Let me start by saying Drake’s much-discussed appearance on The Shop last Friday only looked like a “check and mate” because it was as adept as anyone has been at mitigating a loss. He touched on all of the topics he was supposed to. He was charming and friendly and then earnest and aggrieved. Then, when it was time, he grew in his seat to signal that he was serious. But still, when Drake got up to dap Maverick Carter and LeBron at the end of the sit-down, there was no new diss record for us to grimace at. He had, however, reshaped the narrative.
On Wednesday, Pusha-T made an appearance on The Joe Budden Podcast to do the same, with some fact-checking. And we learned: This will never be over.
I should say that Pusha, too, was charming and friendly and then earnest—but like some luxury-drug-rap Bruce Banner, Pusha-T’s secret is that he’s always serious. Also, Push offered the newest bit of gossip that’s grabbing all of the headlines: He didn’t hear about Drake’s hidden lovechild from Kanye, but from Noah “40” Shebib, the very friend whom Drake was so protective of on The Shop. 40 was painted by Pusha as a disgruntled worker who spoke a little too much about his boss to the woman he was sleeping with. “It’s always the pillow talk,” Budden says, and his guest agrees.
You may not be able to say whether this is true or not, but you have to acknowledge how well Push is playing to his base. Rap beef has always been about swaying public opinion, but I can’t recall any that felt so much like the lead-up to a primary.
If you have three spare hours lying around, you should take the time to listen to the Pusha-T interview. Much like how Drake fans would respond favorably to a glossy tell-all on HBO, Push fans would enjoy a rap radio show where the conversation is more competitive. Budden and his co-hosts Rory and Mal all politely antagonize Push, who in turn praises them as his lie detector while also stressing at several points that he wouldn’t have had this conversation with anyone else. The Budden podcast is the perfect outlet for this confab: Budden is a one-hit wonder–turned–rapper’s rapper–turned–industry-savvy curmudgeon who’s also a former Drake combatant. LeBron and Drake are friends; Budden and Push are kindred spirits. On the show, the GOOD Music president is allowed a few indirect answers about his boss Kanye’s political leanings and plans to create a new Jurassic Park in Uganda (seriously), but he does raise some salient points about the Drake feud.
Since “The Story of Adidon” there have been questions about the “rules” of rap beef—mainly, are there any, and did Pusha-T break them? In his conversation on Budden, Push presents the idea of “rules” in this case as both subjective and arbitrary, because (1) Drake did put $100,000 on the streets for incriminating information and Push has the tapes (and plays excerpts of them on the podcast) to prove it, and (2) it’s pretty difficult to go too far since “everybody’s harmless.” The rappers we argue over on the internet share studio time. They ride elevators together. Nothing happens.
Rap is still pro wrestling, sure, but it’s also politics. You shake hands; you kiss babies; you do radio hits; you present your version of events that your direct opponent then has to at least publicly deny. Or, they could just not respond. That’s still an option, you know.