Kanye West’s latest Twitter rant makes a lot of claims that need explanation. In case you missed it, the sometimes erratic producer got wound up and went on a very long Twitter tirade, accusing his ostensible rival, Drake, of seeking clearance for a sample, using him for clout, and “playing industry games.” The accusations became even more alarming when he continued to say that Drake called him threatening his family, prompting him to evoke the injured people from Pusha T’s recently interrupted concert in Toronto, and tweeting straight up: “There would never be a drake without a Kanye west.” Eventually, the rant devolved into a series of tweets from Kanye denouncing Drake’s recent collaboration with Ye’s former protege, Travis Scott, on the insanely popular song “Sicko Mode.” Even his wife Kim got involved, backing up his claims of threats from the Canadian star and reiterating that Drake owes everything to Kanye’s influence.
Whew. There’s a lot to unpack there. If you want to read the whole, long string of accusatory tweets (and have the time to read what basically amounts to a longform essay in tweet form), we’ve embedded them into the above links, or you can just go to Kanye’s Twitter. So, now that we’re all caught up, let’s take a look at some of Kanye’s claims and see if we can unravel what it all means.
First of all, the most important thing to say is, I hope Kanye’s okay. Seriously, the last time he melted down like this, he ended up in the hospital. Whether or not you believe it was due to lack of rest, mental illness, or drug use, it was a scary time. For all of Kanye’s monomaniacal obsession with his own genius or his self-centered, stubborn support of Donald Trump and his racist-ass hat, you have to hope the guy is healthy or at the very least, gets the help he needs to get healthy, before it’s too late. 2018 had a depressingly high body count for hip-hop icons and no one else deserves to end up joining it.
With that out of the way, the next most important question his tweets raise is: Why? Why is he doing this? Why has Drake gotten under his skin so much? A few weeks ago, Talib Kweli, one of Kanye’s oldest collaborators and someone who might have at least a little insight into his behavior, hypothesized that having Drake in such close proximity in Calabasas, CA may have increased Kanye’s sense of pressure on himself to compete. After all, Kanye loves attention. He wants to be recognized as the greatest. Most of all, he wants to be liked.
Having Drake near him took attention away — especially since Drake has been so cool with Kanye’s extended Kardashian family for so long. Drake’s become a lot more culturally ubiquitous, especially in 2018, as he scored his first No. 1 record, then replaced himself atop the charts weeks later. And, in the wake of Drake’s tiff with Pusha T, in many ways, Kanye’s become the bad guy in the eyes of a lot of fans after being accused of leaking the info about Drake’s son and simply playing both sides of the squabble, all while manipulating the situation to his benefit. Stacked on top of his various social faux pas — including the one with Taylor Swift that made him a pariah in the eyes of many, the increased scrutiny has no doubt exacerbated Kanye’s self-professed insecurity.
Of course, he’s not totally wrong in thinking that Drake may have it in for him. After all, Drake’s been on kind of an anti-publicity tour (along with cohorts like J. Prince), telling practically anyone who would listen that he thinks that Kanye tried to sabotage his Scorpion release. The evidence also somewhat bears out Drake’s paranoid thoughts as well; Kanye did announce his GOOD Music album release run after working with Drake in Wyoming, somewhat stepping on Scorpion‘s summer release date. He even admits to using the “Lift Yourself” beat (for an absolute throway track) after promising it to Drake for Drake’s album. None of this paints Kanye in a particularly favorable light, but Kanye may have some other points as well.
After the initial kerfuffle died down, Drake made it a point to diss not just Kanye’s Adidas sneakers (“Don’t wear no 350s ’round me” on French Montana’s “No Stylist“) but Adidas itself (“Checks over stripes” on “Sicko Mode”). Many of the bars on “Sicko Mode” have been interpreted as threats toward Kanye: “Crept down the block, made a right / Cut the lights, paid the price” has been read as a direct reference to Kanye, considering the proximity of their Calabasas homes. Some have even connected it to Kanye’s paranoia about “Kiki” from “In My Feelings,” being a reference to Kim, hypothesizing that Drake is really making overtures to Kanye’s wife when the “man of the house” is out.
That’s all conjecture, really. Whether or not Drake is threatening Kanye’s family, Ye probably has a point about Drake sneak dissing him on tracks from Kanye’s own protege. Meanwhile, Travis Scott hasn’t publicly gotten involved or provided his thoughts, but it’s got to be stressful being caught between two of the most influential figures in hip-hop even as you become one of them yourself. He’s even “related” to Kanye through their respective partners, so there’s an added layer of pressure on him to respond. However, the most complex notion Kanye addressed is his assertion that there’d be no Drake without him.
Kanye’s 808s And Heartbreak undoubtedly influenced and made space for Drake’s mixtape So Far Gone, which acted as his launching pad into mainstream recognition in 2009, and which he seems to want to revisit next year with the clearance request for “Say What’s Real.” However, Drake’s brand is so much bigger than So Far Gone; while it did have an outsized impact on his public perception and help make him a superstar, half the reason it did so well when it released (it may very well have been the original cultural moment to “break the internet”) was because of the work Drake had put in before it came out.
Drake’s first mixtape, Room For Improvement, came out in 2006. His next one, Comeback Season, which arguably sparked the beginnings of his ascent, came out in 2007. That’s before Drake and Kanye ever linked up. His influences on both albums seem clear: Little Brother and Slum Village references abound, and he even featured members of both groups on Comeback Season. He rhymes over Lupe Fiasco’s “Kick, Push” and alongside, ironically, Pusha T’s brother Malice on tracks on both mixtapes, to say nothing of his “Man Of The Year” freestyle over a Lil Wayne mixtape track that originally caught the attention of the Young Money boss. It’s clear that Drake has myriad influences, and that he would have ended up on Young Money without any Kanye input at all. As far as paving the way for “regular guy” rappers goes, Kanye didn’t exactly blaze that trail himself. Rather, he perhaps “rediscovered” or revitalized that bath to rap success by picking up a thread laid down by sample-driven, middle class stalwarts like A Tribe Called Quest, Brand Nubian, Common, De La Soul, Little Brother, Mos Def, and Slum Village — some of whom are artists that he worked with during his own rise to stardom, pre-College Dropout.
So, what should Drake do? How should he react? For one, Kanye did have a point about people getting hurt, whether or not the bit about Drake hiring the assailants at Pusha T’s show is true. Entourages and over-exuberant fans get involved, leaving unrelated parties caught up dealing with the consequences of “industry games.” And if Drake really does want to re-release So Far Gone, the mixtape that solidified his star status, for its 10-year anniversary next year, he really will need Kanye’s blessing to use the “Say You Will” beat for “Say What’s Real,” one of the tape’s emotional centerpieces. This seems like a situation where all parties involved likely need to have a sit-down, heart-to-heart talk — which is exactly what Kanye was asking for. Sniping in interviews and venting online doesn’t exactly allow for open, constructive dialogue, and with Drake showing he’s willing to squash disagreements with rivals like Meek Mill and Chris Brown (yuck), it’s not out of the realm of possibility to imagine him settling his scores with Pusha and Kanye as well, if only so they can all get back to the music.
If all else fails, they can at least put their shared love of sports to good use, organize a charity OVO vs. GOOD basketball game and agree that the winner of the game takes the win in the feud as well. At least that would be more entertaining — and possibly even useful — than, as Ariana Grande put it, “grown men arguing online,” which, really has never resulted in anything good.