I was playing Madden with my cousin E around 2007 when I first heard Drake. My cousin connected his iPod Nano to my stereo and played the Canadian artist’s signature mix of singing and rapping.

At first, I was hesitant to listen to a rapper who was from Toronto and played a main character on “Degrassi.”

Fast-forward a couple years later, and Drake is not only one of the most talented rappers in the game, but he’s one of my favorite artists because of his boldness to be different and his creation of nonstop anthems. Drake has made songs for the club, receptions, breakups, etc.

During Drake’s 15-year run, he’s established himself as a versatile artist who experiments with cultural and regional sounds. He sampled Baltimore club music on his song “Currents” and gave the city a shout out in “Middle of the Ocean” when he said, “You would think we live in Baltimore, the way they ravin’ ’bout the latest product.”

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In 2011, I was exposed to another new artist as I sat in the car with my boy Tee before an open mic. We were both poets who just started performing in public.

As a routine, we’d sit in the car, recite our lines and pass cheap vodka back and forth to shake the nervous feeling. Tee would always have the best music playing, so I gave him control of the aux cord. This particular day changed how I viewed performance poetry.

“Section 80″ was the album Tee was playing and it was cinematic. Kendrick Lamar’s words created the Compton scenes he rapped about. His wordplay was unlike the mumble rap flow that was dominating rap. He was poetic.

A year later, the Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper went on to drop “good kid, m.A.A.d City,” not only making a name for himself, but also reshaping the standard of what it means to be a modern lyricist.

For those reasons alone, I could never hate Drake or Kendrick.

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As you may have heard by now, we are arguably witnessing one of the greatest rap battles in the history of hip-hop between Drake and Kendrick. Some are calling it a rap “civil war” because of all the internal beefs brewing between multiple rappers.

We’ve seen Future, Metro Boomin, The Weeknd, Rick Ross, A$AP Rocky and even Kanye West (who I believe no one wants to see in this battle) throw shots at Drake. This in turn has caused Drake to dub this battle a 20 vs. 1, since so many rappers have pledged allegiance to each other with hopes of eliminating him from the top.

The undeniable main event on the battle card, however, is between Drizzy and Kdot, as some fans call them — two hip-hop giants who have had a history of throwing jabs at each throughout the years.

Since March 30, when the official date of this battle began, rap fans have been spoiled. This lyrical showoff has kept us on the edge of our seats waiting for new response tracks to be released. With each released song, we saw reaction commentary from fans.

Local hip-hop artists weighed in. Some used few words, but we knew what they were feeling.

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There were surprises like AI vocals from Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg. That song, “Taylor Made Freestyle,” has been taken down from Drake’s social media profiles after Shakur’s estate threatened a lawsuit.

Through lyrical haymakers, both rappers attacked each other’s flows, character, parenting, physical appearance, relationships, Blackness and more.

The music and production was layered and innovative. The lyrics were fiery, clever and, at times, low. Some of my favorite lyrics: “How the f-ck you big steppin’ with a size seven men’s on?” (Drake in “Push Ups”) and “I like Drake with the melodies, I don’t like Drake when he acts tough” (Kendrick in “euphoria”). The back-and-forth and anticipation of each artist’s rebuttal was exciting.

We’ve seen beef unfold in rap before. In the 1990s there was Biggie vs. Tupac and in the 2000s there was Nas vs. Jay-Z. But never in the history of hip-hop have we seen two global rap icons go hit for hit on a universal digital stage. No other battle has garnered this much attention and produced this many songs in such a short time. The hip-hop of the past couple years has been boring, and I have opted to listen to ’90s R&B. But Drake vs. Kendrick has refreshed my hunger for the genre that I grew up on and hold near to my heart.

My closing thoughts on this battle are this:

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Wallace Lane is part of The Baltimore Banner's Creatives in Residence program, which amplifies the work of artists and writers from the Baltimore region.

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