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A few weeks ago, I wrote about Kendrick Lamar’s “Like That” verse, where he dissed fellow rappers Drake and J. Cole. In that piece, I related Lamar’s desire to be the greatest, no matter who it upsets, to Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant’s desire to be better than his peers. Since then, Drake has released a pair of his diss records, “Push Ups” and “Taylor Made Freestyle,” baiting Lamar to respond. So on Tuesday at 8:24 a.m. West Coast time, a clear homage to Bryant, Lamar tweeted out a link to a full-fledged, six-minute onslaught of insults aimed directly at Drake’s neck. The song, “Euphoria,” and his follow-up, “6:16 in LA,” which dropped early Friday morning, makes it official: the top two MCs of their class are in a musical tug-of-war to see who will come out on top. Right now, though, they’re holding their Big Jokers close to the vest while trying to control the narratives about how the battle will be won. With the release of “Euphoria,” we know that Lamar is ready for a full-on, no-holds-barred roasting session, and he’s going to cut deep. The battle is officially on.

“Euphoria” is a chaotic surgical dissection of Aubrey Graham. It’s at once playful — Kendrick talking about how much he likes Drake’s singing and wanting him to keep doing that is hilarious — and venomous. Lamar layers insult on top of insult. Some of them are as direct as possible: “I hate the way that you walk, the way that you talk, I hate the way that you dress, I hate the way that you sneak diss.” Other insults take longer to decipher, like when Kendrick says, “V12, it’s a fast one,” he’s not talking about an engine, he’s actually talking about a machine that helps people lose weight, referring to the rumored cosmetic procedures Drake has had in recent years.

The challenge of dissing someone as culturally omnipresent as Drake is that we’ve already heard it all. He’s one of the most memed rappers ever, having already weathered Pusha T’s allegations that he is an absent father and Meek Mill’s claims that he uses ghostwriters. Recently, Rick Ross dissed Drake by repeatedly calling him a “white boy,” and clowning his private jet. So grabbing a unique insult was always going to be a challenge. But Lamar takes all the low-hanging fruit and adds something to each one.

For instance, instead of calling Drake “white boy,” Lamar insinuates that Drake uses Black culture — specifically Black American culture — as a costume for fame. “How many more Black features till you finally feel that you’re Black enough?” he asks Drake on the song. When Lamar says that he doesn’t think his opponent likes women, it’s not a jab at Drake’s sexuality. It’s about his history of insults and feuds with women. And beneath the surface of it all are the veiled threats that he’s willing to talk about Drake’s history of interactions with underage girls that are questionable at best. Like the double entendre of the word “pacify” in the line “you make music that pacify ’em.” At more than six minutes long, “Euphoria” is sensory overload and lyrically dense.

His follow-up, “6:16 in LA,” released via Instagram, is a calmer, kinder open-heart surgery. The song is another warning to Drake that he has disloyal friends in his circle, and Lamar has dirt on the Toronto rapper that he’s unafraid of scooping up and dumping on the world. And he did it all over multifaceted bars that will take days to dissect.

Throughout both tracks, Lamar slips in and out of pockets and styles, using multisyllabic internal rhymes and metaphors to construct a song that’s as blistering as it is layered.

Frankly, they’re the type of songs Drake has never seemed to be able to pull off.

This isn’t a slight to Drake, who is a great rapper in his own right and can make great music without the lyrical flexing Lamar does. There aren’t many artists in the world who can put words together like Lamar.

Drake certainly tried. After “Like That” dropped, Toronto’s own responded in 21 days with “Push Ups,” but it was light work instead of the knockout blow some were hoping for. Drake had to respond to Lamar but didn’t want to play his entire hand. So he decided to toss in sophomoric insults about Lamar’s shoe size and height, which are fair game and entertaining enough, before talking about Lamar owing half of his publishing to his former label, Top Dawg Records. Drake followed it up with “Taylor Made Freestyle,” which employed AI versions of Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg to diss Lamar. The song was mainly a troll, a play on social media to bait Lamar into a response. It seemed like Drake was just checking off the boxes required of him so far: He had to respond to Kendrick in some fashion, especially after the embarrassment of bowing out of the Pusha T feud without a definitive comeback. However, the tenor of his battle with Lamar would always be predicated on how aggressively the Compton, California, MC would approach the battle and how Drake would have to respond.

For now, that’s where the battle is being held, with the two megastars fixing their narratives to convince fans of how they should determine a victor.

“Push Ups” is fought on Drake’s home turf, where he raps about publishing deals, topping charts and who holds the most power in the industry. It makes sense for Drake to want to keep the fight there, as his chart numbers are untouchable. So when Rick Ross claims to have more money than Drake, it feels hollow and unbelievable. Lamar knows this and isn’t concerned about fighting about charts and money (“only you like being famous,” he raps on “Euphoria”). He said as much on “Like That” when he said, “Prince outlived Mike Jack,” alluding to the fact that artistic respect was more important than record sales to him

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