Rapper Joe Budden has dedicated several billable hours this month to an attack campaign on superstar entertainer Drake. His high-profile target has taken the high road thus far—and that’s a problem.
Six days ago, Budden’s Drake diss “Making a Murderer Pt. 1” hit SoundCloud. It was cranky and dense, layered with awkwardly specific gripes about women. Budden’s dissent with respect to mainstream hip-hop is a recurring theme in his work, and so it was fairly easy to roll your eyes and ignore the piece. It’s naive and unbecoming to throw stones at someone with disproportionately more fame, after all.
But this week, the 35-year-old went at him again. The song, “Wake,” is likewise crass, forgettable, and forged from a bygone era of back-alley battle raps.
Unfortunately for Drake, Budden makes some good points.
As Genius noted, the initial diss was personal; the follow-up accuses Drake of being a phony. Not only has he exhausted goodwill within circles of established hip-hop uncles (Jay Z, the Clipse), Budden posits, but the genre at-large is fed up with Drake’s blog-centric work.
Indeed Drake has become notorious for scrolling feeds, then tapping rising stars for a quick collaboration that serves to brand their content under the Drake banner. (Examples include Migos, Gucci Mane, Future, D.R.A.M., Keayana Coke, the fake patois from song of the moment “One Dance.”) Drake’s music arrived with regional focus as a tight-knit team of producers presented gorgeous R&B samples, sparse keys, moody build-ups. It was an elegant, genre-seizing soundtrack to Drake’s frigid Toronto underground—now he’s a soul-sucking monk, abstaining from his roots and turning to guest artists to bolster his tracks.
Raps Budden: “You leverage your celeb, taking waves over—that’s terrestrial takeover,” and later “Was that your plan all along? Why you ain’t do that vid with Fetty but you hopped on the song?”
On “Wake,” Drake is also accused of burning out protégé PartyNextDoor, forcing the singer-songwriter to work on Drake’s music and not his own:
We want a Party album,
But you keep stealing all of Party’s album,
To go and put it on your party album.
Budden alleges that popular artists who sounded like Drake and reached pop audiences through him—the Weeknd in 2011, iLoveMakonnen in 2014—are no longer affiliated with Drake and personally detest him. Budden also wonders why the dude behind “Started From the Bottom,” Jersey producer Mike Zombie, hasn’t been heard from in three years.
Last year, it was Philadelphia crony Meek Mill (remember him?) who tested Drake’s temper and received two successful responses. Mill fumed because Drake didn’t write his own raps on key songs from the If You’re Reading This mixtape (which is true); Drake won the day by pivoting to clown on Mill’s hurt feelings with “Back to Back.”
It was a weaker argument, but a better song.
Today, however, Drake is a rapper known to employ ghostwriters, and who lifts melodies wholesale from performers who lack the clout to do much about it. More damning: For all its streaming records and hit singles, April’s Views album was savagely roasted on social media over its corny punchlines and lackluster music.
By my estimation, it’s his weakest release. Views is an album where Drake offers up 12 clunker songs, and includes the lyric “I get green like Earth Day.” Drake’s music can sadly no longer speak for itself.
Budden is a Twitter troll, personified. But Views sucks and Drake doesn’t rap well throughout. It’s time for the era’s biggest headliner to get back in the studio and do something about it.