Jay-Z and Drake’s Imaginary Beef

Jay Z’s new verse isn’t just another subliminal shot at Drake — it’s a coronation, as the former finally views the latter as a peer.

Following the Grammys on Sunday night, DJ Khaled released his most recent offering — “Shining” — featuring Beyonce and Jay-Z. The inevitable social media buzz, in that the song is the couple’s first collaboration since “Lemonade, was instead overshadowed by speculation related to Jay-Z’s verse, specifically, four lines that may or may not be aimed at Drake.

On “Shining,” Jay Z raps: “I know you ain’t out here talkin’ numbers, right / I know you ain’t out here talkin’ summers, right / I know you ain’t walkin’ ’round talkin’ down / Sayin’ boss shit when you a runner, right?”

According to Rap Genius annotations, the jabs can be deciphered as follows: Jay might be calling out Drake’s line on “Grammys” where he references going Platinum, his song “Summer Sixteen” where he talks about coming for revenge all Summer long and this Summer-referencing line from “Sneakin’.” The talk of summer pertains to Jay-Z’s pride of dominating the summer in terms of radio airplay, album sales, and touring, throughout his career.

In any event, these lines are Hov’s continued explanation of why the Canadian rapper simply isn’t at his level. He sets his points as rhetorical questions, seemingly acting confused at why Drake continues to come for his throne when his position clearly doesn’t match the braggadocio attitude he keeps throwing out.

The subliminal shots are just another chapter in an on-going back-and-forth between the two rappers.

After featuring Jay-Z on his debut album in 2010, Drake allegedly began the passive-aggressive feud, when he threatened to take over “the throne” on 2011’s “I’m on One” — the same summer that Jay-Z and Kanye released “Watch the Throne.” By 2013, the public’s imagined beef was seemingly laid to rest when Drake featured Jay-Z on “Pound Cake”, off his album, “Nothing Was the Same.”

The following year, in an interview with Rolling Stone, Drake allegedly mocked Jay-Z’s corny art references, leading to Jay-Z’s response on a freestyle.

“Sorry Mr. Drizzy for so much art talk/Silly me rapping ‘bout shit that I really bought/While these rappers rap bout guns they ain’t shot and a bunch of silly shit that they ain’t got.”

After another quiet spell, the so-called “rivalry” came back last year when Jay and Kanye appear on Drake’s “Pop Style.” Instead of a three-way collaboration, however, Jay contributes a single line, prompting rumors of beef. In an interview with Zane Lowe Drake admitted that it was Kanye’s idea to pull Jay into the song, and that the decision to cut Jay’s verse was ultimately creative, not personal.

I’ve expressed my admiration for Jay countless times,” he explains. “Sometimes we just fall on opposite sides of the spectrum in the rap world.”

After no response from Jay-Z in 2016, the media-constructed feud seemed dead for the umpteenth time, until Jay’s subliminal shots on Sunday.

Regardless of what you make of their history, you’d be naive to assume there isn’t something festering under the surface. Sure, for two rappers at completely opposite ends of their careers, an actual beef seems unnecessary, but when you look closer, it makes a lot more sense than one might think.

Jay-Z is the first rapper that has remained relevant in old age. The man is 47 years-old for Chrissakes. Despite not having released an album since 2013, any Jay-Z verse calls for Hip-hop’s undivided attention. As he walks the line between respected and washed-up, the best way for him to generate buzz is to come after the genre’s leading star.

Granted, Jay-Z is too respected to waste energy throwing out subliminal jabs, without assessing the risk and reward tied to each bar. With that said, while his effort to come from a “holier than thou” place is warranted, it also speaks for how he views Drake in the historical landscape of Hip-hop.

Remember, this is Jay-Z. As much as he is responsible for annointing himself “the Mike Jordan of recording’”, that’s exactly what he is. And Drake in a sense, if not Kobe, is Lebron. His resume since the two linked up back in 2013 is shaping up to be one of the most successful runs in the genre’s history. With the unequivocal commercial success of his latest album — “Views” — following two number-one mixtapes — “IFRTITL” and “WATTBA” — Drake has earned the right to view Jay-Z as a measuring stick.

Which is why a feud — make-believe or not — makes sense for both rappers. Then again, if the simmering beef were to reach genuine levels of shit-talking, that’s another story. A full-fledged feud could only hurt both parties. Jay-Z getting bodied by Drake would force us to look at the former as the “get off my lawn guy”; while Drake losing a squabble with his predecessor could be career-suicide. More so, Drake winning a hypothetical back-and-forth wouldn’t help his legacy at all, in that it would be equivalent to Kobe outdueling Jordan during his Wizards days.

Regardless, the more times Jay-Z chooses to fuel the crackling fire, the more Drake benefits. If anything, it establishes the latter’s standing amidst the genre’s last reigning GOAT.

As the saying goes, “Lions don’t concern themselves with sheep.”

And so, Drake’s legacy may have leveled up once more, as he currently breathes the same rarefied air as a Hip-hop legend.

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