The Complete History of Drake & Jay Z’s Cold War
Unlike J. Cole, Drake doesn’t seem to care if his idols turn into his rivals.
Since becoming the rapper-everyone-loves-to-hate, Drake has beefed with Common, Pusha T, Diddy, Ludacris and even Kanye West to varying degrees, but none has blown hot and cold quite like his rivalry with Jay Z.
Over the last eight years, Drake and Hov have traded as many compliments as they have bars. The budding relationship they built on early collaborations like “Off That” and “Light Up” soon turned into a competition when Drake aimed for the throne on “I’m On One.”
Since then, it’s been one long, unpredictable and ultimately clean sparring match between the two heavyweights: the young champ claiming his title versus the aging legend asserting his authority. Drake puts himself in the conversation alongside a great, while Hov is able to tap into a younger audience—it’s a fight that benefits both men.
Don’t get it twisted: there’s never been real beef between Drake and Jay Z. “I’ve expressed my admiration and respect for Jay countless times—that’ll never change,” Drizzy explained to Zane Lowe. “Sometimes we just fall on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the rap world.”
With Jay Z firing the latest shots at Drake on DJ Khaled’s newly-released “Shining,” this long-running rivalry is far from over.
Here’s a complete timeline of Drake and Jay Z’s cold war so far.
Jay Z and Drake Collaborate For the First Time on “Off That”
Just six months after releasing his breakout mixtape So Far Gone (which, coincidentally, turned eight yesterday), Jay Z extended an olive branch to Drake by tapping him for The Blueprint 3 cut, “Off That.” Though he only appeared on the hook, Hov’s co-sign was another major feather in Aubrey’s then-burgeoning cap.
Fun fact: J. Cole also got his first major look on The Blueprint 3 (on the aptly titled “A Star Is Born”), but Cole and Hov’s relationship is another story entirely.
Jay Z Gives Drake Some Friendly Advice on “Light Up”
The following year, Jay Z repaid the favor by guesting on Drake’s debut album, Thank Me Later. On “Light Up,” the Prince got to test his sword against that of the King. Aubrey brushed off the critics with the confidence of ’98 Hov (“Was that directed at moi? Can’t be / They must be talking to themselves Hov, hands free”), but he still had a few things to learn from his OG. “Drake, here’s how they gon’ come at you / With silly rap feuds, trying to distract you,” Jay warned. Oh, the irony.
Drake Aims For The Throne on DJ Khaled’s “I’m On One”
Though it took Jay Z three albums to solidify his superstar status, Drake clearly felt like he was a fast learner. With Watch The Throne and Take Care dropping the same year, Drizzy made his intentions crystal clear to the competition on DJ Khaled’s summer smash, “I’m On One”: “I’m just feeling like the throne is for the taking, watch me take it.”
Neither Drake (“Hov diss? Hov of all people has not lost it…that’s god body flow”) nor Jay (“We hear the lines…It’s cool! It wasn’t meant with malice or disrespect”) saw it as a diss, but the first jab had been landed.
Drake Has Lil Wayne’s Back On “It’s Good”
In 2009, back when Birdman and Lil Wayne’s relationship felt more like A Perfect World and less like He Got Game, Birdman claimed that Wayne was better than Jay Z because he has more money. More than a year later, Hov threw a bucket of cold water on Baby’s hot take on Watch The Throne’s first single, “H.A.M.”: “I’m like, ‘really? Half a billi n*gga, really?’ You got baby money / Keep it real with n*ggas, n*ggas ain’t got my lady’s money.”
Reigniting their own cold war of words, Weezy turned Hov’s taunt into a cold-blooded threat on his Carter IV cut, “It’s Good” (“Talkin’ bout baby money, I got ya baby money / Kidnap yo bitch, get that how-much-you-love-yo-lady money”). Though not as blatant, Drake appeared to take a dig at The Throne himself during his verse on the song: “Please pardon my brother, he’s just angry at you n*ggas / Who don’t have your heart in your rap shit and got too fucking comfy.”
Let’s be honest, who wasn’t disappointed after hearing “H.A.M.”?
Drake Admits He Wasn’t Happy About “D.O.A.” Beating “Best I Ever Had” at the GRAMMYs
“The one that really got to me was when I lost to ‘D.O.A.’ for ‘Best I Ever Had,’” Drake told Billboard, referring to Jay Z’s win for Best Rap Solo Performance in 2010. “That one to me was, like, really? Not to say that Jay-Z isn’t the most incredible rapper and that ‘D.O.A.’ wasn’t a good song. I just felt like they had an option to give me a GRAMMY for a mixtape, and they just didn’t do it [laughs]. Because it goes against the grain of everything that is traditional.”
If that comment seems ancient after Chance The Rapper’s multiple wins on Sunday night, then Drake’s prediction about his future GRAMMY prospects was even more off-base. “Would I love to win a GRAMMY? Sure,” he said. “Will I win one after that comment? Probably not.” Since losing out to Hov in 2010, Drake has won three GRAMMYs.
“N*ggas In Paris” Inspires Drake to Make “Started From the Bottom”
He might not have been impressed by “H.A.M.,” but “N*ggas In Paris” certainly left an impression on Drake. In a 2014 Rolling Stone profile, he admitted that The Throne’s mega-hit challenged him to “come up with a rapped hook just as catchy as a sung one.” Thus, “Started From the Bottom” was born. Safe to say he rose to that challenge.
When Drake hears a song he wishes he’d made, “I get physically sick,” he says, adding, “It doesn’t happen often.” It happened in 2011, when he heard Jay Z and Kanye West’s “Ni**as in Paris,” from 'Watch the Throne.' “I was like, ‘How did I not think of that?’ — ‘Ball so hard, that shit cray!’ It was real rap shit, but it felt melodic; all the cadences felt so good.” The song directly inspired “Started From the Bottom,” he says, challenging him to come up with a rapped hook just as catchy as a sung one.
Drake Reunites With His “Incredible Mentor” Jay Z on “Pound Cake”
After a lengthy cooling-off period following their back-and-forth in 2011, Drake and Jay Z finally reunited on wax on 2013’s “Pound Cake.” Not only did Hov send Drake two a cappella verses—something he “never” does—he even let Drake keep the song for Nothing Was the Same, despite wanting to use it for his own album, Magna Carta Holy Grail. No wonder Drake called Jay an “incredible mentor.”
Drake Mocks Jay Z’s “Trendy Art Shout-Outs”
Just when you thought their cold war had frozen over, Drake—like a little kid boxing with his daddy—resumed the jabs against Jay Z just months after dropping Nothing Was the Same. In the same Rolling Stone profile, Aubrey mocked Hov’s recent affinity for art references in his raps (“Picasso Baby”), sparking an even tastier—yet still clean—sparring match between the two heavyweights.
Drake is interested in art, but he scoffs at how trendy art shout-outs have become in rap. “It’s like Hov can’t drop bars these days without at least four art references!” he says. “I would love to collect at some point, but I think the whole rap/art world thing is getting kind of corny.”
As for his somewhat tense rivalry with The Throne in 2011, Drake chalked it down to “a lack of communication paired with natural competitiveness.”
Jay Z Emasculates Drake on Jay Electronica’s “We Made It”
Hov didn’t take nearly as much time to respond to Drake’s art comment as he did to Birdman’s swipe. Just a month after Rolling Stone published the Drake piece, Jay Z put “Mrs. Drizzy” in her place on Jay Electronica’s “We Made It” remix. “Sorry Mrs. Drizzy for so much art talk / Silly me rappin’ ‘bout shit that I really bought / While these rappers rap about guns they ain’t shot / And a bunch of other silly shit that they ain’t got,” he rapped. Only a Drake diss could eclipse the fact that Jay Z and Jay Electronica actually released a song together.
Drake Makes Jay Z Feel Old on “Draft Day”
Just a week later, Drake dropped “Draft Day,” which contained a soft yet slick swipe at his older opponent: “I’m focused on making records and gettin’ bigger / Just hits, no misses, that’s for the married folk.” In case anyone started to believe he actually had beef with Hov, Drake kept it cordial later on in his verse: “I think I’m on my eighth flow, just watch me paint flow / We all do it for the art so I could never hate though.”
Drake Makes Jay Z Feel Old (and Rich) at an NBA Game
Here’s where these jabs really start turning into limp backhands. Shortly after dropping “Draft Day,” Drake took another little dig at Jay Z while attending a playoff game between his hometown Toronto Raptors and Hov’s Brooklyn Nets. “This is the people’s team out here tonight, you know what I mean, Toronto Raptors. Jay Z’s somewhere eating a fondue plate,” he said. The Nets ended up beating the Raptors 94–87, which was probably karma for Drake’s terrible joke.
Jay Z Takes a Not-So-Hard Shot at “Soft” Drake on DJ Khaled’s “They Don’t Love You No More”
After feeling the bruising effects of those “misses” and “fondue” remarks, Jay Z struck back with equal force on DJ Khaled’s “They Don’t Love You No More” (this was Khaled’s first and long-awaited collaboration with Hov, so he must have really been in the mood for a scrap). Following verses from Meek Mill and Rick Ross, Jay dropped an atom bomb on what was left of Mike Zombie’s blistering beat: “Niggas talking down on the crown / Watch them niggas you ‘round got you wound / Haters wanna ball, let me tighten up my draw string / Wrong sport, boy, you know you’re as soft as a lacrosse team.” Ether, b!
Drake Declares Himself the New Jay Z on “Summer Sixteen”
“Is Drake the New Jay Z?” is a fierce debate that divides opinion, but there’s certainly a case to be argued. From owning his own label and clothing line to repping his hometown basketball team, not to mention being the biggest selling rapper around, Drake’s ascension resembles the blueprint Jay Z laid down. But on last year’s “Summer Sixteen,” Aubrey said fuck it and boldly snatched the throne he’s been watching since “I’m On One.” “I used to wanna be on Roc-A-Fella then I turned into Jay,” he bragged while humbling Meek Mill and Tory Lanez.
Jay Z Gives Drake Half a Bar on “Pop Style”
After going at it in round two in 2014, Drake and Jay Z called another time-out and reunited (again, sort of) on “Pop Style.” Despite being billed as The Throne’s comeback party, Hov pulled a D-Wade pump fake and rapped all of two lines on the song (“They still out to get me, they don’t get it / I cannot be got, and that’s a given”).
Kanye claimed Jay innocently “thought of a couple lines” after dropping in on his studio session, but some would argue his contribution was more calculated than that. “And all you other cats throwing shots at Jigga / You only get half a bar: fuck y’all n*ggas,” Hov famously rapped on 2001’s “Takeover.”
Either way, Drake didn’t seem too pleased. “Of course, people want to hear Jay Z rap, so hearing him do two lines might be frustrating to a certain audience,” he told Zane Lowe.
Jay Z Lets Drake Know There’s Only One Jay Z on DJ Khaled’s “I Got the Keys”
New Jay Z? Please. For the second time in a row, Hov used a DJ Khaled song to put Drake back in his place. “N*ggas always asking me the key / Til you own your own you can’t be free / Til you’re on your own you can’t be me / How we still slaves in 2016?” he rapped, making a subtle reference to his “I own my own masters” line from “We Made It.” Later on, Jay makes it abundantly clear there’ll never be a new him: “Real life I’m like Hov, real life I’m life goals / In real life they’re like me? In real life I’m like, ‘No.’”
Drake Removes The Throne From “Pop Style” Due to Streaming Politics
Shortly after dropping his “collaboration” with The Throne, Drake released a solo version of “Pop Style” that would appear on his Views album. According to Kanye, the song was scrapped due to streaming politics. “I wasn’t on this song because of Hov,” he revealed during a Saint Pablo show last October. “Y’all didn’t get what y’all was supposed to get with me and Drake on this song ‘cause of some Apple/Tidal bullshit.”
Of course, Drake has a multi-million deal with Apple Music while Jay Z is the owner of Tidal. (Ye also revealed that Hov wanted to take himself off the song anyway out of respect for Drake’s bigger rival, Meek Mill, who is signed to Roc Nation management).
The politics behind “Pop Style” appeared to drive a wedge between The Throne, too. At that same concert, Kanye called Jay Z out for not visiting him after Kim’s Paris robbery and not letting their kids play together.
Drake Plays It Patiently on "Sneakin'"
Drake may have felt like an early contender for the throne in 2011, but he acknowledges he still has some growing to do. On his 21 Savage-assisted “Sneakin',” Drizzy sneakily responded to Jay Z’s ownership taunts on “I Got the Keys”: “You ain’t own it right away, you had to wait on n*ggas / Man, I’m only 29, have some patience with us / Plus I never met nobody from my label, n*gga / I just pop up with the music then they pay a n*gga.”
It’s worth reminding that at the same age Hov dropped Reasonable Doubt, Drake had wrapped up the highest grossing tour of 2012 and won the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album. Plus, it wasn’t until he turned 45 when Jay finally owned those masters he bragged out.
Jay Z Keeps the Cold War Alive on DJ Khaled’s “Shining”
And so, after eight years of mutual-respect-with-a-side-of-lyrical-jabs, Jay Z and Drake’s on-off relationship brings us here. On Sunday night, following the 59th Annual GRAMMY Awards, Hov heated things up once again by throwing thinly-veiled shots at Drake on “Shining,” DJ Khaled’s star-studded collaboration with Mr. and Mrs. Carter.
“I shouldn’t even worry, backward n*ggas / 12 solo albums, all Platinum, n*gga /I know you ain’t out here talkin’ numbers, right? / I know you ain’t out here talkin’ summers, right?” he raps, shooting down Drake’s “Summer Sixteen.” Jay also name checks 21 Savage by repeating the line, “21 GRAMMYs, I’m a savage n*gga,” which could also be a reference to Drake and 21’s “Sneakin'.”
Of course, there’s no denying Jay Z’s incredible run from 1996 to 2004, in which he dropped six consecutive number one albums and countless hit singles. But since So Far Gone, Drake has enjoyed his own eight-year hot streak that shows no signs of slowing down. Hov may have 12 Platinum albums under his belt, but as Drake said on “Know Bout Me,” “If this was 10 years ago, n*gga would’ve went diamond.”
With More Life fast approaching, and the follow-up to Magna Carta Holy Grail potentially on the horizon, Drake and Jay Z’s cold war is far from over.
By Andy James. You can follow him on Twitter.