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OPINION | Drake, Raptors and Maple Leafs all take L’s in succession | CBC Sports

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Keep this in mind about rap beefs, like the one that intensified last week between Drake and Kendrick Lamar.

They’re like standup comedian Katt Williams’ internet-breaking interview with Shannon Sharpe — filled with facts, half-truths, tall tales and fabrications.

Only the person making claims knows which is which, and in what measure. Lamar, the Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper from Los Angeles, says Drake is a deadbeat dad with an entourage full of sex offenders, and fetish for underage women.

Drake, the Toronto-born superstar, accuses Lamar of spousal abuse, and Lamar’s wife of infidelity. Each says the other suffers from deep-seated racial self-hatred.

This is ugly, petty, spiteful stuff, and, as listeners, we’d be smart not to take much of it literally. It’s two guys with active minds and huge egos channeling their creativity into hurting each other’s feelings. If we’re not bracing for exaggeration, we’re doing it wrong.

Still, for the combatants, there’s room for self-awareness. And on Saturday night, as Drake absorbed yet another lyrical beatdown from Lamar, he appeared to show some by allegedly deleting a picture of himself alongside retired NBA star Karl Malone from his Instagram account. 

It happened as Not Like Us, the latest and catchiest of Lamar’s diss tracks, and the one alleging that Drake cavorts with teenage girls, set the Internet ablaze. We saw footage of people jamming to it at pool parties, before it spawned a TikTok dance challenge. Against that backdrop, a photo with Malone, a famously absent father to a son whose mother was just 13 when Malone, then a college student, impregnated her, would only supply Drake’s trolls and rap rivals with more material.

So the photo disappeared around the same time the Boston Bruins eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs from the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the day before the Blue Jays dropped a sloppy 11-8 decision to the Washington Nationals. And it unfolded four weeks after the Raptors put a flaccid end to their worst season in more than a decade, finishing 25-57, last in the Atlantic Division.

WATCH | How Drake-Kendrick feud started:

How did Drake and Kendrick Lamar’s feud start?

Rappers Drake and Kendrick Lamar have released dueling diss tracks in a feud that has escalated into serious allegations. Broadcaster Paul ‘Mastermind’ Parhar explains how this rap battle started.

But Drake might have suffered the most bruising loss. He’s the swaggering rap star who is now the punchline in thousands of social media jokes, and the famous mega fan who, for right now, can’t even use sports as a safe space.

On Push-Ups, Drake poked fun at Lamar’s stature and fitness regimen, then enlisted A.I. versions of Tupac and Snoop Dogg for the follow-up, Taylor Made. He figured the one-two punch would carry him to a win; instead, Lamar responded with the sustained, single-minded aggression of a young Aaron Pryor. He landed body blows on Euphoria and 6:16 In L.A., and on Not Like Us, Lamar went for the knockout. He didn’t drop Drake for the count, but the endless stream of reaction videos, dance clips, and parody skits prove he helped turn a large portion of the Internet against the world’s most popular rap artist.

Including sports stars. Saturday night, there was former NFL wide receiver DeSean Jackson, dancing to Not Like Us in a clip posted to social media. And Gavin Lux of the Los Angeles Dodgers, using the song as his walk-up music. On Tuesday, here came the USC Trojans, using the song as the soundtrack to a sizzle reel.

It’s a jarring turnaround.

Until now, Drake had enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship with the sports world. The Raptors’ practice facility, the OVO Athletic Centre, bears his company’s branding, and Scotiabank Arena houses The Sher Club, Drake’s exclusive, expensive, members-only lounge. From there, the cool factor compounds. Sports stars like DeMar DeRozan can affirm their importance by hugging a multi-platinum rapper on the sidelines. Drake gets an ego stroke when he joins the layup line with the University of Kentucky’s basketball team, whose blue-blood status is in turn reinforced when Drake shows up on court.

The blowup with Lamar broke that virtuous circle.

On Saturday an NBA playoff broadcast used “Not Like Us” to take viewers to commercial break. And comedian Roy Wood Jr. pointed out that if HBCU marching bands haven’t already perfected BBL Drizzy — a Drake diss instrumental rippling across social media –  they will have by football season.

Drake has five Grammys, nine-figure reported net worth, and the esteem of sports stars world wide. So how did he become the butt of so many online jokes?

Unforced errors, partly.

Ineffective strategy

In Euphoria Lamar accuses Drake, who is biracial, of being culturally disingenuous, and masking his insecurities with an exaggerated Blackness.

Drake, in response, uses Family Matters to label Lamar a phony activist who is “always rapping like you tryna get the slaves free.”

Except that’s not an insult to anyone who loves Black people. To a pro-Black rapper like Lamar it’s a compliment and job description. It’s like calling Barry Bonds a “home run hitter” and thinking it’s a smear.

Later, in The Heart Part 6, Drake claims to have duped Lamar by leaking false information to him, and that Lamar should have fact-checked before spinning falsehoods into diss tracks.

But it all culminated in the energetic, infectious Not Like Us, already a front-runner for Song of The Summer, and a tailor-made sports team battle cry. On Tuesday it racked up nearly 11 million Spotify streams, eclipsing a one-day record previously held by… you get one guess who.

So if Drake supplied the raw material for Lamar’s first certified nightclub banger, the strategy was akin to baiting Bonds into swinging at a fastball down the middle. If Barry swings, high-five your buddies. Your plan worked. But when he sends the ball 500 feet into McCovey Cove for a three-run homer, his plan worked better.

Still, I feel for Drake.

Ugly reminder

When I tweet something dumb I can’t even stand reading the replies, so I can’t imagine scrolling social media when every other joke is on me. And if I turned on the game as an escape, only to hear a song built on insults aimed my way? Cancel cable and every streaming service. No smartphone. Reconnect the landline. Send me back to 1994, when I lived blissfully offline.

And if you, like me, have acute rap beef fatigue, consider how lucky we all are that the Raptors missed the playoffs. Ponder the dilemma that would have faced game-day DJs at Scotiabank Arena and Jurassic Park.

Play the hits?

Not when the hottest track on the planet takes shots at the home team’s Global Ambassador.

And “Family Matters”?

Cool, till you catch people laughing “get the slaves freed,” and get an ugly reminder that Black history is still a joke to some folks.

We’re all better off with the way it all timed up. Raptors, Leafs, and Drake all taking L’s in succession, everybody’s off-season underway by Mother’s Day. From here, another rebuild — a roster for the Raptors, maybe that and the front office for the Leafs.

And for Drake, a reputation.

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