The New York Times: A Chinese restaurant is winning the Kendrick Lamar-Drake beef

T.M. Brown
The New York Times
3 Min Read
Caught in the middle of California-born rapper Kendrick Lamar and Canadian rapper Drake’s full-fledged beef is New Ho King, an unassuming restaurant in Toronto’s Chinatown.
Caught in the middle of California-born rapper Kendrick Lamar and Canadian rapper Drake’s full-fledged beef is New Ho King, an unassuming restaurant in Toronto’s Chinatown. Credit: Getty Images;Instagram;AP

The last six weeks have seen the long-simmering feud between Compton, California-born rapper Kendrick Lamar and Canadian rapper Drake turn into a full-fledged beef, with confrontations delivered in the form of dis tracks.

But the squabble didn’t boil over until April 30, when Lamar released “Euphoria,” a 6 1/2-minute dressing down of the “Nice for What” rapper. On Friday, Drake replied to “Euphoria” and another track, “6:16 in LA,” with “Family Matters,” which has more than 15 million views on YouTube.

Caught in the middle of this culture-consuming rivalry is New Ho King, an unassuming restaurant in Toronto’s Chinatown. The restaurant, which has served dishes like hot-pot grouper and tofu, and sweet-and-sour pork with pineapple to Torontonians for nearly 50 years, was briefly name-checked in “Euphoria.”

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(“I be at New Ho King eatin’ fried rice with a dip sauce and a blammy, crodie,” Lamar raps, ending the lyric with a spin on local Toronto slang.)

The mention from Lamar, a Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper, led to a flood of five-star reviews on Yelp and Google for New Ho King, many of them written by people who had never set foot in the restaurant.

“Never eaten here but it’s getting five stars from me because Kendrick is the GOAT! From California w/ Love,” wrote one Yelp reviewer. (Yelp has since attached an “unusual activity alert” to New Ho King’s page.)

It’s not the only restaurant in the mix. In his “6:16 in LA,” Lamar mentions pizza restaurant Lucali, in the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Carroll Gardens in New York City: “My visa, passport tatted, I show up in Ibiza, Lucalis dwellings in Brooklyn just to book me some pizza.”

There are several fan theories as to why Lamar chose to reference the Chinese restaurant in such a withering dis-track, including that it might be related to a 2009 incident in which Drake was robbed at gunpoint in a Toronto restaurant, though that connection is unconfirmed.

Regardless of the subtext or rapid analysis by rap fans, Johnny Lu, the restaurant’s owner, was happy to be mentioned.

“We usually receive 20 to 30 orders of fried rice a day,” Lu told The Toronto Star two days after Lamar’s “Euphoria” was released. “Today we made three times as much.”

On Friday, Drake put the restaurant right back at the centre of the rivalry with the music video for “Family Matters,” his response to “Euphoria.”

The final minutes of the video feature Drake and members of his entourage dining at an empty New Ho King.

The video then flashes between images meant to dig at Lamar, including a shot of a ring that once belonged to Tupac Shakur, one of Lamar’s idols, which Drake bought in 2023 for $1 million at auction.

The music video was presumably shot and produced in the three days between the release of “Euphoria” and “Family Matters,” highlighting how quickly the rappers are working to fire dis-tracks back and forth.

Whether Drake or Lamar will come out on top is still up for discussion, but so far the undeniable winners in this transcontinental rap feud are Lu and New Ho King.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

© 2024 The New York Times Company

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