J. Cole’s now-taken-back diss track ‘7 Minute Drill’ had a couple of lines that some saw as criticism of Kendrick Lamar’s musical output.He averagin’ one hard verse like every thirty months or somethin /If he wasn’t dissin’, then we wouldn’t be discussin’ him.” It is the same sentiments that Drake said (in another deleted for different reasons), ‘Taylor Made Freestyle,’ “I guess you need another week to figure out how to improve / What the f*ck is taking so long? We waitin’ on you.” After “Like That,” where Lamar focused his energy on answering “First Person Shooter” with shots primarily directed towards Drake, a thought process consisted of fans feeling we wouldn’t hear a response from K. Dot for months. After all, there was a five-year gap between 2017’s ‘Damn’ and 2022’s ‘Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.’ Drake looked to play this to his advantage as he consistently produces a stream of projects. Since 2021, he’s released four albums (including a joint project with 21 Savage), always looking to stay in the musical conversation. 

That’s precisely what Drake was counting on when he was taunting Lamar for a response because it worked for him in his battle with Meek Mill in 2015. Mill claimed that Drake used ghostwriters, a stain still considered among the truest hip-hop faithful. In response, Drake dropped “Charged Up” and “Back To Back,” the latter of which was the knockout blow. Not only was it the speed at which the songs were released, but “Back To Back” was played everywhere, including Philadelphia Eagles training camp that year. It didn’t matter that Mill would go on to put out his response, “Wanna Know,” because Drake was already so out in front. Before we got to the heat of the battle, there was already this preconceived notion of timeliness and output, and to some fans, Lamar had a strike against him because he takes time with his projects. It’s an interesting overall conundrum of where music is now, with the notion that you always have to work on the next thing because that’s the main way to stay on top of an ever-changing public musical ear. Albums are generally longer now, so most of them can chart in the first week, and there’s a lot less away time for an artist to have different experiences in presenting a new album. 

Look at Drake’s latest album, ‘For All the Dogs’; it was regarded as an assembly of songs that felt fatigued because he had put so much music out. Drake even said he would take a break from music shortly after to focus on his health. Not taking time to catch your breath is something you can’t hide in artistry. Then, he would immediately release a Scary Hours edition of the album with five bonus tracks. Kendrick Lamar is a more traditional artist in that he will release an album, tour on it for a while, go ghost aside from some feature records, and then let time pass until he has a concept for another project. Drake himself could do the same thing; they are both big enough artists, and the principle of “let people miss you” wouldn’t affect them adversely. However, as much as this battle was pitted between the two hip-hop artists worldwide, it was one of our musical perspectives. We have become so inclined to stick around that the days of a lengthy time between musical projects have mostly gone away. Few artists have taken advantage of that, like Drake, and it was somehow perceived as a weakness in Kendrick Lamar’s armor. 

Why is it so bad that artists give us a project to work on for a while, and we must wait for them to acquire the experience to make something that lasts longer than a two-minute TikTok blurb? Immediacy briefly the definition of who could win this battle—forgetting that when Jay-Z and Nas clashed, there was a four-month gap between “Takeover” and “Either.”  These two artists are the opposites of release strategy, and fans are on opposite sides of how that defines them. That would eventually come back to bite Drake as Lamar because he rop-a-doped him (and everybody else), thinking he would take his time. Instead, K Dot released four tracks on the back of “Like That” in no time, completely blunting the “red button” of “Family Matters” with “Meet The Grahams” thirty minutes later in “The Heart Pt. 6,” Drake sounded like a man exhausted and even eluded to making the battle burned out with more possible disses on the way. It was an ironic turn of events, considering Drake is known as the artist with an avalanche of songs ready to go. The tactics he used against Meek Mill and his overall success were turned against him by someone who was a step ahead. It’s a textbook showcase of never underestimating your opponent.

As the dust settles and we take stock of this momentous occasion in hip-hop between two titans, I wonder if it will make way for a broader discussion about the frequency in which music is released versus the penalty of waiting until you have something substantial to say. That might require a more significant conversation about how all the parts of the music industry contribute to the disposable nature of artistry itself.

Main Photo Credit: Jason Koerner/Getty Images (Kendrick Lamar) / Prince Williams/Wireimage (Drake)