Hip-hop has once again brought the Internet world and beyond up into flames, showing no regard towards sports, politics, or any other topic worth conversation in the spectrum of American pop culture. Yet it’s no surprise that events like these reach this level of magnitude whenever they involve possibly the biggest artist the genre has ever seen. While rap beefs have turned violent in the past, the age of one party at hand and the perceived well-mannered nature of the other leads all us to believe that no harm of any sort will occur as a result of this clash. However, it’s impossible to deny that what initially started off as a war of words has gained more and more vitriol by the day.
For those who are still unaware, the beef between Drake and Pusha-T was never originally between the two parties themselves. In April 2006, Lil Wayne’s BAPE hoodie on the cover of VIBE didn’t sit too well with neither Clipse nor Pharrell, as they felt that Wayne had not only been taking credit for their favorite fashion trends, but also had been writing one too many rhymes about selling coke, territory which Clipse had staked their claim on and felt solely belonged to them. Soon later Clipse laid these accusations on wax in “Mr. Me Too”, and after Wayne’s cover story with Complex later that year in which he stated, “I don’t see no fuckin’ Clipse” and asked “Who the fuck is Pharrell? Do you really respect him?”, the beef between the two parties (and more importantly, their affiliates) looked like it was officially on. Yet things didn’t exactly pan out as expected.
The penultimate chapter of this beef just so happened to mirror Pusha’s “Infrared” jabs and Drake’s thunderous “Duppy Freestyle” response. As Drake’s highly-publicized feud with Meek Mill unfolded during the summer of 2015, the tension with Pusha was placed on the back-burner. No words came from either side until Pusha’s “H.G.T.V. Freestyle” in October 2016, in which he threw light jabs at Drake while bringing up his “questionable pen”, a reference to the Quentin Miller ghostwriting allegations. “Two Birds, One Stone” arrived just a couple weeks later, which saw Drake questioning the legitimacy of Pusha’s drug dealing past and asking “where the cash is” (even though no drug dealer would actually answer that). Coincidentally enough, the record itself mirrors “Duppy Freestyle” in the fact that Drake had gone after two G.O.O.D. Music members, the other being Kid Cudi.
What’s difficult to comprehend is why Pusha didn’t issue a response to Drake then and there to reignite the beef in the fashion that it is right now. When asked about “Two Birds, One Stone” in his Complex cover story that December, Pusha stated “I would never attribute that song to myself” and “My past is cemented….you can’t ever question anything that has actually happened.” And that’s all there was. No back and forth. No further subliminals. So it’s particularly odd to see Pusha’s current eagerness to engage with an “album mode”-activated Drake, when he could have done exactly so a year-and-a-half ago, as More Life had been slated to arrive just a couple months later. Yet here we are now.
It was only fitting for Pusha to take the old-school route of having Funk Flex premiere his diss record; the shock value-laden “The Story Of Adidon” is an all-out assault on Drake like none ever before. It’s interesting to note the approach which each rapper has taken up for their diss: whereas Drake decided to go for an attack on Pusha’s claims of his past, Pusha went for an attack on Drake’s character. Both approaches are effective because each rapper went after arguably the most vital aspect of the other’s career. Pusha-T has played the role of hip-hop’s poster-child for former coke dealers for over a decade, and after listening to DAYTONA it’s evident that it’s a role he’s not willing to give up. Drake’s good-mannered likability and history of calculated approaches in previous beefs have positioned him as arguably hip-hop’s most untouchable, and the less people care about the ghostwriting claims, the more it appears that he has no weaknesses. It took Pusha a few days to do his homework on his opponent, and the moment he stumbled across the now-infamous photo of a black-faced Drake, he knew that he had the opportunity to play a chess move that would be nothing short of brilliant.
Please stop referring to this picture as “artwork”…I’m not an internet baby, I don’t edit images…this is a REAL picture…these are his truths, see for yourself https://t.co/gd6vRS3HM8 pic.twitter.com/2el58HEZ8F
— King Push (@PUSHA_T) May 30, 2018
While the initial thought of many was that the image was photoshopped, a quick reverse-image search on Google revealed what Pusha would soon confirm on Twitter–that the picture was not at all doctored and it is in fact Drake in blackface. The site hosting the photo was that of Toronto photographer David Leyes, who when questioned on Instagram not only stated that the photo was Drake’s idea, but also proclaimed that he was “proud to be part of a strong statement made by a black man about the fucked up culture he is living in” (a sentiment which didn’t exactly align with his request to have the photo be taken down).
And the photographer. Y’all move pic.twitter.com/au67DtZfUA
— F.L.O.W. (@flow349) May 30, 2018
The initial theory of the picture’s origin was that it was taken in conjunction with the Too Black Guys hoodie and t-shirt Drake had on. The Toronto streetwear brand released its “Jim Crow Couture” collection in the summer of 2008, which very much exemplified their vision to “represent the black experience in an unapologetic way”. However, Too Black Guys’ founder Adrian Aitcheson issued a statement via Instagram Wednesday evening denying that Drake’s blackface had stemmed from any Too Black Guys photoshoots, yet also acknowledging the message Drake was attempting to convey:
“The subtleties of Drake, a young black man, mimicking how white men used to mimic and dehumanize black people may be lost in a rap battle but we should not be distracted from the issues that are still affecting our communities.”
Drake ultimately addressed the origin of the photo through his Instagram story a couple hours later, stating that the photos were taken in conjunction with his relatively unknown short film/TV series concept “Us & Them”, which he developed alongside fellow Degrassi actor Mazin Elsadig. According to Drake, the show was intended to “bring awareness to the issues [we] deal with all the time as black actors at auditions.” While it’s unknown exactly how he had planned to incorporate these photos into the show, the dark humor and deadpan nature of the show’s pilot and it’s cutaways makes it very possible that a still shot of the photos would have appeared at some point.
While it’s evident that Drake wanted to address the blackface controversy as soon as possible in order prevent it from tarnishing his image, the best case scenario would have been for him to toss a record back at Pusha T first, and then issue this statement only after. This misstep had created an optic almost in the same vein as Meek Mill’s “Twitter fingers”, i.e. responding to bars anything other than bars. In accordance with his press run, Pusha appeared on L.A.’s Real 92.3 Thursday morning, dismissing Drake’s explanation and asserting that Drake is “silent on all black issues” despite having such a large platform. While the latter may or may not be true, the lone episode of “Us & Them” does indeed tackle the form of workplace discrimination Drake was referring to, as it sees the lighter-skinned Drake offered the film role at hand despite having an absolutely awful audition, over the darker-skinned Mazin and his rather impressive performance.
The issue with Pusha’s argument here is that while he himself has been vocal about social justice and reform in the past, he’s not afforded the right to attack others for not doing so due to his relationship with Kanye. He can’t possibly be validated in bringing up Drake’s perceived hesitance to speak out on black issues, when he himself prided in MAGA-Ye producing the entirety of his album and gave him the OK to solicit album cover art so distasteful, a term that can be used for a couple other of his actions including his mentioning of Drake’s mother never getting married, and his remarks on 40’s battle with MS one day before Worldwide MS Day. Yet the fact of the matter is that rappers usually don’t tend to hold anything back in their feuds, a sentiment Pusha-T wholeheartedly endorses especially after Drake’s unnecessary mention of his fiance’s name in “Duppy Freestyle”.
The other attack on Drake’s character is the narrative of Drake as a deadbeat dad, as Pusha brings to the forefront the rumors that Drake has been covering up impregnating former porn star/urban model Sophie Brussaux, thus making him the father of her son, Adonis. Listeners of the Joe Budden Podcast and The Read may recall their favorite podcasters discussing these rumors months ago, yet the story was almost altogether forgotten up to this point (presumably due to the efforts of the OVO team). Yet with celebrities in recent years like Chris Brown and Dwyane Wade owning up and confirming rumors of fathering other children, it would seem as if Drake would have no problem in doing the same. Were that to be the case, the idea of Drake as a father is one that would undoubtedly bode extremely well in his favor. Not only would his Instagram name actually be fitting, but the optic of Drake as a father all but seems like it would serve as an absolute juggernaut to his marketing and the future of his brand overall, which is exactly why the reasoning behind Pusha’s allegations, the dive into the “Adidon” term itself, seems to check off all the bullet points.
According to Push, “Adidon” is actually a reference to the name of an upcoming collection Drake has with adidas, as Drake has for months now been donning adidas gear and altogether leaving not-so-subtle hints that he plans on ditching the Jumpman for the three stripes. Because both Pusha and Kanye have relationships with adidas, it certainly wouldn’t be too difficult for either of them to gather info about the company’s dealings with other artists. Thus the theory that “Adidon” is actually named after Adonis, and that we wouldn’t know of the child’s existence until Drake “started selling sweatsuits and sneakers” just might be true.
In the midst of all the chaos, what can’t be ignored is the evolution of the Drake-Pusha dynamic itself. Who could’ve seen the beef escalating to the point it is now, especially when you consider the fact that Drake was a Clipse superfan in his teen years? Who would’ve thought Drake would be involved in a beef in which women end up being the ultimate collateral damage, when women are without a doubt his primary fanbase? It’s almost unfathomable that years worth of beef has exploded into a week of absolute disarray like this, and it seems as if there’s still a lot left to unpack.
“The Story of Adidon” was such a powerful response that it seems as if Pusha is now the one who has nothing to lose. DAYTONA sales have undoubtedly skyrocketed as a result of the madness, but perhaps what’s more important is that he’ll forever be credited with altering the perception of Drake at a time period in which Drake’s successes looked to be reaching their peak. Because of Pusha’s status as an elite MC, those who had seen this clash with Drake coming years ago knew that the battle would be a good one, but they would have never expected it to turn out like this. And despite how disrespectful Pusha-T may have been, Drake stans must admit that it’s impossible to determine what Drake’s next move is at this point, regardless of whether or not Drake has been said to be “ready to deal with the situation”.
With Father’s Day arriving in just a few weeks, it seems as if Pusha T in effect set a countdown on the number of days Drake has to address the Sophie/Adonis situation, as he would be remiss to let the holiday go by without doing so. It would also make sense at this point for Drake to add an introspective record or two to Scorpion, especially since Pusha looks to be making it his duty to expose Drake’s private life little by little all summer long.
With Pusha-T seemingly holding all the cards in his hands and Drake’s album-mode pen as sharp as ever, it’ll be interesting to look out for what will transpire over the next few weeks, or at this rate, the next few days. The quintessential idols become rivals beef is here, and it’s showing zero signs of slowing down.