The first episode of LeBron James’s HBO series The Shop established the parameters of the show, set to air periodically throughout the year. Obviously, it takes place in a barbershop. In each episode, a cast of successful people—the lion’s share of them athletes, all of them entertainers—deconstruct their success. It’s really good TV––they sip wine, they offer a side of themselves rarely seen in public, and LeBron James says swear words. Even the color palette is spare and direct. This, like most barbershops, is a space reserved strictly for real talk. In late August’s episode, LeBron spoke about having to get used to white people as well as about his activism and transition from athlete to statesman. On Friday night, Drake said that Pusha-T deserved to get punched in his fucking face.
Many other galling things have demanded our attention since May, when we recoiled in shock and horror from a photo of Drake in blackface and a few sadistic bars about his producer and confidant Noah “40” Shebib’s ongoing battle with MS. So, a brief refresher:
- Drake and Kanye West’s GOOD Music have beef. But it’s no longer the sizzling beef it once was; it’s sort of cold and sad and gamey now, like beef from a freezer bag.
- The inciting offense in said beef was a reheated ghostwriting accusation against Drake that popped up at the end of “Infrared,” a song that Pusha-T and Kanye West conspired to make as the closer to Pusha’s Daytona album.
- Drake responded. Pusha-T responded. And finally, before there could be another Drake response, the spaghetti western fizzled out before its smoke-filled third act.
Now, on his own time, with LeBron James on The Shop, Drake gets to tell his side of the story. First of all, there was a response. A very mean-spirited and hateful reponse. It was, in fact, a response so lethal and precise and vile and final that everyone would be better off without it in the world, just like J Prince said in early June. But instead of expending all that energy on someone else, Drake chose to funnel his inner rage into [checks notes] some of the best songs on Scorpion.
Songs Drake said he wrote AFTER his beef with Pusha T/Kanye:— Complex (@Complex) October 13, 2018
In My Feelings
8 Out of 10
Both Drake and LeBron are too careful with their public personas for us to ever know more than we’re supposed to, but over the half hour, you could learn quite a lot: about Drake’s relationship with his father (good); about becoming a father himself (unexpected); about coparenting (difficult); and also about his hairline, before his white Jewish mother felt comfortable going into a black-owned barbershop (jacked up). All of this was illuminating, but nothing Drake talked about was so salacious as—of course—the Kanye West stuff. “Lift Yourself” was originally intended for Drake; he did go to Wyoming to help West craft Ye; and yes, it was Kanye who betrayed his trust.
“[Kanye] sold me on this whole speech, like, ‘I’m in a great place, I’m making money, I’m a father. I wanna be Quincy Jones and help you, but in order to do that, you gotta be transparent with me and you gotta play me your music and tell me when you’re dropping,’” Drake says.
Drake goes on to talk about how he shared a picture of his son and the emotional song “March 14” with Kanye around that time, and the rest, as it were, is history. With Kanye making a fool of himself at the White House and Drake likely headed to his fourth no. 1 since Daytona was released, I’m inclined to say that’s check and mate.
It’s also a lesson learned. There was a moment when Drake, glowing with pride over new fatherhood, showed LeBron a picture of his son. But he grabbed the phone back real quick.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.