Lessons from the Hip Hop Civil War, Mike Francesa and Meb Faber stop by

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image via Complex

This spring the hip hop world has been rocked by the out of nowhere Drake and J. Cole diss delivered by Kendrick Lamar in a surprise verse on the new Future / Metro Boomin album. There was so much commotion from what Kendrick had to say about his supposed peers that the project subsequently went number one and then stayed there for two weeks straight, eclipsing the just-released Beyonce country music album everyone had been expecting to reign. On the contentious track, called “Like That”, Kendrick puts a stop to all the “Big Three” talk perpetuated by Drake and J. Cole on their collab song “First Person Shooter” and declares “It’s just Big Me.

Drake’s open-ended taunt from last fall on Shooter - “Who the GOAT? Who the GOAT?” - probably got under K Dot’s skin. Especially the part where Drake and Cole analogize their appearing on the same record opposite each other as being “Big as the Super Bowl.”

Kendrick was not having it.


His eruption has shattered a peace at the top of the rap game that has been in place for at least a decade. The so-called Big 3 represented an equilibrium in which plenty of artists were able to co-exist and thrive in the ecosystem, buoyed as they were on a flood tide of collaboration opportunities with those at the top of the pyramid. 21 Savage’s joint albums with Drake and the home-and-away massive hit singles he did with J. Cole (“A Lot” on his own album and “my . life” on Cole’s) are a prime example of how this environment of cooperation and mutual admiration could boost the commercial ambitions of all involved.

image via All HipHop

But there’s a downside when the collaboration comes to an end and artists try to branch out and do different things - including collaborating with new people and initiating new career phases. Not everyone is happy with the way these shifts in the landscape manifest themselves. Prior to making smash hit records with 21, Drake was doing this on an almost annual basis with the aforementioned Future and the biggest boss Rick Ross. They might have felt a way about seeing Drake adopt 21 Savage and slot him into the role they each once inhabited as Drake’s primary rapping partner on various projects over the years. The fact that Kendrick Lamar chose a Future project to pop off on - and that Future was happy to host it - is noteworthy. Ross unfollowing Drake on IG is equally telling.

As Drake finished up the last of what was almost a hundred arena shows and the biggest tour of the year, his fellow emcees were waiting for him to land knives out.

J. Cole released a diss track aimed back at Kendrick on Friday morning. It was half-hearted and limp-wristed at best, complimenting the West Coast rapper while picking nits within his discography. No one bought it. Even the title of the project the diss track appeared on told you how hesitant J. Cole felt about the whole thing; it was called “Might Delete Later”. By Sunday night, in front of a packed crowd at his own concert festival ‘Dreamville’, Cole called his own track corny, was totally disavowing his own words - “It just didn’t sit right with my soul.” - and was apologizing. He’s definitely not the GOAT, having completely taken himself out of the conversation, forever.

J. Cole apologizes on stage

Drake hasn’t responded yet. But Drake is, of course, the king of pettiness. The hip hop community is bracing to see who takes sides with whom and what the biggest streaming rapper of all time (look it up, it’s true) has to say in response. There are more shoes still to drop. In the meantime, you can listen to Kendrick’s opening salvo here and J. Cole’s failed attempt at a response (along with the apology) here and here.

The lesson here, as I explained internally with my firm this week, is that equilibriums are inherently unstable, they just appear not to be for a long time.


In the earlier version of any industry, collaboration may truly be beneficial to all involved - large firm, small firm, fast-moving newcomer firms, long-standing establishment firms, etc. But eventually, in every endeavor, big corporations are going to start acting like big corporations. Powerful players are going to use their power and throw their weight around. The collabs and happy talk is going to stop and the competition is going to heat up.

My industry isn’t young anymore. It’s not early either. My team is building its competitive advantages every day. We are constantly digging our moat and adding bricks to the ramparts, thickening our walls in preparation. I don’t know when it’s coming, I just know it’s not going to be a surprise to us.

For now, we’re good with the equilibrium. It’s still serving the interests of most and lots of amazing things are coming out of the industrywide collaboration we’ve been living through. We’re not going to be the Kendrick of this story.

One other lesson the Hip Hop Civil War era reminds me of is the fact that there is very little practical benefit to being in the GOAT conversation other than as an ego stroke. It means there’s always someone (or many someones) awaiting their opportunity to attack. Let someone else struggle beneath the weight of the crown. In a winner-takes-all game, the benefit of GOATship would be obvious. The financial advisory space is certainly not that type of game.

Speaking of GOATs…

This week we had the legendary Mike Francesa aka The Pope aka The GOAT stop by the Compound to tell us all about the latest in the sports world. Mike weighs in on the Shohei Ohtani gambling scandal, the contentious sale process involving A-Rod trying to buy the Milwaukee Bucks, the story behind how the New York Knicks became one of the best teams in basketball, the failure of “defensive-minded” NFL coaches to win games and the story of how he became one of the greatest talk radio hosts of all time.

Mike is an amazing guy and it’s been an honor to have become his friend over the last couple of years. My co-host Michael Batnick grew up worshipping Mike and his show, so making this happen and bringing him on was a dream come true. I hope you love watching it as much as we enjoyed taping it:

The audio version will be up on the TCAF podcast feed tonight.

The latest Compound and Friends episode featured one of my oldest friends in the industry, Meb Faber. Meb founded Cambria Investments, a family of ETFs with $2.5 billion in assets under management. He is also the proprietor of The Idea Farm, one of the best free investment research products in the world with over 100,000 subscribers.

Meb did a beer tasting with us, sampling five varieties from IPA to Pilsner, while explaining the necessity of including international stocks in one’s asset allocation and extolling the benefits of trend-following and momentum strategies. It’s absolutely epic. You can listen to it as a podcast here or watch it below:

Los Angeles

Ritholtz Wealth Management works with clients from coast to coast and you could become one of them. We’re coming to LA at the end of the month to celebrate the opening of our Los Angeles office and see both clients and prospects in-person. If you’d like to meet and discuss your portfolio or financial plan, we would love to see you. Email [email protected] and we’ll get you on the calendar.

We’re also doing a live recording of The Compound and Friends with two special guests. It’s all happening at a big networking event on Tuesday, April 30th after work. Get your ticket below and we’ll see you out there!

Ok, that’s it from me, hope you’re having a great week! Talk soon! - JB