Guest Post and Artwork by: Tyler Blankinship
To casual music fans, the beef between Pusha T and Drake seemed to come out of nowhere with the trifecta of “Infrared”, “Duppy Freestyle”, and “The Story of Adidon” taking the internet by storm. Many hip-hop fans can see that this beef has been brewing for around 15 years in a complex web of overlapping friendships and beefs that were bound to eventually boil over again. What even most hip-hop heads failed to realize is that the entire beef is essentially Star Wars. I hadn’t considered the possibility until seeing this tweet by Quentin Branch of the Chicago rap duo Angry Blackmen that established Drake as Vader and King Push as Luke Skywalker. This tweet spurred a web of intergalactic comparisons that involved many of hip-hop’s most important players and the first six Star Wars movies.
Star Wars and hip-hop have a decent amount of history, with Biggie, Earl Sweatshirt, Andre 3000, Eminem, Lil Uzi Vert, and countless others (including several of the rappers listed below) dropping references over the years. Natalie Portman got in on the Star Wars raps through SNL, where she spit a few bars defending the often criticized prequel trilogy. There was also that time Rick Rubin, A-Trak, Flying Lotus, and others got together to make the largely forgettable Star Wars Headspace album. In the biggest connection yet, Childish Gambino has become a part of the Star Wars canon with his role as Lando Calrissian in “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” Hip-hop and the legendary space opera seem closer than ever and if they were ever to fully align, here’s a guide to who would be who in the overlapping universe.
Sith & The Empire
You niggas getting older, I see no threat in Yoda
– Drake on “The Ride”
Drake: Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader
Drake has had one of the most impressive career trajectories in music. He quickly burst to the forefront of the game in 2009 with the release of So Far Gone and in the nearly 10 years since he’s somehow continued to shatter through every ceiling to become arguably the most successful artist in music and break various records with each of his last four albums. With this exponential growth over the last few years, Drake has made the transition from an easily-clowned “soft” rapper that focused on records for people in their feelings to a more calculated rapper that should not be messed with lightly. Anakin Skywalker similarly started his Jedi training as a prodigy with rapidly realized potential and an ever-expanding hunger to grow stronger. He became an elite Jedi in position to become the greatest ever.
As he became more powerful, those close to him began to question his methods and impede his progress. For Drake, this started with his cold wars with Jay-Z and Kanye West and his continued status as a meme for emotional men. Drake began to seriously toy with the Dark Side on his 2015 project If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, where he adopted a harsher demeanor over more bare, trap influenced instrumentals. This project focused on realizations of mortality, fear of betrayal, and bouts of anger much like those Anakin faced leading up to his turn.
The turn to Darth Vader was finalized later that year when close friend Meek Mill exposed Drake’s use of ghostwriters on IYRTITL and he responded with the one-two punch of “Charged Up” and “Back to Back,” not only winning the beef, but making it look effortless. Since then, Drake has adopted a more worldwide style in his attempt to conquer the entire galaxy. As he finally became the most powerful artist in music, he like Vader, was defeated by the revelation that he had a son unbeknownst to the rest of the world. With the release of his double-album Scorpion, Drake Vader may be beginning his redemption arc and we may find him turning on Birdman in the coming years.
Birdman: Emperor Palpatine
For Darth Vader to exist, there must be an Emperor Palpatine to lead him down the path to the darkside and to mastermind the galaxy’s power shift into the hands of the Empire. Though Lil Wayne may seem to be Drake’s more direct mentor, Birdman is a much better fit for the Emperor.
Birdman, similarly to Palpatine, seems to be solely motivated by the conquest for more power. This focus helped him to bring Cash Money Records from nothing into one of the most dominant rap labels in rap history. His array of apprentices has shifted over the years as a result of shady dealings and soured relationships, but nevertheless he remains in power. The Cash Money Empire thrives because of all of the artists signed to it, but Birdman is reaping the lion’s share of the rewards and infamously owes artists millions of dollars at a time. He has reached a point where he almost never raps anymore, leaving that work to those training under him while he celebrate his riches and security provided by his own Imperial guards, the notorious YMCMB bodyguards.
Drake Vader has been rumored to be leaving the label for years, and has fed these rumors even more with lines on Scorpion (“Soon as this album drop I’m out of the deal”). If Lil Wayne is able to successfully get back his $53 million and exit his deal, Birdman may finally face a similar downfall as the galactic emperor before him. His conquest for power has found him success but at the expense of relationships with those around him that provide the label with its value. He is so concerned with himself, that he refrains from defending his own artists in beefs, instead choosing silence and hoping that the added controversy will increase sales.
Lil Wayne: Count Dooku
Weezy F. Baby and the “F.” is for “Force-user who has been on both sides of the beef and has been pivotal to the careers of many involved despite not having a huge stake in this specific beef.” That means, that he must be Count Dooku. Lil Wayne has not always had bad blood with the other side. He’s appeared on songs with Clipse, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Meek Mill, and Rick Ross, having an especially strong relationship with Ross. This mirrors Dooku’s experience as a Jedi and fondness of Qui Gon Jinn before turning to the Dark Side.
His relationship with Pusha T soured in the early 2000’s, after Birdman not properly paying Pharrell for the beat on “What Happened to That Boy” or Wayne’s adoption of the clothing brand A Bathing Ape after Clipse helped popularize it, depending on who you ask. The Wayne vs. Pusha beef fizzled out after Pusha’s scathing 2012 diss “Exodus 23:1” (which took some early shots at Drake) and Wayne’s embarrassingly weak response track “Ghoulish.” In the most recent iteration of this battle, Pusha T seems to be pitiful towards Tunechi and his unfortunate situation that’s keeping him trapped in Cash Money without the ability to drop Tha Carter V (“Flash without the fire/Another multi-platinum rapper trapped and can’t retire”).
Before Drake came into power, Lil Wayne was a trailblazer in the rap world that influenced an entire generation of rappers while bringing Cash Money into greater success with his Young Money imprint. Dooku’s influence in the creation of the clone army that enabled the Empire to eventually destroy all competition is a near perfect parallel to the height of their respective careers.
Unfortunately, like Dooku fell to Vader, Lil Wayne eventually fell to Drake. The newer apprentice became more powerful than the legend before him and seized control of the rap game and the focus of the label. The only difference here is that Drake has remained fiercely loyal to Wayne over the years rather than killing him off. Hopefully Dooku’s demise will be replaced with a career revival for Wayne, who has already began to come back with several noteworthy features and the best installment of his Dedication series this decade dropping recently.
Tyga: Darth Maul
Tyga is Darth Maul. This may be the first entry that draws some controversy, but hear me out. Darth Maul seemed to be the most badass Sith in the prequels, but in the grand scheme of things he was just a flash in the pan. Though he may seem washed in 2018, Tyga had an impressive run of hits that kept him on top of the game earlier this decade. His presence was undeniable and he seemed to have an endless stream of hits.
In the movies, Maul is struck down by Obi Wan and everything is over for him. However, in the Expanded Universe (I promise this is the only time I’ll dive into that), Maul survives, goes into hiding, and eventually aims to get revenge on the Sith for mistreating him. After Tyga’s career seemed to fade away, he left Young Money, had a short-lived beef with Drake, signed to Kanye West’s GOOD Music, and even has an appearance from Pusha T on his last mixtape. With a couple of bubbling records in the last couple of years, Tyga’s time to re-emerge and get his revenge may be coming soon.
Nicki Minaj: General Grievous
Lastly on the Dark Side is General Grievous, who in the rap world would be closest to Nicki Minaj. Grievous was a direct apprentice to Count Dooku, who stayed fiercely loyal to his master just as Nicki did to Wayne. Though Grievous and Minaj both became the flashiest and most interesting of their respective groups, they both started with humble beginnings with immense skill and hunger for success. Just as Grievous replaced most of his body with cybernetics to become a stronger warrior, Nicki replaced her harder raps with a more accessible pop-leaning sound to find her greatest successes.
Nicki Minaj has not played a huge part in this beef. She has taken to social media to defend Drake, but her support has been ultimately inconsequential through this, just as Grievous had very little actual impact in the overthrowing of the Republic. They were also both held back by their relationships with Obi Wan/Meek Mill in key moments. Obi Wan stopped Grievous from having a greater impact by battling him several times and eventually killing him, while Meek kept Nicki from getting involved in earlier beefs through their romantic relationship at the time. Nicki never became the most powerful on her label, but she constantly reminds everyone of her past achievements and has a tendency to lash out when she feels slighted. Grievous could never use The Force, but constantly reminded Jedi of his past success by using the lightsabers of those he killed and would even kill the droids under his control when they failed him.
Jedi & The Rebellion
But if they ever flip sides like Anakin, you’ll sell everything including the mannequin
– Kanye West on “Gone”
Pusha T: Luke Skywalker
Directly opposite Darth Vader in this beef sits Luke Skywalker, just as Drake must face Pusha T. Luke and Push both had humble beginnings in areas surrounded by sand in Tatooine and Virginia Beach, respectively. They both began as ambitious and genuinely good-hearted men that wanted to serve those around him. Neither could have foreseen that they would eventually take down the largest power in the world.
Just as Luke spent years grindin’ as a farmer and training as a pilot before eventually finding his path to the Jedi, Pusha T spent his life as a drug dealer and half of the duo Clipse before finding greater success in his solo rap career. Both were shaped into well-intentioned men that would face obstacles few could recover from. Pusha went through his record deal dissolving, Malice leaving Clipse to find God, and several people close to him getting caught up with the law before finding his Yoda, Kanye West. Luke went through the death of his aunt and uncle, the destruction of his moisture farm, and the loss of many rebels to the hands of the Empire before learning his true potential.
Once Pusha received his training, he rose through the ranks and eventually became the president of West’s G.O.O.D. Music. In his position of power, he was afforded time to train and lead those around him, taking a three year break from releasing music. When his training was over, Pusha returned with DAYTONA, the sharpest album of his solo career. The album’s closer, “Infrared,” took shots at Birdman, pitied Lil Wayne, and reignited his beef with Drake by pouring salt in the wounds on Drake’s legacy opened by Meek Mill. As the beef continued, Pusha left Drake powerless after eviscerating him with “The Story of Adidon.” Just as Luke was celebrated by the Rebellion as the Empire fell, Pusha T received praise from the internet, media, and other rappers for his successful defeat of a seemingly unstoppable villain.
Kanye West: Yoda
Only one rapper is worthy to be compared to Yoda, arguably the greatest Jedi of all time, and that is Kanye West. Let’s start with the easy comparisons. First, Kanye’s mastery of both rapping and producing match Yoda’s mastery over the force and lightsaber combat and leave them both exceptionally powerful in their worlds. Second, Ye has had an exceptionally long reign at the top of his field, outlasting several generations of rappers while always remaining fresh, just as Yoda lived through hundreds of years of galactic conflicts. Last, despite being partially involved in several beefs throughout his storied career, he has done everything in his power to remain removed and has never dropped a full on diss track towards anyone, with a focus on peace and positive energy that would make Yoda proud.
Yoda has a complex relationship with the Skywalkers, and that began soon after Anakin Skywalker was discovered as a child. Yoda could sense great fear within the boy and worried that if he were to become too powerful he would cross over to the Dark Side. He reluctantly agreed to train the boy after the death of Qui-Gon Jinn but was always suspicious of the boy. Eventually, Anakin would flip sides and confirm Yoda’s fears. Despite being the most powerful Jedi left alive, Yoda decided not to challenge Vader and instead to train and send Luke. Similarly, when Drake first showed his immense potential, Kanye was worried. Someone seemed to be picking up on the styles Ye helped to pioneer through 808’s and Heartbreak in a way that could surpass the original. Kanye eventually tried to help Drake advance by writing and co-producing “Find Your Love.” Over the years of Drake’s takeover of the music industry, Kanye would collaborate with The Boy several times, but there was always tension between them and Kanye explicitly mentioned his fear of Drake several times. Once the most recent beef came to a boiling point, Kanye prepared Pusha to deliver the eviscerating response from the GOOD camp.
Yoda found a much better relationship with the next Skywalker in the lineage. Though Luke received basic training from Obi Wan and even destroyed the Death Star before ever meeting Yoda, he did not truly become a Jedi until after his training on Dagobah. Yoda had trained many Jedi in his time, but rarely did he give much time or attention to any one apprentice. This time was different, as Yoda gave Luke his full attention and trained him over an extended period of time. After Luke had become a proficient Jedi, Yoda passed his responsibilities onto his apprentice and trusted that he could lead any future Jedi. While Pusha T had a successful career with Clipse and has been backed by Pharrell since the beginning, he never became a fully formed solo artist until he started working with Kanye.
Kanye has helped many artists achieve mainstream success (Lupe Fiasco, Travi$ Scott, Vic Mensa, etc.) but normally his involvement is simply a push in the right direction and increased exposure. With Pusha, the approach was different. Kanye became involved in every single solo project Push has released, even going as far as fully producing DAYTONA and throwing a verse on for good measure. He also featured Pusha heavily throughout the GOOD Fridays and Cruel Summer compilations, on two separate tracks from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and as the first verse on KIDS SEE GHOSTS. After intertwining their careers, Kanye promoted Pusha T to be the president of G.O.O.D. Music, leading the label through continued expansion.
Meek Mill: Obi Wan Kenobi
There’s one key way in which this analogy does not work. Meek Mill did not train or discover Drake. If anything, their relationship went the other way with Drake providing an early assist on Mill’s “Amen”. Regardless, the two became friends in a way that seemed to be deeper than most, with Drake donating $75,000 to Meek’s high school, Meek going on Drake’s Club Paradise tour, and the two frequently praising each other via social media. Similarly, Obi Wan and Anakin had a relationship that was much more of a friendship than your average Jedi Knight-Padawan relationship. Eventually, Obi Wan began to fear Anakin and learned of his secret relationship with Padme, which would eventually lead to their battle on Mustafar. Obi Wan has the advantages of information and the high ground which lead him to winning this battle. However, he makes the grave mistake of leaving Anakin alive at the end of their duel. After feeling that Drake didn’t do enough to promote his album, Meek Mill revealed that Drake had used ghostwriters, including Quentin Miller, on their collaboration “R.I.C.O.” and several solo Drake songs. Drake threw some subliminal responses to Meek on “Charged Up,” a single Drake dropped on SoundCloud along with two other songs shortly after the allegations arose. The diss was fairly light and left Meek with a clear advantage in the budding beef.
Just as Obi Wan failed to finish off Anakin, Meek failed to drop his response to Drake. In one of the most embarrassing turns in the history of rap beefs, Meek took so long to respond that Drake dropped “Back to Back,” a much harsher follow-up that called out Meek and his hesitancy to respond. Drake defeated a much more talented battle rapper and was finally taken seriously by former doubters. When Anakin faced Obi Wan again (this time as Darth Vader), he struck down the Jedi in a similarly hopeless fight. The respective impacts were so severe that the entire galaxy thought that the Jedi were extinct along with Meek Mill’s career.
Despite never facing Darth Vader again, Obi Wan is a key factor in his downfall and manages to eventually find redemption. Obi Wan taught Luke Skywalker many of the skills necessary to fight Vader and eventually was able to return at peace as a Force ghost. Outside of a couple of forgettable tracks in the wake of “Back to Back,” Meek has never adequately responded to Drake’s scathing disses in the three years since their beef. Instead, he showed just how powerful Drake could become in a battle even without being much of a lyricist and provided a cautionary tale for any future competitors, including Pusha T. After his beef with Drake, Meek Mill was unjustly held in prison which largely brought the music world back by his side. After being freed, Meek is past all of the drama and has found his redemption through a focus on social change and prison reform.
Rick Ross: Qui Gon Jinn
Qui Gon Jinn is far from the most important character in Star Wars, but he plays pivotal roles as a middle man through his relationships with Obi Wan and Dooku and his exposure of the Sith’s return. Rick Ross is largely neutral in this beef, yet this beef can’t be adequately explained without his involvement, especially through his relationships with Meek Mill, Lil Wayne, and Pusha T and his exposure of problems within Cash Money.
Just as Qui Gon trained Obi Wan, Rick Ross trained Meek Mill. Meek had been making moves for a couple of years, including a short-lived deal with T.I.’s Grand Hustle and a budding relationship with DJ Drama that got his foot in the door, but his career really took off once he came to join Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group. Ross collaborated with Meek on several early songs, including his breakout smash “Ima Boss”. Ross has continued to advocate for Meek and collaborate with him frequently over the years, but remained strangely quiet through the entire Drake-Meek beef.
His silence may have been due to his close relationship to several members of the Cash Money family, especially Lil Wayne. Weezy and Rozay have had dozens of collaborations through the last decade as they became mainstays of hip-hop radio and DJ Khaled albums. Count Dooku was once a powerful Jedi and trained Qui Gon, forming a special relationship between the two. Though Qui Gon never knew Dooku as a Sith, he respected his master’s wishes to leave the Jedi Order. Eventually, Qui Gon would be the one to show the galaxy that the Sith had returned through his discovery of Darth Maul. As Lil Wayne’s relationship with Cash Money famously soured, Ross stayed loyal to his friend and took a strong stance against Birdman with “Idols Become Rivals.” This song is not a traditional diss track. Rather than an angry assault, the song is a disappointed lecture to Birdman on all that he’s doing wrong and how it’s hurting Wayne and Khaled. The song exposed Birdman’s failure to pay producers, mistreatment of all the Hot Boyz, flaunting fake cars, and ripping off artists under YMCMB. Pusha T had been mentioning these things for years, but with Ross addressing them, the allegations carried much more weight.
Ross has remained largely neutral in this manifestation of the beef but has remained in the mix. Pusha addressed the public reaction to “Idols Become Rivals” on “Infrared” (“Oh now it’s okay to kill Baby”) and featured Ross on “Hard Piano.” Ross also appeared on a scrapped collaboration with Drake and DJ Premier that was intended for Scorpion titled “Sail.” For now, he’s sticking to dissing Birdman and staying out of the rest of the drama.
Kid Cudi: Mace Windu
To finish it all off, Kid Cudi is Mace Windu. Windu was one of few Jedi to be truly respected as a peer to Yoda just as Cudi is a peer to Kanye West. Windu was a leader of the Jedi Council along with Yoda and the two frequently worked together just as Cudi and Kanye frequently collaborated through their solo catalogs and on their new joint album KIDS SEE GHOSTS. Mace Windu gets much of his power from The Dark Side, which is why his lightsaber glows purple rather than a traditional blue or green, yet he still only uses his power for good. Similarly, Cudi is unique as a rapper in that his greatest songwriting comes from the pain, fear, and depression that occupy the dark side of his mind but he utilizes his music to uplift others. In the public eye, Mace Windu is an unusual figure in the Star Wars universe and has found an immense following of devoted fans due to his individuality. Cudi has also amassed a cult following that finds inspiration and relatability through his individuality as a musician and as a public figure.
The Saga Continues
There’s one artist separate from the light or dark side that needs to be discussed: Ty Dolla $ign, who is not a character, but a force. The Force, to be exact. Ty has worked with every artist I’ve explored thus far (with the exception of Birdman, who released his last album before Ty started his career) and most of the other artists I will be mentioning shortly. In June of 2018 alone, he provided stellar features for Kanye West, Drake, Jay-Z, & Kid Cudi. He has no side in the beefs. He simply provides the assistance that can make good songs into great ones. In the last few years, his heavenly voice has become practically omnipresent with one of the best feature streaks of all time. Hopefully his energy will remain strong and provide assistance for many more great albums.
These comparisons could go on forever considering how many key characters are involved in each conflict. Here’s a rapid-fire version of several other rappers/characters that were considered: Jay-Z is Han Solo. Diddy is Jabba the Hutt. Kendrick Lamar is Boba Fett. Rihanna is Padme Amidala. Childish Gambino is Lando (duh). Nas is Greedo. Pharrell is Uncle Owen. No Malice is Wedge Antilles. J. Prince is Darth Plagueis. 40 is Grand Moff Tarkin. Joe Budden is Ki-Adi Mundi. Big Sean is Chewbacca. Teyana Taylor is Princess Leia. There are probably dozens more comparisons that could be made in this analogy and there could possibly be better matches for any of the rappers and characters I’ve listed above. Hit me with who I missed, who I got wrong, and who I got right on my Twitter @__solodolo__. May Ty Dolla $ign be with you.