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Rappers Drake and Kendrick Lamar vie for the spotlight

The quarrel has been brewing for years, it exploded in recent days.

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Rappers Drake and Kendrick Lamar vie for the spotlight

The quarrel has been brewing for years, it exploded in recent days. Rap giants Drake and Kendrick Lamar have traded insults and accusations in new songs, sending shockwaves across the U.S. music world and beyond. These clashes between heavyweights are part of hip-hop culture. And it's already well known in the industry and among their fans: Drake, the rapper who earned the most revenue in the world last year, and Kendrick Lamar, a big name in rap crowned with a prestigious Pulitzer Prize, hardly appreciate each other.

But while their previous wars of words mainly revolved around their rivalry - who of the two is the bigger star? - this time the two artists went much further in the lyrics of songs released in recent days. “Hey Drake, I hear you like them young,” says Kendrick Lamar on Not Like Us, in which he raps about “certified pedophiles.”

Born in Los Angeles, the star rapper from the West Coast also accuses his Canadian and mixed-race rival of being a “colonizer” of black American culture. And in another song released this weekend, Meet the Grahams, he claims that Drake - real name Aubrey Graham - has a hidden daughter. For his part, Drake launched the song Family Matters, in which he suggests that infidelities and even abuse have tainted the relationship between Kendrick Lamar and his fiancée. In The Heart Part 6, released on Sunday, Drake, popular even beyond rap fans, also denies any inappropriate relationship with minors: “I would never look twice at a teenage girl.”

The spikes, sharper than usual, have this time reached a wider audience. The feud was the subject of a sketch on cult comedy show Saturday Night Live, while detailed timelines of the row were published in major US media outlets. Drake, 37, and Lamar, 36, rose to fame in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

At first, they made guest appearances on each other's albums and even toured together. But over the years and disagreements, their paths separated. That their competition turned into a battle was "inevitable", according to Rolling Stone magazine's Andre Gee. “People who don't understand their argument haven't spent the last 15-20 years wanting to be considered the best rapper of all time,” he wrote.

Rap has been marked for decades by clashes between its biggest names, like the one between the legends Tupac Shakur and The Notorious BIG in the 1990s, at the height of the rivalry between West Coast hip-hop and that of the East Coast. This dispute ended in violence and tragedy, amid gang warfare and murder. The feud between Drake and Kendrick Lamar seems for the moment to have just whetted the appetite of some rap fans for “diss tracks”, these pieces dedicated to attacking or humiliating rivals.

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