Nothing is off the table as Drake and Kendrick Lamar continue to beef NPR's Ari Shapiro talks with Tia Tyree, a Howard University professor who has studied rap feuds over the years, about the current feud between Kendrick Lamar and Drake.

Nothing is off the table as Drake and Kendrick Lamar continue to beef

Nothing is off the table as Drake and Kendrick Lamar continue to beef

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NPR's Ari Shapiro talks with Tia Tyree, a Howard University professor who has studied rap feuds over the years, about the current feud between Kendrick Lamar and Drake.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Whatever resentment they had stayed under the surface. This spring their feud burst out into the open with diss tracts that were much more direct than the veiled verses they had been exchanging.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EUPHORIA")

KENDRICK LAMAR: (Rapping) I hate the way that you walk, the way that you talk. I hate the way that you dress. I hate...

SHAPIRO: And last weekend it exploded. Five songs went back and forth, filled with increasingly personal accusations...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FAMILY MATTERS")

DRAKE: (Rapping) They hired a crisis management team to clean up the fact that you beat on your queen. The picture you painted ain't what it seem. You're dead.

SHAPIRO: ...Meaning that two of the biggest names in music are now engaged in a very real, modern and public rap beef. Tia Tyree is a professor of communications at Howard University who has studied rap feuds over the years. Welcome to the studio.

TIA TYREE: Thank you so much for having me.

SHAPIRO: These songs are getting more and more barbed. Drake has accused Kendrick of spousal abuse. Kendrick has accused Drake of having a secret daughter. Is this extreme, or is it pretty typical of hip-hop feuds?

TYREE: If you have something that is relevant, that is potentially authentic and true, there is no line. There is no line in the sand of, don't come across here. If you can say it, it can sting, it could be impactful, it could be something that someone speaks about later, then it's going to be on the table.

SHAPIRO: And I imagine that can serve a lot of functions beyond just tearing down the other person. What are some of those purposes?

TYREE: The purpose really is superiority. Who has the crown? In hip-hop culture, it's always, who's your top five? What was the best rap song of last year? And so the conversation started with, who's the big three? And that was J. Cole, Drake and Kendrick Lamar.

SHAPIRO: And that was literally a lyric exchange in...

TYREE: Absolutely.

SHAPIRO: ...A couple of the tracks that - yeah.

TYREE: J. Cole, now we know, was smart to bow out, leaving these two to continue sparring. So the purpose is really to take the crown, leave no doubt.

SHAPIRO: We're talking about Kendrick Lamar, who has a Pulitzer, and Drake, who is arguably one of the most commercially successful rappers of the last decade. Is this really about an authentic fight for supremacy, or is some of it about watching, you know, like, two great tennis players volley the ball back and forth?

TYREE: So in hip-hop culture, one would argue how much is that Pulitzer prize worth? In hip-hop culture, then the conversation becomes, who's more authentic? Is it the guy from Canada? Or is it the guy who literally grew up with hip-hop culture in California?

SHAPIRO: And are your record sales numbers just a sign that you're commercialized and selling out?

TYREE: One thousand percent because we have a pop rapper. I don't think we can deny that.

SHAPIRO: Drake.

TYREE: Then we have the conscious rapper who has bought a lot of understanding and Black consciousness and just raw beats and headbangers to hip-hop culture.

SHAPIRO: I know you've written a lot about beef between female rappers. Do you see a difference between the way men have these kinds of feuds and the way women do it?

TYREE: There is an absolute difference. Men are really more violent. Men are speaking more about what their crews can and cannot do, what they will do to the other rapper. Women take an entirely different stance. Women say, I'm better in terms of being a lyricist. I look better. I dress better. My purse is more expensive than yours. And most importantly, women really focus on sexuality and body appearance because in hip-hop culture, how a woman looks and her sexuality is a big part of what sells.

SHAPIRO: Obviously, a lot of these accusations are very ugly, but is there also a part of this that is good for the industry, for the fans, for the rappers? We're getting a lot of new music out of this feud.

TYREE: One thousand percent. In the end, a lot of what is a part of the music industry is very packaged. We know the drop dates. This is spontaneous. It's something we didn't expect. You go to bed. You wake up. There's another track, and it's like Christmas morning.

SHAPIRO: Right.

TYREE: So, yes, this is an opportunity for hip-hop to showcase something that's very different.

SHAPIRO: It's such a contrast between, like, Beyonce and Taylor releasing their, like, 31 tracks that have been so polished and honed that just, like, over the weekend, instead, we're getting one...

TYREE: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: ...After another.

TYREE: It's a guy in a studio with a microphone and a beat, and it shows how utterly simplistic but impactful rap can be. It's supposed to be my authentic story, what I can put together in my brain and give back to my audience. And we're kind of seeing that this is poetry. This is different.

SHAPIRO: Professor Tia Tyree of Howard University. Thank you so much.

TYREE: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF KENDRICK LAMAR SONG, "NOT LIKE US")

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