Kendrick Lamar and Drake Battled Toe to Toe. The Winner Is Old School Hip-Hop.

The rap battle between Drake and Kendrick Lamar is about more than whatever personal beefs these two men have with each other. As many have noted, it is a significant moment in hip-hop history, and not just because Mr. Lamar’s diss track “Not Like Us,” released last week, has become the hip-hop song with the most plays on U.S. Spotify in a single day — surpassing the high set previously by Drake and Lil Baby.

What sets this rap battle apart from previous high-profile hip-hop feuds is its magnitude and implications for popular music. Hip-hop, born as an underground movement, has long been a global phenomenon, leading certain artists to blur the lines between authenticity and commercialization. The global pop audience has always been more drawn to a simplified hip-hop sound devoid of the complex lyrics and politicized messages that characterize “conscious” rap.

Mr. Lamar’s victory signals a resurgence of lyrically rich rap — and a return to the roots of hip-hop culture — all while establishing a new template for relevance in an era when content can go viral instantly on social media and streaming platforms. If Drake, who has become the face of rap’s mainstream pop faction, has lost this battle, that setback is not his alone.

Mr. Lamar’s ability to write layered and intricate lyrics has long been lauded. But this battle has brought new attention and enthusiasm to the particular artistic element at which he excels. Fans have scrambled to decipher his complex verses with each new release. (The website Genius, where users annotate lyrics, crashed from the volume of visitors investigating this feud.) Mr. Lamar’s apparent decision to remove copyright protections for “Not Like Us” has also enabled a wide dissemination of the track, allowing content creators to monetize posts featuring the song.

Removing these kind of constraints on the distribution of the song signals a new and savvy approach to marketing and sales in the music industry. It’s another facet of Mr. Lamar’s victory — enlisting countless unseen collaborators to spread his message and join his crusade.

Drake has been doing his best to counter and innovate. His second volley in the battle, “Taylor Made Freestyle,” incorporated A.I. to enlist two iconic figures from West Coast hip-hop: Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg. (Drake removed the song from social media after objections from Mr. Shakur’s estate). Drake also took direct aim at Mr. Lamar’s supposed lyrical prowess, taunting him to respond with a “quintuple entendre.”

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