If you own a pair of ears and eyes, chances are you already know that Kanye West and Drake both released their latest blockbusters in the past fortnight. What you might’ve missed is how the legendary - and elusive! - André 3000 of Outkast landed in the middle of a beef between the two rappers. Let’s break it down.
Here’s what happened…
Over the weekend, Drake was a guest DJ on SiriusXM’s Sound 42 radio show to promote the release of his latest album, Certified Lover Boy, which arrived a week after Kanye West’s Donda.
During his broadcast, Drizzy played an unreleased track called ‘Life of the Party’ – supposedly an outtake from Donda – that features a Ye verse dissing Drake as well as a fresh verse from famed Outkast MC André 3000.
It’s pretty great! André delivers a dextrous, emotive performance where he asks West’s late mother, Donda West (who Kanye’s album is named after) to share a message with his own mother, who passed away in 2013.
Kanye sounds good, too. Tapping into the hunger and dense pop-culture riffing of his earlier material. Hear a rip below:
Why is this a big deal?
Firstly, a new rap from André 3000 is a rare and welcome treat. Fans have long begged for more solo material and even an Outkast reunion since he and Big Boi’s 2014 tour (remember their Splendour In the Grass headlining set?). But the Atlanta rapper has settled for showing up to deliver show-stopping verses now and then, on albums for James Blake, Anderson. Paak, N*E*R*D, and of course, Frank Ocean.
The track has had such an immediate reaction with hip hop fans that memes about ‘Life of the Party’ being better than anything on Drake’s or Kanye’s new album has already become a trend.
The backwards logic of choosing to dunk on your enemy with a track that is fire, and that actively disses you in the process, is certainly a strange choice. And one we’ll circle back to. But first…
Why isn’t ‘Life of the Party’ on Donda?
André ‘3000’ Benjamin released a statement on the leaked track, claiming his contribution didn’t make the album due to West’s current stance against profanity. (Kanye announced he’d no longer be making “secular music” after 2019’s Gospel-infused Jesus Is King, which features no swearing.)
“I thought it was a beautiful choice to make a clean album but, unfortunately, I didn’t know that was the plan before I wrote and recorded my verse,” wrote Benjamin.
“It was clear to me that an edited ‘clean’ format of the verse would not work without having the raw, original also available. So, sadly, I had to be omitted from the original album release.” Read the full post below.
Chiefly, this André feature has got hip hop reddit and Twitter buzzing because it’s the latest in a reignited feud between Drake and Kanye that dates back to 2009.
André notes that the version of the track he received “didn’t have [Kanye’s] diss verse on it] and “It’s unfortunate that [the track] was released in this way and two artists that I love are going back and forth.”
“I wanted to be on Certified Lover Boy, too. I just want to work with people that inspire me. Hopefully I can work with Kendrick [Lamar] on his album. I’d love to work with Lil Baby, Tyler [the Creator] and Jay-Z. I respect them all.”
Oh yeah, that. So, catch me up on the Kanye x Drake feud?
The beef reignited last month when Drake featured on ‘Betrayal’, a new collaboration with Trippie Redd, appearing to call West “burned out” and rapped: 'Ye ain’t changin’ shit for me, it’s set in stone.'
The next day, West shared (and quickly deleted) a screenshot on Instagram: a photo of Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker and a group chat implied to include Pusha T, Drake, and creative designer Virgil Abloh.
What exactly is a “nerd jock”? And why is it definitely Drake?
The exchange spawned the hilarious-but-also-stunningly apt insult "nerd ass jock”. And Ye’s ‘Life of the Party’ verse seemingly references the Joker post, as he raps:
'I put Virgil and Drake on the same text/ And it wasn’t about the matching arc’teryx or Kid Cudi dress/ Just told these grown men stop it with the funny shit…'
On 23 August, West doxxed Drake, posting – and again swiftly deleting – an image of Drake’s home address. Drake seemingly responded with his own Instagram story where he sat and laughed in a car.
Drake seemingly referenced the incident on Certified Lover Boy track ‘7am on Bridle Path’, rapping:
‘Give that address to your driver, make it your destination/ ‘Stead of just a post out of desperation’.
It’s one of several shots seemingly aimed at Kanye, including ‘You over there in denial, we not neck and neck/It’s been a lot of years since we seen you comin’ correct’.
Fans were hearing those lines for the first time on Friday, when Certified Lover Boy was released, and barely days later, Drake is showing up on a radio show giving airtime to his supposed rival.
On ‘Life of the Party’, Ye makes allusions to 'SICKO MODE', the controversial practise of ghostwriting – something Drake’s been accused of – and his infamous Donald Trump-supporting MAGA hat in closing bars explicitly addressing Drake:
“Told Drake don’t play with me on GD/ And he sent that message to everybody/ So if I hit you with a ‘WYD’/ You better hit me with, ‘Yes sir, I’m writing everything you need’/ I told you I was gonna take the summer back/ So any of the cap, won’t take none of that/ Where my muthafuckin’ red hat?”
How did Drake get the track? What does he benefit?
That’s the million-dollar question, and it’s unclear how Drake got a hold of the unreleased music. And moreso, why he’d want to play it in a show supposedly promoting his new album is incredibly suss. It’s like handing the mic over in a debate to let the competition have the final say.
The whole thing raises a bigger question about the whole Kanye x Drake beef. Is this just all marketing? Have all just been played into the wider drama?
Look, the idea that two ego-driven rap superstars would constantly circle back to a public pissing contest isn’t far fetched at all. But it’s more than a little convenient that they’ve both fired up again right at the end of much-hyped rollouts for Donda and Certified Lover Boy.
We've been actively invited to compare the two albums, both overly-long blockbusters from established rap icons released within a week of each other. Heck, there’s even overlapping guest spots: Jay-Z, Travis Scott, Kid Cudi, Lil Baby, Lil Durk.
Perhaps this 'leak' is another way of keeping our attention in a 24hr news cycle otherwise dominated by other things. (And typically more important things. COVID, anyone?)
And if you don’t think that kind of stunt has much of a real-world impact, consider this: despite mixed reviews, Donda has gifted Kanye West his fourth #1 album here in Australia. It’s also landed 19 cuts in the ARIA Singles Top 50, breaking a record previously held by Taylor Swift (and you probably don’t need to be told why that stings more than it ought to).
Donda also debut at #1 in the US, West’s 10th appearance at the top spot, and the biggest sales week for any 2021 album so far.
Chances are we’re going to see Drake’s Certified Lover Boy storm into this week’s charts in a similar way.