"War Pain" vs. "Summer Sixteen": Who Took Round Two of the Drake and Meek Mill Battle?
Photo by Natalie Moreno
The cold war between Drake and Meek Mill hurtled into 2016 this weekend with the near simultaneous Saturday night release of two new songs: the OVO Sound head honcho’s alleged Views from the 6 lead single “Summer Sixteen” and Meek Mill’s 4/4 Part 2 EP standout “War Pain.” The former picks up where “Charged Up” and “Back to Back” left off last summer in continuing to twist the knife in Meek’s back after attacking Drake on Twitter in the wake of the duo’s Dreams Worth More Than Money collaboration “R.I.C.O.,” while the latter seeks to clean up after a rocky counteroffensive that hinged on the poorly unveiled, shoddily assembled response diss “Wanna Know.” Both new jabs were the talk of Twitter, Drake’s for continuing his pointedly cavalier assault on the Philly rapper and delivering vicious subliminals for Toronto singer/rapper (and “Lord Knows” producer and guest feature) Tory Lanez and Meek’s for dropping just ten minutes afterward with verses that appeared to address the new Drake song point for point. Now that both tracks have had a few nights to settle, we should talk about who came away with the second round K.O.
Slava Pastuk, Noisey Canada Editor
You know how everyone loves to compare the actions they take in hip-hop to chess moves? For the past six years, Drake has been Bobby Fisher on HGH, employing countless Bronstein delays and Blackburne shilling gambits to leap from a low level YMCMB roster filler to one of the best rappers in the world. Nothing Aubrey has done in his career has appeared to not have been well thought out, which is why Meek Mill's "War Pain" acting like a response to Drake's "Summer Sixteen" mere minutes after Aubz premiered the song on OVO Radio spoke more to Meek's cunningness than Drake's power. We may never know who in the OVO camp was the one that gave Meek the song so that he could respond to it, but the entire idea of someone smuggling out a single to present to the other camp is something that Drake likely wishes he came up with.
But aside from what Meek's diss "means," it's also worth noting the content that "War Pain" entails. Meek has switched the narrative from "Drake doesn't write his own lines," which was clearly not working for him in the court of public opinion, to goading him with facts that are on records and don't need to be dug up: Meek dates Drake’s dream girl Nicki, Drake used to be a Dreamchasers fan, Drake never responded to Jay Z, who is Meek's mentor in a large way. By repositioning the focus, Meek has made it so that the general public's arsenal for the Drake hate is more armed than ever. Congratulating Drake on making a radio hit that acts like a Trojan horse for a beef song was fine when we're talking about "Back to Back," but for him to continue on this path months later makes him look petty. On the other hand, Meek Mill releasing a free song that responds to Drake minutes after The Boy put out the first official single for his long-awaited album not only takes some wind out of the 6 Sails, but it also marks him his first mark in the W column for this beef.
Kyle Kramer, Noisey Editor
Well, this just got a lot more fun. When the prospect of a Meek Mill and Drake beef cropped up for real last summer, I was excited: The saga promised to pit two of contemporary hip-hop’s ideological poles against each other, and it was the first time in a long time that rap had a beef in which both players actually mattered and actually might rap about each other (not that Rick Ross and 50 Cent’s protracted PR war wasn’t plenty entertaining). However, what started out as Jay Z/Nas 2.0 ended up more like a game of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots where one robot was part of the broken toy your mom bought at a yard sale and the other was an AT-AT.
So I’m not sure why Drake decided to hop back into the ring, but here we are, with a catchy song and perhaps the best line this whole saga has yielded: “You don’t have to try and say it louder, nigga, trust we heard you the first time.” Drake is colder and pettier and sounds more convincing than he has at any point yet. I might be coming around to liking Drake again simply because his posturing has moved from smarmy, disingenuous arrogance to reckless but honest arrogance. But, look, he let Meek back in, and Meek finally came with the facts that Drake’s idiot fan base would prefer to overlook. “Culture vulture, now it’s time to pay the tolls,” he quips, as Drake frantically searches YouTube for the next Kodak Black beat to jack for a response track. “When I met you you was on my dick / Asked me to hold the DC chain, now you want some shit,” Meek laughs while Drake frantically tries to delete all his “Dreams and Nightmares Intro” freestyles that never saw the light of day.
Most damningly, Meek dismisses Drake’s move of playing “Back to Back” in the hotel room above where Meek stayed in Toronto by pointing out that Drake was too much of a coward to actually confront him. The more Drake keeps throwing out memes and diss tracks, the more he might satisfy teenage fans whose world begins and ends on their iPhone screens. But he also comes across increasingly like rap’s petulant child king rather than its actual ruler. “Summer Sixteen” is the better song, but Drake takes the L simply because we’re having this conversation at all right now.
Eric Sundermann, Noisey Editor-in-Chief
My quick take on these two songs is that despite this being the best that Meek Mill has ever sounded in this ongoing beef, and despite the fact that he's clawing back by delivering a diss track people can actually understand, the world wants Drake to win too much. On Saturday night in a cab, I heard Hot 97 play the Drake diss four times in a row—without a mention of Meek or his track. Not one. In true Philly fashion, the world does not want Meek to win. All of that said aside, though, Drake's casual line of "You don't have to say it louder nigga, trust we heard it the first time" is so freaking dismissive.
There's no question that Drake wins in the eyes of the public, but again, that's because he's Drake. As Kyle states, the real winner is Meek Mill because, somehow, even though Drake claimed he was done with all this after "Back to Back," here we are, in 2016, having the same conversation. And to that point, something I really love about the Meek diss is how exasperated he sounds when delivering the line, "And you claimin' you HOV now? Why you state that shit? Man I hate that shit." Meek, like so many of us with internet connections, are just so goddamn tired of Drake's omnipresence. Bruh, you won. You'll probably keep winning. Will you ever just shut up about it?
Jabbari Weekes, Noisey Canada Staff Writer
“Summer Sixteen” is better for the simple fact that it’s just that, facts. I don’t think anyone has to tell you that Drake’s lyrics have become a cultural focal point that’s gone beyond music. And by now his career achievements, at the very least, match Jay Z and Kanye’s. Anyone even calling “Sixteen” a diss track is far and away from the truth: This is simply an aggressive and accurate summary of his dominance atop the rap scene and there is an interesting sense of scale as he lists his accomplishments from defeating a petty rapper, his reign in Toronto, and being able to rank on par with two of hip-hop and music’s biggest artists. More importantly it outlines a crucial fact: Meek will never beat Drake.
In all its energetic mediocrity, "War Pain" is the second song released by Meek Mill, over two separate EPs, that addresses his issues with Drake. The lot of you are lauding it because it’s the first time Meek seems to have moved intelligently, somehow gaining access to “Sixteen” and airing out a response minutes after it went live. Well, that’s nice, and if we’re congratulating him for landing his first real shot after numerous failed attempts, that’s great. Otherwise, this falls flat. The entire song is posturing. “See an OVO chain, probably take that shit.” That’s a great story, Meek, why didn't you do it when he was blasting “Back to Back” a room above you? "When I met you, you was on my dick/Asked me to hold the DC chain, now you on some shit" Is this not the same guy who started all this, crying because Drake wouldn't give his album a tweet? “Me and Nicki watchin’ the Sixer, I’m closin’ more deals.” Yes, Meek, and lest we forget, your hometown made a point to disrespect you during the game. And of course, there’s the mo’ money gloating despite the fact that Drake objectively makes more than any hip-hop artist of this generation.
I think anyone who believe this song is actually better than “Sixteen” falls into one of two groups: You either want to see Drake fall and are desperately subscribing to this underdog narrative since Meek has become, unfortunately, synonymous with losing. While the other half have foolishly lent credence to his plight because he’s somehow become the last of a “dying breed” of gangster rapper. To which he’s not, and I implore you to do some more digging in your music. As history will inevitably show, Meek will be to Drake what Canibus is to LL Cool J—an entertaining footnote in the other’s legacy. And when the Philadelphia rapper becomes irrelevant three years from now and continues to shop Drake slander on DJ Vlad’s couch, you will all see that I was right.
Craig Jenkins, Noisey Contributing Editor
Thirty pieces of silver to the Judas in the OVO camp that snuck “Summer Sixteen” out to Meek because wherever you are, you finally made this shit interesting. When it became apparent that this battle was going to be fought on a clever campaign of fact subversion from Drake, I checked out. Meek made a very serious, still unanswered claim on Drake’s pen game and got back a bunch of darts about how he likes to tweet and he might be Nicki Minaj’s lapdog (when we can still pull up video of our young Sixed God doing a lot of the same himself). The fucking ghostwriter put out a project! The conversation became a funhouse horror. The notion that Drake has won here by stating facts ignores his policy of only relying on the ones that run in his favor.
Here is another fact: three songs is a lot of time and attention to spend on someone you coolly called a charity case in the first. If Meek is the non-factor Drake insists he is, shouldn’t he get back to the business of making hits? Isn’t the resounding impression Aubrey’s come out of this unscathed enough? No. Ever the opportunist, Drake’s using this thing with Meek to wring out more street cred, and that’s an unusual gambit around someone who’s seen the inside of real jail a couple times. This fight continues because Drake is trying to kill off the softness in his persona, but there isn’t a magical number of times you can big up your shooters that suddenly makes you one too.
For hanging an entire single on two guys who shouldn’t even fit into Drake’s purview, “Summer Sixteen” fails as a boss gesture, though it frequently connects as a woozy rhyme workout. Jay Z wouldn’t’ve given ‘em half a bar. Meek using “War Pain” to finally crystallize all of the reasons Aubrey could never possibly be Jay, moments after “Summer Sixteen” pulled the audacious “I used to want to be on Rocafella, then I turned into Jay” flex is exactly the kind of disrupt he needs to get a leg up in this thing. He said Drake's name! Many will say Drake’s "playing checkers" here, while Meek’s "playing chess," but for the first time in this long heat, it looks to me like the Philly kid jumped over the jumpman.