The Meek Mill/Drake beef is over. It ended last year. Drake won. Everybody knows this. In fact, it’s been years since we’ve seen a high-profile rap feud end this conclusively. It’s not just conventional wisdom that Drake completely overwhelmed Meek. It’s practically historical fact. Even Meek Mill apologists (like, ahem, me) have to acknowledge that he went into that thing woefully unprepared. He had one halfway damaging line about Drake — that he wasn’t writing his own lyrics — and he thought that would be enough for an easy victory. He was wrong. Drake hit him with the full force of his charisma, of his team’s strategy sessions, and of his superstar advantage, and he just annihilated Meek. By the time Meek got it together to respond, that response was scattered and practically unlistenable. So: He lost, Drake won, and that’s the end of it. But Drake and Meek Mill can’t leave it alone.
Last month, when Meek released his first 4/4 EP on SoundCloud, he was still trying to win, even though it was very much over. Meek’s anti-Drake lines seemed more urgent and forceful than they’d been months before, but he still hadn’t bothered to turn them into a real song. And it just seemed sad. Meek came off like a boxer, waking up on a bloodstained canvas in the middle of the night — the arena empty, his opponent off at his victory party — back up on his feet and swinging wildly at nothing. He’d lost. There was nothing he could do. But Drake wouldn’t leave it alone, either.
“Summer Sixteen,” the new song that Drake released to help stoke anticipation for his Views From The 6 album, is a pretty decent Drake song. It’s not a great Drake song. It doesn’t even really try to be a great Drake song. Instead, it’s more an act of positioning, an attempt to settle old scores. It opens with a slick line directed at the President of the United States of America — “tell Obama that my verses are like the whips that he in, they bulletproof” — since Obama had the temerity to say that he prefers Kendrick Lamar. It also has a whole verse for Tory Lanez, the young ascendent Toronto rapper who’s refused to kiss Drake’s ring.
But the meat of the song is about Meek. On the first verse, Drake paints a portrait of himself and his crew in the Four Seasons Toronto, finishing up “Back To Back” the same night Meek was in town, touring with Nicki Minaj. Drake says that he checked into the room directly above Meek and played the song over and over while Meek was trying to sleep. Drake doesn’t pitch that verse as any kind of victory lap. He doesn’t sound happy or exhilarated, the way he did on “Back To Back.” Instead, he sounds grim, tense, determined. “It’s nothing personal,” he tells Drake. “I would’ve done it to anyone.” It’s a warning. And it’s not a warning Meek heeded.
Fifteen minutes after Drake released “Summer Sixteen,” Meek posted another 4/4 EP on SoundCloud. The last song on that EP is “War Pain,” which directly targets Drake, once again. But there’s a twist this time. Meek had heard everything Drake said on “Summer Sixteen,” and he refuted it all, point by point. We know Drake’s story about the Four Seasons hotel is true because Meek sketches it out in the intro, confirming everything Drake said: “Them chumps upstairs; they know not to come down here, playing no real niggas.” Deeper into the song, Meek talks about snatching OVO chains, snarls at the idea that Drake could be the new Jay Z, and chastises Drake for going after Tory Lanez, a young guy from his own city. He calls him a culture vulture, which, way more than the whole ghostwriting thing, is probably where Drake is most vulnerable. None of Meek’s lines — “Niggas dancing like they fruitcakes / ‘Hotline Bling’ don’t get no bing up in this new Wraith” — are knockout blows, but he delivers them with that chaotic sense of purpose that makes him such a great rapper in the first place. But the real interesting thing is the timing.
Timing has been the key to this whole feud from the beginning. When Meek fired his first shots on Twitter, he did it when he was on tour, and wasn’t really in a position to record a quick diss track. And he did it just before Drake’s whole OVO Fest, which gave Drake a chance to make the entire show about Meek. Meek took so long to record a follow-up song that he built up anticipation that it would be something special, and that made it worse when the song was so weak. But now, for once, Meek has timing on his side. Before anyone really had time to process Drake’s song, Meek is jumping out to grab the narrative. It’s not enough to throw the outcome of last year’s feud into doubt — nothing could do that — but it finally makes Meek look like something other than a sore loser.
And that’s where the conspiracy-theory angle comes in. Meek didn’t write, record, master, and post “War Pain” in 15 minutes. He heard the song ahead of time. That means somebody in Drake’s camp — one of the few people with access — sent the song to Meek. So who was it? And why did he or she do it? Does Meek have double-agent spies embedded in Drake’s organization? Is there someone in the crew who resents Drake enough to help out his greatest foe? Lately, we’re seeing all these stories of a camp of OVO collaborators working on Views From The 6 in tents; maybe someone is sick of those fucking tents. (Quentin Miller, the guy who Meek identified as Drake’s ghostwriter last year, only offered cryptic comment when people accused him of leaking the song.)
In any case, this thing is suddenly fun again. Before the weekend, Meek’s best move seemed to be absolute silence. If someone had asked me, I would’ve suggested that Meek just go away for a while, lick his wounds, fight his court case. Everyone knows he lost, so he didn’t need to jump back into view and remind everyone that he lost. And maybe he should still go away. But for once, he’s got some points up on the board. And it’ll be interesting to see if Drake responds back, if he lets Meek distract him from his creative process.
1. 2 Chainz – “MF’n Right”
2 Chainz isn’t at his best when he’s making self-conscious party music. Instead, he’s at his best when he’s quiet and contained, when his energy has room to focus and when it doesn’t just explode all over the place. This time, he’s got a ghostly-catchy beat from Mike Will Made-It and Zaytoven, and it’s about the best possible context for him.
2. Lushlife – “Strawberry Mansions” (Feat. Freeway)
The bit at the beginning with Sway talking is irritating, but the song is worth the wait. The beat, from Lushlife and CSLSX, is a lush and busy glimmer. And while Lush has fun on it, the real attraction is hearing Freeway, sounding strong again after he had to deal with kidney failure, ripping into a beat way weirder than anything even Just Blaze gave him in his Roc-a-Fella halcyon days.
3. A$AP Rocky – “Hear Me” (Feat. Pharrell)
It’s easy to make fun of A$AP Rocky and the goofy fashion-centric version of toughness he’s brought to rap. But can we take a moment for how cool it is to hear an A-list rapper bragging about spending time at film festivals? And not having it be a Jay Z-type “now I will try to sound sophisticated” thing? Also, this song knocks.
4. Chi Hoover – “Adderall”
Fussy Midwestern precision can be a beautiful thing.
5. Jay Dot Rain & Lil Nardy – “Look At Me Now”
Listen to that beat twinkle.