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May 16, 2024

Music Marketing: The Dying Art of Being Controversial

Drake and Kendrick Lamar reignited the lost art of the music feud this month, with the hip hop stars trading increasingly brutal lyrical blows. And their followers, social media and digital commentators lapped it up, with Lamar breaking Spotify records in the process (and bagging himself a No.1 record). One Nine Nine looks at the dying art of the music feud and why being controversial can be good for business… 

If, like us, you’ve been finding pop music a little too clean-cut, a little personality-lite recently, a little PG-13 (no Drake jokes, please), then you’ll no doubt have been paying close attention to the greatest hip hop feud since Biggie vs Tupac. 

Drake and Kendrick Lamar have been trading barbs for a while now, but the pace intensified over the last few weeks when no fewer than 8 diss tracks were released in quick succession. The beef escalated to the point where Drake’s bodyguard was shot while Lamar’s "Not Like Us” shot into the Billboard Hot 100 top spot. 

By most marketing metrics, Lamar has won - his No.1 track was the quickest rap record to 100 million Spotify streams (9 days), and he largely got the backing of social media as fans followed the Battle Royale in real-time. 

No losers?

But, speaking glibly, are there any losers in this feud (beyond any violent escalations - police inquiries are ongoing in the bodyguard shooting)?

Drake and Lamar unleashed some witty, pithy and downright libellous barbs, showcasing their skills. They’ve become headline news, raised their profile and brought in millions of new streams and fans. As far as harvesting eyeballs go (a wonderfully evocative marketing phrase), it’s been highly effective. 

Older hip hop heads will recall a similar level of excitement surrounding the East Coast Biggie and West Coast Tupac feud at the back end of the Golden Era of Hip Hop in the mid-90s. 

Similarly, Oasis and Blur traded blows - well, Liam and Noel did - when it came to the Battle of Britpop in 1996 as both British bands raced towards the coveted summer No.1. 

Controversy sells

The simple truth is that being controversial works in the marketing world. It gets you noticed, it fans the flames of attention. As Drake and Lamar have reminded us, one of the best ways to be controversial is to take aim at a rival artist and let the world’s (social) media pick over the carcass. 

This high-wire strategy comes loaded with risk. There’s a fine line between being controversial and outright aggressive, especially in today’s media-savvy world. 

This is where a music marketing agency like One Nine Nine comes in. We’ve worked with plenty of high-profile artists who want to share their opinions, including Oscar-nominated multi-hyphenate Riz Ahmed. We worked with him on his Long Goodbye album and short film campaign to structure and convey the powerful political narratives in the album. 

We know when to shout and what to shout about, helping our clients reach a wider audience, amplifying their message. 

If you want to pick a fight, and it’s one we believe in, we’ll be in your corner! 

Get in Touch 

Want to stand out with your music marketing? We work with global music and entertainment names, creating and delivering compelling digital, marketing, and creative strategies that change the narrative and support your ongoing commercial and critical success. 

To find out how we can impact your marketing, please contact our team at 01138444111 or email us at

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