Zane Lowe's talk with Drake shortly before Views dropped wasn't an interview, it was an hour long commercial, and of course, it was. Why would Drake risk doing an actual interview, where someone might ask him actual questions, right before his album release if he wasn't absolutely sure he could control it, ensure it served as a perfect promotional vehicle? Why would Zane Lowe, who's getting paid by the same people who put out the album, do anything but serve up softballs for Drake to hit out the park?
And that's fine, that's just Zane doing his job as a cog in the Drake album release machine. This is a rap album, not Watergate, no need to bemoan the state of journalism. This is entertainment, and it's still an entertaining listen in sections, but the unfortunate side effect of Lowe not pressing Drake in the slightest is that some very large questions go unanswered. Namely, why did he take Jay Z and Kanye off "Pop Style" for the album?
"I just ended up going with my version of that song. Jay didn’t really do a verse. Really I was just trying to get 'Ye on it at first, and 'Ye just sent it to me like that, like, 'Yo, Jay just kind of did my first two lines for me. He was just here, and that's how we flexed it.' It was cool, he was all excited about, 'Yo, put The Throne, it'll be a crazy moment!'
Of course people want to hear Jay Z rap, so hearing two lines might be frustrating to a certain audience...I was having a conversation with Kanye and that [Jay's verse] just kind of landed in my lap. I dealt with it accordingly. It didn't play out how I would have wanted it to as far as business goes, so I just figured it would be easier to go with my version."
So he asked Kanye for a verse, and when he got it back he unexpectedly found a couple lines from Jay Z on it. He initially tried to roll with it and released it as a single, but somewhere between the song release and the album something happened, and he decided to just take them both off entirely.
That's Drake's story, but it's obviously only scratching the surface of what truly happened behind-the-scenes. Did he take Jay and Kanye off because of negative feedback to the song, or because of "business" reasons? Both? What "business" reasons? Why not just take Jay's two lines off and leave Kanye? Why not just remove the song entirely from the album?
Those are all questions I would have loved to hear asked and answered - releasing an official single with two of the biggest names in hip-hop history and then removing them three weeks later on the album is kind of a big deal—but since that's clearly not happening, I'm going to read between the lines.
Drake gets the verse back from Kanye and unexpectedly finds Jay Z on it. Drake's less than enthused. He didn't plan on having Jay on the album, and he doesn't like how it sounds. But how do you tell Jay Z, the most powerful rapper on the planet, that his shit is weak and you want to cut his part out? How do you tell Kanye, who was apparently in excited steamroller Kanye mode, that his brilliant idea to bring in Jay didn't work?
I find it hard to believe this was about money, everyone involved is far too wealthy to be sweating payment for a guest verse or haggling over publishing points. The only thing that makes sense to me is that this was about pride and ego. From Jay's perspective, wouldn't he feel like, "Oh, you want to cut me out?" From Kanye's perspective, you're going to tell your close friend and mentor that you're cutting him out of a song because Aubrey Graham didn't like it, especially since it seems like it was Kanye's idea to bring Jay on in the first place? From Drake's perspective, how do you tell two hip-hop icons what they did wasn't good enough to make your album? There had to have been more politics happening behind the scenes here than Capitol Hill.
Maybe he didn't say a word, maybe he tried to maneuver Kanye into cutting out Jay, but either way Drake clearly initially folded and put the song out as is. Maybe he had even convinced himself that it actually sounded dope, but the public reaction confirmed his worst fears. "Why is this Jay Z verse so short?" is not the kind of question he wanted to permanently attach to the masterpiece he was attempting to create.
Now he was backed into a corner. Even if Kanye and Jay were cool with Jay being cut out, which I doubt, removing just Jay for the album would provoke endless speculation about the drama between the two, and removing the song entirely wouldn't work. Axing an album's mega lead single weeks later would look even worse. So Drake did the only thing he could do - he took the entire verse off.
All of this is obviously the kind of speculation hip-hop obsessives like us are forced to do in lieu of actual answers, but it makes sense to me. Ultimately the music industry is a relationship business, and Drake and Jay have one of the most complicated relationships in the business, both musically and professionally (ex. Apple Music vs. TIDAL). On good terms they could help each other immeasurably, on bad terms they could spark a hip-hop Civil War. Which is why Drake took such pains to follow his story with some diplomacy:
I've expressed my admiration for Jay countless times, that'll never change. Sometimes we just fall on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the rap world. And it's always mutual respect, but sometimes it has to be from afar due to other...situations.
In a decade, when the stakes are lower and everyone's had some time to cool off, we'll get the full story. But in the meantime, Drake's anti-interview stance (or at least anti-interviews he can't control stance) means we'll have to guess at what happened between three absolute music powerhouses that lead to a massive single being completely removed from the album almost overnight.
There are some amazing stories in Drake's vault, we just need to hear them.