It’s the question no one is asking – how could it be possible for Kanye not to have his hands in the Drake and Pusha T beef? Now that the dust has settled, we’re diving into the numbers to understand what the consequences of 2018’s defining beef have been – and what exactly happened between Drake and the man he once cited as “the most influential person of his career”, Kanye West.
The Drake and Pusha T beef enthralled rap audiences for 5 weeks – an impressive feat in today’s era where news cycles end and begin in the blink of an eye. Pusha T devoted only 3 explicit bars to Drake on DAYTONA’s closing track “Infrared”, but those 3 bars were enough to bait Drake into a (in hindsight) poorly planned and shortsighted response. Drake’s “Duppy Freestyle” was obliterated just 4 days later by the eerily thorough character assassination on “The Story of Adidon” from Pusha T.
This beef, perhaps hip hop’s defining conflict of the last decade, has much more to it than a couple of diss tracks. The origins can be traced back to 2003, to a still unresolved clash between Pusha T as part of Clipse (with No Malice, and unofficially, The Neptunes) and Cash Money Records. Apparently, Birdman didn’t pay The Neptunes for production duties on 2003 track “What Happened To That Boy”. Shots have flown ever since, from both camps.
Fast-forward to 2010, and Pusha T signs to Kanye’s GOOD Music label. Eight years later, this signature dragged Kanye West into a beef that would define 2018, locking Kanye and his collaborators (Pusha T, Nas, Teyana Taylor and Kid Cudi) into an unprecedented release schedule. Not only would the ream of short albums attempt to make history with its format, but it was also an attempt to decimate Cash Money’s chart influence via Drake’s album Scorpion.
While the explicit beef has played out between Pusha T and Drake, the defining undercurrent has been the barely-concealed hostility between Kanye and Drake.
By the Numbers: Drake vs Kanye West
The respect was always mutual: Kanye never said anything negative about Drake, and during a 2015 Breakfast Club interview even floated the idea of a Drake and Kanye collaborative album. The two collaborated on “Pop Style” from 2016’s VIEWS, they worked together on “Glow” from Drake’s 2017 project More Life, Drake has been credited with writing the hook for Kanye’s 2018 track “Yikes”, and they were working on Drake’s Scorpion together in March 2018.
The answer seems to lie with Pusha T, and as a result Kanye appears to have directed all the firepower at his disposal to curb Drake’s run.
Yet when you compare Drake’s numbers to that of Kanye and GOOD Music, it’s clear Drake may lose occasionally on wax, but never in the charts.
Drake has dramatically outpaced his hero. Outside of critical reviews, he wins most categories comfortably – especially sales. Remember, Kanye had released 4 solo albums in 5 years by the time Drake signed to Cash Money in 2009. For better or worse, Kanye was fully mid-career and Drake was just a rookie. The following year, Kanye dropped arguably his greatest collaborative project with 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
There are even more startling numbers that point to a disparate gap between the level of mainstream success of both artists:
Drake has spent 5x longer in the Billboard 200 top 10, nearly 5 times longer in the top 5, and nearly 4 times as many weeks in the top spot. The numbers put the rumoured Kanye x Drake collaborative album into perspective, and possibly go some way to explaining why it was only Kanye announcing and promoting the possibility, not Drake.
It’s true that Drake has released more solo projects during this period, 7 vs. 4. This is just further proof of Drake’s dominance and continued relevance, and the disconnect between their mainstream influence in the past 9 years.
Drake Vs. Kanye and Pusha T’s GOOD Music
These numbers include every GOOD Music and Drake album released since 2009. Drakes numbers are astonishing up against a label with such illustrious signings and alumni as GOOD Music (Pusha, Big Sean, Kanye).
GOOD Music is a highly successful label, and their president threw everything at Drake; calling out his (as of then un-announced) child, and taking aim at his producer 40’s medical condition. The story emerging since the dust settled, of Drake possibly revealing the information about his child to Kanye during a recording session as far back as March 2018, points to a planned and premeditated attempt to end Drake’s album run.
Was the Campaign Against Drake Successful?
The numbers suggest that even Kanye West, with his almost total ubiquity and a label with 14 years of history and mainstream success couldn’t put a meaningful dent in the commercial legacy and success of Drake.
Scorpion was Drake’s second highest opening week sales figure of all time, but his figure of 160,000 pure sales was by far his lowest. Although it could have effected him in this way, it also could simply reflect the changing way in which we consume content. It must be remembered that Drake did little promo for this album, especially when compared with VIEWS, which was hyped for at least 2 years prior to release, came with a number of massive singles and videos, and featured a huge marketing campaign.
The impact the GOOD Music tactics had on Scorpion are less quantitative and more qualitative. There are numerous songs and verses on the album devoted to subliminally dissing Kanye West and Pusha T, and Joe Budden shone new light on Drake’s lyrical content during a podcast episode that makes strong claims (with receipts) about Drake’s intent and the target of his subs. It certainly feels like Drake added new songs after ”The Story of Adidon” and, although he didn’t release his rumoured “career-ending” diss track, Scorpion is littered with explanations of why he couldn’t.
Drake Is Too Important To The Success of Cash Money Records
It’s unsurprising GOOD Music would target a Drake album if they’re attempting to halt Cash Money Records. Drake has been signed to the label since 2009, and has been an epic cash cow for them, easily their most successful and influential artist.
Drake has out-sold every other Cash Money Records artist (combined) since he first signed, more than doubling Nicki Minaj’s U.S. sales and quadrupling her worldwide sales. His global footprint extends to the charts, with 74 total top 10 chart entries from outside of the U.S.
He has also been the label’s most critically acclaimed signing since 2009. On average, a Drake project receives an average ranking of 7.4/10, two whole points above mentor Lil Wayne. 2018’s Scorpion is Drake’s lowest rated project thus far at 6.7/10.
Drake Carries Cash Money in the Charts
Slowing Drake down slows down Cash Money Records. After Scorpion dropped, Birdman went on record admitting Drake “kept this shit alive for the last four-five years consistently”. Any non-lyrical attempt to damage the success of Cash Money Records must go through Drake first, and GOOD Music tried. Very, very hard. 5 albums in 5 weeks hard.
Who Won This Round, Pusha T or Cash Money?
By the numbers, Pusha T and GOOD Music largely failed in their efforts, and Drake (and by extension, Cash Money Records) emerged victorious once again.
Is the Drake and Pusha T/Kanye Beef Over? Can Drake Even Be Beaten?
Pusha T is by no means the first artist to go at Drake. Drake won a high profile beef with battle rap alumni Meek Mill, he has been fielding subliminal shots from Jay-Z for most of this decade, and he decided not to fully engage with Joe Budden in 2016 (Budden released 4 scathing diss tracks there weren’t responded to).
It seems the beef between Push and Drake is settled, for now, possibly thanks to J Prince (Drake’s mentor), who stepped in before the “…hogs get slaughtered”.
Drake vs. Kanye West may still play out. Scorpion is littered with subliminals aimed at Kanye, and if the rumours of Ye handing Pusha T the information about Drake’s child for “The Story of Adidon” are true, Drake may seek further vengeance, although there is no lyrical content on Scorpion to suggest he plans to be the aggressor.
Drake’s numbers are unlike anything seen in hip-hop since Eminem’s 4 album run from The Slim Shady LP to Encore. Em was absolute teflon during this period and even survived shots from the Government. So far Drake has survived and thrived, and met all challengers with a successful battle plan. Pusha T’s “The Story of Adidon” seems like Drake’s first misstep, but if J Prince is to be believed, Drake had an entire career-ending (either for Push, Kanye, or both) song in the hard drive he decided not to unleash. And Scorpion still did major numbers.
Drake might be unbeatable at this point. He has moved from rap to R&B and pop, and the second disc of Scorpion is aimed squarely at this market, one unconcerned about bars, beefs, and the purity of rap.