The Drake v. Meek Mill / Funkmaster Flex conflict is meaningless to today’s mainstream music industry, but it seems to be very important to the old-school hip-hop establishment.
Drake is arguably the number one rapper in the world, and he possesses the acumen and methods of a superstar artist. Drake understands the way the music business works in 2015. Funkmaster Flex is still stuck in 1995.
It’s commonplace in R&B and pop music for artists to accept song concepts from producers and songwriters. Sometimes singers pass on songs that later become hits. For example, Rihanna’s smash single “Umbrella” was offered to Britney Spears and Mary J. Blige before RiRi put her stamp on it. Nobody questions the credibility of a singer for collaborating with other songwriters, but of course hip-hop is viewed through a different prism. Historically, if you didn’t write your own lyrics you are seen as a fake, a phony, a biter and worst of all, a sucker MC.
This isn’t the first time we’ve been through a situation like this. Way back in 1993 Snoop (Snoop Doggy Dogg) released a cover of Slick Rick’s classic “La Di Da Di”. And the hip-hop media hit the roof. Let me be more specific, the New York hip-hop media was livid. They said the sky was falling. They said it could be the end of rap music as we know it. But it wasn’t. Snoop’s version “Lodi Dodi” was actually well-liked. It happened again in 2005 when Autotune technology became popular, and T-Pain was the whipping boy for the hip-hop purists. Now Autotune has also been widely accepted.
Drake didn’t commit any crime, and he didn’t attempt to cover anything up – he didn’t even hire any ghostwriters. If you read the liner notes for If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late he clearly gives writer credits to his collaborators. So by definition the ghostwriter accusation is incorrect. Every song on the CD has multiple writers. So what’s the big deal?
It’s a huge deal to Funkmaster Flex because he’s so authentic. He loves to tell you how real he is and brag about his credentials. And to his credit, Flex is one of the most influential DJs in hip-hop history. But it’s a new day now. Mixtapes aren’t distributed on cassette tapes any more. Flex probably turned in his vinyl years ago.
Why Meek Mill decided to “expose” Drake is anyone’s guess, but the ill-conceived strategy has clearly backfired. Drake’s tongue-in-cheek “Charged Up” Meek Mill diss has received mostly positive reviews and has yet to be challenged. Flex was supposed to release a Meek Mill track responding to Drizzy, but something went wrong. Hot 97 never received the song and Flex has incurred the merciless wrath of a hip-hop twitterverse hungry for more drama. Drake responded again by dropping “Back to Back” a scathing diss that mocks Meek’s lack of action, “I waited four days, where y’all at?”
More importantly, by attempting to pull back the curtain on Drake, Meek unwittingly left himself and his lady open for criticism. People have noticed obvious similarities between Meek’s track “I Got The Sauce” and “I Got The Juice” by Detroit rapper Lil George. Nicki Minaj’s ex-boyfriend Safree “SB” Samuels dropped his own diss and alleged that he wrote lyrics for Nicki on The Pinkprint. His claims can be considered somewhat credible because he is listed as the co-executive producer of Pink Friday.
20 years ago this “ghostwriting” controversy would have played out methodically over 3 or 4 months – on the covers of The Source, XXL and Vibe. It would be analyzed and debated in dorm rooms, hip-hop forums and message boards. But today’s generation is different. They have much shorter attention spans. They’re accustomed to twitter beef. Last week it was Nicki and Taylor, this week it’s Drizzy and Meek.
The social media rantings of Flex and Meek make great theater but it’s really much ado about nothing. Flex can release 100 reference tracks and Drake’s fans wouldn’t give a damn. Drake’s 24 million twitter followers don’t care how many people collaborated on “Energy” – they just want to hear good music. Flex’s opinion about Drake is inconsequential in 2015. Am I saying that Flex is over the hill and needs to hang up his headphones? No, of course not. But we don’t need radio personalities to tell us what artists to like. We just need DJs to play quality music, drop bombs on it and let us decide for ourselves.