Drake lost to Pusha T. Now what?

Drake and Pusha T’s decade-old lyrical squabble came to a head on Tuesday after Pusha T dropped a diss track called “The Story of Adidon.” The diss references Drake being a deadbeat dad, his parents’ marital issues, and longtime producer and collaborator Noah “40” Shebib’s multiple sclerosis. The title of the song is a nod to Adonis, who is allegedly the son of Drake and porn star Sophie Brussaux, known as Rosee Divine in the world of adult film. In the song, Pusha T also suggests that “Adidon” could be the name of a yet-to-be-released sneaker and apparel collaboration between Adidas and Drake himself, its name taking inspiration after his son.

He seems to be taking some time to lick his wounds. But he’s already lost.

Drake and Pusha T, a history

What may have seemed like a buried hatchet between Drake and Pusha T resurfaced on May 25 after Pusha T’s new album Daytona was released. On the project, Pusha T took aim at the OVO Sound rapper on his track “Infrared,” where he singles Drake out as a gimmick among hip-hop’s most prominent artists. In the song, Drake is accused of “cheating” by way of using rapper Quentin Miller as a ghostwriter throughout his career. In response, Drake dropped “Duppy Freestyle” not even 24 hours later, which focused in on Pusha T and Kanye West as jealous, fraudulent, and “not even top five” based on the roster of talent on G.O.O.D Music’s label, which is headed by West and Pusha T.

While this isn’t the first time that the two rappers have taken shots at each other for the world to see, it’s the only time that the back and forth has gotten as personal and vindictive as it was on “The Story of Adidon.” What started in 2006 as a run-in between Drake’s boss Lil Wayne, and Virginia-based rap duo Clipse, comprised of brothers Pusha T and No Malice, over Wayne allegedly “biting styles,” has now grown into a social media-seizing turf war. Drizzy has taken it upon himself to go to bat for his longtime mentor, creating a slew of numerous projects and singles over which the beef spans. Drake songs like “Tuscan Leather,” and “Two Birds, One Stone,” and Pusha T tracks like “Exodus 23:1” and “H.G.T.V Freestyle,” are all filled with not-so-subliminal shots.

After being dragged into the feud by mentions from both Drake and Pusha T, Quentin Miller released his own response to the flurry this week with his new single “Destiny (Freestyle),” where he addresses the beef and how he fits into the equation.

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On “Destiny (Freestyle),” Miller deflects the notion that he’s secretly writing hits for Drake: “Collaborated with my favorite rapper few times I don’t want none of his credit, I’m just focused on mine.” Miller also lost a leg, which is depicted on the cover photo for his new single. In the song, he says, “I lost a leg in ’16,” referencing the bad car accident in September 2016. Aside from his history with Drake, it seems as though Miller is mostly vying for his own recognition as an unrecognized talent in hip-hop, saying: “I create waves, I’m not the wave-ridin’ type,” and “I am not upset, jokes on you, I still got a check,” which is a direct response to Drake’s newest single “I’m Upset.”

The Drake memes get dark

Throughout his career, Drake has been one of the internet’s most celebrated personalities when it comes to memes and reactions online. To his credit, Drake carries a spirit of witticism about himself that makes poking fun at him enjoyable for both him and his fans—he was just joking about the Pusha beef last Friday in a meme-made Instagram post.

In the past, he’s made himself readily available in the court of public comedy, appearing as a personality on Saturday Night Live and hosting ESPN’s ESPY awards, where he delivered an original single in “Side Pieces,” which spoke to the often controversial and scandal-ridden lives of athletes outside of sports. Despite many enduring memes, never before has Drake been blasted to the extent that he was on Tuesday.

After the release of Pusha’s track, fans took their own stabs at Drake.

On Wednesday morning, Pusha T appeared on The Breakfast Club, where he admitted that he’s not going to “bully the situation” any further. He went on to explain that beyond allegations of ghostwriting and unauthentic performance behind the persona of “Drake,” there are some issues that are more prevalent that may be worth Drake’s time and effort to address with his fans. By this, Pusha means the photos of Drake in blackface that he single-handedly played a part in resurfacing this week via the new diss track’s cover art and on his own Twitter account.

For some, the photos were grounds for canceling the Toronto-based rapper without a second thought.

While others seem to be by his side despite the turmoil.

In an Instagram story post late Wednesday night, Drake confirmed the photos to be from a project he worked on during his young acting days. He explains in the post that the photos from 2007 were meant to shed light on the plight of Black actors who are often forced to pick their poison: be out of work or be typecasted and stereotyped for work. “The photos represented how African Americans were once wrongfully portrayed entertainment,” he writes. “… (we) were attempting to use our voice(s) to bring awareness to the issues we dealt with all the time as black actors at auditions. This was to highlight and raise our frustrations with not always getting a fair chance in the industry and to make a point that the struggle for black actors had not changed much.”  The photographer behind the shoot, David Leyes, said in an Instagram comment that the idea was Drake’s and he was just there to capture it.

Even under the guise of “creative license,” or “satire,” blackface is an inherently racist and historically insensitive practice that Drake isn’t going to be able to erase very easily. So, for that, Pusha T is well within his reach to assert that the photos are a serious issue that Drake is going to have to be transparent about sooner or later. If not now, then fans might expect those explanations on his newest studio album Scorpion—which is set to release in June. But the damage behind the photo has already been done. For many, Drake records will never get the same support, and rightfully so.

As for his legitimacy within the sphere of contemporary rap, there’s not much more an artist like Drake can do to prove his worth to fans or Pusha T and the G.O.O.D Music camp. Ghostwriter or not, there’s no denying that Drake has a hold of something special when it comes to balancing music and persona in a way that makes fans feel closer to Drizzy than they could ever be. Until now, Drake has been able to steer clear of any career-jostling conspiracies or scandals, and he’s done so quite well. Notedly even, over a time period that is exponentially longer than many artists can even hold the world’s attention. He’s solidified a space for himself in global popular culture and won over the hearts of millions. 

While Pusha T has made a persistent effort at smearing that, it would be incredibly hard for the beef to overshadow Drake’s artistry and accomplishments. He’s become one of the biggest forces that there is in hip-hop today by rooting himself into the understanding of a generation that watched as the genre and the culture surrounding it transformed. There’s just no escaping the guy’s influence.

Even though it seems like Drake always comes out on top, this time is different.  The picture at its heart reveals a racial consciousness within Drake that fans have never seen before. No statement to this degree of blatancy is directly present in any of his music or social media presence despite conversations about race growing more pervasive alongside Drake’s rise in status. That’s where Pusha T played his cards right. He was calculated in realizing that aside from the beef itself, the photo is what would ultimately get people talking. 

When it comes to “The Story of Adidon,” silencing the mob may just be too large of a task.

Onaje McDowelle

Onaje McDowelle

Onaje McDowelle is an editorial intern for the Daily Dot. He is studying journalism and African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. His work has appeared in Austin Monthly magazine, GoodMusicAllDay, and Orange magazine.