“6:16 in LA”

Just over five years ago, Pusha T went on the Joe Budden Podcast and reiterated his claim that, in the wake of “The Story of Adidon,” Drake was offering flights on private jets and as much as $100,000 for incriminating information about Pusha. No one bit; some even recorded their phone calls with the would-be broker to prove they didn’t participate. There was the suggestion, flattering to Push’s on-record persona, that cooperating with Drake would invite violent retribution: One man who was contacted said he’d need enough money to move his family into hiding.

Things don’t always have to be that dramatic. This morning, Kendrick Lamar dropped “6:16 in LA,” the most musically satisfying—and, despite its narrower focus, most personally incisive—volley yet in his beef with Drake. Coopting the Canadian’s strategy of hitting an opponent with two disses before receiving one response, Kendrick eschews the chintzy Boxden-core of “Push Ups” and “euphoria” for a breezy but melancholic Al Green flip that gives the record a welcome air of big-brother condescension. And when the wire transfers are dangled over Kendrick’s old acquaintances, there’s simply nothing to give. “You started to put money in the streets,” he raps, “then lost money ’cause they came back with no receipts/I’m sorry that I live a boring life, I like peace.”

Denying Drake the gossip he seeks, of course, is not enough. Kendrick spends the second half of “6:16” mummifying his opponent in that same web of rumors and backstabbing. “Let’s see,” he prods, “have you ever thought that OVO was working for me?” Rather than cataloging specific flaws or embarrassing moments, Kendrick invites the listener—invites Drake, really—to consider that any of the hundred people on his payroll might be a mole, that no one is who they seem, that “everyone inside your team is whispering that you deserve it.” (That last line rhymes with “You must be a terrible person.”) You picture Drake shuffling through a gaudy monstrosity of a home, joggers dragging across marble floors, imagining Chubbs and Majid Jordan as Dante’s three traitors, laying in wait. And Kendrick keeps taunting: “One of them is actually next to you.”

Listen to “6:16 in LA” here.