Let's talk about Drake

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The Total Internet Era Of Rap Beef

If you’re struggling to keep up with where we are amid the Kendrick/Drake feud right now, the single best piece of journalism I’ve come across explaining the whole thing was from TikTok user @xeviuniverse. But if we’re just focusing on the diss tracks, here’s a ticking clock of the last few weeks.

Future and Metro Boomin dropped the album We Don’t Trust You back in March. Kendrick Lamar was featured on the record, in a song called “Like That,” which didn’t name Drake, but was clearly meant to bait him into responding. And he did. Drake released “Push Ups” and “Taylor Made Freestyle” in April, both of which targeted Lamar. Lamar then dropped “euphoria” on April 30th and followed it up with “6:16 in LA” on May 3rd. Drake responded with “Family Matters” right after, only for Lamar to drop “meet the grahams” and “Not Like Us” in quick succession a few hours later. Then, this morning, Drake responded again, with “The Heart Part 6,” but there’s a strong chance that Lamar will have released another diss track before I publish this newsletter. In between “Not Like Us” and “The Heart Part 6,” Metro Boomin also released a free beat called "BBL Drizzy,” telling his followers, “best verse over this gets a free beat.”

If you’re wondering who is “winning” right now, it’s clearly Lamar, who appears to be working with leakers inside of Drake’s camp. He also continues to allege that Drake is a sexual predator and used what looks to be a leaked photo of Drake’s Ozempic prescription as the album art for “meet the grahams”. Drake finally addressed the allegations of sexual misconduct in “The Heart Part 6,” this morning, writing, “Only fuckin' with Whitneys, not Millie Bobby Browns, I'd never look twice at no teenager.” Which is definitely weird. Even though Lamar, in “Not Like Us,” literally calls Drake a pedophile, he had not actually directly referenced Drake’s bizarre friendship with actor Millie Bobby Brown, which started when Brown was a teenager. As music writer Craig Jenkins wrote, “You should never have to get on a record and express that you do not want to have sex with Eleven from Stranger Things, I feel.”

I think it’s fair to say that it was Pusha T’s previous beef with Drake in 2018 that most shaped the current conflict between Lamar and Drake. That was when Pusha reimagined the diss track for the tabloid-powered Trump era, packaging what was effectively a TMZ-level scoop — that Drake had a secret son — into a song titled, “The Story of Adidon”. Pusha also used a leaked image of Drake in blackface as the album cover. Lamar and his allies have taken this formula in a different direction, however.

Based on rhymes alone, it’s clear that Lamar is winning, but he’s also beating Drake online. Drake is primarily responding to Lamar’s diss tracks via his Instagram Story, like it’s 2017 still. Meanwhile, Lamar has figured out how to wage total online war against Drake. Lamar has essentially been silent, aside from the songs he’s throwing up on YouTube. But he packs his verses with both Pusha-style investigative journalism and dense references and allusions. The former is perfect for TikTokers compiling everything into short videos, while the latter is catnip for the annotating users over on Genius. And the speed at which Lamar is uploading new diss tracks has caught the attention of Twitch streamers and podcasters, who are now providing play-by-plays of every new release. He even inspired Google Maps users to digitally vandalize Drake’s house. Lamar has also, crucially, allowed creators to monetize any content that use his diss tracks.

But you can also see the wide gulf between how the two artists understand our current technological moment in how they’ve used AI so far. Drake was the first one to cross the AI line, using an unauthorized audio clone of Tupac’s voice in his song “Taylor Made Freestyle”. It was a terrible, confounding choice and he eventually pulled down the song after receiving a cease and desist from Shakur’s estate. Then, yesterday, Metro Boomin dropped “BBL Drizzy,” which also features AI-generated material.

A reader named Freddie tipped me off to this over the weekend. The key sample on the track was generated two weeks ago by kingwillonius, a comedian and “AI storyteller”. And, unlike Drake’s AI misfire, Metro Boomin’s beat has lit the internet on fire in only a few hours. As The Washington Post’s Gene Park wrote, “This shit is hilarious until it becomes absolute fire 38-seconds in wtf.” And, as another user on X wrote, “Drake beefing with a producer did not go well lol. Cause these SoundCloud rappers are cooking him in different languages on that beat.”

And it’s not just Drake that is clearly not getting what’s happening here. It’s also big online platforms, themselves, that have ended up on the wrong foot. The biggest shift in how we use the internet since 2020 has been the death of the chronological feed and the rise of algorithmic ones. Which, has flattened everything we do online into a sort of evergreen content miasma, most of which can be consumed regardless of when you come across it. An internet of greeting card writers. But Lamar, by the power of sheer, unadulterated hatred for Drake, has broken through the glossy mass appeal sheen that brand-safe social platforms have foisted upon the web. I mean, Lamar’s “Not Like Us” was heard in Brooklyn nightclubs hours after it went up on YouTube.

This is now the second time in the last month that I’ve had to switch my X and Threads feeds over to chronological to keep up with what was happening. The first time was the night the NYPD stormed the pro-Palestine college encampments. And just like in that instance, Threads failed miserably to show me anything useful. X has been better, but, also, no single site can contain what Lamar and his allies and, now, their fans are doing.

Back in January, Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, was asked on The Cutting Room Floor podcast, “is Drake hip hop?” His response went viral at the time and is, of course, going viral again, now that entire world is sort of asking the same question. Bey’s initial, diplomatic response was, “Drake is pop to me.” But he goes on to say that Drake makes great songs for shopping at Target before settling on something very interesting.

“What happens when this thing collapses,” Bey asks. “What happens when the columns start buckling? Are we not at some early stage of that at this present hour?”

Bey was broadly talking about capitalism and the musicians like Drake that support it, but you can ask the same question about pop culture, as a whole, right now. And it seems like the answer is clear: The columns will buckle, the whole thing will collapse, and you cannot contain it anymore.

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A Good(?) Tweet

They Just Came Out And Said It

Mitt “dog on the roof” Romney and Secretary of State Antony “now streaming on Spotify” Blinken spoke at the McCain Institute on Friday and accidentally said the quiet part out loud with regards to the TikTok ban. You can watch the back and forth in the clip above, but, basically, Romney asked Blinken why the non-stop barrage of horrific images coming out of Gaza have affected Israeli P.R., concluding, “some wonder why there was such overwhelming support for us to shut down potentially TikTok.”

And The Intercept, over the weekend, published details of a call between congressional co-sponsors of the TikTok ban bill, where they admitted the same thing and even blamed the recent campus protests on TikTok’s supposedly malign influence.

“It also highlights exactly why we included the TikTok bill in the foreign supplemental aid package,” Rep. Mike Lawler said on the call. “You’re seeing how these kids are being manipulated by certain groups or entities or countries to foment hate on their behalf and really create a hostile environment here in the U.S.”

Look, banning TikTok will not change any of this. It might turn down the volume on progressive and leftist activism in the US, momentarily, but TikTok did not conjure this out of thin air. And there will be other platforms young people learn how to mobilize on. Though, I guess, once you’ve banned one platform, banning any other you have an issue with becomes a lot easier.

The SEO Apocalypse

SEO strategist Lily Ray shared some, honestly, horrifying data last week, revealing some of the internet’s biggest publishers have seen huge losses in Google traffic over the last year.

According to the data, which comes from SISTRIX and, it should be noted, doesn’t track Top Stories or Google News, publishers like Dallas News, Popular Science, Dexerto, and New York Magazine, have all lost over 70% of their traffic from Google since September 2023.

It seems likely that much of this is the result of a huge core update from March, which SEO analysts are still digging into. The update took almost two months to finish rolling out, but the end result is a Google search results page that has reclassified what it considers “helpful content.”

Though, according to the managing editor of HouseFresh, Gisele Navarro, who has been ringing the alarm on this for months, what that really has done is elevate aggressive spam networks that are purchasing legacy media publications, while crushing indie publishers.

A New Jersey Screamo Band Got Taylor Swift’s Bandcamp URL

(Bandcamp/Taylor Swift)

Madison James, the frontman of very good New Jersey screamo band Ogbert The Nerd, managed to grab the URL taylorswift.bandcamp.com and used it to run a promotional campaign for some new music. That is, until it ran out of free downloads and the page went down. To be clear, Swift did not have a Bandcamp page, so, contrary to what’s been reported elsewhere, nothing was hijacked. It was just a funny prank. Also, a screamo band called Taylor Swift goes hard as hell.

Years ago, I started registering Bandcamp URLs for cool band names I would come up with. And I think I still have fourloko.bandcamp.com, but I can’t remember. It was funny until I realized that I had accidentally signed up to dozens of automated Bandcamp newsletters which still plague my inbox to this day.

Nantucket Vs. The Cybertruck

A Tesla Cybertruck showed up in Nantucket and the Current, the island’s online news site, has been dutifully providing updates about the car. According to the Current’s X account, it was spotted parked in a crosswalk and, most recently, got stuck on the beach.

As a real connoisseur of local New England Facebook drama, I am delighted to share a few fantastic comments from the Current’s Facebook page. Here’s what the town has to say about their new vehicular curiosity:

  • “This guy gets a lot done in a day. Gets off the boat at noon. Parks on the crosswalk for ice cream at the pharmacy. Hits the police station for a fresh beach sticker. Now he’s gonna catch the sunset. He’s an inspiration!!”

  • “Is that a Connecticut license plate I spy? Leave it there, salt water in the air should pit the hell out of it!”

  • “Penny-saving tip: Build your own with a pile of Legos and a can of silver spray paint.”

  • “Someone lend them a can opener.”

Doge Is 18 Years Old Now

A few weeks ago, Kabosu, the shiba inu best known to the world as the doge dog, turned 18 years old. Which, Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun, dutifully pointed out is almost 90 years old in human years.

Late last year, Kabosu’s prefecture, Chiba, created a monument to Japan’s most-viral dog and I am trying very hard to get through this without getting a little weepy. Based on the old dog’s Instagram, it seems like she has pretty bad cataracts, but is still in very good spirits. She traveled by stroller to her dedication ceremony in November.

I got to meet Kabosu many years ago and I can proudly say she’s a very good dog. Last week, Kabosu’s owners got her to recreate her famous viral image and — ok, yeah, I gotta go compose myself now.

P.S. here’s a some powerful content.

***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***

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