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The Drake-Kendrick Rap Beef: A Case Study of Mob Psychology

This clash of superstars ended up serving as a perfect example of one of humanity’s greatest failings

By Martin VidalPublished 29 days ago 13 min read

The following article contains disturbing allegations of criminal activity that some readers may find upsetting.

The most famous example of “mob psychology” is the Salem Witch Trials. Since witches do not exist, the absurdity of that situation is self-evident. Yet, the same psychological dynamics which brought that almost comedic tragedy to bear are ready to be tapped into in any society at any time. The Red Scares and the internment of Japanese-Americans are other notable examples in American history. Similar things have happened on much smaller scales, though typically within a continuum, such as the famous trial after the Boston Massacre or, more recently, the case involving the Central Park 5. Sometimes, it’s a zeitgeist of paranoia that sweeps over a nation; at other times, it concerns just one person and a small group of people to outnumber them. Yet, no matter how many people are involved, it always looks the same.Four characteristics of mob psychology allow it to self-perpetuate with devastating consequences: 1) it abandons nuance, 2) it labels defenders of the accused as guilty of the same thing as the accused, 3) it rewards those who promote its aims, and 4) it does bad in the name of good.

To illustrate this in detail, I’m going to use a case study that most readers are likely to be surprised by: the recent rap beef between the rappers Aubrey Graham (aka Drake) and Kendrick Lamar. Due to this instance of mob psychology being current, and one that I myself was deeply invested in as it happened, it is prime material for exemplifying the phenomenon.

The Drake vs Kendrick Beef

For those who don’t know, two superstar, platinum-selling rappers recently engaged in a vicious exchange of diss tracks. For hip-hop fans, it was the sort of thing you only see every other decade, and the internet was abuzz with activity.

I caught a cold just after the first full diss track was dropped by Kendrick Lamar. I took a few days off of work to rest while sick and had enough time to really keep track of all the goings-on in the lyrical face-off. Initially, I thought those days with little to do had come at a serendipitous time, as the sensationalized rap beef supplied me with lots of entertainment. In hindsight, it may have been unfortunate timing, as I became dismayed to see how things devolved in a way I never expected them to.

There were wild accusations thrown both ways, but Kendrick Lamar threw out the most serious one against Drake. He suggested in very strong terms that Drake is a pedophile, maybe even a sex trafficker. To that point, we can adduce the following lyrics from Kendrick’s “Not Like Us’:

“Say, Drake, I hear you like ’em young

You better not ever go to cell block one

To any b**ch that talk to him and they in love

Just make sure you hide your lil’ sister from him”

“Certified Lover Boy?

Certified pedophiles”

“Tryna strike a chord and it’s probably A-Minor”

Devastating insults and accusations are par for the course with a rap beef, but what was seemingly different here was that many people took the claims at face value. A day or two after the song with the quoted lyrics came out, there was a shooting outside Drake’s home, and many people online were commenting that Drake, as a pedophile, deserved to die. Drake has been selling his properties in the U.S. for some time now, but it was now being talked about as if he was selling them to flee the country before arrest. Slews of comments said that he was the new R. Kelly, who is currently serving time for sex trafficking, while others referred to him as “Aubrey Epstein” or “P Drizzy” to draw comparisons with him and Jeffrey Epstein or Sean “P Diddy” Combs (who recently had his home raided by authorities).One influencer did a breakdown explaining that Drake had stayed at the Mark Hotel, where Epstein is said to have done some illegal activities, and that this showed the rapper had a connection to the now-deceased sex trafficker. That post was not in jest, and I can assure you that, after engaging with many commenters, what they were saying was not in jest either. These people really believed Drake was a pedophile now.

1. The Loss of Nuance

Kendrick Lamar supplied no evidence for his claims, but in a way, he did not have to. Many people online have been speculating for years that Drake is a “groomer” — somebody who meets underage women, manipulates them, and then commences a romantic relationship once they are of age. These allegations seem to have begun with the actress Millie Bobbie Brown, who famously plays “Eleven” on the hit show “Stranger Things,” after she openly talked about how when she met Drake, they were both huge fans of each other and went on to text and spend time together at various events occasionally, dinner parties, etc. At the start of this, she was 13 years old, and Drake was in his 30s. Sometime later, he was in communication with the popular musical artist Billie Eilish when she was 17. Finally, returning to one of Drake’s concerts when he was 23, his crew members brought a 17-year-old woman on stage. The rapper danced on her and kissed her before finding out that she was 17 (the age of consent in the state the concert was held in, Colorado). Then he kissed her once more before sending her off the stage. The video below shows the interaction in full.

A lot more has been talked about on the internet, but most of it is either disinformation or highly speculative. He was hired to perform at Kylie Jenner’s 16th birthday party when he was 27, and at some point during the performance, he gave her a kiss on the cheek, which was photographed. People will sometimes bring up this photo as further “evidence” of Drake being a groomer, as the two were alleged to have dated briefly some 6 years later in 2019. Likewise, he took a photo with a then 16-year-old model, Bella Harris (who also happens to be the daughter of the famous producer Jimmy Jam) for her Instagram, and some say the photo, displayed below, was too risqué. It was reported that he went on a dinner date with Harris when she was 18, and while this reporting is still very prevalent online, it has been disproven, as she herself has clarified that she wasn’t even in the same state as the rapper on the night in question. Also percolating across the web is a screenshot of the rapper commenting, “I’ve been waiting 🎉🥵” under an Instagram post where Billie Eilish announces that she’ll be “18 tomorrow.” This is another fabrication. There were also suggestions that he was hanging around high school girls because of a comment by a producer, Cydney Christine, with whom Drake worked. She said something about him helping her high school friend, but she later clarified that, while she knew the person in question from high school, Drake did not meet either of them until they were in university, and their interactions were taking place in a professional capacity.

Michael Simon/Startraksphoto.com

instagram.com/bellabharris

Finally, it should be noted that almost every woman who Drake was alleged to have been inappropriate has come out to clear the air. Millie Bobbie Brown posted the following:

instagram.com/milliebobbybrown

Tia Owens, the woman he brought on stage at the concert, posted this:

instagram.com/tiajayed

Cydney Christine commented this and later repeated it in a video recording:

Billie Eilish said in an interview that, “The internet is such a stupid-a — mess right now. Everybody’s so sensitive. A grown man can’t be a fan of an artist? There are so many people that the internet should be more worried about.”

“Like, you’re really going to say that Drake is creepy because he’s a fan of mine, and then you’re going to go vote for Trump? What the f — — is that s — -?”

She also said, “Drake is like the nicest dude I’ve ever spoken to. I mean, I’ve only like texted him, but he’s so nice. Like, he does not need to be nice, you know what I mean? He’s at a level in his life where he doesn’t need to be nice, but he is, you know?"

To summarize, Drake has never been accused of inappropriate behavior with a minor (or something similar, like grooming) by any underage or formerly underage person he’s interacted with, or their families, or their acquaintances, and just about every alleged victim of such has come out in defense of Drake. It’s not unreasonable to feel that his behavior is questionable or to think it inappropriate for him to even talk to underage women, and the situation with the 17-year-old on stage is verifiable, and people are entitled to feel however they will about that. What is unreasonable is to take the information above and accuse this man of being a pedophile or sex trafficker based on it. Doing such represents the loss of nuance in the conversation and the first sign of mob psychology at work.

At the risk of upsetting the reader, I must also share that an X (formerly Twitter) profile, “ebonyprince2k24,” got a lot of attention in the days after the rap beef concluded by sharing a video of items allegedly belonging to Drake, and then went on to share a screenshot from footage of Drake in the lobby of a hotel with a reporter, Christopher Alvarez. (The screenshot is included below.) It needs to be said that Alvarez has a skeletal disorder, known as Thanatophoric Dysplasia, which in his words has made him appear as “a 26-year-old, trapped in a nine-month-old’s body.” The screenshot doesn’t show much of anything; it’s just Drake, Alvarez, and other people crossing the lobby. However, following the strong insinuation by ebonyprince2k24 that Drake did something untoward that evening, the internet began running wild, speculating that Drake had somehow violated Alvarez that night. This allegation caught so much traction online that Alvarez himself had to come out and say that nothing of the sort happened and that we’re living in a “post-truth society.” Later that week, the same user released audio of a dog whining in pain, which the internet took as evidence of Drake engaging in bestiality! One of Drake’s associates, DJ Akademiks, later explained that the audio was a recording of one of his dogs after the poor animal, which had been hit by a car, was being cared for.

twitter.com/ebonyprince2k24

2. Labeling Defenders as Co-conspirators

As I engaged with people on the internet, more often than not simply by showing them a source that demonstrated that what they were alleging was false, I was repeatedly called a “pedophile” myself. People left the comment sections where we were conversing and posted memes or other allusions to pedophilia under posts promoting my writing. In some cases, they simply stated directly under said posts: “This man is a pedophile.” People inboxed me alleging the same. Some said I should be “locked up” and my “hard drives should be checked.” I was told I was “disgusting for defending a pedophile,” to which I would respond, “It’s not defending a pedophile if they’re not a pedophile.” Some went so far as to say they would leave bad reviews on my books to tank my sales. Others did just that. Someone asked me if my middle name was x, and they were correct, it was my middle name — though I don’t use it on any of my online profiles and have no idea how they learned it.

This type of behavior allows accusations to run wild without any mitigating factors. If the penalty for raising reasoned objection to any allegation is that you yourself get labeled as being guilty of said allegation, then people will be dissuaded from defending the innocent. It allows the perverse system to continue marching onward unimpeded.

3. Incentivizes Its Own Perpetuation

Not only does mob psychology punish any who would work to stop it from spiraling out of control, but it rewards those who push it further down the rabbit hole. The Twitter handle ebonyprince2k24 went from a relatively unknown account to one with viral content seen by more than 8 million people throughout a weekend. The song “Not Like Us,” quoted at the beginning of this article, became Kendrick Lamar’s second solo track to go #1 ever. A host of influencers saw a huge rise in follower count and engagement as they pushed out other allegations, speculation-filled analysis of allegations, or otherwise promoted the narrative that Drake is a pedophile and sex trafficker.

As I engaged with more and more content concerning the rap beef, the algorithm continued to feed me more of the same. Several influencers were also defending Drake, but as I scrolled through my feed, I began to recognize which would further the accusations and which would rebut them before they even spoke based on how many likes the video had. If I saw the subject matter was related to the rap beef, and it had a huge number of likes and reposts, then I knew they would be adding more fuel to the fire, and as I continued to watch, that was always the case. People were literally being paid to promote disinformation in many cases. During the Salem Witch Trials and the Red Scare, one way to prove your innocence was to give names of others who were guilty. These mechanisms work themselves into the frenzy to continue to spread and rise in pitch.

4. Bad in the Name of Good

Drake’s clothing store in London was vandalized right after Kendrick Lamar’s track alleging pedophilia came out, with the title of one of the tracks, “Not Like Us,” being spray-painted across the storefront. The following week, three instances of trespassing occurred at Drake’s Toronto residence. (Kendrick Lamar used an image of Drake’s home, with the red arrows used on sex offender maps superimposed, as the album artwork for one of his diss tracks.) One of Drake’s security personnel was shot in front of the residence a day after the last diss track dropped.

I’ve heard countless times over the last week that the women who were defending Drake were paid off, brainwashed, made to sign NDAs, etc. The defenders of these alleged victims were doing everything possible to discredit them, and they were doing it in the name of defending them. The people who have accused Drake and his defenders of some of the most horrible acts known to man are doing it while claiming the best possible motivations. They are waving the flag of righteousness while seeking to destroy the reputations of completely innocent people, like myself, or arguably innocent people, like the rapper. People have come after my livelihood simply because I sought to inject some nuance into the conversation, but they did it with the stated intention of protecting children from being sexualized. What nobler cause is there?

During the Salem Witch Trials, people were just trying to protect themselves and their families from the malevolence of evil spirits, so they hung and tortured innocent people to death. During the Red Scare, Americans just wanted to keep their system of government free from the subversive influence of communism, so they illegally detained thousands without warrants. During World War II, people just wanted to protect themselves, their fellow citizens, and their homeland, so they rounded up everyone who looked like the enemy and locked them away in camps. Big or small, now or at some distant point in history, it’s always in the name of good that people really lose their way. The mob never does anything in the name of evil, only in the name of righteousness, and that is another one of the reasons why it’s able to continue on with dangerous consequences.

Conclusion

New information could come out tomorrow that shows Drake is indeed guilty of what has been alleged, and if that’s the case, then let him be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. As things stand, Drake is a multi-millionaire and one of the most successful musical artists of all time, so he will likely be just fine. But it’s not about him. It’s about humanity.

This particular episode didn’t inspire me to write this piece; I’ve wanted to write it for quite some time. The experiences of the last couple of weeks simply offered me a detailed, real-time look into the phenomenon, even if the example itself is insignificant compared to others. I find the psychological mechanisms at play here to be some of the most disturbing, hypocritical, and disheartening of any that I examine in my writing, and it gets to the heart of not only mob psychology as a whole but our conceptions of justice.

I believe there is a craving for violence in everyone, and the way that society has sought to vent that craving en masse is as follows: We label those who do wrong and harm others as villains, and we then have our opening to do wrong and to harm them. “Good people” are just those who can channel their desires to be vicious and hateful at these socially acceptable targets. It’s that same thirst for blood that brought the masses to cheer at public executions and gladiatorial matches. It hasn’t gone anywhere. That animalistic drive to predate our fellow humans is now often dressed up and named “justice.”

We tell ourselves that they deserve it and that this makes it okay. But people do not engage in such things to do good. They want to bully, they want to cause pain, and they want the feeling of power that comes with unleashing their malice against someone. But in contexts such as these, which arise daily, these behaviors masquerade as moral acts. The annals of human history give us innumerable examples of good acts and bad. I can accept that we are, as a species, far from being entirely good. However, I must insist that we have our wrongs called out for what they are. The hypocrisy of this type of “justice” and the hypocrisy of the mob are distasteful to the highest degree.

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About the Creator

Martin Vidal

Author of A Guide for Ambitious People, Flower Garden, and On Authorship

martinvidal.co

martinvidal.medium.com

Instagram: @martinvidalofficial

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    Martin VidalWritten by Martin Vidal

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