How a Newfoundlander became the internet's go-to expert on the feud between Kendrick Lamar and Drake

Matthew Smith is pictured here in his latest video, discussing the lyrics of Kendrick Lamar's "6:16 in LA."
Matthew Smith is pictured here in his latest video, discussing the lyrics of Kendrick Lamar's "6:16 in LA." (Matthew Smith/YouTube)

For one Newfoundlander, commenting on the ongoing feud between two hip-hop stars has spiralled him to internet fame.

Matthew Smith, originally from Chapel Arm in Trinity Bay, says the success of what started out as a hobby has been unexpected.

"I come from a place in Newfoundland with a population of less than 500 people ... and yet I have videos getting recognized all over the world. It's been crazy," said Smith, reflecting on the success of the videos he's been creating.

Smith runs a YouTube channel called "What's The Dirt," which focuses on in-depth breakdowns of hidden meanings in hip-hop lyrics. This past spring, a feud between rappers Drake and Kendrick Lamar exploded across streaming charts, with both artists volleying lyrical insults back and forth for weeks.

Similarly, Smith's YouTube channel blew-up. His video, "Drake Vs Kendrick Lamar - The 100% Full Story Explained" has amassed 7.8 million views so far. Similarly, his other videos on the rap battle have also been attracting millions of viewers, with people across the globe eagerly awaiting Smith's next explanation of the barbed meanings to the lyrics in both rappers' songs.

"People in South Africa, India, Jamaica," Smith said. "It's growing faster than I could have ever expected."

Drake, left, and Kendrick Lamar. The two rappers have been engaged in a fiery lyrical battle this year, with taunts and insults constantly escalating. (Amy Sussman/Getty Images, Santiago Bluguermann/Getty Images)
Drake, left, and Kendrick Lamar. The two rappers have been engaged in a fiery lyrical battle this year, with taunts and insults constantly escalating. (Amy Sussman/Getty Images, Santiago Bluguermann/Getty Images)

Even the central figures of the beef are waiting to see his breakdowns.

"Drake watches the videos," Smith said, citing sources that are close to the Canadian rapper.

"I'm in the centre of the beef, like I'm dead centre in the middle of it. People are waiting to hear what I have to say and just the feedback from people within the culture of hip-hop is amazing, man."

Smith's videos have even garnered the attention of hip-hop media giants, like Joe Budden and DJ Akademiks, two Internet personalities who are well-known commentators on hip-hop culture. Both Budden and Akademiks have referenced Smith's videos — which is particularly interesting as Akademiks has been mentioned in the lyrics of both Drake and Lamar.

"They're the biggest people in hip-hop media," Smith said. "And it's gotten to the point now where I'm talking with them on a first-name basis."

Akademiks, he said, has also invited him to come to New York City to make an appearance on his podcast.

"They're about as big as it gets in in hip-hop. So, to be recognized is surreal," said Smith.

Matthew Smith poses with his dog Bentley. Smith says he's proud to be a Newfoundlander.
Matthew Smith poses with his dog Bentley. Smith says he's proud to be a Newfoundlander. (Matthew Smith/Instagram)

While Smith has always loved rap music, he said that isn't necessarily the case for his home community. Then, when he was 12, his family moved to Alberta.

"As you can imagine, a place like Chapel Arm, it's not a hip-hop place," said Smith.

"When I went to Fort McMurray, I was exposed to all these different cultures. It was a melting pot for anyone who was trying to make money, essentially. All these nationalities came together and that's when I really, really fell in love with the genre."

It's that deep love of the genre that allows Smith to create his in-depth breakdowns of rap songs, lyric by lyric.

"I could be looking at just one line and I might be trying to figure that out for days," he said. "A lot of my videos take up to a month to put together. But when I do put them together, there's so much detailed and intricate research in there that people really appreciate it."

Though Smith currently lives in Kitimat, B.C., he plans on moving back to Newfoundland soon.

"I'm very proud to be from Newfoundland. Every video that you watch as of late, I've got a Newfoundland flag behind me," he said.

Matthew Smith received this YouTube Creator Award for passing 100,000 subscribers. As of Saturday, "What's The Dirt" has over 362,000 subscribers and a total view count of over 73 million.
Matthew Smith received this YouTube Creator Award for passing 100,000 subscribers. As of Saturday, "What's The Dirt" has over 362,000 subscribers and a total view count of over 73 million. (Matthew Smith/Instagram)

Yet, Smith's accent proves confusing for some of his large international audience.

"They're like, 'What is this? What is the accent? Is it Irish?'" Smith said.

"I get a lot of outreach from Newfoundlanders, too. If they peg the accent, I'll get a lot of 'Are you from Newfoundland?' in the comments."

The success of "What's The Dirt" has meant that Smith can now focus on it full-time. He has even been able to hire his little brother to help him manage the channel.

"The channel is less than two years old," he said. "So, having it explode this fast is crazy. When I started the channel, I thought that maybe I might make enough money each month to get some coffees. It never dawned on me that this would be my full-time job."

As for the Drake-Kendrick beef, Smith said he thinks it's far from over.

"There will be a Round 2," he said. "Kendrick easily won. I mean, I don't think it's even debatable. He clearly came out with the W. In saying that, I do think Drake is very prideful and I don't think it's gonna end here."

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