Pusha struck back Tuesday night with a merciless tongue-lashing titled “The Story of Adidon,” a three-minute verbal assault most notably accusing Drake of being a deadbeat father—and accompanied by a photo of Drake in blackface (from a late-aughts shoot) as its album art. Of all the releases, “The Story of Adidon” in particular has ignited conversations about what should be left on the cutting-room floor when rappers take aim at one another. Push spares no detail in his anti-Aubrey tirade. In the process, a number of people in Drake’s life catch strays, especially his longtime producer Noah “40” Shebib (who has multiple sclerosis), and the woman whom Push alleges Drake impregnated and then abandoned.
Did Pusha go too far? Or did Drake invite the ire when he mentioned Pusha’s fiancée first? The Atlantic’s Hannah Giorgis, Taylor Hosking, Spencer Kornhaber, and Vann R. Newkirk II discuss the rappers’ barbed exchanges and the state of the diss track as an art form.
Hannah Giorgis: I’ll be honest, I don’t live for rap beef. But I was unreasonably excited about this. It’s summer! What’s more fun than watching two highly paid professionals completely unrelated to me be petty with one another? It’s got all the intrigue of the Mean Girls burn book, but with gritty production.
Taylor Hosking: I was also excited about this, mostly because I think Drake’s last high-profile beef—with Meek Mill—was a disappointment. When Drake released his diss track “Back to Back” in 2015, Meek’s response, “Wanna Know,” didn’t even try to bring the same energy or catchiness his discography would suggest he’s capable of. (I was living in Philly at the time so I had to hear “Back to Back” blaring from car radios all summer in Meek’s home city—it was sad stuff.) In his newest beef, Drake came in with too much confidence. And I was glad to see Pusha respond to him in a serious way—although I’m sure we’ll get into whether it got too serious.
Spencer Kornhaber: I’m loving the carnage, and hating myself for it. You’ve got to be amped up by the timing, at least: The cruelest rap fight in years coincides with the climax of a long-running debate over whether art needs to be ethical. Can we still enjoy Kanye if he’s a MAGA troll? Does Roseanne need to be erased because of the racism of its star? And now: Am I going to hell because “The Story of Adidon” left me with the same endorphins buzz as a three-mile sprint?
Pusha’s song is vile, for sure. But transgression is a kind of innovation, and hip-hop’s annals of beef include a lot of vital music precisely because evil can be fun. There are rules to a duel, but is this a duel or a brawl? Drake, ever the A-student, showed the right way to fight in public, with “Duppy Freestyle” systematically and stylishly addressing the charges against him and returning shots on the subject of his rival’s prowess as a rapper. I was impressed. By the book, Drake seemed like he’d won. But Pusha wanted to play a different game, and in “The Story of Adidon,” he announced a rule change at the top: “Drug dealin’ aside / ghostwritin’ aside.” Ghostwritin’ aside? Wasn’t that the whole point? No—Drake’s worth as a human being was now to be in the crosshairs, with a woman, a kid, and a music producer with multiple sclerosis as collateral damage.