How social media has amplified and accelerated Drake and Kendrick Lamar’s rap battle

The ongoing battle between Drake and Kendrick Lamar is unfolding at high speed across social media platforms and streaming services, exemplifying how modern technology amplifies and accelerates competition at the heart of hip-hop culture.

“It’s a high-profile feud with two of the top four talents in rap,” said Dalton Higgins, who wrote a biography of Drake and teaches a university course on the Toronto rapper and The Weeknd.

“You combine that with TikTok, Instagram, Meta, X, and this is the end result. It’s entire weeks of people opining and opining about who they think won.”

The dispute reached a fever pitch over the weekend as the pair traded increasingly personal insults in a flurry of dissenting topics in quick succession.

And while rap battles are as old as hip-hop itself, it’s the speed and scale that sets this fight apart, he said.

“There have always been problems: Tupac/Biggie, Nas/Jay-Z, Ice Cube/Common. It goes on and on. But in the age of social media, everything is being amplified. People are literally sitting in front of their laptops and phones, creating memes, creating GIFs.”

Each of those memes, images and videos can be classified based on their content and intent, said Fuyuki Kurasawa, director of York University’s Global Citizenship Lab.

There are explanatory posts, he said, in which social media users delve into what the lyrics of different songs mean, explore the origin of the problem or teach about the history of hip-hop more broadly.

Then there are live reaction videos, Kurasawa said, in which people film themselves listening to tracks in real time and reacting to what they hear.

And finally, he said, there are opinion posts from people responding to other people’s reactions.

“There are posts that take excerpts from previous reactions or previous posts and respond to them,” he said. “It’s kind of an endless loop, if you will, that we’ve seen before on the Internet, but it’s particularly viral now because of the popularity and visibility of this.”

Kurasawa said the engagement is similar to a live sporting event: Everyone is sharing the same experience at the same time, watching each other’s reactions and creating their own.

Not only is the pace of responses faster, said Del Cowie, a Toronto-based music journalist, but the battle itself is unfolding at speeds that would have been impossible before.

“Biggie and Tupac would have been around in ’94, ’95, before social media; before broadband Internet, that’s for sure,” Cowie said.

In decades past, for distortion tracks to be shared widely, they had to be released in physical format, sometimes as singles, other times on albums.

“Because of the medium, it wouldn’t have been as immediate,” Cowie said. “In this case, what we’re seeing is people streaming online from home and going through the songs line by line, responding while there are thousands of people watching, giving their interpretations at once.

“It’s a lot of information transmitted at the same time, in real time.”

And the information, he stated, is juicy.

Drake and Lamar have thrown accusations back and forth that have gotten increasingly uglier. The Californian rapper accused Drake of being a bad father, and Drake alleged infidelity and accused Lamar of abusing his fiancee.

Less than an hour later, Lamar released a song accusing Drake of having a secret daughter, and then throughout the night he unleashed another insult-filled song, many of them surrounding his accusation that Drake is attracted to underage girls. , an accusation Drake denies. The single cover of Lamar’s “Not Like Us” features a Google Maps image of Drake’s Bridle Path mansion.

“It feeds what draws people to social media in the first place,” Cowie said. “It’s a little bit complicated”.

It also offers an opportunity for heavy social media users to get noticed, said Rhonda McEwen, a professor at the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology at the University of Toronto iSchool.

“You can find out who is not on the same side as you. You can have very strong opinions and share them. And you can build up followers,” McEwen said.

“You yourself could be considered a leader in the debate.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 9, 2024.

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