Our 2021 Annual Report continues with an investigation into the never-ending drama surrounding Ye and Drake. As the year winds down, stay tuned for more awards, lists, and articles about the best music, film, and TV of 2021. You can find it all in one place here.
I don’t pretend to understand Highlander. But the one thing I do get is two Highlanders can’t occupy the same space: There can be only one. One becomes stronger after besting the other in combat, ensuring a life of immortality. Kanye West and Drake are hip-hop Highlanders: They fill the same space with roughly the same fanbase and live parallel to one another.
In 2021, their decade-long Cold War, littered with slights, sneak disses, and tons of passive-aggressiveness, heated back up. There was a lot of music, even more gossip, and a story that captured hip-hop’s attention for better, worse, and everything in between.
Certified Lover Boy and Donda are tied together, now and forever. Drake and Kanye teased their album releases earlier on the calendar and pretty much continued teasing as winter turned to spring, spring gave way to summer, and summer became “just drop the albums already!” Kanye wanted a Clash-of-the-Titans narrative to play out between him and a guy he always saw as exceedingly stiff competition.
In fact, Kanye has said the only reason Watch the Throne even got made was the pressure he felt from Drake’s dizzying ascent to the top of the game. For those of you just tuning in, that’s a spot Kanye feels — and has always felt — belongs solely to him.
The egos, rumors, subliminal disses here and there over the years, plus the elephant in the room that looks a lot like Pusha T, meant two of the most recognizable faces in all of pop culture were sitting on a powder keg. From afar, it looked like Kanye wanted to manage when and how it blew up to make sure everything went in his favor.
The results weren’t exactly what he planned, which tends to happen when dreams clash with reality.