There can only be one number one.
Artists can co-exist in the same space, but when striving to be the best, there can only be one. That’s typically the mind-set artists have, and when one artist encounters another with a parallel rise moving into their trajectory, the result is usually conflict.
Despite being new to the industry, Drake began to realize this early in his career. On his debut album Thank Me Later, he recites, “I can relate to kids going straight to the league/ When they recognize that you got what it takes to succeed/ And that’s around the time that your idols become your rivals/ You make friends with Mike but got to A.I. him for your survival.” Prophetic almost, as by his second album, Take Care, he’d find himself on the opposite side of the ring with his idol Kanye West, as he aspired to take the throne.
The concept of idols becoming rivals has become a reality beyond Drake; it’s happened through all genres of music. Pop, R&B, rap — with the latter seeing a rivalry heat up between Lil Wayne and Young Thug leading into the release of Thug’s Barter 6 mixtape. From the repaired to the harmless to the ones that continue to brew, below are eight feuds in which the idol has become the rival.
Young Thug vs. Lil Wayne
Since the inception of Young Thug’s rise, he’s credited Lil Wayne as his single biggest influence (“I’ll get in the studio with Wayne before Michael Jackson right now”), often interpolating Wayne’s style and eccentric demeanor to build the framework of his career. Thug made his stan-dom crystal clear when he announced last year that he’d be naming his debut project Carter 6, continuing the legacy after Weezy vowed to bow out with Tha Carter 5. Up until late last year, Thug’s garbled and unorthodox delivery — paired with his direct association to Birdman (through Rich Gang) — painted a picture of Thug as a direct descendant of Wayne. Releases like “About the Money” with T.I. and Rich Gang’s “Lifestyle” put him on the grid, and his and Wayne’s “Take Kare” collaboration seemingly made the vision that much clearer.
But the original December 2014 release date for C5 has come and gone with no determined release date in sight. Problems between Lil Wayne and Birdman and Cash Money have surfaced, including a $51 million lawsuit surrounding unpaid royalties.
Perhaps it’s those frustrations that have prompted Weezy to openly take aim at Young Thug’s bold album cover for the then-titled Carter 6. Furthermore, it’s assumed that legal action forced Thug to rename the project Barter 6. The conflict is still ongoing, with Lil Wayne continuing to take shots at his younger contemporary, but Thug has refused to respond negatively to the man he refers to as his idol.
Ariana Grande vs. Mariah Carey
On the road from Nickelodeon to pop stardom, it’s always been known that Ariana Grande idolized Mariah Carey. From her diva-esque poise to her trademark vocals, Grande’s brand of pop and R&B has the elusive chanteuse’s stank all over it. The comparisons were plenty, and Grande had nothing but great words to say about the record-breaking diva. “Mariah has been a huge influence on me since I was a little girl,” she said in Us Weekly.
Unfortunately, comparisons don’t sit well with Mariah Carey. During an interview with Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club, she shrugged off the comparisons with a dash of shade, saying, “First of all, I’m still young. I discount numbers. Numerically speaking, I stopped counting at 17. But I wish everybody all the best of luck, and if this is a career path they choose, I hope that they can achieve longevity.” Ouch. Not words one would like to hear from someone they’ve idolized.
Grande has steered clear of any comparisons with her sophomore album My Everything, blending a palette of sounds by enlisting producers Max Martin, Cashmere Cat, Key Wayne, Pop & Oak and Darkchild. Carey hasn’t seen the same success musically with her most recent music, with Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse selling 122,000 copies to date, according to Nielsen Soundscan. But, she’s expected to release a greatest-hits album alongside beginning her Las Vegas residency this summer. It’s probably best for these two to continue to steer clear of one another.
August Alsina vs. Trey Songz
August Alsina emerged in a similar lane to that of Trey Songz — R&B singer with rapper sensibilities? Check. Smash hit? Check. Extremely popular with the ladies? Double check. While the two collaborated on the remix of Alsina’s lead single “I Luv This Shit” back in 2013, it came completely out of left field when Alsina dissed Songz due to a disagreement about a show. From there on, the floodgates of questions opened, leading to a highly publicized incident on the now-defunct 106 & Park, where Alsina crudely shot down host Kesha Chanté’s question about the beef. From Trey’s previously confrontational manner with R. Kelly years back, it looked like we had a generational battle of the R&B heartthrobs on our hands.
Songz opted to remain cool about the situation and resolved things behind the scenes. The R&Beef that once was is now a healthy musical relationship, with the two sharing the stage at the 2014 BET Awards along with Chris Brown.
Nicki Minaj vs. Lil’ Kim
This is possibly the most-publicized feud ever between female rappers. While many female MCs try their best to preach female empowerment and unity with one another, it’s clear that Kim and Nicki don’t get along.
The beef allegedly began when Minaj threw shots at Lil’ Kim on tracks early in her career after claims of disrespect, which prompted Kim to respond quite candidly in interviews on Hot 97 and Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club. The feud even spawned a mixtape from Lil’ Kim called Black Friday, a take on Minaj’s successful debut album, Pink Friday.
The feud has been quiet lately, and Minaj still says Lil’ Kim is an artist that influenced her, but every now and then fans are reminded that these two simply do not get along — i.e.: Kim’s remix of Beyoncé and Nicki’s “Flawless.”
Keyshia Cole vs. Mary J. Blige
Keyshia Cole has drawn comparisons to Mary J. Blige her entire career, and it’s not a bad space to be in. Blige has won over audiences for almost 30 years with her passion and the emotion her music evokes.
There’s been rumors that isn’t too fond of the comparisons to Cole, which was highlighted when a report surfaced that MJB’s team pulled the plug on a BET Honors tribute around 2009 due to “too many comparisons.” Cole hoped she would find a mentor in MJB.
Trey Songz vs. R. Kelly
“People say, ‘Well, I hear a lot of R. Kelly in your music.’ So what? R. Kelly took Aaron Hall’s whole style. Two albums straight. You can say what you want about me,” Trey Songz said in the April/May 2010 issue of VIBE. Are those fighting words?
Ten years ago, Trey Songz was a rising singer who displayed hip-hop/R&B versatility, and R. Kelly was the Pied Piper of R&B in his finest form. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for the two R&B singers to bump heads, with Kelly taking exception to Trey remixing his “Trapped in the Closet” single and Songz heavily criticizing him for the use of Auto-Tune in his record. Songz went as far as dropping a diss record called “D.O.A. (Kellz).”
Since then, both men have called off the shots. They publicly acknowledged the end of the feud in 2012, and just months ago, Kelly joined Songz and Chris Brown onstage for a surprise set on the duo’s Between the Sheets tour.
Lil Wayne vs. Jay Z
Weezy has publicly noted Jay Z’s influence in his style, referring to him as one of his “idols” and even giving him a slight nod on his 2004 single “Bring It Back” — shortly after Hov’s retirement from hip-hop (“Best rapper alive, since the best rapper retired”). Things got a bit shaky once Hov came out of retirement, with veiled shots thrown at each other, but it was all in the name of sport as the two eventually lent a contribution to the other’s albums (“Hello Brooklyn” on American Gangster, “Mr. Carter” on Tha Carter 3) and T.I.’s Grammy-winning “Swagger Like Us.” Things got serious once dollar amounts and shots at spouses came into play, which sparked the particularly sharp lines on Jay Z and Kanye West’s “H.A.M” (“I’m like, ‘Really, half a billi n—a, really?’/ You got Baby money/ Keep it real with n—as, n—as ain’t got my lady’s money”) and the response, “It’s Good,” featured on Tha Carter IV, where Weezy rapped, “Talkin’ bout Baby money, I got your baby, money/ Kidnap your bitch, get that how-much-you-love-your-lady-money.”
Besides a stray shot on “La Familia ” (“N—as want to kidnap wifey/ Good luck with that bruh/ You must gonna hide your whole family“), things cooled down between the two but certainly neither of the veteran rappers are losing any sleep over what the other has said.
Drake vs. Kanye West
Drake and Kanye West’s feud, as opposed to other high-profile hip-hop beefs, has been classified as a Cold War — two superpowers of rap throwing indirect shots at each other that could’ve easily gone nuclear.
The two shared a working relationship early in their career, with West directing the music video for Drake’s “Best I Ever Had,” as well as producing his top 10 single “Find Your Love.” Drake called ‘Ye one of his five hip-hop idols in an interview with People in 2010. But as Drake rose to stardom, he would soon find himself in direct competition with the man he once idolized. Tensions between camps turned into veiled shots, and from then it was on. Rather than assuming the role of the student, Drake took clear aim at his adversary — the clearest on DJ Khaled’s 2011 single, “I’m On One” (“They say the throne is for the taking, watch me take it”). Drake played the role of the hungry aggressor and his shots became louder (“I’m Good,” “Pop That,” “Dreams Money Can Buy”), while Kanye fell back.
It came as a surprise at OVO Fest 2014 when West took the stage alongside Drake, with Yeezy admitting, “Me and Hov [Jay Z] would’ve never made Watch the Throne if this n—a hadn’t put pressure on us.” The discussions of who’s the best still arise, but the feud appears to be over, for now.