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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Why Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole’s feud ended in an apology

Tripp Menhall
Deshaun craddock/flickr/iñaki espejo-saavedra/flickr/photoIllustration

Rapper J. Cole got up on stage in front of 50,000 people at his annual Dreamville music festival on April 7. It wasn’t to rap, it was to speak his piece after dissing Kendrick Lamar on “7 Minute Drill” just two days prior.

“That’s the lamest shit I ever did in my fucking life,” Cole said. “I haven’t been sleeping right the past few days, we taking that diss off streaming services.”

Hip-hop was built on competition. From Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. in the ‘90s, to Jay-Z and Nas battling for New York in the 2000s, it’s always been about who’s the No. 1 emcee. So rap fans may be wondering how it got to the point where instead of a diss, an apology was issued.

This all came to fruition last year, when Drake released his highly anticipated album “For All The Dogs” and dropped a song with Cole. On the track titled “First Person Shooter,” Cole raps about the “big three” of hip-hop. It is a consensus in the hip-hop community that Drake, Cole and Lamar are the three best and biggest rappers from the 2010s, and Cole makes reference to this in his verse.

“Love when they argue the hardest emcee is it K-Dot, is it Aubrey or me,” Cole raps. “We the big three like we started the league, but right now I feel like Muhammad Ali.”

To see Cole give both Drake and Lamar their flowers was great to witness, as Lamar had not collaborated with either rapper in over a decade and these industry titans had not collided very often up to that point.

Not only did “First Person Shooter” go No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Cole’s verse sparked conversation online about the big three, and whether or not the three rappers are still at the top of their game in the 2020s.

But a nuclear bomb was about to be dropped on the hip-hop landscape. On March 22, Future and Metro Boomin released their album, “We Don’t Trust You,” with a surprise feature from Lamar on “Like That,” and he had a lot to say.

“Fuck sneak dissin,’ first-person shooter, I hope they came with three switches,” Lamar raps. “Motherfuck the big three … it’s just big me … and your best work is a light pack, Prince outlived Mike Jack’… ‘fore all your dogs gettin’ buried, That’s a K with all these nines, he gon’ see Pet Sematary.”

As someone who thought the rap game took a hit in its entertainment value in 2023, it was thrilling to see Lamar take shots as the most successful hip-hop artist in the game currently. The Westside rapper has had an on-and-off-again feud with Drake for a decade.

The Michael Jackson reference is especially damaging, as Drake has compared himself to the popstar multiple times. Lamar is basically saying that he will outlast the Toronto rapper, in life and in the rap.

Just two weeks later, Cole released a surprise mixtape “Might Delete Later” where he throws shots at Lamar on the final track “7 Minute Drill.”

“He still doing shows, but he fell off like ‘The Simpsons,’” Cole said. “Your first shit was classic, your last shit was tragic, your second shit put them to sleep but they gassed it. Your third shit was massive and that was your prime, I was trailin’ right behind and I now just hit mine.”

It’s especially disingenuous to attack any part of Lamar’s discography, as his bodies of work have few blemishes on them. It seemed from the start that Cole did not want to take any shots at Lamar, and that the North Carolina rapper was conflicted.

And it does seem that the attacks did not come from a place of malice, or were even genuine as Cole would deliver his apology and take back everything he said about the Compton rapper at his Dreamville festival just two days later.

“How many of y’all think Kendrick Lamar is one of the greatest ever to pick up a mic?” Cole said.

As a fan of the rap game, it’s a conflicting dilemma. It’s corny to diss someone and their body of work just to take it all back two days later. And it’s natural to want to see competition from these rappers — especially Cole — who has written in his bars for years how he’s the best in the game and would annihilate anyone lyrically who tries to come at him. But as a person and a human being, it’s mature to be the bigger man and walk away from it all.

So although Cole can sleep at night after making peace with the Compton rapper, it may come at the cost of his throne on rap’s “big three” stage.

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Tripp Menhall
Tripp Menhall, Creative Director

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