On the 9th of November, wearing all black with a silver chain and reading from his phone, Kanye West released a statement that would purportedly quash the 12-year-feud between himself and Drake.
Speaking in a recorded video on the rapper J.Prince’s Instagram, Kanye said he wanted them to come together for a benefit to free Larry Hoover, the co-founder of the Gangster Disciples gang serving six life sentences in prison.
Standing beside him, looking like the disappointed father of a child being forced to apologise, J.Prince looked into the camera while Kanye read aloud.
“Yo, this is Ye and J Prince. I’m making this video to address the ongoing back and forth between myself and Drake. Both me and Drake have taken shots at each other, and it’s time to put that to rest.”
“I’m asking Drake, on December 7th, to join me on stage as a special guest to share the two biggest albums of the year, live in Los Angeles, with the ultimate purpose to free Larry Hoover.”
“I believe this event will not only bring awareness to our cause, but prove to people everywhere how much more we can accomplish when we lay our pride to the side and come together.”
For fans, the video pinpoints a significant moment for two world-famous rappers caught in a fractious relationship of back and forths – which, really, is normal form in the rap world. Diss tracks have forever been part of the genre’s vernacular. Having beef comes with the territory. Think Biggie and Tupac; LL Cool J and Canibus; Nas and Jay Z.
When it comes to Drake and Kanye, however, It’s almost impossible to distinguish whether their feud has been a ploy at grabbing commercial success or a trivial back-and-forth between two megalomaniacs looking for retribution. It’s a Biggie-Tupac situation without the gangs and guns, and with the added pettiness of a playground scrap. No bruised eyes or cut lips; only bruised egos.
However, as fans rejoice, and the past is apparently laid to rest, it’s worth looking at how we got here. When two huge icons go head-to-head, what’s the real motivation? And why all the hate? We deep-dived into how two of the 21st century's biggest stars entered their power struggle and finally laid it to rest. And fair warning: this is an extensive, at times, song-by-song timeline of what’s gone down.
The Beginning: 2011
It’s hard to pinpoint the beginnings of Kanye West vs. Drake. Some say it began in 2009, when then-”Degrassi” star Drake found breakout success.
Others say it started when Drake was seen with glamour model and former stripper Amber Rose, two months after her break-up with Kanye. Perhaps it was when Kanye’s “All of the Lights” was released with the exclusion of a verse from Drake.
But perhaps the biggest nod to the rivalry’s beginnings can be linked back to January, 2011, during an interview at a bleak underground bar between Drake and British DJ Tim Westwood. As they discussed Drake's upcoming album with Lil Wayne, Drake suddenly deadpanned: “Yeah, I heard two other guys are coming out with an album, two other rappers are coming out with an album together. I don’t know where they got that idea.”
An awkward sigh from Westwood ensued.
Though Drake and Lil Wayne’s album never materialized, Kanye and Jay-Z, the two rappers insinuated by Drake, joined forces on 2011’s Watch The Throne.
And while no dual album was falling on Drake’s platter, he would go on to appear on Dj Khalid’s track ‘I’m On One’.
“I’m just feeling the throne is for the taking / Watch me take it,” he rapped, surrounded by a group of statue-still men, black sunglasses pushed up onto their motionless faces.
In an interview with The Source that same year, Drake would talk again about his desire to become one of the rap scene’s biggest players. Though Kanye was his idol, both musically and career-wise, he now boiled him down to a competitor.
“My goal would be to surpass everything he’s accomplished,” he said, “I don’t want to be as good as Kanye. I want to be better.”
2013: Getting “too big”
It’s no secret that Kanye was instrumental in the beginnings of Drake's career. The enigmatic rapper and producer had his fingers heavily planted in one of Drake’s breakout tracks, “Find Your Love”, as well as his first music video for the track “Best I Ever Had.” In a 2013 podcast, Kanye worried that Drake had now gotten “too big”.
“I was fine with writing ‘Find Your Love’ with Drake on his first thing,” he rasped. “Until he got too big. And that was the moment I had to adjust to this new energy that’s taking over the room.”
2014-2017: Will They / Won’t They
As egos continued to grow, Drake appeared in a 2014 edition of Rolling Stone where he was quoted commenting on Kanye’s latest track, “I’m In It”.
“It had some real questionable bars”, read the interview.
Later, after the public and fans had already run wild with the quote, he’d deny that he made the statement, writing on Twitter in a since deleted-tweet: “I never commented on Yeezus for my interview portion of Rolling Stone.”
In response, and in a manner that was becoming synonymous with his exploding public persona, Kanye took to the stage at a concert in New Jersey. But his aim wasn’t focused at Drake – instead, he took shots at the music industry. “Those magazines keep tryna put n----’s against each other. We love Drake, we ain’t letting that shit happen no more,” he told the crowd.
The first hint at a permanent olive branch between the two arose in early 2015. Rumours of a joint album, titled “Wolves”, made the rounds when Kanye appeared on Hot97 NYC.
“It might happen,” he said, “I threw it out there. He might be mad that I mentioned it on y’alls show because he dislikes y'all so much.”
In August of 2016, At OVO Fest in Toronto, Kanye joined Drake on stage and teased the crowd again: “Are you ready for this album? I wasn’t talking about Pablo. I wasn’t talking about Views.”
But by the end of 2016 no album had been produced. And though an earlier version of West’s track “Wolves”, from The Life of Pablo, appeared online featuring Drake at the start of the year, the final release saw Vic Mensa swapped in.
A year later, Drake laid album rumours to rest when asked whether “digital politics” was what was holding up the release of this fabled joint effort.
“I don’t know, I think everybody has their own little things going on, I’m not really sure what [Kanye’s] referring to half the time,” he told English DJ Semtex. “Because in the same breath I went from working on a project with him to him publicly shitting on me and DJ Khaled for being on the radio too much.”
“I just distance myself from it.
“I don’t really understand the point you’re trying to make but whatever it is you’re going through, I accept it.
“I don’t respect it at all.”
Whatever hope either had in keeping the situation under wraps boiled over. Drake’s “Summer Sixteen”, a track from Views, featured lines where Drake repeatedly compared his home to Kanye’s – most notably, the size of both of their pools.
Yes, it’s the kind of beef only two exceptionally wealthy individuals could have. But it's beef all the same.
“Now I got a house in LA,” rapped Drake, “now I got a bigger pool than ‘Ye. And look, man, Ye’s pool is nice. Mine’s just bigger is what I’m saying.”
Ye’s only response - in an interview with BigBoyTV - was more of a direct fact check: “I have three pools.”
2018: Things Get (More) Complicated
In May of 2018, Pusha T released the diss track “Infrared,” produced by West. At this point, the feud between both Drake and Kanye began to bubble into their outside circles, directly involving peers, family and friends.
Previously, Pusha T, a longtime collaborator of West, had taken shots at Drake with his tracks “Exodus 23:1” and “Two Birds, One Stone”. However, “Infrared” reignited the fuse. What followed was a succession of back-and-forth diss tracks with thinly veiled criticisms for every party involved.
The track’s basic message was that a lot of rappers weren’t real, specifically Drake. Pusha T accused Drake of using ghostwriters for his lyrics. “It was written like Nas but it came from Quentin,” rapped Pusha T, referring to Drake’s alleged ghostwriter.
In May, Drake retaliated with his own diss track, “Duppy Freestyle”, aimed at both Pusha T and West.
“Must’ve had your infrared wrong, now your head on the beam,” he mused. “Ya’ll the spittin image of whatever jealousy breeds”.
Four days later, Pusha T returned serve with perhaps the most brazen blow to occur since the feud first began. On YouTube, blasted out to millions of fans at home and anyone with an internet connection, Pusha T uploaded the track “The Song of Adidon” and used a picture of Drake, in blackface, as the video’s thumbnail. Drake would later take to Instagram, claiming the photo was a statement on being black in the film industry.
Through bars and bars of thwarting accusations, Pusha T layered multiple storylines circling Drake’s career and race and, most notably, revealed that he had a son with ex-adult actress Sophie Brussaux.
“You are hiding a child, let that boy come home,” he rapped. “Deadbeat motherfucker playin’ border patrol. Adonis is your son and he deserves more than an Adidas press run.”
In July, Drake would confirm the rumours on his song ‘March 14’ : “She’s not my lover, like Billie Jean, but the kid is mine.
Finally, in an October edition of HBO’s The Shop, Drake clarified the events that occurred earlier in the year, revealing in a chat to Lebron James and Maverick Carter that he had shared the existence of his son with Kanye.
“I’m in Wyoming [working with West]. I sent him a picture of my son,” he said. “I tell him I’m having trouble with my son’s mother. We had a conversation.”
“I was just there with you as friends, helping you, and now you’re dissing me. So I’m like ‘Man, this is dark.”
Months later, with the feud now in full swing, Kanye called out Drake in another Twitter spree, saying that he’d been trying to meet-up with him for months.
“You sneak dissing on [Travis Scott] records and texting Kris [Jenner], talking about ‘how’s the family,’” Kanye wrote. “I told you I ain’t tell Push about your son...You stay too close to be playing these industry games bro...I need my apologies now.”
Then, Kim Kardashian was brought into the mess.
In December, on Complex’s The Shade Room, DJ Akademiks declared, unprompted: "I think Drake smashed Kim K." Nick Cannon, a former partner of Kardashian who was also appearing on the program, echoed back: “That ain’t that far off of a concept”.
Kardashian denied the allegations, and among the rumours Kanye emerged to defend his wife and take aim at Drake once again for allegedly following the Keeping Up With The Kardashians star on Instagram.
Again, in true Kanye fashion, his weapon of choice was a flurry of tweets – since deleted.
“I don’t have beef with no one. Love everyone but don’t follow my fucking wife on instagram” he wrote.
“Who’s bright idea was it to tell Drake to follow my wife on Instagram. This person is not Drake’s friend”.
2019: No Apologies
With allegations growing, and friends and family involved, the drama between Drake and Kanye looked set to skyrocket. In a 2019 interview with Elliot Wilson and Brian “B.Dot” Miller on Rap Radar, Drake said that he had “no desire to mend anything” with Kanye.
“There’s something there that bothers him deeply,” he said. “I can’t fix it for him. It just is what it is. I could never, ever, ever, ever turn my back on the things that I’ve said about him in a positive light, and I still feel all those same things.
“[But] things have changed. I’m not just some kid that’s a fan anymore. Now we have personal situations, and like I said, a lot of his issues with me, I can’t fix them for him.”
Two years later, Drake teamed up with Ohio’s Trippie Redd for their track “Betrayal.”
“Ye ain’t changin’ shit for me,” he sang. “It’s set in stone”.
On Twitter, again, Kanye retaliated with a cryptic, since-deleted tweet: a zoomed-in image of a map, apparently with a direct address to Drake’s Toronto Mansion. The post contained no other context. Later, Drake took to instagram to upload a video of himself shaking his head, laughing in the passenger seat of his convertible.
Weeks went by, and both rappers battled it out to reach chart-topping spots for the release of what would be two of the biggest albums of 2021: Drake’s Certified Lover Boy and Kanye’s Donda.
In the lead-up to the launch, Kanye saturated Drake’s hometown of Toronto with enormous billboards advertising the album. Drake, not wanting to be usurped, erected billboards of his own. The city's Yonge-Dundas Square became the site of an album-billboard turf war.
In July and August, and in the lead up to the release of Donda, Kanye moved into a bunker and studio space constructed inside Atlanta’s Mercedez-Benz Stadium. The idea was to perform what would be multiple live listening parties of the new album to sold-out crowds. With no windows, grey walls and a mattress on the floor, his room looked more like a prison cell. The live events – which had by then become something of a Kanye tradition – took over media.
The listening parties themselves were probably one of the most bizarre performances of the year. At one point, Kanye lit himself on fire. Controversial public figures Marilyn Manson and DaBaby appeared on stage to perform. His estranged wife, Kim Kardashian, along with their four children, watched on from the sidelines. Teasing a release date that moved multiple times, his album was finally dropped on the 29th August - apparently without his permission.
Debuting at number one on the Billboard charts, Donda proved to be the album with the biggest release week to date in 2021.
That was, until only a few days later.
On September 3rd, Drake’s Certified Lover Boy took Donda’s place. Also debuting at number one. Kanye’s Donda made way, and Drake’s album sold almost double the amount.
The past 12-years of back-and-forth feuding didn’t fail to make their way onto both albums. On Drake’s “7am in Bridle Path”, he rapped “Told you I’m aiming straight for the head. Not aiming to please/ I can’t give a fuck about who designing sneakers and tees,” taking digs at both Pusha T’s “Infared” as well as West’s clothing line.
In contrast, the approach in Kanye’s “Ok Ok”, was more mournful: “Heal the wound and then you stab me in my back again.”
The final cherry on top came three weeks ago, when Kanye appeared on Noreaga’s Drink Champs podcast and declared that he would beat Drake in a VERZUZ battle: a webcast series that pits two artists and their discographies against each other. He’d later go on to compare their rivalry to the iconic boxing feud of Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson.
“Drake don’t do outright diss songs where it’s a headshot. He’s gonna set it up like war,” Kanye said. “He’s gonna do stuff like live five blocks down the street from you. He’s gonna go DM every single girl in your family, every single girl around your family. All your n----’s girls. It’s away games and home games. This is professional rap.”
NOW: THE END (?)
As the year draws to a close, Kanye and Drake’s 12-year-long beef could also. Though Kanye’s rapid readthrough of an apology looked like someone was threatening him from behind camera, recent posts from the two rappers indicate the sentiments have carried through.
“Tonight, we brought some of the biggest stars on earth. You have to admit to yourself this shit is impressive,” comedian Dave Chappelle yells through a microphone, washed in blue light, in an Instagram post from Drake's home last week. The next slide shows Kanye and Drake, heads together, dancing.
On Kanye’s Instagram the two stand side-by-side. Kanye wears oversized gumboots, looking like a security guard beside Drake in a flannelette shirt, and a white light shining out from under his feet. A white dove holding an olive branch sits as the caption.
It seems all is well. For now.