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. Well, 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 me, Andre Grant, and our Sr. Features Writer Ural Garrett. 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’s this week’s “Stray Shots.”
Can Jay Z & Tidal Help Lil Wayne?
Andre: This is the second time Jay Z has seemingly barged in on Lil Wayne’s life in a cape and gucci loafers. The last time was just before Lil Wayne officially became “Lil Wayne,” and label issues almost drove him into the then Def Jam president’s waiting arms. Even after a concert in which Weezy seemed to scream something about already being on the label, the pairing simply didn’t happen. Then, in 2013, in an interview with The Breakfast Club, Hov’ expanded on what happened by basically saying he phoned Birdman and the number one stunna told him to stand down. Strangely, Jay complied.
Now, almost a decade later, Jay Z seems to be getting back into the mix for Wayne. I can’t see this as anything about a favor. Weezy couldn’t get his music out on the label he helped build, but, lo and behold, his idol/rival has a streaming service that can help him out. Though, it doesn’t seem like the same kind of due diligence was paid this time since Birdman is suing Jigga and Co for some $50 million for streaming the Free Weezy Album. It’s even gotten a little ugly, with the legal team for Cash Money claiming in the lawsuit that in streaming the record Jigga and Tidal was making, and we quote, “a desperate and illegal attempt to save their struggling streaming service.” But legal shade aside, just what is Jay doing here?
Even if he does bag Wayne, which is a longshot at this point, he still wouldn’t be able to his hands on the crown jewel of such a pairing: Drake. Why would the OVO El Capitan suddenly ditch Warner to move to the Roc? Still, two out of three ain’t bad, and with Nicki getting awfully cozy with Tidal via a small ownership share and exclusive video releases and all that, it seems Jay may be risking a relationship with Baby for Weezy F. Baby, Nicki Minaj and an artist to be named later. If he can woo Lil Wayne to Roc and Nicki Minaj follows it could be one of the greatest label coups in rap history. And, it would put Jay right back on the forefront of Hip Hop as everyone’s resident genius. Shoot, maybe those two can even coax Jay Electronica to drop an album.
Ural: How the hell did Wayne go from saying “Talk about Baby money, I got yo Baby money, kidnap yo bitch and get that how much you love yo lady money” to forming an alliance with former mentor/idol/rival/frenemy Jay Z? Is it easier to forgive or is there something more at stake? This is all starting to look like a heightened version of 2005-2006 all over again considering Weezy’s stance on the label that raised him Cash Money. The argument of the New Orleans icon’s trajectory, if he would have signed to Hov’s Carter Administration era at Def Jam, is the stuff that breeds the best fan-fiction. For a while, there was this cold war between Wayne and Jigga that deflated on the surface before things got really intense. Still, YMCMB’s captain felt unfuckwitable while Mr. Carter transitioned from old man rapper status to mega-mogul.
Fast forward several years and Weezy F Baby is not only dealing with label issues but alleged assassination attempts from his “daddy.” Doesn’t help that his creative offspring Nicki Minaj and Drake have all managed to distance themselves from it all in unique ways. Drake has a nice comfortable home for himself over at Warner Music along with his deal with Apple Music. Things are a little tricky with Minaj as she holds an artist owner at Tidal. The Queen/King of New York could have served as the middleman(or woman) between getting Wayne and Hov back on good terms if things went south behind the scenes. Like it or not, Free Weezy Album is the most complete Weezy has sounded in years and the world got to hear it first through Tidal before later being available on Spotify. Right now, streaming is the only means of legally listening to the project. At this point, his work ethic and reach seems like a total reversal from the first time Hov approached him. Jigga Man’s position in the Wayne vs. Birdman war won’t be known for a while. Until then, it’s all speculation.
Is Future ATL’s Current King?
Ural: The aggressive musical output, string of revealing interviews and that pretty awesome documentary with Elliott Wilson proves his high-profile relationship with Ciara left Future a changed man. Though her status as an R&B-Pop artists was questionable at the moment, mainstream culture made her the biggest artist. Future work on Ciara along with Mike WiLL Made It was almost a romantic bridging the gap moment for ATL’s sound. Ciara represented the city’s storied ATL past while the Astronaut Kid is the testament to its contemporary dominance. It’s quite obvious there’s level of attention placed on him now despite the fact he’s been churning out hits regularly for the past several years. Future’s core audience understands his ranking within Hip Hop and now, he has a small piece of mainstream pop as well.
Today is the release of the highly anticipated Dirty Sprite 2 and Future Hendrix has the streets on lock yet again. At this point, there isn’t an artist in Atlanta having that much outside reach as him. Sure, one can say Gucci but it’s undetermined if he’ll be the same after his release at the end of the year. Then, there’s T.I. and the Kang’s Hollywood presence has overtaken his somewhat sub-par musical output at the moment. Then there are the newer breed ranging including Young Thug, Migos and OG Maco. However, they have much to prove before being called prince even. Right now, Future is placed in a league of emcees and relevance at the moment that insures he’s going to have a lasting career.
Andre: For all ATL’s dominance over the past, say, ten years or so, there’s been an irrefutable claim to king for a certain emcee at any given time. At least to the outside-ATL-world. Future is that person, now. Not only is he Atlanta’s most celebrated artist outside of Georgia, but he’s also one of its most successful. This comes despite not having a catalog as catch as the person a lot of people thought he was very similar to. Namely Drake. In many ways, their careers just haven’t matched up, and despite Pluto being, for me, a grade A modern album, Honest left a bad taste in people’s mouths.
He’s come back, though, late last year and this year with a vengeance. He’s released three projects that have swung the vote back in his favor: Beast Mode, 56 Nights, and Monster. All three of them have been swarms of Future’s signature nonchalance, irresistible tenor and drug infused Saturnalia and they’ve been great. Like, really fucking great. Now Dirty Sprite 2 is streaming everywhere and Future is once again flooding the streets with his sound. And, in an age when a mixtape is just as great as an album, Future is having a year rivaling that of Kendrick Lamar, Meek Mill, and Lupe Fiasco off of shit he’s already perfected. He’s also had a #1 hit every damn year since 2011, and who else can say that?
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant that has contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Features Editor for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.
Ural Garrett is a Los Angeles-based journalist and HipHopDX’s Senior Features Writer. When not covering music, video games, films and the community at large, he’s in the kitchen baking like Anita. Follow him on Twitter @Uralg.