Since the beginning of this decade, Drake and Kendrick have been on a collision course toward Hip-hop?s throne. While Drake ascended to superstardom sooner, by 2015, both rappers were breathing the same rarefied air. Over the past three years, the gap between Drake, Kendrick, and everyone else, has grown exponentially, as the two MC?s continue to jockey for sole posiition of the ?King of Rap? title. Needless to say, the duo has become this generation?s version of 2Pac-Biggie and Jay-Z-Nas.
Although the friendly rivalry has yet to develop into a full-fledged beef, the lines have been drawn ? you?re either team-Drake or team-Kendrick. In order to determine which rapper has the upper-hand ? as the King of the Millenials ? let?s breakdown the debate, by analyzing the following nine factors.
Drake: 2009?s So Far Gone ? Kendrick: 2011?s Section.80
At the tail-end of the DatPiff-era, Drake released So Far Gone, on February 13, 2009, breaking the internet in the process. Three months later, Drake was a household name, following the chart-topping success of the project?s lead-single, ?Best I Ever Had.? Like 50 Cent before him, Drake went from an unknown rapper, to the hottest rapper in the game, seemingly overnight.
In the Spring of 2011, Kendrick gained prominence after being featured on XXL?s Freshman Class of 2011. That summer, he dropped his first full-length project, Section.80. While the tape generated buzz, it wasn?t until his West Coast predecessors passed him the torch, that Kendrick ascended into mainstream Hip-hop. Simultaneously, another upstart ? A$AP Rocky ? appeared on the scene, forcing Kendrick to share in their newfound popularity. And so, for that and in large part due to the inescapability of ?Best I Ever Had?, Drake gets the nod.
EDGE: Drake ? Score: (1?0)
Drake: 2015 ? Kendrick: 2015
Kendrick released the long-anticipated follow-up to his Grammy nominated debut album, with 2015?s To Pimp a Butterfly. Immediately heralded as his magnum opus, Kendrick?s Apex was in full swing. Too bad it came during the defining year of Drake?s career.
After suprise-dropping If You?re Reading This It?s Too Late, in February, Drake?s hot-streak began to fizzle out come summer. Then the ghost-writing rumors happened; and for the first time in Hip-hop history, its biggest star was being accused of a cardinal sin ? illegitimate penmanship. Facing an unprecedented level of make-or-break adversity, Drake responded with his first Meek-diss track, ?Charged Up,? before dropping the hammer two days later, with ?Back to Back.? It was a resounding W, and yet Drake wasn?t done. As the month came to an end, he dropped ?Hotline Bling,? which would end up dominating airwaves the rest of the year. As he said on ?Back to Back?, ?You?re gettin? bodied by a singin? n****.? He was right.
EDGE: Drake ? Score: (2?0)
Drake: ?Started From the Bottom? ? Kendrick: ?Alright?
If we could pin down any single Drake song as his definitive ?hip-hop moment,? then this is it. It is a tale as old as time; for a kid on the come-up to beat back against mountains of haters to reach the summit and bask, in the glory of victory. The fact that Drake didn?t really start from rock bottom is irrelevant. And yet, Drake has never recorded a song as significant as Kendrick?s ?Alright.? The track spoke to black Americans oppressed and murdered, as the chorus was chanted at Black Lives Matter protests. In retrospect, it soundtracked a movement.
EDGE: Kendrick ? Score: Drake (2?1)
Drake: Take Care ? Kendrick: To Pimp a Butterfly
Drake?s sophomore album, 2011?s Take Care, has continued to be regarded as his magnum opus. It introduced us to all of the layers of Drake, while housing arguably three of the best songs of his career (?Marvin?s Room?, ?Take Care?, & ?Headlines?). Even so, Drake has yet to release a project that strikes a chord like Kendrick. At a moment when his peers remained fixated on finding worth and esteem from the world and things around them ? the power of celebrity, the trappings of material excess, the numbing of drugs, the escape of sexual conquest ? Kendrick emerged as a grounded Black hippie. It wasn?t just the album of 2015, or the best album of Kendrick?s career, rather, the soundtrack of a moment.
EDGE: Kendrick ? Score: (2?2)
Before Kendrick broke through, the West Coast had suffered through a period of irrelevance. After dominating the ?80s (NWA), early ?90s (Cube, Dr. Dre, & Snoop), and the mid-to-late ?90s (2Pac), the face of LA Hip-hop in the ?00s was, The Game. Unquestionably, Kendrick revitalized an entire region, as a collection of West Coast rappers have gained prominence following Kendrick?s success, most notably, YG, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, and Vince Staples.
With that said, Drake has not only broken ground on an untapped musical mecca ? Toronto ? but has also single-handedly pioneered the current Hip-hop/RnB/Pop cross-over acts that have ascended into mainstream music ? the Weeknd, Bryson Tiller, Tory Lanez, Partynextdoor, etc. Put simply, Drake has changed the sound of Hip-hop, on a level that Kendrick has not.
EDGE: Drake ? Score: Drake (3?2)
When it comes to Hip-hop?s Mount Rushmore, the usual suspects are commonly measured by longevity, popularity, and their discography, but above all, the intangibles that make an MC one of the best of all-time, come down to their lyrical ability, flow, and rhyming. For as much as Drake has proved the doubters wrong when it comes to his lyrics and wordplay, he will never be on the short list of GOATs. On the other hand, Kendrick embodies all of the intangibles that embody an MC. And so, Kendrick gets the nod, easily.
EDGE: Kendrick ? Score: (3?3)
Using Metacritic ? a website that aggregates album reviews ? here is how Kendrick and Drake?s albums have scored.
Kendrick ? Section.80 (80); Good Kid, Maad City (91); To Pimp a Butterfly (96); untitled.unmastered (86); DAMN (95). Average Career Score= 90.
Drake ? So Far Gone (81); Thank Me Later (75); Take Care (78); Nothing Was the Same (79); If You?re Reading This It?s Too Late (78); Views (69); More Life (79). Average Career Score=77
EDGE: Kendrick ? Score: Kendrick (4?3)
Kendrick ? Section.80 (GOLD); Good Kid, Maad City (PLATINUM); To Pimp a Butterfly (PLATINUM); untitled.unmastered (GOLD); DAMN (PLATINUM). Overall: 3X Platinum; 2X Gold
Drake ? So Far Gone (GOLD); Thank Me Later (PLATINUM); Take Care (2X PLATINUM); Nothing Was the Same (PLATINUM); If You?re Reading This It?s Too Late (PLATINUM); Views (4X PLATINUM) Overall: 9X Platinum; Gold
Kendrick: Lead Singles ? 4X Platinum; Featured Singles ? 11X Platinum. Overall: 15X Platinum
Drake: Lead Singles ? 51X Platinum; Featured Singles ? 36X Platinum. Overall: 87X Platinum
EDGE: Drake ? Score: (4?4)
Both rappers are 30 years-old, yet, Kendrick feels to be behind Drake in terms of career trajectory. In terms of each rapper?s respective peak, Kendrick?s began in 2015, thus, he is in year three of his Apex. Even as a rapper?s rapper, he has proven to possess the ability to keep coming up with unique conceptual projects, while Drake?s rap creativity has stagnated. Meanwhile, Drake?s peak began with 2011?s Take Care, meaning he is in year six or seven of his. Historically, Drake is experiencing an unprecedented peak, in large part due to his chameleon-like ability to transform from a rapper, to an RnB singer, to a global pop-star. Looking ahead, this flexibility makes it hard to imagine Drake ever going completely off the radar, and so, he gets the slight nod in this category, meaning, Drake is the Millenial King of Hip-hop, still.
Final Verdict: Drake?barely (4?3)