The Unpopular Debate: Drake vs Kendrick

I didn’t want to touch this subject because everyone’s opinion (including mine) is subjective and they analyse everything to their own discretion, whether or not they have more musical knowledge than the next person. What determines who’s better than who? Who’s to say that one person’s talent doesn’t equal or even surpass someone who’s at the top? Why can’t someone be better because of how they approach with their own style, whether or not it’s as innovative as the next person? What I’m getting at here is a modern-day question that I’ve sat through, rarely participated, but have often witnessed from the sidelines: Who’s better? Drake or Kendrick Lamar? For one reason before I get into this topic, let’s consider the fact that Kendrick is in his first ‘major label’ year, and had his hand in success prior to the Dr. Dre co-sign and the West Coast handing him the ‘King of the West’ title (which many will debate Nipsey should have, but that’s not happening).

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Drake – Toronto’s knight in shining armour when it comes to the significant exposure to Toronto music for the rest of the world to see. I’m not a musician, but if I was, you have to appreciate some of the impact that he had in recent years to create something big for himself. The same way Kendrick’s fame shot up with a Dr. Dre co-sign, Drake had a Lil Wayne co-sign when Lil Wayne was the most popular rapper (you could argue Eminem) in the game – there’s no denying that he had a great approach from the jump, but I’m not about to sit here and discredit the work that Drake put in for himself through acting and rapping years before he blew. Let’s just keep it with the music.

They both have different styles, but anyone can be compared, because everyone compares everyone. People call Drake the new Hov and J.Cole the new Nas, yet Kendrick is (in my eyes) better than both of them as a lyricist. Why do I say that? Because I’m not just basing it off the hype of right now; I’m not going to use the “oh, well I’m from Toronto, so I obviously know who he is” line so many people like to do when giving out their reasons to validate how they know of his music. I started listening to Drake (heavily) in my 2nd year of college. So Far Gone was booming, and it was pretty much one the best pieces of music I’d heard in my young life. I was in, I was a fan, and when I went to listen to more of his older work (City is Mine was big in the city and was the unofficial anthem, and Still Fly followed suit by having that significant impact), I grew to be more of a fan of his. Replacement Girl was a hit as well, and you couldn’t tell me that he could do any wrong, period. I was then, what most people are now – Stans (I hate the word). And usually, that’s what happens with people; they like an artist while they’re independent, and when they go big, they turn into a snob and they start to turn on them – it happens, but this isn’t the case. The problem was that after So Far Gone, the only place to go was up, right? So I believed. Thank Me Later, Take Care, and the upcoming Nothing Was The Same (which all leaked early) are his trilogy and the earlier stages of creating his legacy. What is that legacy? From what I gathered from his 3 albums, the only things I’ve heard progressive since SFG has been the production and a bit of song-writing. The singing, I didn’t care about that much because Brand New was a great song, but the first time I heard Karaoke, I was very dismissive about it. The problem was that the style of his music had started to change and when he found his target audience for who he appeals to, that was when I knew that my views had been changed. We’re all human, we all have emotions, and Drake has consistently kept it real with himself and to his fans that he is very expressive of said emotions – that, I have no issue with. What my problem is, is that it grew to be repetitive, and it’s as if the bars had stepped down, and the modern-day age of ‘simp’ had started to come through. 9AM in Dallas & Fear are prime examples of when I mean when Drake throws down bars. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it forever – Drake isn’t going to wow you with amazing wordplay although it’s been his flow that has capture his audience. How he’s able to relate to the everyday person through his stories of break-up, make-up, cry about it, drunk call you, hate you for a while, then love you all over, is really why he’s been so successful (no pun). For the record, I don’t hate the guy, but he hasn’t made as much enjoyable music to my ears for a few years, and that’s why when people crown him the best, it behooves me to ask – how? Is it the popularity? Is it the fact that his style has rubbed off on so many people that he’s been able to be cocky about it? Is it his production team that has fueled many hits of his? His ability to make a catchy song like it’s nothing? Okay, you have your argument there, and plus having a single with no official album out nominated as a Grammy is a plus, no word of a lie about that. He was smart with his business planning around it, and I salute him for all of his endeavours and ability to innovate and change the game (definitely the mixtape game), and also spark fear into competitors because he came in with a surge and has pretty much taken over. BUT when it comes down to the fundamental skill of rapping as which many people are, and have been judged by since the inception of Hip Hop, I cannot for the life of me claim him to be the best. He’s good, but I don’t consider him great. Drake doesn’t have a complex, witty and compelling flow to grab my attention

First and foremost, Kendrick Lamar isn’t as overwhelmingly female friendly, and he definitely doesn’t have as many hits as Drake, but that’s not where he built his fundamental success from. He built it on the essence of being a student of the game and straight up rapping his ass off. Coming from the West coast (Compton to be exact, we won’t get into his biography), it’s not exactly a more looked at area for music like the East has been for some years, but the times have shifted. Where he stands out is his ability to out rap you on a track, but at the same time, I haven’t heard a song that I didn’t overly like (No Makeup from Section.80 gets skipped more often because the hook gets annoying, however). Kendrick Lamar stuck with me because he talked about stuff that I could relate to more on a personal level all the way, not just things that had to deal with ex girlfriends and going on about money that I don’t have (yet). Hearing the Kendrick Lamar EP and O.verly D.edicated mixtapes gave me perspective that was deeper than just a guy trying to spit bars about his life, but yet he was painting vivid pictures than held a deeper meaning. Now, the argument about Kendrick is that his double time rap has people entranced that that’s the only reason why and how people think he kills feature verses. Maybe, and I’m guessing that this is possible, he just raps better overall than the person that he’s featured with – and I’m sure that Kendrick has been on many features that stood out but because they weren’t huge hits, they weren’t as noticeable as Drake’s many industry popular ones. There’s evidence of this, because part of Kendrick’s rise; features with A$AP Rocky, Miguel, and the aforementioned Drake have helped – and this is where many people will say that the argument is over because he was on Take Care – no, it doesn’t work like that.

He only has one major label album out, but he technically has 2 in total (Section.80 as an independent album). You can pretty much look at it from a Jay-Z/Nas standpoint as to who was more popular compared to who was actually better. Kendrick has taken the role of being the rebellion (and Black Hippy as a whole) by taking the game by storm with his assertive confidence and chest-puffing statements that he’s here to claim the throne from which many rappers claim to have over him. It’s great for Hip Hop, and I think that his importance in the game right now is the same impact that Drake had, except he’s just the better full-time rapper, and Drake’s the person who has the target on his back while continuing to build a solid market. Where I get the appreciation for Kendrick more than I do Drake, it’s the fact that he’s a teacher with his rhymes as much as he is poetical. Songs like Faith, Vanity Slaves, Keisha’s Song and Cut You Off are just examples of songs that give you an idea about the storytelling ability and sonic versatility that he’s able to work with. Where I see the advantage of him as an artist is that he raps about different content over stretches of sounds. You really hear Drake talk about women/money in about 80% of his features – you don’t get a lot of overall substance, but then again, it all depends on what you like. The thing about Drake is that you have the rap Drake and Singer Drake to choose your preferences. With Kendrick, you get one shot, one kill, what’s the deal (to quote Tony Yayo), and what you expect is a verse that leaves you saying ‘wow’, whereas Drake has more quotes because his style is simpler (not dumbed down, but simpler).

Who’s better? Kendrick Lamar. He’s a better rapper, and when it comes down to artistry, this is what people look for overall as an artist – how could is your art in the eyes of many? Drake can ‘sing’ (and I say it like that because he’s not amazing at it) and that has definitely given him the edge when it comes to how talented he is. But, is the ability to make a hit essentially the reason why he’s a better artist? Not necessarily. Let’s be fair, in comparison to their first albums, who had the more cultural impacting album debut? Kendrick. Drake had more singles on Thank Me Later, but as an album as a whole, Kendrick had people debating his album as classic status. You don’t have a full debate about an album being at classic status if artistry isn’t involved. Drake didn’t have that until Take Care, and even then, I wouldn’t give that album classic status, but I will acknowledge his growth as an artist. The only real fair comparison will come at the end of their careers or at least when they’ve both put out more than 5 albums. Having listened to them both, they equally have their strengths and weaknesses. The hype around Drake right now isn’t one that I fully embrace because he doesn’t make music that I necessarily enjoy, and I don’t think I will, because of the fact that because he has his dedicated fans and the success, the passion won’t be there and the subjects won’t change. Other rappers that are fresh and hold my particular interest, and Kendrick is one of those rappers that has the potential to be something massive (as it seems like he’s already on his way). Time will tell if I go back on this answer, but as for right now, Kendrick Lamar is the clear cut better rapper (and arguably artist). This is my opinion (as always)

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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