Once upon a time in a universe far, far away, HipHopDX used to host blogs. Through Meka, Brillyance, Aliya Ewing and others, readers got unfiltered opinions on the most current topics in and beyond Hip Hop. After a few years, a couple redesigns and the collective vision of three different Editors-In-Chief, blogs are back. Sort of. Since our blog section went the way of two-way pagers and physical mixtapes, Twitter, Instagram and Ustream have further accelerated the pace of current events in Hip Hop. Rappers beef with each other 140 characters at a time, entire mixtapes (and their associated artwork) can be released via Instagram, and sometimes these events require a rapid reaction.
As such, we’re reserving this space for a weekly reaction to Hip Hop’s current events. Or whatever else we deem worthy. And the “we” in question is myself, Omar Burgess and Andre Grant. Collectively we serve as HipHopDX’s Features Staff. Aside from tackling stray topics, we may invite artists and other personalities in Hip Hop to join the conversation. Without further delay, here are this week’s “Stray Shots.”
Jay Z’s Alleged Mistress Disses Beyoncé On “Sorry Mrs. Carter”
Omar: It almost feels as if a portion of Hip Hop is pulling for the demise of the Beyoncé and Jay Z union. I think part of it is absolutely tied to feeding the insatiable appetite of the 24-hour news cycle. This week, the beast was temporarily satiated by one LIV and her nonsensical Beyoncé diss, “Sorry Mrs. Carter.” Aside from a butcher job on a perfectly innocent OutKast song, the track seems to be equal parts shots at Beyoncé and LIV proclaiming she was merely an acquaintance of Jay and not his side-piece. The latter is somewhat understandable, although given how both Carmen Bryan and Karrine “Superhead” Steffans got the Hip Hop version of the Scarlett Letter treatment, LIV’s choice to go public is a curious one. I think the prurient interest in the track is rather easily explained. For the better part of two decades, Jay painted himself as a lothario of the highest order. He’d been sinning since you were playing with Barbie and Ken, and you can’t change a player’s game in the ninth inning. Just when everyone assumed Jay put his pimping aside, found his match and became a father tangible proof of trouble in paradise emerged. It’s the kind of stuff that sells magazines and gives Tyler Perry fodder for his next movie. That’s a tale as old as time, and it’s so reliably bankable that people stopped caring if it’s actually true.
But what no one seems to be talking about is how this is a lose-lose situation. The age-old practice of slut shaming and women who orbit successful, male celebrities in hopes of attaining some upward mobility are still viewed in binary opposition. If we’re following the train of logic that Beyoncé’s “Flawless (Remix)” was directed at LIV, then LIV has both a valid and hypocritical point that, “Girls can’t run the world fighting over men.” But then LIV’s crazy train hops off the rails of logic with slick talk about how B needs to set a better example for girls instead of making surfboard and Monica Lewinsky references on tracks like “Drunk In Love” and “Partition.” Instead of me unsuccessfully “mansplaining” the complexities of how women address, avoid or reclaim their sexuality, maybe this is a lot simpler. Pretty much every press outlet is gaining a boost because of what a small handful of people did or didn’t do in the privacy of their own quarters. And we’re all interested because we ain’t shit.
Andre: Heavy truly is the head that wears the crown, huh? Jay Z, who’s been at the center of swirling rumors and innuendo about he and model/rapper LIV, R&B darling Mya, and 1Oak VIP hostess Casey Cohen amongst others finally had one of them make a song about him, and it’s filled with just as much discomfort as you might expect. From the shellacking that got dished out by Solange in that elevator that time, to the talks of his marriage to Queen Bey’ being on the rocks, Young Hov’s once teflon like image is being soaked in the public eye of Sauron and if LOTR taught us anything let it be that it takes some deep magic to best that all seeing eye. But is any of it true? We’re left to his catalog to decide if this is something he’s been prophesying for a long, long time. “Can’t change a players game in the ninth inning,” used to just seem like a Rap doohickey, an artifact of a bygone Jay. The same one who rapped, “Me give my heart to a woman? Not for nothin’, never happen…” But all things are different before a beautiful woman of superlative talent from the opposite side of the tracks saunters into your life and takes you and well… changes the perception around you quicker than any session with Olivia Pope ever could. But again, this is just how it seems.
Chess, not checkers, is what you think of when you consider the moves Jay has made over the last decade or so. His small stake in the Barclays played into a much larger media and branding frenzy that leads Roc Nation into sports management. His grabbing back his masters and becoming the head honcho at Def Jam, and the break up of Roc-a-Fella Records and the buying of Dame’s stake in the Roc-a-Wear enterprise. The Live Nation deal, which made him a quasi-independent label and management company owner, and his Twitter account bio’, which simply states “Genius” underneath a picture of his Magna Carta Holy Grail artwork of the river god Alpheus chasing Arethusa until Artemis changed the latter into a fountain. Everything has been calculated down to the last decimal point. But there are things in life you can’t control. Whether that be life imitating your art or a woman you didn’t have a tryst with calling out the sanctity of your lady (an equally clever and trite character assassination) and the undisputed number one entertainer in the entire world. I’m not saying he did it, no, not at all. But in a world where perception is everything can he convince Bey’ at this point that he didn’t? If so, this could be the trick that pushes Jay into the deep space nether reaches of money, fame, and stardom. If not, well…
Freddie Gibbs & Jeezy Revisit Their Split Via Media Outlets
Andre: Speaking of “truths,” Young Jeezy took to Elliot Wilson’s light spar to speak on his relationship with Freddie Gibbs, and how things didn’t quite work out: “I put him on a song with Eminem. I put him on a song with T.I. I put him on numerous mixtapes that I had. I took him on tour. Took him around the world. I spent money on videos that he didn’t use cause he didn’t like em. And it wasn’t his money.” Then, on Hot 97 he had this to say, “When the whole ordeal was going on, I was more disappointed than anything… I messed up a lot of relationships, even with Eminem, just by me putting Gibbs on the record that was for me and, trying to convince Em’ to do the record, and the record leaking in the process. That burned a great bridge for me.” Being a boss is never easy, and perception is always king, right? Gibbs fired back on both Twitter and Ebro In The Morning with, “He made it seem like he saved some little, poor Gary boy. To the rap game. And that definitely isn’t the case,” he added. “Before I got with Young Jeezy I was on the cover of XXL. Before I got with Young Jeezy I was on tours. Before I got with him I was making money. I didn’t take a dollar from Young Jeezy. So, that 300K, 400K thing, that’s a total lie. I’ve never took a dollar from Young Jeezy.” This isn’t the first time a Jeezy comment spiraled out of control. Remember the 10 stack bounty he placed on Gucci Mane’s chain after Gucci stiffed him out of their hit single “Icy?” The subsequent beef with Gucci turned violent soon after when Gucci was attacked by armed assailants only to end up shooting one of the attackers. Then there was his war of words with Rick Ross, which ended up with the two of them on Ross’s Mastermind with the track “War Ready.”
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Yes, Jeezy did sign Gibbs to CTE, but that doesn’t mean the journeyman was eating up a large chunk of any kind of budget. He truly had been touring (with Jeezy, himself) before he came to the snowman’s camp in a bid to grab a share of southern fans. On the other end, what about getting on a song with Eminem is “thirsty?” That, I will never know. It could have been a young man dropping the ball on an opportunity that didn’t feel quite right, or it could have been jitters. Whatever it was, I’d like to focus on what led him to Madlib and to create Pinata. That project proved that what Gibbs needed all along wasn’t necessarily a co-sign from a contingent that was like him, but a certain other that added something else entirely to his already straightforward, gruff, rhyme schemes. For both parties, there’s no doubt that Gibbs has come into his own since the split, and is even remorseful about how it all went down. “Straight to the facts nigga / I looked up to you, put that on my mama / I signed a deal with you, and never asked you for a dollar / I was down with CTE plus I was gettin’ cheese / I played my fuck ass contract, what the lick read.” Now that they’re even, let’s hope for a collabo album. What? We can dream, right?
Omar: The trainwreck of uncomfortable beef too salacious to look away from continued this week when Jeezy and Freddie Gibbs took to the airwaves and addressed Gibbs’ long held claims that Jeezy was soft and fake. In recent interviews with Miss Info and Elliott Wilson, Jeezy insinuated similar claims as well as basically calling Gibbs a sunken cost. You can get lost in an hour worth of back and forth interviews, but once the tabloid fodder is done, you’re left with some interesting takeaways.
With Pinata, Gibbs made arguably his best album with Madlib—going against mainstream trends and crafting a uniquely insular sound. Simultaneously, Jeezy flexed the corporate muscles lacking when he threw his name behind the likes of 211 and even his own USDA crew. With an executive producer credit on YG’s #2 debut, My Krazy Life, Atlantic Records’ choice to make Jeezy an A&R appears a lot less curious. I think the macho street posturing by both Jeezy and Gibbs is the byproduct of two strong egos that clearly couldn’t coexist. And there’s likely another element to the story that only those directly involved know about. But the idea that two artists with very similar subject matter (if this was 1993, they’d both be relegated to the Gangsta Rap bin) could be so different speaks to just how many subgenres are all unfortunately lumped together under the umbrella of Hip Hop. Jeezy has apparently figured out how to make street tales palatable to mainstream crowds without losing his core audience. Gibbs bucked the odds and went as far from the mainstream as possible; in doing so, he garnered critical acclaim from new outlets while allegedly maintaining the lion’s share of the profits. What could lazily be construed as two similar “gangsta rappers” on the surface were actually two wholly different emcees only tangentially linked. It’s unfortunate it took the loss of some money, bruised egos and shelved music to come to that conclusion, but I think they and we as listeners are all better off for it.
Omar Burgess is a Long Beach, California native who has contributed to various magazines, newspapers and has been an editor at HipHopDX since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @omarburgess.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant who’s contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Senior Features Writer for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.