Drake’s Response Ties The Score: What Comes Next In The 20 Vs. 1?

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ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 19: Drake performs during Wicked (Spelhouse Homecoming Concert) Featuring 21 Savage at Forbes Arena at Morehouse College on October 19, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Prince Williams/Wireimage)
It sounds like the Old Drake made his return on "Push Ups (Drop & Give Me 50)."

The numbers game could only work among a certain crowd of rappers, specifically those who rely on popularity to disguise their wealth or lack thereof. However, when it comes to the core of rap’s competitive side, the underdog never has as much to lose in the first place. But there’s an equal battleground between Drake and Kendrick Lamar who’ve both achieved great commercial success while asserting their dominance in the field for a decade-plus. Sure, for Drake, it’s more of an anomaly when he decides to really rap his ass off but as Complex’s Jordan Rose once pointed out, the Canadian star needs formidable opponents for his bars to stick. Fortunately, the tentatively titled “Push Ups (Drop & Give Me 50)” sounds exactly like the “old Drake” we’ve longed for.

What first began surfacing as a speculative “AI response” was later confirmed to be a reference track by Akademiks. It was muddied, and distorted and the production sounded flat. But its rawness added a sense of urgency and nostalgia for those who recall digging for music in the prehistoric days before streaming services and social media’s accessibility. The supposed official version landed on Akademiks’ desk before circulating through the DJ circuit on Saturday. Fans unpacked the lyrics – some more nuanced than others – before deliberating the winner of round one. 

In terms of the main card event between Drake and Kendrick, “Push Ups” tied things up. “Like That” undoubtedly packed enough punch to ripple across the airwaves for weeks and affirm its position at #1 for a third week in a row now. The fact that a diss track toward Drake debuted at the top spot must have struck a nerve with Billboard’s Artist of the Decade recipient. It proved that he couldn’t just craft a hit song to win this beef nor would the court of public opinion simply lean in his favor with the help of some memeworthy responses. The stakes were high and the Boy needed to roll up his sleeves. Unlike J. Cole’s “7 Minute Drill,” Drake knew that he couldn’t just deliver a one-size-fits-all diss track to put his detractors on notice. If calling Kendrick short began weighing on J. Cole’s soul so heavily, imagine how the escalation of this feud would’ve made him feel in the long run. That said, “Push Ups” was a measured response to feed into a beef of this magnitude. 

So, years after “The Story Of Adidon” cemented itself in the pantheon of hip-hop diss records, it became clear that it would take much more than lyrical warfare to take Drake down. Unfortunately, when ranking Drake’s current list of opponents, only a few of them have the potential to cause damage. Kendrick, of course, became target numero uno on “Push Ups,” though Drake admittedly kept his response PG. He pointed out their comparative feature streaks; Kendrick having worked alongside Maroon 5 and Taylor Swift at the early stages of his career in an attempt for more commercial success that, in some sense, slightly dilutes an otherwise flawless catalog. The short jokes, though expected, were hilarious. The possible mention of Kendrick’s wife ("I be with some bodyguards like Whitney”) might warrant a response akin to Pusha’s (the Clipse rapper stated that this was what triggered his infamous response to “Duppy Freestyle) but perhaps the most shocking aspect of the feud surrounded Kendrick and Top Dawg’s relationship and the allusion to publishing splits. Many have speculated that there had been a strain between TDE’s flagship artist and its founder over the years, causing Kendrick and Dave Free to launch pgLang, but for Drake to suggest that it may have been a result of bad business sheds an interesting light on the overarching narrative surrounding the California-based label, in which some have believed they’ve been holding back their artists from releasing music. The fact that SZA even got a shout-out on the record might indicate something is brewing behind the scenes at TDE that we might only find out about down the line. Still, these aspects of “Push Ups,” paired with “They make excuses for you 'cause they hate to see me lit,” feel mildly contradictory, considering that similar claims could be leveled against him in both the speculations surrounding his contractual obligations to Cash Money and the fact that his rabid fanbase has been jumping through hoops and moving the goal post over the past few weeks to defend his spot. 

But beyond the speculation of Drake’s claims towards his main target, “Push Ups” sufficiently mentioned every one of his foes who have aligned themselves with Future and Metro Boomin, safe for ASAP Rocky. Though the former faces Drake’s wrath within the first bars of the song, it’s Metro Boomin who will now be the victim of Drizzy’s infectious songwriting. As the producer urged everyone to “pick a side” in the past few months, Drake shuts him down immediately with one bar: “Metro, shut yo hoe ass up and make some drums.” It’s unclear why a producer who has never released a song as a rapper decided to pick up a rap feud but Drake’s energy toward Metro was on par with the petty Twitter/X jabs. 

While the issues with Rick Ross ultimately surround French Montana (though it might be a little bit more deep-rooted, considering Tia Kemp previously detailed animosity between Ross and Drake), it’s the tension between Drake and The Weeknd's XO camp that could be the centerpiece of this feud. The Weeknd’s co-managers, Salxco founder Wassim Slaiby and XO co-founder Amir “Cash” Esmailian, have reportedly been at odds with Drake since the After Hours singer turned down a deal with OVO. However, Drake’s shot at his fellow Torontonian paints a broader picture of the feud that potentially traces back to Slaiby and Esmailian. 

Claim the 6ix, and you boys ain't even come from it/ And when you boys got rich, you had to run from it,” Drake raps before he accuses Cash of “spendin’ Abel’s bread, out here trickin’” on rappers such as Future. If you didn’t know, Slaiby and Esmailian got their start in Ottawa, ON where they established CP Music Group – the label that initially propelled the careers of Belly and Massari. The two later relocated to Toronto where they met The Weeknd and built an empire rooted in the local scene. Unlike OVO, which has spent the better part of the 2010s developing Toronto talent, Salxco has garnered a wide roster of artists outside of Canada including Metro Boomin. Meanwhile, Cash’s alliance with Future became more noticeable in recent years. After Drake’s song dropped, Cash shared a photo of himself with Future on Instagram in what seemed to be a reaction. It appears that The Weeknd and Metro Boomin inherited a feud that has little to do with them in the grand scheme of things. They might have personal vendettas against Drake but it’s the ones that Metro and The Weeknd answer to in the metaphorical food chain who seemingly share some responsibility in the fallout. 

NOTTINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 16: Drake and The Weeknd performs on stage during a date of his "Nothing Was the Same" 2014 World Tour at Nottingham Capital FM Arena on March 16, 2014 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Ollie Millington/WireImage)

In the immediate aftermath of the song's leak, the showdown that we’re all waiting on is Drake vs. Kendrick. As of now, the ball is in Kendrick’s court. While Metro Boomin and Future will likely continue to leverage this feud to push the sales behind their second studio album, We Still Don’t Trust You, the two rappers, along with The Weeknd, do not have the credentials to engage in a rap beef. As for Rick Ross, his feud with Drake will likely be forgotten by the end of the week. “Champagne Moments” largely relied on salacious rumors to rattle the Internet. The online taunts, though entertaining, won’t be enough to keep up the momentum, especially as the beef between Drake and Kendrick Lamar heats up. Everyone else inserting themselves into this situation will fade into background noise. 

Ultimately, “Push Ups” is an adequate response for the moment but surely, it doesn’t have enough “bark with the bite,” as Drake stated, to make Kendrick Lamar stand down in any capacity. Though a snippet of a rumored response track to "Push Ups" surfaced this morning, which Daylyt (along with other sources) stated was AI, the brief preview sounded underwhelming compared to the bomb Drake dropped on “Push Ups.” Sure, the snippet addressed the J Cole situation as suitably as Drake did. However, Drizzy isn’t J. Cole – he’s a whole other beast in this particular realm. After all, Drake told everyone they needed to cut his head off if they wanted the crown. 

About The Author
Aron A. is a features editor for HotNewHipHop. Beginning his tenure at HotNewHipHop in July 2017, he has comprehensively documented the biggest stories in the culture over the past few years. Throughout his time, Aron’s helped introduce a number of buzzing up-and-coming artists to our audience, identifying regional trends and highlighting hip-hop from across the globe. As a Canadian-based music journalist, he has also made a concerted effort to put spotlights on artists hailing from North of the border as part of Rise & Grind, the weekly interview series that he created and launched in 2021. Aron also broke a number of stories through his extensive interviews with beloved figures in the culture. These include industry vets (Quality Control co-founder Kevin "Coach K" Lee, Wayno Clark), definitive producers (DJ Paul, Hit-Boy, Zaytoven), cultural disruptors (Soulja Boy), lyrical heavyweights (Pusha T, Styles P, Danny Brown), cultural pioneers (Dapper Dan, Big Daddy Kane), and the next generation of stars (Lil Durk, Latto, Fivio Foreign, Denzel Curry). Aron also penned cover stories with the likes of Rick Ross, Central Cee, Moneybagg Yo, Vince Staples, and Bobby Shmurda.