What’s Beef?: What Drake Learned from LL Cool J

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In 1990, LL Cool J found himself in a peculiar situation. After ascending to the top as one of the biggest rappers in the mid-to-late ’80s, with a string of commercially successful albums, the flagship artist on the label that Russell Simmons built was receiving huge amount of backlash and criticism from critics, fans, and rap peers alike for his unispired opus 1989’s Walking with a Panther. That album brought a slew of detractors who challenged LL for his lack of creativity and self-centered, egotistical, braggadocious brand of hip-hop. Already sparring with the likes of Kool Mo Dee a few years prior, Ladies Love Cool James caught himself on the receiving end of Ice T’s vicious rhymes on the song “The Syndicate”. “How many times on one album can you say you’re ‘Def’?/ ‘I’m baaaaad’”, said the west coast emcee. “ You ain’t never kicked knowledge one time./ Just livin ln your own dick./ That’s a crime.”
Those who are old enough to remember can note that hip-hop was in the midst of a cultural shift in terms of subject mater. While Chuck D and Public Enemy were enforcing black empowerment through lyrics, and Compton’s own NWA were bringing their own form of social commentary to the mainstream, it seemed like LL stayed with the same formula that made him a success in the first place. Todd Smith continued to target his female fan base while flossing is riches in the face of those who opposed him. That all changed when LL Cool J returned with the classic Mama Said Knock You Out album that featured the diss “To Da Break of Dawn” and scathing diss aimed at 3 rappers who wanted to dethrone him from his reign. LL, with all ammo at his disposal, fired away at Kool Mo Dee, Ice T, and MC Hammer. The end result was another win for LL Cool J, and a reminder that even though the rapper was known to swoon the ladies, he  could also stand against the opposition and lay waste to them with ease.

Image via NY Post

It’s now 2018, and like LL, Aubrey Graham aka Drake sits at a similar position. Having came off one of his worst projects to date, last year’s More Life. Drake has still managed to dominate the music industry, with a LeBron-esque type efficiency. Just like Walking with a Panther still had hits (i.e. “Jiggling Baby”and “Going Back To Cali”( not to be confused with Notorious BIG’s song of the same name) to ensure LL was still a force to be reckoned with. That didn’t stop other rappers trying to discredit him as a emcee worthy to hold that title as “King of Rap”. On May 25th of this year, rapper Pusha T dropped what is widely considered his best body of work, Daytona–the Kanye West-helmed album that made headlines for its pristine production and for the song “Infrared”. The latter was a song aimed at Drizzy Drake, once again reopening a beef between the self-proclaimed 6 God, and the coke-rap lyricist from Virginia. “It was written like Nas but it came from Quentin,” said Pusha T. The lyrics allude to the ghostwriting controversy that sparked the beef with Meek Mill back in 2015, after reference songs written by Quentin Miller for Drake surfaced online. We all know how that situation turned out for Meek. But Pusha T took it upon himself to challenge Drake about his authenticity and legitimacy. Drizzy responded 12 hours later with the “Duppy Freestyle” diss targeting not only Pusha T, but frequent collaborator and friend Kanye West. Of course the internet ran amok and the world stopped. The song created so much buzz that it overshadowed Pusha T’s entire project and snatched whatever special moment Pusha T was in the midst of having on the same day. Whether Pusha T responds doesn’t even matter at this point. The damage has already been done.

Image via FACT Magazine

Once again, the kid from Toronto , who once said on record “Diss me and you’ll never hear a reply from it,” had made a stance to further solidify his status in not only music, but being of the best to ever do it—despite rather you question his pen game. The results are always the same: another flawless victory.
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Curt Williams
Curt Williams

Curt Williams is the creator of Supreme CX Magazine. He is a former Senior Music Editor for SooDetroit Magazine. He hails from Detroit, MI.

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