Until only recently thanks to self described good guys like Drake and Chance the Rapper, rap has largely prided itself as being a genre filled with those who identify as or relate to the bad guy. The genre has always been made up of a rich pantheon of actual villains. MF Doom once egregiously had his fans pay exorbitant ticket prices only to watch a body double and The Game dexterously punched someone on camera while holding a camera. And of course, we can’t forget the icon that is 50 Cent who has made enemies of everyone in and out of the music industry since the turn of the millenium. In light of recent times, however, it’s time for us to, finally, add PUSHA-T in this rarefied circle.
As we all know, beginning in May (though in earnest nearly a decade ago), PUSHA-T let off a round of pointed jabs at the Cash Money Records team— specifically at Baby and Wayne but with a nice loosie for Drake as well—on DAYTONA’s “Infrared.” On the same day, Drake returned fire with the structurally very good “Duppy Freestyle.” PUSHA pounced on the opportunity, systematically eviscerating Drake on “The Story of Adidon,” on which he attacked Drake as a father and a best friend while managing to sink a seven figure Adidas deal in the process. Inevitably, the beef would end in a ceasefire courtesy of Kanye and the legendary J Prince and for the rest of the summer we’d get several Kanye “You know how the paigon chit-chat goes” subs in its stead.
This past weekend, the conversation picked up again. On Lebron James new HBO series The Shop, Drake conceded his loss to PUSHA as “a well executed chess move” by Kanye West and company. Nevertheless, Drake’s statement directly after that has caused a debate. The Toronto rapper claims there are “rules in diss tracks,” specifically referencing “The Story of Adidon.”
“People love to say, like rap purists and people who just love confrontation, they love to say, 'Aye there’s no rules in this shit.' But there are fucking rules in this shit,” Drake said. “I study rap battles for a living. Now when you mention defenseless people who are sick in the hospital, that passed away, that really sent me to a place where I just believed then, and believe now, that there’s just a price that you have to pay for that."
Unfortunately for Drake, this didn’t really prove his point. Instead, it revealed his inability to rise to the challenge PUSHA presented, and perhaps more importantly, this highlighted not only the viciousness of PUSHA but, like all great villains, the fact that PUSHA thrives off this. He’s been an expert craftsman throughout his career creating malevolent schemes that his enemies—regardless tact or skill—fall short against. Where the ills of confrontation emotionally drain others for him, it’s a, if not the, point of excitement for him. Or as he said in an interview on Hot 97 back in 2015, "Like I said, I still wanna know what part pertained, what hit you. I wanna know. I don't wanna guess... As God as my witness, it's fun. I'm not supposed to be here. This is fun. This is games. And I'm mean with it."
While many have, rightfully, singled out Drake’s bar about PUSHA’s wife, Virginia Williams, as the turning point between diss and the “pigpen mentality,” it’s worth noting what he says right after: “I told Weezy and Baby, "I'ma done him for you." Hindsight is 20/20, sure, but it’s fun to note that in the midst of an entire diss track lies an inadvertent admission of sorts that PUSHA has indeed outplayed and bested a family tree of Drake’s guides and mentors. Once upon a time, Lil Wayne held the title of “Greatest Rapper in the World” but thanks to a long simmering string of barely concealed diss tracks including, but not limited to, “Mr. Me Too,” the Drake-“inspired” freestyle “Don’t Fuck With Me” (though at the time he slyly shirked rumours he was targeting Drake specifically), and the momentous “Exodus 23:1” (he denied this too), he carefully teased Wayne out.
When Wayne finally responded, albeit not at the peak of his powers, PUSHA essentially pushed him to self implode with his now iconic opening line on “Ghoulish (Pusha T Diss)”: “Fuck Pusha T and anybody that love him/His head up his ass, I'mma have to head-butt him.” While time heals all let’s not forget that for a whole day #ThingsBetterThanLilWaynesPushaTDiss was the number one trending topic. Again, PUSHA is a king at poking at buttons but also is gifted with the instinct to give pause. A 50 Cent would keep pushing and pushing till his opponent crumbles or he catches a hefty lawsuit. PUSHA understands that petty is best when its patient. Take, for example, Drake’s shots on “Two Birds One Stone.” It was largely understood by rap spectators that this was the time PUSHA was waiting for. That he’d finally been given the final go ahead to respond. But he largely remained quiet.
Just recently, in response to Drake’s appearance on The Shop, PUSHA made a lengthy appearance on The Joe Budden podcast. In the interview he’d note that longtime collaborator and half of the musical property that is Drake, Noah “40” Shebib was responsible for leaking information on Drake’s hidden child. “The information came from 40. It didn’t come from Kanye, at all. 40 is sleeping with a woman, who begins to…he talks to her daily. Five, six hours a day…And ultimately speaks about how he’s disgruntled about certain things, notoriety and things involving Drake and his career, and so on and so forth. With that also came the fact that Drake has a child,” he said.
He’d also note that Drake’s story of a diss track was false with “tapes” to back his statement up while calling out the hypocrisy of his “no rules” comment. Whether any of his statements are true or not, that’s not the point. As he notes he wants to “kill the narrative” but also, in true PUSHA fashion, twist it as well. This is a spectator’s sport and why not have the world believe your trusted companion is responsible for your current tribulations? To go even further, why not have you question the loyalty of the people in your closest circles. This point in particular is the best game PUSHA plays and what makes PUSHA a great villain. The best blows are the ones no one knows but you. Before anyone even understood the context of naming his diss track “Adidion” and that he single handedly ruined the SEO for an entire brand campaign, Drake did. On “Exodus 23:1,” when PUSHA said, “Contract all fucked up/I guess that means you all fucked up/You signed to one nigga that signed to another nigga/ That's signed to three niggas, now that's bad luck,” we understood it was lodged at YMCMB but we didn’t understand the extent of his claims until Carter V and subsequent internal label disputes made it evident— Baby and Wayne did, however. Hell, “Surgical Summer” works double time as a shallow descriptor of his process while hinting at allegations made by Budden’s little heard “Afraid” diss that Drake got his abs surgically implanted.
Nevertheless, where PUSHA supersedes his peers is his unwavering focus. The particular brand of petty PUSHA engages in is best exemplified by a quote from eternal Adventure Time when Jake The Dog yells casually, ““I’ll kill you and raise your children as my own.” PUSHA, without prejudice has one target and no qualms extending his animosity from one familiar to another in the most corrupt manner at his disposal. Most petty of all, let us never ever forget this all started over a BAPE sweater more than a decade ago.
Jabbari is still a devotee of “The Rule of Two.” Follow him on Twitter.