By: Terrence A. Merkerson
Today, I am here for Hip-Hop.
Now that the “heated” rap feud between Meek Mill and Drake has seemingly ended, let’s review the battle and its impact on the culture.
We are about a week removed from any significant development in the battle (if that’s what one would like to call it) between the leaders of October’s Very Own & the Dreamchasers. It seems that the consensus believes that Drake won, convincingly. Rap battles between premier artists have always had a significant effect on the movement and direction of the culture and also upon the trajectory of the artists involved. I find this battle to be no different. This battle brought attention to some well-known, but often undiscussed industry practices and caused us to be somewhat critical of a relational dynamic that is certainly not exclusive to Nicki Minaj and Meek Mill. This feud produced far more content that controversy and it is also the first battle between two truly significant figures within the culture during the age of social media. These new and different dynamics have the potential to change the way we consume and respond to mainstream battle rap moving forward.
There is no need to recap the battle, I believe the results are pretty definitive. The aftermath will prove to be far more interesting that the actual battle. In the past, the loser of such a one-sided battle usually takes a significant hit, both in public perception and on the charts (see 50 Cent v. Ja Rule & T.I. v. Lil’ Flip), but this time, I think the aftershock will not affect Meek as detrimentally as it would have 10-15 years ago. The most interesting effect of social media is that it drives mass media because of its instantaneousness. That instantaneousness also affects how quickly a story or event can gain and lose momentum. Drake took the advantage early by establishing momentum and utilizing timing to stay on the offensive. Typically, the artist that takes the offensive and maintains the position as the aggressor rather than as the respondent often triumphs in rap feuds. As we saw here, that theory remains consistent. The insurmountable amount of pressure that Meek placed upon himself by waiting so long to respond was ultimately his undoing. As time passed, expectations became so high, that I honestly believe that even an “Ether-esque” attempt would have seemed to be underwhelming.
The immediate thought after rap battles featuring artists of this magnitude is where their careers go moving forward. In this culture, during this age, I think that it will have minimal effect on both of their careers. Though, if Meek were to have taken control and won this battle, I believe that it would have been an amazing opportunity to grow his brand and expand his fan base in to the mainstream rap audiences. I believe that Meek will look back on this and realize the significance of this opportunity and regret that he did not take advantage. Because Drake came in as the over-dog and a little more stylistically equipped for such an undertaking, it does nothing more than reaffirm his position within the culture. On the otherhand, I do think that Drake’s legacy takes somewhat of a (splitting hairs) loss here. The combination of how swiftly stories and events cycle in and out of our newsfeeds and timelines and with Meek proving to be an underserving adversary, I do not think Drake will receive much credit for winning this battle, which will likely cause this battle to be forgotten amongst the great artists and battles in Hip-Hop history. For this very same reason, Meek comes out fairly intact, despite his all-time disappointing showing. I believe that his next album will perform about the same as his last two and after the initial shock of all wears off (which seems to the case as of today), it will be business as usual.
The entity that is and will be most affected by this battle is Hip-Hop Culture. It seems that rap battles now are fought through marketing, timing, and social media. The entire conflict is the result of a few misadvised tweets. Many purists think that this shift hurts the culture and undermines the ideology that authenticity and aggression are the cornerstones of Rap music. As one who lived through the Pac v. Biggie, “East Coast v. West Coast” conflict, I certainly can understand both sides.
The violence, aggressiveness and physicality associated with the culture are considerable factors responsible for its immense popularity today. From that perspective, it is not difficult to believe that the credibility of the culture is in question. Meek Mill is more closely an embodiment of what Hip-Hop music looked and sounded like during its Golden Era that propelled the genre and the culture mainstream. Drake (to some) is the embodiment what happened when mainstream pop-culture got its hands on Hip-Hop, watered it down, re-packaged and re-branded it for mass consumption. To pacify detractions, both are outstanding artists who make great music. Both of their presence alone in Hip-Hop is as significant of a contribution to the culture as their music itself. But it is uncharacteristic of the genre, for what Meek Mill is symbolic of, to, in the words of Drake, “…get bodied by a singing n*gga…”. It will take some time for us to see the impact that this will have on the culture and on future battles between artists, but like many followers of the culture, I am more curious than anything to see how this will re-manifest itself.
On the other hand, we must take into account that society as a whole has changed. We live in a far more sensitive, politically correct, mollified and passive aggressive world, so is it not fitting that our music reflects that? It is no coincidence that Drake is arguably the biggest star in rap right now. His style of music and his approach is more appealing to this generation of rap consumers. He is often characterized as being “soft” but it is safe to say that in many ways, we live in a much “softer” world. Is that a bad thing? Of course not. Drake has a more emotive and expressive platform that has often been absent in Rap music and he has made that the keystone of his sound. That perspective is vital for the growth and longevity of the genre so ultimately, I have very few reservations.
What disappointed me most in this “battle” is that it seemed that we were on the cuffs of re-attaining something that we lost at the highest echelon of the genre… balance. The culture and its music has always been at its best when it is diverse, competitive and balanced at the top. I saw an image a couple of days ago featuring Drake, J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar with corresponding captions reading: “The Heart, The Mind, & The Soul”. Before I could crack a smile of assurance and satisfaction, I stopped because something was missing. Where was “The Streets”? The struggle, anger, raw-energy and adequately articulated aggression that Rap music was born from has been absent at the highest levels of the genre recently. “The Street” is our pulse. This is what DMX was for us in the late 90s and early 2000s. This was what I wanted and what we needed Meek to be, to give us a more perfect order and balance at the top of the culture, but he did not seize his spot. Could he still do it? Possibly, but he certainly did not help his case in this battle. Moving forward, I think the answer to that question is the only thing that we “Wanna Know” from Meek Mill.
SN: I must say that I am truly appreciative of all the memes produced as a result of the battle. You people are absolutely brilliant.
Terrence Merkerson is the Founder & Creator of Avenue Fifteen. Terrence earned Bachelor’s Degrees in both Political Science and Gender/Race Studies from the University of Alabama. Terrence also completed Graduate School at the University of Alabama earning a Master’s Degree in Communication.
He currently resides in Baton Rouge, LA.