‘Ghosts or AI?’: How AI Has Supercharged the Drake vs. Kendrick Lamar Rap Beef

There’s a lot going on in the ongoing beef between rappers Drake and Kendrick Lamar—to put it mildly—much of which we’re not going to get into here. 

But there’s one emerging theme from the scorched earth lyrical battle that’s SFW: the ways in which it’s revealed the increasingly central role of AI in modern music. 

In the thick of Drake and Lamar’s relentless exchange of brutal diss tracks this weekend, a key Kendrick ally—record producer Metro Boomin—posted an anti-Drake beat on Twitter, and encouraged his followers to rap over it for a prize.

The track, “BBL Drizzy,” references a derogatory nickname for the Toronto-born pop star first coined by fellow rapper Rick Ross. 

Like so many viral tracks circulating these days, “BBL Drizzy” is an AI-generated beat that transforms modern references into vintage sounds (see: a fake Frank Sinatra Radiohead cover, or a 1940’s big band tune about a man losing control of bodily functions at work). In this case, Metro Boomin repurposed an unending string of Drake insults as a 1970s soul ballad. 

A version of the track was first created last month by King Willonius, a comedian who utilizes AI to generate cultural commentary. 

AI found its way into the heart of Drake and Lamar’s dispute long before this weekend, though. In March, one of Drake’s first direct shots at Lamar—a track titled “Taylor Made Freestyle”—included AI-generated vocals imitating both Snoop Dogg and the late rap legend Tupac Shakur. 

Within days, Shakur’s estate threatened to sue Drake, lambasting the unauthorized use of the deceased rapper’s likeness—particularly to mock Lamar, another prominent West Coast hip-hop star who has long idolized Shakur.

“The unauthorized, equally dismaying use of Tupac’s voice against Kendrick Lamar, a good friend to the Estate who has given nothing but respect to Tupac and his legacy publicly and privately, compounds the insult,” a cease-and-desist letter obtained by Billboard read.

Two days later, Drake removed the track from social media. Within a week, Lamar released “Euphoria,” a blistering anti-Drake diatribe that specifically called out the artist’s reliance on artificial intelligence to fight lyrical battles. 

“Am I battlin’ ghosts or AI?” Lamar rapped, after claiming that Drake is incapable of writing songs without 20-person teams and high-tech assistance.

Ironically, Drake has also been on the receiving end of AI-driven drama. Last year, a AI-powered song imitating both his voice and that of fellow musician The Weeknd attracted so much positive attention that it was almost considered for a Grammy—before legal threats from Universal Music Group put that prospect to bed. 

In spite of its artificially enhanced origins, the track “Heart On My Sleeve” was so widely acclaimed that some hip-hop fans argued it was better than the real thing.

“Best Drake song in years and he didn’t even write or sing in it,” one YouTube commenter wrote.

Edited by Andrew Hayward

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