And the Winner of the Drake vs Meek Mill Feud Is: Hip-Hop?
Ultimately, Meek Mill lost this feud more to the Internet and poor judgment than to Drake himself. Hip-hop, however, wins in the end, not because the diss tracks involved are gems, but because a clear line has been drawn in the sand, ensuring that Drake probably will stop being brought up when people talk about top fives dead or alive (yes, I’ve seen it happen). Even if Meek isn’t perceived as a rapper’s rapper*, his accusation ensured that rappers are still held accountable to the authenticity of their products, and it got that conversation going. That in itself is a win for rap conservatism because light is being shed on what’s being allowed to slide in hip-hop.
No top-tier MC has been proven to use a ghostwriter. It’s what makes Hard Core more of a triumph for Biggie than for Li’l Kim; it’s why air-quotes must be applied when referring to Sean Combs, one of the first and last to admit to paying to have his rhymes written, as a “rapper.” Sauce Money in particular was named as the pen behind Combs’ “I’ll Be Missing You,” and other MCs like Skyzoo have copped to ghostwriting for other unnamed rappers. For artists whose strengths lie in places other than the mic, such as Combs, Kanye West, or Dr. Dre, it’s not as big a deal to have your rhymes written for you, so long as you’re not categorizing yourself as a top-shelf MC. Neither Drake or Meek will be remembered as an elite, but Meek’s accusation sparked a debate that needed to happen: hip-hop fans needed affirmation that writing one’s own lyrics is still important, and that claiming someone doesn’t is an infraction worthy of retaliation.
The epic error on Meek Mill’s end was misreading the Drake fan base, and the mainstream-rap-buying public; he assumed that it would make any difference to them whether or not the Canadian rap-singer writes his own rhymes. Even hip-hop heads weren’t alarmed, considering the fact that Drake’s actual bars aren’t exactly known for warranting a rewind. We’re not talking about Black Thought here. Love or hate his work, I think fans and detractors alike can agree no one is queuing up a Drake record to have their mind blown in awe of his top-shelf lyrical prowess. Super-fans might disagree; they’re just wrong is all. Drake makes hit records, and excellent bars are not a prerequisite for moving units—even when those units are categorized as rap releases.
Coincidentally, this is the same reason that Meek Mill is able to sell. The bar’s been lowered for bars and fans of mainstream rap couldn’t care less who writes them. The rest of us will know the difference.
*This in spite of Meek’s history in the Philly battlerap scene.