As you may have heard, Drake played a bunch of new songs during yesterday’s OVO Sound Radio broadcast on Beats 1. One of them, “Two Birds, One Stone,” included a number of lines dedicated to a certain rapper “with all the drug dealer stories” who “made a couple chops and now you think you Chapo.” Drake could have been talking about half the rap game, but we all know there was only one intended target for those bars: Pusha T.
"But really it’s you with all the drug dealer stories / That’s gotta stop, though / You made a couple chops and now you think you Chapo / If you ask me, though, you ain’t lining the trunk with kilos / You bagging weed watching Pacino with all your niggas / Like “this what we need to be on,” but you never went live / You middle man in this shit, boy you was never them guys / I can tell cause I look most of you dead in your eyes / And you’ll be trying to sell that story for the rest of your lives / Can’t show us where the cash is / Me, I don’t judge, I’m just going off what the math is / Numbers inflated" —Drake
“Two Birds, One Stone” is just the latest slab of meat in a long-brewing beef between Aubrey Graham and Terrence Thornton that’s been sizzling for years now, but no one really knows why. It all began in 2011 when Pusha T appeared to take a dig at Drake over his own beat. Drake later told Funk Flex that he’s never had an issue with Push, but he did clap back with a sassy little comment saying, “it’s a frustrating time for a lot of people right now, I get it.”
Since then there have been stray shots fired on both sides, mainly from the guy with the cornrows, who decided to turn the heat up again on his recently released “H.G.T.V. Freestyle.” “It’s too far gone when the realest ain’t real / I walk amongst the clouds so your ceilings ain’t real / These niggas Call of Duty cause their killings ain’t real / With a questionable pen so the feelin’ ain’t real,” he rapped, referencing Drake’s all but proven employment of a ghostwriter.
Pusha T has been goading Drake for half a decade now, and he finally took the bait on “Two Birds, One Stone.” It’s Aubrey’s boldest—and perhaps bravest—response to one of the most feared rappers in the game who, unlike his last opponent, understands the nuances of rap beef in the internet era. Throw in Kanye West as the conflicted middleman, who once screamed at the top of his lungs that “EVERYTHING IS PUSHA T” but now seems to believe that’s more true about Drake, and this sets up for a thrilling encounter.
Pusha T will more than likely respond to “Two Birds, One Stone.” He’s probably cooking up a 32-bar verse dissecting and dismantling his opponent (who, by the way, is no slouch in a lyrical scrap himself) as we speak. But even if Pusha T did destroy Drake on wax—and yes, he has the means to do so—will it even matter?
Rap beef isn’t decided by the best rhymes anymore but by the biggest record. And in 2016, Drake is the biggest rapper alive—check the box score. The self-appointed 6 God is as much a pop star as he is a rap star, which means he’s able to fill the arena with fans who are generally more impressed by a catchy song than a crippling bar. No one knows this better than Drake himself. “First of all, I made sure it would run in the club because that’s more painful than anything,” he told XXL of his short-lived beef with Common a few years ago. “I wanted to be on a record that you would have to stand around and hear every night for a few months.”
Drake understands how to wield his popularity in a rap beef. When Common dissed him on “Sweet” in 2011, he responded on “Stay Schemin'.” When Joe Budden went after him this year, he hit back on “No Shopping.” When Meek Mill called him out for using a ghostwriter last summer, he famously returned fire with “Charged Up” and “Back to Back,” which both made the Billboard Hot 100. The latter even became the first diss track ever to earn a GRAMMY nod. If you’re in a rap beef and all anyone hears is your diss song, who’s the real winner?
For all his battle experience, however, Drake also understands the unique position he’s in at the top of the totem pole. “I got a lot to lose ‘cause in every situation / I’m the bigger artist, always gotta play it smarter,” he rapped on “4PM In Calabasas.” Drake slips in punches (*looks at Kendrick Lamar*) and settles for insulting his enemies in concert — rather than on wax — when he sees fit. But at this point, how much can he actually lose? If Meek Mill, an experienced battle rapper, exposed Drake for using a ghostwriter and still lost, what chance does anyone else have?
Pusha T may be able to go bar-for-bar with Drake in the ring, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s going up against one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. And it certainly doesn’t change the fact that rap beef is won with hit records. “H.G.T.V. Freestyle” was enough to get a response from Drake, but it’ll take more than that to knock him down for the count.