“March 14” seems like a response to Pusha-T’s scathing diss. But producers say Drake’s record came first
For a week at the end of May, rap fans obsessed over the latest skirmish in a long-simmering feud between Pusha-T and Drake. Pusha-T attacked first on “Infrared,” the final song on the Kanye West-produced Daytona, questioning Drake’s ability to write his own raps without ever mentioning the Canadian superstar by name. Drake fired back quickly, posting the vicious “Duppy Freestyle” to SoundCloud one day after Pusha-T’s album release. “Don’t push me when I’m in album mode,” he warned. “You’re not even top five as far as your label talent goes.”
The clash culminated on May 29th when Pusha-T released a no-holds-barred diss track, “The Story of Adidon,” that accused Drake of fathering a son and keeping his existence secret. The gravity of the allegations shocked listeners and sent Twitter into a brief mania. Traditionally in rap beefs, a song like “The Story of Adidon” would necessitate a swift and even more ferocious response from Drake; instead, the star went silent. Third parties insinuated that Drake had another diss track in reserve, but the only official release would come weeks later in the form of a Degrassi-cast-reunion-video for “I’m Upset.” Those who were eager to hear Drake address the rumors in Pusha-T’s track were forced to wait almost a month until he released Scorpion. On the album closer “March 14,” Drake devotes an entire song to “the harsh truth” – he’s a father who’s barely seen his own child.
Chronologically, “March 14” seems like a defensive response to “The Story of Adidon” – damage control, even if Drake did it on his own terms. However, according to interviews with several people involved in the making of “March 14,” the song may not have been a response to Pusha-T’s track at all. Quite the opposite: Pusha-T may have found out about the contents of an early version of “March 14,” which provided him with lyrical ammunition he would later use against Drake. A source close to Drake confirms that “March 14” was recorded “way, way before” “The Story of Adidon.”
“I’m assuming [Drake] called the record ‘March 14′ ’cause that’s when he did the record,” T-Minus, who co-produced the track, tells Rolling Stone. (Drake has a history of songs named for the times he recorded them.) “I never even heard the content of the song until the album dropped,” the producer continues. “It was something private; it was supposed to be kept secure. The information got out and I’m assuming that’s how Push knew [about the child].”
The information may have gotten out in Wyoming, where Drake reportedly visited Kanye West. (Drake is credited on the Ye track “Yikes.”) “I was not there, but I do know that story: [Drake] played early versions of those songs and so on and so forth,” says Malik Yusef, a longtime West collaborator who also worked on Ye in Wyoming. “You gotta be careful how you move, I think. Not I think, I know: You gotta be careful how you move, what you say to people, what gets out, and the whole nine [yards].”
Yusef adds, “was it Confucius that said, ‘Often the thing whispered in the ear of your closest friend is heard 100 miles away by your greatest enemy’?”
Pusha-T’s representative and manager did not respond to requests for comment.
The beat that became “March 14” was born in Miami in January. T-Minus went into the studio there with producer-guitarist J. Valle (Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz) and Drake. “There was a gloom over the city,” Valle says. “On the outside, the studio looked very grimy, like an abandoned newsroom. On the inside, [it was] state-of-the-art comfort. [Drake] had his own room. There were several other rooms me and T would be in.”
The two men worked on beats for a week and discussed Drake’s next direction. “There were a lot of conversations before ‘March 14’ was made,” Valle says. “He was always pushing for the next best thing. ‘God’s Plan’ was Number One, but he was looking for the next ‘Headlines,’ the next ‘Started From the Bottom,’ the next sound to define a project.”
On the final day in the studio, Valle, T-Minus and Drake fawned over Kanye West’s “Devil in a New Dress,” which builds around a tender sample of Smokey Robinson’s “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” “Me, T, Drake and a few others were on our laptops for an hour just listening to samples,” Valle says. “That’s when I found this sample:” D’Angelo’s “Lady,” the neo-soul maven’s biggest chart hit.
T-Minus had reservations about flipping such a well-known record. “I was like, everyone’s gonna know that sample,” he says. But the two men started to manipulate “Lady,” reversing it, playing with the pitch and building a beat. They shared the finished instrumental with Drake later that night. “He’s bobbing his head back and forth,” Valle recalls. “He had that face he makes – that grimy face on. He makes eye contact with me and mouths, ‘this is hard.'” Drake asked T-Minus to send him the beat.
The subsequent details get murky. Drake keeps his circle close; T-Minus has worked with the star for more than a decade, but he only found out that Drake had cut a track using the instrumental “about a month ago.” T-Minus didn’t know the content of the record until Scorpion arrived on streaming services.
Valle thinks the song’s title offers clues about its path. “[March 14] is the day [Drake] played Fortnite, and then he’s like, I gotta go on a plane to Wyoming in a few,” Valle speculates. (At the end of a Fortnite session with star gamer Ninja that was watched by more than 600,000 viewers, Drake said he had to pack for a trip.) “It’s also the day he went to Wyoming to see them, Kanye and [his] camp – I wonder if they heard it then?”
“There were unresolved issues between [Drake] and Pusha that people should have paid attention to” – Malik Yusef
“When Kanye called Drake to come out [and work], that was a good moment,” Yusef says. “But there were unresolved issues between him and Pusha that people should have paid attention to. You gotta have your ear on a swivel in this game – in this world period, but in this game. [You gotta know] who works with who, who talks to who, all that.”
When Pusha-T took aim at Drake at the end of May, two different albums were in danger of being disrupted. West was in the middle of a heroic feat of last-minute engineering to complete Ye, which he debuted in Wyoming on the evening of May 31st. “I just told Ye, [the beef between Drake and Pusha-T] is gonna be a distraction, bro,” Yusef says. “This didn’t need to happen, brother. Everyone’s talking about it, what’s it gonna mean, who’s gonna be upset, why did it happen.”
Producers who believed they had credits on Scorpion also started to get nervous after “The Story of Adidon” came out. “The majority of the album was already done,” says producer Nonstop da Hitman (“Elevate”). “I don’t think Push made [Drake] go in and go back to the drawing board, but a lot of people was afraid of that, that he would just scrap this album and go in – just try to give the fans what they were looking for as far as that beef.”
Troubling reports about the fate of the “March 14” instrumental started to trickle back to T-Minus. “For the first few weeks that I found out the track was done, I was hearing they weren’t sure they were gonna use my record,” the producer says. “I was like, why? When Drake wants a record, he’s usually gonna take it. They were deliberating. I was surprised.”
But when Scorpion came out last Friday, “March 14” made the cut. “When I heard the album, it all made sense,” T-Minus says. “They weren’t sure [if they wanted to use the record] because of the press around Pusha-T and what he said about Drake.”
“I wonder what if Pusha-T never would have put out that diss – how much more of an impact would this song have had?” Valle adds. “He’s the bad guy now. He ruined how I could have taken in my favorite artist’s life-altering moment.”
© 2018 PMC. All rights reserved.