Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and the Benefits of Beef

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The rap superstars Drake and Kendrick Lamar have been on a collision course for a decade, trading periodic diss tracks to assert their superiority—but earlier this month the long-simmering beef erupted into a showdown that said as much about the artists as it did about the art. On this episode of Critics at Large, Vinson Cunningham, Naomi Fry, and Alexandra Schwartz examine how the back-and-forth devolved from a litigation of craft into a series of ad-hominem attacks alleging everything from cultural appropriation to pedophilia. They discuss the way rivalries function in the creative world, fuelling new work and compelling audiences to pay closer attention to it than ever before. The hosts also consider other feuds of note, from a nineteenth-century debate over Shakespearean actors that ended in violence to the writer Renata Adler’s blistering takedown of the film critic Pauline Kael in The New York Review of Books. Why do so many of these schisms revolve around fundamental questions of authenticity and belonging? And, once they start to spiral, is there any going back? “Conflict can be productive emotionally and also artistically,” Schwartz says. “But this is not a place that we can permanently reside.”

Read, watch, and listen with the critics:

DAMN.,” by Kendrick Lamar
To Pimp a Butterfly,” by Kendrick Lamar
Control,” by Big Sean featuring Kendrick Lamar and Jay Electronica
First Person Shooter,” by Drake featuring J. Cole
Like That,” by Future, Metro Boomin, and Kendrick Lamar
Push Ups,” by Drake
Taylor Made Freestyle,” by Drake
Back to Back,” by Drake
euphoria,” by Kendrick Lamar
6:16 in LA,” by Kendrick Lamar
meet the grahams,” by Kendrick Lamar
Not Like Us,” by Kendrick Lamar
THE HEART PART 6,” by Drake
Stormy Daniels’s American Dream,” by Naomi Fry (The New Yorker)
The Perils of Pauline,” by Renata Adler (The New York Review of Books)

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