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In the Battle of Drake vs. Kendrick Lamar, A.I. Is Playing Spoiler

For the past month, an all-out brawl has consumed hip-hop, with some of the genre’s top artists trading barbs in rapidly released tracks. The dispute, which began in late March with a perceived dig at Drake by Future and Metro Boomin, has roped in J. Cole, Rick Ross and even the estate of Tupac Shakur.

At issue: Who is the current holder of hip-hop’s crown — Drake or Kendrick Lamar — with a whole lot of rumors, personal attacks and inside jokes adding fuel to the fire.

Rap battles aren’t new, but this time, fans are grappling with a very 2024 question: Which of the diss songs are real?

When a diss track in a high-profile conflict gets released, the splintered rap media ecosystem — including magazines, blogs, Instagram pages, YouTube channels, podcasts and livestreams — often erupts immediately. Journalists spread the word, critics dissect every line, and fans rush to crown a winner, round by round. But when a Drake response called “Push Ups” appeared online, fans wondered whether it was made by him or was perhaps the work of generative artificial intelligence.

They had reason to be skeptical. Last year, “Heart on My Sleeve,” a song impersonating Drake and the Weeknd, was posted by a musical creator called Ghostwriter, and in many ways served as a harbinger of the impact this technology may have on the industry.

A track like “Heart on My Sleeve” requires a fair amount of musical know-how to produce. The beats and raps are typically generated by a musician, then put through an open-source deepfake filter to transform the vocals into a well-known artist’s. It is that last step, imitating another artist’s vocals, that has caused the most consternation.

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