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The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

The Big Three and the Rap Civil War: Is the Beef Really ‘Like That?’


Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Drake are sometimes considered the three biggest rappers to come out of the 2010s. Lamar has created one of the most beloved discographies of all time, including what some consider to be the greatest hip-hop album ever created: “To Pimp A Butterfly.” Drake has risen to be one of the most commercially successful male artists this century. Cole has become known as one of hip-hop’s greatest feature artists and holds classic albums — like “2014 Forest Hills Drive” and “4 Your Eyes Only” — in his discography as well.

Despite their massive success individually, the three rarely ever collaborated aside from a few tracks in the early 2010s. This led to rumors that there was behind-the-scenes beef between the three, particularly between Drake and Lamar. These rumors were only heightened in August 2013. Lamar, coming off of the blazing success of his classic debut studio album, “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” a year prior, featured on Big Sean’s song “Control.” As if he wasn’t talked about enough, Lamar used his featured artist slot to directly call out all the rappers of his generation by name, saying he was going to “murder” them. Among the people Lamar cited on his hit list were Cole and Drake.

Usually, a direct callout like this would lead to an all-out rap war. But oddly, despite this being one of the most talked about moments of the decade, nothing came from this moment but radio silence.

A decade passed since “Control” with the trio never collaborating. That changed in October 2023, when Drake dropped his latest album “For All The Dogs.” On the album, the track “First Person Shooter,” featuring Cole, became an instant classic — between Cole’s incredible rapping performance, Drake’s vicious energy and the ruthless beat switch, it lived up to the decade of hype that fans had been waiting for. 

In the song, Cole extends an olive branch to Lamar — or K-Dot — and Drake, whose real name is Aubrey Graham, saying, Love when they argue the hardest MC / Is it K-Dot? Is it Aubrey? Or me? / We the big three like we started a league.” It seemed like a matter of time now until Lamar, Drake and Cole were all in unity. After all, the beef rumors were old and, at this point, seemed overblown, right?

Oh, how naive we were.

A few weeks ago, artist Future and producer Metro Boomin dropped a collaboration album together. On the album, the song “Like That” has a surprise feature from Lamar, in which he very directly attacks Drake and Cole. Most notably, he attacks Cole’s big three line, saying “Motherfuck the big three, n—a, it’s just big me,” referencing Cole’s verse in “First Person Shooter.”

To draw a sports analogy, this would be like if Michael Jordan and LeBron James got in a three-point shooting contest to determine who is the real GOAT. This has the potential to start an all-out rap civil war with Future, Metro and Lamar on one side and Cole and Drake on the other.

Fans have been clamoring for Drake and Cole to respond. Drake has acknowledged the situation publicly on Instagram and onstage, but hasn’t said much outside of that.

Cole, on the other hand, dropped the surprise album “Might Delete Later” on April 5, dissing Lamar in his track “7 Minute Drill.” The consensus seems to be that Cole’s response was a flop, as he tries to attack Lamar’s beloved discography. Cole would seem to agree that this isn’t his best either — on the track, he states that this is just a “warning shot,” and, while he loves Lamar,  he is willing to go to war against him.

In a bizarre move, Cole apologized to Lamar for “7 Minute Drill” at his annual Dreamville Fest on April 7.

“I’m so proud of that project,” Cole said, referring to the album. “Except for one part. It’s one part of that shit that makes me feel like, ‘Man, that’s the lamest shit I did in my fuckin’ life,’ right?”

He went on to praise Lamar’s discography as one of the greatest of all time, contradicting his attacks in “7 Minute Drill.”

Some hip-hop fans have taken Cole’s apology well, however, most are disappointed. Fans have been salivating at the prospect of these three going to war with one another — there’s nothing rap fans love more than a juicy rap beef.

That’s where things stand. Three of the greatest hip-hop artists to ever do it in a standoff, waiting for the next move. Who will move next? Will Drake drop a diss? Will Lamar respond to Cole’s apology? While Lamar appears to be the favorite to win this beef, Drake and Cole are certainly able to compete with Lamar bar for bar. 

For us rap fans, though, what a time to be alive.

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