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Drake Mostly Made Himself Look Bad on His Latest Diss

The long-awaited showdown between Kendrick Lamar and Drake has been bogged down by Instagram Story trolling, X bots, and artificial intelligence. While the rap world awaits Kendrick’s response to Drake, we’ve also been made to ponder technology’s role in societal decline. When the rap Gods declared “There are no rules in rap beef,” they likely weren’t imagining stan wars with hordes of X bot accounts feverishly posting sophomoric disses like “Daycares worldwide are being told to stay on high alert for Kendrick Lamar.”

And no one anticipated the gall of Drake’s “Taylor Made Freestyle,” where he uses an AI voice filter of Tupac and Snoop Dogg to goad Kendrick Lamar into a response. The song, with a beat that sounds like the first “Dr. Dre-type beat” ever posted to YouTube, starts with Drake using the late Tupac as a foil to continue his post ”Push Ups” baiting, rhyming, “You supposed to be the boogeyman, go do what you do / Unless this is a moment that you tell us this not really you.” He then uses the voice of a very much alive Snoop Dogg to continue the “strike back” sentiment: “Nephew, what the fuck you really ’bout to do? / We passed you the torch at the House of Blues / And now you gotta do some dirty work, you know how to move, right?” Drake then follows up by rhyming, “Since ‘Like That,’ your tone changed a little, you not as enthused / How are you not in the booth? It feel like you kinda removed.” Drake also asserts that Kendrick wasn’t “allowed” to drop a diss because Taylor Swift had just released her Tortured Poets Department album last Friday. 

“Taylor Made Freestyle’s” gamesmanship intensifies OVO stans’ “Kendrick’s on the clock” campaign after “Push Ups” dropped more than a week ago. In 2015, Drake doubled up on Meek Mill with “Charged Up” and “Back to Back,” which made the self-proclaimed 6 God the consensus victor in their tussle. And while “Taylor Made” doesn’t pack the same punch as “Back to Back,” it serves a tactical purpose, because things could get spooky if Drake comes back with a three-peat before Kendrick drops anything. Many of the younger fans spectating this rift are likely unaware of the three-month gap between Jay-Z’s “Takeover” and Nas’ “Ether” response in 2001. Or maybe they are aware and don’t care because time isn’t afforded to artists like it used to be. In Kendrick Lamar’s defense, LA DJ Hed posted on X, “if you enjoy microwaved meals that’s on you, we prefer cooked meals on this side.” But Kendrick doesn’t want to overcook and make things too tough for himself. 

DJ Akademiks, who’s been playing the ringmaster of this circus, says that after the “Taylor Made Freestyle” Drake sent him a text message noting, “I was waiting on Kendrick for years to go first… then I could actually drop… I was tryna come off tour and relax, and niggas fucked up my whole Feng shui.” After two straight tours, the Toronto artist likely planned to get to an island for more romantic conquests (and arguments) to rhyme about on his next album, and now Kendrick is holding him up. This dynamic again underscores that Kendrick and Drake are very different artists. Drake is terminally online, and last year, he planned to take a break from music to focus on his health but then said he was too creatively inspired to do so (and went on another tour). On the flip side, Kendrick is historically meticulous with his releases. Their disparate approaches have fueled the last month’s rabid discourse, but that’s not where the differences end. 

In the wake of “Taylor Made Freestyle,” fans noted that Kendrick has also used AI on “The Heart Part 5” and evoked Tupac vocals on 2015’s “Mortal Man,” where he spliced a 1994 interview of the rap icon into a faux conversation between them. But unlike Drake, he got the Shakur family’s blessing to do so (via the late Afeni Shakur), and the intent of the conversation fit within the pro-Black themes of To Pimp A Butterfly. And years later, Kendrick digitally superimposed the faces of Kanye West and OJ Simpson in the video for “The Heart Part 5,” where he also rapped from the perspective of Nipsey Hussle. 

Both wore figurative masks and rapped from the perspective of West Coast giants, but while Kendrick did so to embody Nipsey Hussle, Drake used “Taylor Made” to obscure who he was. On “The Heart Part 5,” Kendrick uses his “Nipsey” verse to shed light on the toll of violence and impermanence of life, while Drake uses Tupac and Snoop’s voices to say things he didn’t have the heart, or credibility to say himself. In Snoop’s voice he rhymed, “never shot nobody, never stabbed nobody never did nothing violent to no one, it’s the homies that empower you” but as far as we know, the same applies to Drake. On “The Heart Part 5,” Kendrick rhymed of Nipsey Hussle, “I completed my mission, wasn’t ready to leave / But fulfilled my days, my Creator was pleased,” while Drake evoked Tupac to reference whispers about his alarming interactions with teenage girls — allegations that he’s never addressed himself.

His fans have called the line a “chess move” to proactively disarm Kendrick, but reverse psychology doesn’t work with an allegation that serious. There’s 2010 footage of a young Drake intimately dancing with a 17-year-old, asking her age, then inappropriately raving, “Why do you look like that? You thick. Look at all this,” before kissing her on the lips. And when Millie Bobby Brown revealed that the then-31-year-old texted her about boys at 14, many called foul. It would seem like Drake would want to publicly push back on the notion of improper relationships with girls. But to this point, he hasn’t. That’s why it’s weak for him to use AI Tupac vocals to do so. It’s also worth noting that he didn’t have the respect, or skill, to attempt to rap with either Tupac or Snoop’s trademark cadence.

Drake has long been accused of being a culture vulture; of assuming accents, visual aesthetics, and sounds from communities he has no connection with besides reverence. For the most part, the music has been so good that even the people fully cognizant of that reality let it fly. But “Taylor Made” is a misstep. Maybe he thinks that since his voice is relentlessly used for AI deepfakes, the next man’s likeness is fair game. But years after his 1996 death, the Tupac industrial complex churns along via corporations longing to make another buck from a bygone Black artist. And now, Drake, who giddily raps about his proximity to UMG CEO Lucian Grainge, played himself by pulling the same move as his exploitative bosses, and we have to ask ourselves whether Drake’s a marketing genius or we simply enjoy gawking at shamelessness.

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In many ways, the Kendrick beef is playing out in Drake’s favor online. He’s delivering propaganda through rap media personalities clamoring for access, his stans are running bot farms, and fan pages are coming up with conjectural theories about why artists are coming out against him. It’s all annoying, but using AI vocals is even more disheartening. Just last week fans were annoyed with AI when we didn’t know if Drake or Kendrick disses were real, but now some are doing mental gymnastics to convince themselves that evoking other people in a beef, especially a dead person, is fair game.

Recently, over 200 artists signed a petition urging tech companies not to develop AI tools to replace human labor.  Last year, UMG fought against AI platforms after a fake Drake and Weeknd song went viral. Drake thanked them for that stand by opening the door for other artists to roll out their phony features. Some may say “It’s not that serious,” but this is how it starts. A societal crisis is often self-inflicted; we’re prone to shrugging off problematic cultural innovations and engaging with them in progressively dangerous ways until we’re in a full-blown epidemic and wondering how things got this bad. The World Economic Forum decreed that “misinformation and disinformation is the most severe short-term risk the world faces.” That problem is fueled by the AI companies who roll out face filters, Lil Yachty festival memes, and quirky vocal filters to obscure the exploitative, obfuscating harm that AI represents. No one should be cosigning this technology, especially one of the world’s biggest artists. That’s why “Taylor Made Freestyle” Is not creative or clever, it’s dangerous. 

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