g_eazy: With the 🐐at puffs movie premiere last night. Life is crazy these days. I still fan the hell out. Always chase dreams… Forever grateful for where this shit has taken me 🙏🏼 #cantstopwontstop 📷 @jamiliooo
(1) No fight is a true fight unless someone gets knocked out, so that’s the barometer here. All the way in the red means there is a 100 percent chance you wake up the unintentional star of a viral Internet video; and (2) no women were included here because it felt strange to talk about fist-fighting women. (A guess: You’d probably catch Lil Mama for a win, but all the rest are dropping L’s on you.)
End Fight Probability: There is a negative–100 percent chance J. Cole knocks you out.
Yes. Fight J. Cole. Fight J. Cole and win. Fight him for ruining the Jay Z–Dame Dash reunion moment. Fight him for using the phrase “Cole world.” Fight him for his face being his face.
End Fight Probability: There is a 44 percent chance T.I. knocks you out.
He’s a tiny guy, sure (on “Stand Up” he says he weighs 145 pounds, or about one pair of Timbaland boots), but he looks like he’s made of twisted wire. Also, and this is real life: I met him once at a listening party. He has an unsettling gaze. There’s evil in him. He’ll hurt you. And he’s gonna like doing it. Don’t do it. Don’t fight T.I.
End Fight Probability: There is a negative–10 percent
On the one hand, Lil Wayne is from Louisiana, which makes him instantly intimidating. But on the other hand, one time he rapped, “Eat her till she cry, call that wine and dine,” so you should be fine. Engage him in fisticuffs. It would be very neat if you said something Lil Wayne–esque when you did so (“I just drummed you to the floor, call that a beatdown,” or something).
End Fight Probability: There is a 51 percent chance Lil Boosie knocks you out.
Bro, he just got out of prison, like, 45 minutes ago. Don’t do that. Don’t fight Lil Boosie.
End Fight Probability: There is a negative–65 percentchance Puff knocks you out.
You’d likely win this fight if it managed to come off, but I’d sidestep it because let’s say you trip over Puff’s teeny-tiny teeth and fall and hit your head on the concrete and knock yourself out or whatever, he is absolutely going to celebrate by doing that Diddy Bop dance he’s done for the last 60 years. You can’t risk that. There’s no recovering from that. There’s no recovering from being the guy in the WSHH knockout Puff Daddy Diddy Bop dance video.
End Fight Probability: There is an 86 percent chance 50 Cent knocks you out.
He got shot 700 times in the head and didn’t die. What are you gonna do to him in a fight? Don’t do it. Don’t fight Fif.
End Fight Probability: There is a negative–23 percent
You’re gold here. Ross is a big guy, but in this case that just means he’s slow. Fight him the same way you used to fight King Hippo* from Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! Wait till he opens his mouth to breathe, punch him in it, then sock him in his stomach over and over again until he falls down. Inertia will handle the rest.
*Why didn’t anyone ever talk about the giant bandage on King Hippo’s stomach? Referee Mario shouldn’t have let him fight like that. There’s gotta be some sort of rule against prefight open wounds in the Video Game Boxing Association, right? “Hey, what’s that gaping sore you have on your belly there, Hippo? What? Oh. Oh, you’re just gonna cover it up with your hands? OK, cool. Fight!” Referee Mario was way too cavalier about staph infections.
End Fight Probability: There is a 12 percent chance Wiz Khalifa knocks you out.
His knockout percentage is low, but that only accounts for his thinness. You have to remember that he’s extra tall so he’s gonna have an infuriating reach advantage. More likely than the knockout is that he peppers you with jabs until both of your eyes are swollen shut. Plus, his neck is 24 inches long, so you’re never gonna be able to hit him in the head. The only chance you’ve got is if Wiz has it in his brain that he’s a dad now. Dad brains are always like, “Man, I can’t [DANGEROUS THING]. I got kids to think about now.” But if he’s not thinking about that, you’re toast. Don’t do it. Don’t fight Wiz Khalifa.
End Fight Probability: There is a 71 percent chance Regular Snoop knocks you out.
Basically for all the same reasons listed for Wiz, but also because he’s Snoop. He’s been the most intimidating skeleton on earth for the last 20 years. Remember him in Baby Boy? He was perfect. Don’t do it. Don’t fight Regular Snoop.
End Fight Probability: There is a negative–72 percentchance Reggae Snoop knocks you out.
Because it’s reggae,* man. You’re safe.
*The best thing that happened last week was when the Donald Sterling story started unraveling and Reggae Snoop immediately reverted back to Regular Snoop in his video response. Regular Snoop is the best.
End Fight Probability: There is a negative–7 percent
If it was Digitized Kanye West from the “Black Skinhead” video, then I’d say avoid it (he’d probably club you over the head with the mega-penis he gave himself), but this is real-life Kanye so you’re safe. He’ll be loud and he’ll be blustery but he’ll also be extra-sensitive about everything. “Hey, Kanye, hahaha you can’t get into fashion. Have fun at Adidas.” Boom. He starts crying. You sock him in the kidney. Fight over. Great, next album.
End Fight Probability: There is a 46 percent chance Busta Rhymes knocks you out.
I think Busta is like 1,000 years old but whatever, because he also looks like he can bench-press a Hyundai, so stay away. I just don’t understand why anyone would ever wanna be that big, particularly if you’re an old man. Dr. Dre did the same thing. He started getting old and was like, “What can I do to look young and normal? Oh! I got it! Let me make the muscles in my neck super duper strong.” Weird, weird. Don’t do it. Don’t fight Bussa Buss. Flip Mode. Flip Mode is the greatest.
End Fight Probability: There is a negative–90 percentchance Pitbull will knock you out.
Fight him. Fight Pitbull. Fight Pitbull every chance you get. And whenever you knock him on the ground, you shout, “Pitbull’s going down, I’m yelling ‘timber’” and then be like, “You see? You see how stupid that is?”
End Fight Probability: There is a 79 percent chance The Game knocks you out.
This is the first paragraph of the “Early Life” section ofThe Game’s Wikipedia page:
“Game was born Jayceon Terrell Taylor on November 29, 1979, in Los Angeles, California. He grew up in Compton, a low-income crime-ridden city in Los Angeles County, in a primarily Crip gang neighborhood known as Santana Blocc, although he grew up to become a member of the Bloods. He was born into a life of gang-wars and hustling. In an October 2006 interview with MTV News correspondent Sway Calloway, Game described his family as “dysfunctional” and claimed that his father molested one of his sisters. When later interviewed, Game stated that at a young age, he recalled seeing both of his parents preparing to do drive-by shootings. His father was a Nutty Block Crip and his mother a Hoover Crippelette. Drugs and guns were all around Taylor when he was a youngster. His father was a heroin addict and both his parents frequently took cocaine. At around the age of 6, Taylor stated that a friend of his was murdered for his clothes and shoes in the neighborhood by a teenager.”
It gets worse as it goes on. Don’t do it. Don’t fight The Game.
End Fight Probability: There is a negative–33 percent.
We all saw 8 Mile. He was tough, but he wasn’t a fighter.
End Fight Probability: ???
I don’t know how to rate Ludacris. He’s not intimidating but he’s not unintimidating either. He’s not big but he’s not small. He’s not ultra-serious but he’s also not ultra-goofy. I don’t know. I don’t know. You might win. You might die. I don’t know. Good luck.
End Fight Probability: There is a negative–83 percent
Remember “Rack City”? Man, that was a good song.
End Fight Probability: There is a 49 percent chance Common knocks you out.
And a 100 percent chance that he just straight-up kills you. Did you even see Wanted, bro? He can bend the flight of bullets. Don’t do it. Don’t get ghost-assassinated by Common.
End Fight Probability: There is a negative–12 percentchance Kendrick Lamar knocks you out.
Several months ago I was at a concert. I was milling about backstage (I was there to do some reporting for a story). I was waiting for the main act to come on, talking to strangers (and then making fun on them on Twitter like a good Catholic boy), when this kid, couldn’t have been more than 13, hurried past me. I didn’t pay him any attention until I noticed he was headed straight for the stage. He stopped at the edge, was handed a microphone, then walked out and the whole entire universe exploded. It was Kendrick. I’m not a very tall person (5-foot-7) and he was at least two feet shorter. You’d survive this fight.
End Fight Probability: There is a 73 percent chance Ice-T knocks you out.
Remember that one movie he was in with Rutger Hauer in which Hauer and his friends were hunting him? They had guns and ATVs and racism and they still couldn’t get him. You can’t either. Don’t do it. Don’t fight Ice-T.
End Fight Probability: There is a negative–75 percentchance Big Sean knocks you out.
The odds are in your favor here, but still, don’t ever fight Big Sean. He’s so much fun. I mean, just look at him. He’s so happily silly and playful (and totally aware of his silliness and playfulness). He’s the opposite of J. Cole, the most self-serious rapper of my whole life. Don’t do it. Don’t fight Big Sean. Go back and fight J. Cole again.
End Fight Probability: There is a 40 percent chance Soulja Boy knocks you out.
I understand your instinct to fight Soulja Boy. I do. But don’t.
End Fight Probability: There is a negative–29 percent
*This is a completely skewed measurement. Future is somewhere near 60 percent to knock you out. This is a setup. I want you to try to fight Future because I want Future to knock you out because I want Future to cackle “Tuuuuuuurn out the liiiiights” after he does so. That’s a little thing called being poetic. So do it. Fight Future.
End Fight Probability: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA10000000000000PERCENTHAHAHAHAHA
Call a coroner.
End Fight Probability: There is a negative–50 percent
Because Jay Z rapped “Plus I know Tae Bo” in “Girls, Girls, Girls” and then Nas called him a “Tae Bo hoe” on “Ether.”
End Fight Probability: There is a 51 percent chance Drake knocks you out.
Drake has spent the last four years getting picked on by the Internet. He has been hardened. He might be the kid who cries when he fights, but that’s nature at work. It’s the same as a lion roaring. When Drake is roaring tears from his eyes, that’s when it’s time to back up.
End Fight Probability: There is a negative–17 percent
I don’t know.
Did you know that Wale is real-life cousins with Chris Partlow from The Wire? Don’t do it. Don’t fight Chris Partlow’s real-life cousin.
End Fight Probability: There is a 21 percent chance Young Thug knocks you out.
He wore a dress. But don’t fall into that trap. Don’t do it. Don’t fight Young Thug.
Tyler, the Creator
End Fight Probability: There is a negative–55 percent
*Another ruse. His real number is closer to 35 percent. Sorry. I just really want to see what sort of things he does to you after he mollywhops you upside the head.
End Fight Probability: There is a 79 percent chance Action Bronson knocks you out.
He shares the same physical attributes as Rick Ross (who earned a -23 percent chance of knocking you out), but there’s one super-ultra-off-the-backboard mega-difference you have to account for: Bronson’s father is Albanian, which means Bronson is half-Albanian, which means FUCK THAT. The only person capable of defeating Albanians is Liam Neeson, and you’re no Liam Neeson,* my friend. Don’t do it. Don’t fight Action Bronson. Don’t get sold into an Albanian human trafficking ring.
This is the best summation of the whole Drake vs. Meek Mill situation I’ve seen thus far. Well done, NPR. A little long, but a worthy read.
The first weekend of August saw the coronation of a new King of Hip-Hop. Like all transitions of power, it had been years in the making and orchestrated by powers both seen and unseen.
For some, Aubrey Drake Graham, the Canadian former child actor circling around the hip-hop throne for years, had long been the King, and all that was left was the inauguration ceremony. For others, it was a moment of acquiescence — that after all of the hits, the sales, the hits, the record-breaking chart appearances, the hits, the ubiquity, the popularity and the hits, Drake had become undeniable by not only his sheer undeniability, but by the sheer undeniability of his swift and total dominance over friend-turned-rival Meek Mill, over the course of a week and a half, for no king is King with only power reserved; power must be actualized and demonstrated. For others still, it was moment of sad resolution, a hip-hop version of the 2000 or 2004 presidential election — something they’ll forever believe was won under the most questionable of circumstances, but will not speak on in mixed company, for fear of being labeled a loon, a conspiracy theorist, a hater or simply out of touch with the times.
In late July, Meek Mill was reaching only dreamed-of heights — his sophomore album, Dreams Worth More Than Money, released at the end of June, had spent two weeks atop the Billboard 200 charts; he was in a relationship with Nicki Minaj, undoubtedly the most powerful and desired female artist in hip-hop and one of the most powerful contemporary pop icons on the planet. Yet, apparently apropos of nothing, Meek took to Twitter to launch accusations against Drake, who has a close, sometimes tense relationship with Minaj. (He’s been publicly lusting after her for years; she’s kept him in both the friend zone and the no flex zone.) But Meek’s jabs against Drake were not, on their face, about jealousy. Instead he accused Drake, currently one of the most popular and adored artists in the music’s commercial nucleus, of not writing all of his own raps. It’s the kind of accusation that doesn’t mean much to casual listeners on the outskirts of rap, but holds a lot of weight in the core.
Unlike other art forms, the idea of authorship is tied into hip-hop’s DNA. At the birth of rapping, rappers didn’t quite own the music, which was stitched and spliced together by a DJ from breaks. But they did own their lyrics, which were a form of currency. The four elements of hip-hop — MCing, DJing, dancing and graffiti — are all tied into things one can create for oneself. One doesn’t have to follow a fundamentalist’s or purist’s line to accept that — despite the mutations of vocalization, production, movement and art in the genre — the idea of making something from nothing, of authenticity, of realness is tied into hip-hop in a way that is absent in other musical spheres. Pop stars who can’t sing become career superstars and EDM DJs who don’t mix records regularly make millions, but the ethos of hip-hop has always been against such bait-and-switches, even as it’s grown into a billion-dollar industry.
Rappers who write their own material are seen as more serious and more worthy, much like an auteur or singer-songwriter, as opposed to a director or chanteuse. There are those who say these distinctions don’t matter, yet, no rapper has ever come out as the mouthpiece for mouthpieces. P. Diddy once boasted on record, “Don’t worry if I write rhymes, I write checks,” but that’s not a platform he’s ever campaigned on. Kanye West admits to occasionally collaborating with stronger writers than himself — but is likely to spazz on anyone who accuses him of not writing his own rhymes. It’s widely accepted that Dr. Dre employs writers, same with Snoop Dogg — and hip-hop allows both because their contributions to the form in terms of music and voice outweigh any allegiance to ideals. It’s basically a dynamic of selective scrutiny and denial.
Labels, publications and radio platforms all know that ghostwriting exists. Rappers like Jay Z hint at providing the service for others; artists like Skillz have made careers of it, presumably making more money from ghostwriting than their own records. The major rappers who have come out as proudly employing ghostwriters can be counted on no hands. Even Minaj, who is many ways selling her body as much as her music, takes the time to regularly stress that she writes her own rhymes — the unsaid being that most other female rappers rely on outside penmanship. Why? Because everyone knows it’s antithetical to be a “real” rapper who relies on ghostwriters. Rappers who don’t write their own material aren’t held to the same standards as those who do.
There are (and should be) continuing arguments in hip-hop over stylistic leanings such as lyrics vs. melody and debates about message. But all sides acknowledge that cadences and melodies are important, which is why instrumentals do not a rap song make. Delivery matters. And, delivery — or “flow” — is perhaps the most difficult aspect of songwriting. Whether the song be a television jingle, a pop ditty or a rap tune, melody is ultimate, and the rest, for some artists, may as well be the product of monkeys with typewriters. Still the idea of authorship remains a basic given in hip-hop: It may have been written by a monkey with a typewriter, but I’m the monkey and it’s my typewriter.
Meek’s accusations against Drake — which were later backed by reference tracks made by little-known Atlanta rapper Quentin Miller that were played on air by Hot 97 DJ Funkmaster Flex — mark the first time a generation is dealing with the question of ownership of lyrical composition in rap. A few years ago, similar allegations were made against Nas, but, with twenty years behind him as a professional rapper, Nas belongs to another era — to many of Drake’s fans, he’s actually dad rap. Drake, on the other hand, is of the now. His incredibly self-referential blend of emotional narcissism and confessional pornography resonates with a generation in which oversharing of mundane observations has become performance art. His ability to present middle class ennui in thug verbiage has a universal adapter quality to it. The words that have come out of his mouth are mantras, memes and retorts fit for just about any and all occasion — there’s even an app for that.
Following Meek Mill’s allegations, Drake’s producer Noah “40” Shebib came out in defense of Drake, ignoring the existence of the reference tracks. Likewise, Quentin Miller denied ever being a ghostwriter for Drake — which counts for nothing as it’s what he would be contractually obligated to say, were he actually a ghostwriter. Pro-Drake forces and Miller have downplayed Miller’s involvement in Drake’s recording, noting that he’s listed in the credits for multiple songs on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late — which could mean that he simply suggested a word or two to Drake. (It should be noted that Miller is not credited on “R.I.C.O.,” a Drake-assisted song that appears on Meek’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, but also has a Miller reference track.) But much of Drake’s allure is the idea that he is personally penning his deepest thoughts; he’s not supposed to be a committee of feelings. The reality that Drake may be getting whole songs’ worth of help from outside sources takes away from some of the magic and fantasy that makes him such a profitable entity. If it didn’t, Drake’s camp would have owned up to the level of assistance he’s gotten — which is almost certainly more than they’ve admitted to — and simply turned Drake into a reality TV version of a rapper, where people watch knowing that it’s fake, but get a perverse joy from trying to figure out where the line between authenticity and script is crossed. The obviously staged dramatizations of Love & Hip Hop are commercially viable, but using ghostwriters is as much about ego as it is about money. Drake isn’t trying to be a reunion show fight highlight reel. He hasn’t explicitly claimed to write his rhymes in years, but he obviously aspires to be categorized with Jay Z, Nas and 2Pac — not Dr. Dre or P. Diddy. If he didn’t, he would not have taken such huge offense to Meek’s accusations.
In many ways, the conflict between Drake and Meek Mill is a class struggle. Unlike Drake, Meek is a ravenous MC who’s been battle-tested and approved. He speaks for the downtrodden, the forgotten and is viciously socially aware, while not being above the ills of fiscal irresponsibility, crime, violence and misogyny. He once remixed Drake’s “The Ride,” a song about the mo’ money mo problems trappings of fame, into “Faded Too Long,” a musical middle finger to a personal rebuke from his district attorney. On “Lord Knows,” the opening number of his most recent album, Dreams Worth More Than Money, he proudly raps, “Difference between me and most of these rappers — I’m talking about work that I really put in.”
Meek is also known to feel all the feels all at the same time. He’s sensitive, but not Drake-sensitive. Sensitive in the ways that growing with little to nothing and seeing systemic inequality at play raises the importance of loyalty and words as bonds. Meek once beefed with his labelmate Wale over not promoting his album, which is something he also mentioned as one of his gripes against Drake. It seems silly, but to Mill, not tweeting his album is akin to not showing up to his baby shower, and providing him a verse written by someone else is like having a third party pick out his birthday present.
What ultimately set Meek Mill off is a mystery that may never be solved. It’s likely something acutely related to the dirty laundry he aired online, but it would take more than a personal slight for him to risk f****** up the money and bringng down the whole house of cards. When Funkmaster Flex promised to not only premiere Mill’s response to Drake, but to also play more incriminating material on the radio, it felt like the threat of a man ready to burn everything, consequences be damned. But none of it happened as advertised. And Flex’s weird silence and the station’s defensive and omissive response in the aftermath reek of a corporate shutdown. Drake is, after all, worth a lot of money to a lot of people. It’s not insane to imagine some of the shareholders in Drake, Inc., worrying about the health of their investment’s reputation.
And the lack of interest in the truth of the story spreads to — conspiracy alert — the media and other artists, who have remained largely silent on the subject in specific, opting to talk about ghostwriting as a whole, get in on the memes while they can, or ignore the story altogether. A story involving the biggest commercial rapper of the moment that has spiraled to include the beef between rival N.Y. radio stations Hot 97 and Power 105 and involved a Toronto Councillor Norm Kelley, is being largely dictated by Drake’s internet minions, the #DrizzyHive. To date there’s been no published investigative journalism into the origin, presence or authenticity of the purported reference tracks by any outlets of note.
What we have gotten is a pair of diss tracks from Drake — “Charged Up” which champions perception over facts, goes for dignified low blows and plays to the crowd like a good politician; and “Back 2 Back,” featuring all sorts of subtle references as well as pointed barbs. By contrast, Meek’s response song, “Wanna Know,” fell flat on many levels — he took too long to join a fight he started, and moreover, he tried to act as his own lawyer in the court of public opinion without taking the jury’s make up into account. Meek attempted to reframe the argument, but the discussion had moved past what it was once about — the notion of authorship — and onto memes and jokes, which is what Drake’s early-August assault capitalized on. It’s been widely considered a loss for Meek Mill and the most devastating, almost surgical, dismantling of a viable contender that hip-hop has ever seen. Any response made by Meek at this point is about cauterizing a wound and figuring out how to move forward.
But Meek may not be the biggest loser here. Even before Drake’s coronation at his annual OVO Fest, the hard questions had been avoided and ignored. Drake has never contradicted (or even addressed) the evidence head on and Funkmaster Flex seems to have been silenced on the matter more than once, while the existence of Drake reference tracks has become an open secret in the music industry. The existence of those tracks and the purported assistance doesn’t make Drake disposable — saying Drake isn’t a talented musician is akin to saying Alex Rodriquez isn’t a formidable athlete. But, as Rodriguez’s legacy has been called into question by many due to his admission of steroid use, Drake’s catalog would carry an asterisk that is not in line with the legacy he’s been building for the past 10 years. It seems as if that asterisk won’t matter, and that efforts are being made to ensure the font that explains it is so small as to be illegible. At the OVO Fest, Drake was joined by Kanye West and Will Smith, two artists who have received help with writing their songs. Together the three laughed backstage at Meek’s expense.
For many, this moment is an education in the mechanics of the music business and the politics of industry. The old values just do not matter, nor do inquiry or veracity in the coverage of music. It’s no secret that the music industry has been watching its sphere of influence and revenue streams shrink and dry up since the early 2000s. It’s also widely known that corporate interests have been underwriting music ventures to a never-before-seen degree — rap is not immune from the corporatocracy that has infected sports and television and film. In this climate, Drake is the most logical and bankable heir to the hip-hop throne, too valuable to lose. The former occupants of the top spot — Jay Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne — are too preoccupied with ventures outside of the music industry to assert any sort of continued dominance. The other hopefuls — Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole — appear utterly disinterested in playing the game the way it needs to be played in order to become King. Drake was not officially crowned during his performance, but that’s just a formality. The excitement around his show, and the breathless coverage that followed, was a propaganda coup worthy of Edward Bernays. With the notion of authorship dispatched as silly and inconsequential, the way has been paved for even greater corporate influence over hip-hop.
The question of authorship in hip-hop is not about some return to Eden — mainly because rap’s first commercial single, “Rapper’s Delight” contained Big Bank Hank reciting Grandmaster Caz’s rhymes. Yet there is the notion of growth and evolution — as the core of hip-hop expands and moves closer to the center of mainstream ideas, it’s natural that many of its original ideals, even previously fundamental ones, will be jettisoned. This conversation regarding authorship is one that spreads beyond the players at hand, or primal notions of competition. There’s a strong degree of cognitive dissonance at play here for many of Drake’s fans — many are calling it a non-issue, which would only make sense if they were’t busy quoting Drake’s songs as proof of his lyrical superiority, his worth, the very reason why he is being so staunchly and emotionally defended and protected. But in doing so, they’re making it easier for their allegiance to be transferred to and controlled by moneyed interests than ever before. There’s an enormous amount of energy being spent on a conversation by the vast majority of industry players — mainly because it’s entertaining and full of juicy gossip behind the scenes. But many of these same players will simultaneously say that the inciting accusations aren’t worthy of discussion. It’s a troubling and disconcerting state of affairs — where self interests and an eroding market share birth a lack of adherence to foundational principles.
There are two conversations that should be kept going. The conversation of authorship needs to continue because it is not only about authorship, but about truth telling — it’s a conversation about what hip-hop is and what rap means, and having it centered about the genre’s biggest star is a way to ignite and involve all sectors of game. And, more importantly, the acute conversation about these reference tracks — their existence, their journey to the public — remains important because the ways we talk about the small things determine how we’ll talk about the big things. If the discussion around the veracity of evidence isn’t followed here, the logical muscles that are needed to tackle the huge, meaningful issues of the day are not being worked. And the conversation around Drake’s worthiness as King should not be silenced by voices screaming “Long live the King.” A national election cycle is underway. Paying attention is necessary. Following the money is vital. Drake uses ghostwriters. And more people of note need to say that the emperor has no pants, while you can still speak your mind without being called an enemy of the state.