I got enemies, got a lot of enemies/ Got a lot of people tryna drain me of my energy.” Drake was raring for a fight, and when Meek goaded him, he happily obliged.
Drake’s in demonstrably better spirits this time around, and he’s found game opponents in Pusha T and G.O.O.D Music. On a recent Instagram Live session, No Malice said he thinks his brother’s latest beef “makes for good hip-hop.” It also makes for good label promo: West is ostensibly dropping a new album this Friday and a Kid Cudi collaborative album titled Kids See Ghost the following Friday, June 8. Yeezy Season has come, and given West’s penchant for album features, Pusha will have ample opportunity to trade barbs with Drake on upcoming projects.
Drake and Pusha T will both have to bring their A-game if they want to emerge from this beef with their reputations intact. Drake has no reservations about striking below the belt, and Pusha’s not afraid to put his whole reputation on the line to body his opponent. Unlike the Drake/Meek beef, both rappers bring different strengths to the table to make for an equal match. Thus far, they’ve both displayed good sportsmanship while also savaging one another on record. If the beef stays fresh, this will be a cruel summer indeed. But at least we’ll get some good — no, great — music out of it.