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It’s never truly a beef until all parties engage, and two weeks after Kendrick Lamar threw a grenade in the middle of Drake and J. Cole’s kumbaya campfire, we finally have our first response. As fans impatiently wait for Drake—who drew the lion’s share of Kendrick’s ire in his guest verse on Future and Metro Boomin’s “Like That”—to weigh in (and fill the time reading way too deeply into his Instagram captions and seemingly-extra-emotional stage rants), J. Cole has stepped up to the plate to warn Kendrick that he’s not as ready for war as he thinks he is.

In all fairness to Drake, Cole was no doubt spurred to action by the calendar. His annual Dreamville Festival kicks off this weekend, and if Cole had taken the stage without some words for Kendrick for the congregation, he would’ve been roasted to no end. But he didn’t exactly drop a nuke either.

The direct K. Dot shots come on “7 Minute Drill,” the last track on Might Delete Later, a 12-track mixtape Cole surprise-dropped last night. Cole’s been teasing Might Delete Later since February, with the temperature being that it’s a sort of warm-up for The Fall Off, the self-mythologized classic album he’s been working on for years now.

“7 Minute Drill” kicks off with an urgent, ominous beat from frequent Drake and Cole collaborator T-Minus before switching up to a grimy throwback vibe courtesy of Griselda favorite Conductor Williams. Most of the Kendrick bars are in the T-Minus section, where Cole kicks the disrespect off by alleging Kendrick “fell off like The Simpsons,” going so far as to call his last album Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers “tragic.” Cole’s best jabs come when he leans right into the heart of the debates rap fans often have over Kendrick: that To Pimp a Butterfly is overrated, that K. Dot only stays in the conversation off of moments like “Control” and “Like That” (“Boy I got here off bars, not no controversy”; “If he wasn’t dissin’ then we wouldn’t be discussin him”) and that he doesn’t release music often enough to really be the numero u-n-o (“He averagin’ one hard verse like every 30 months or somethin;” “Four albums in 12 years, n-gga I can divide”).

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Kendrick Lamar

Those last two lines are interpolations from Cole’s former label boss Jay-Z’s “Takeover,” a scathing, indelibly disrespectful diss track that’s in the running for best-ever example of the form. Cole’s song… is not that. And he admits as much, comparing the situation to the ever relevant New Jack City meme that shows Wesley Snipes crying tears of regret as he’s about to blast his man—he even ends the track literally calling it a “warning shot,” but vowing that he’s ready to take it there if that’s what K. Dot really wants.

But one could argue that Kendrick essentially rapping “Fuck you” is about as a direct a declaration of Let’s take it there as one can get. Cole’s strategy here gives echoes of summer 2015, when Drake dropped the moody and contemplative tempo-setter “Charged Up,” acknowledging Meek Mill’s aspersions before fully letting loose four days later with “Back to Back.” Imagine if Cole ran the same play and dropped a diss that wasn’t so politely disrespectful on the eve of his festival and played it live for tens of thousands of ravenous fans, much like Drake did with “Back to Back” at OVO Fest ‘15.

Article written by Frazier Tharpe #GQ