Hip-hop stars’ beef began in 2014 when Drake dissed Kendrick Lamar on ESPN, sports personality says

The feud between Drake and Kendrick Lamar ignited a decade ago when Drake dissed Lamar in a taped interview on ESPN but then threatened to pull out of hosting the ESPY Awards if the network aired the critical comments, according to sports personality Marcellus Wiley.

Wiley, a former NFL defensive end and native of Compton, California, said in a video posted Wednesday on his YouTube channel that Drake, the Canadian rapper, sparked the hip-hop beef in a 2014 interview on “SportsNation.”

Drake was on the show, hosted by Wiley and TV personality Max Kellerman, to promote ESPN’s annual awards for excellence in sports, the ESPYs, and his music and projects, Wiley said.

As he was being interviewed by Wiley and Kellerman, Drake began criticizing Lamar either out of “jealousy” or to put him in his place, Wiley said.

“We doing the interview and Drake going in on Kendrick. I was like, ‘Wait, what the hell?’ Me and Max hitting each other like this dude talking that trash,” he said. “It’s about to go down. Our lives are about to change, ’cause we about to be … the epicenter of rap, like we got the biggest beef going, and he about to drop it right on our lap.”

Wiley continued: “Now we tape that show. So when that show came out,” he laughed. “Y’all didn’t see the beef. Y’all didn’t see what Drake said.”

He elaborated on Drake’s comments.

“What Drake was saying was basically like ‘Kendrick, you ain’t me. Kendrick, I’m the big dog. I got the numbers. I got the machine. I am the machine — stay in your place, little man.’”

ESPN didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment Thursday afternoon. Representatives for Lamar and Drake couldn’t be reached for comment. Attempts to reach Wiley and Kellerman weren’t successful Thursday night.

Wiley said that after Drake criticized Lamar, Drake and his camp decided they didn’t want the comments to air and went to ESPN management with a threat. Wiley didn’t elaborate on the threat or how he knew about it.

Drake “dissed this dude, then hid behind your team, let them call our bosses, producers … and told them … ‘if y’all let that interview go — I’m not hosting the ESPYs.”

Wiley said he met Lamar, who is also from Compton, in 2013 when he performed on “SportsNation.” The two are now friends, Wiley said. He said that after Drake made his comments, Wiley contacted Lamar’s camp and told it about Drake’s remarks.

Wiley said he believed that Lamar has been preparing for the moment and that he has more diss tracks about Drake available at his disposal.

Wiley said that while he didn’t like Drake’s comments a decade ago or the ESPN ultimatum, he respects him as a musician who releases “bangers.”

The hip-hop megastars have traded small shots in the past, but the jabs have escalated since mid-April, with each releasing four diss tracks. Drake struck first, with the first two songs building momentum and the belief that he was winning, as well as anticipation of when or whether Lamar would respond. Lamar started hitting back more than two weeks later.

The rap battle has produced a string of hits on streaming services while prompting fans, pundits and artists alike to decipher lyrics and pick sides.

But the tracks have also been full of serious allegations by Lamar toward Drake, including that he’s hiding a secret daughter and that he is fond of underage girls.

Drake has denied the accusations.

Meanwhile, Drake has boasted he’s the better rapper and claimed other contemporary rappers have also gotten the best of Lamar. He also accused Lamar of domestic violence and said he raps about pro-Black issues like he’s an activist but it’s not genuine.

The personal attacks have caused some consternation among fans and hip-hop insiders that it has gone too far.

Wiley said he had kept the information about Drake’s comments in 2014 out of the public because he couldn’t produce the video of the remarks and it also wasn’t his story to tell.

“This ain’t my beef. This is their beef. They know the art of war,” he said.

But Wiley said he believes that Lamar has won in the court of public opinion and that the lyrical sparring has ended.

“The man got the people, and that’s Kendrick Lamar,” he said. “Now, that’s me being objective.”

But speaking as a fellow Southern California native, he said, “Go get them, Compton.”

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