Meek Mill and Joe Budden engaged in a hostile back-and-forth this holiday weekend after Budden made some less-than-complimentary remarks about Mill’s current music and current relationship with a certain buxom hip-hop superstar. Mill recently released his sophomore album Dreams Worth More Than Money to strong reviews, and his personal life is under unprecedented scrutiny due to his relationship with Nicki Minaj. The two began dating this year and she appears on two current Mill tracks—“All Eyes On You” and “Bad For You.”But Joe Budden isn’t a fan of the Meek-Minaj duets. “Part of my problem with that is that Meek’s music is too hard,” Budden said last week on his podcast. “Meek’s music is too hard for me to look at him with this fucking sappy fuck shit. Be the hardcore guy that I’m sure she was attracted to at some point. It’s nasty. I hate everything about it. I’m glad a dark-skinned guy is behaving this way. Light-skinned niggas, we’re not moving like that…Light-skinned guys, we’re used to getting the bad bitch. He’s like this bitch just stepped off of fucking Mars and is the only girl. Oh my God, I just hate it all. But I do appreciate them both keeping the hope of love alive.”
The commentary sparked a reaction from Mill, who blasted Budden for caring so much about Mill’s private life. But the situation is especially head-scratching because Budden became notorious for his love life as a cast member of VH1’s Love and Hip-Hop. Because of his reality show fame, Budden’s relationship history is as known as his music—in particular, his rocky relationship with ex-girlfriend and Love and Hip-Hop castmate, Tahiry. He infamously proposed to Tahiry on an episode of the show back in 2014, only for her to decline.
“I said to you that I want my words to match my actions,” Budden told Tahiry before taking a knee in Times Square. “That was incomplete. I want my actions to match my feelings. I want the ties that bind us together to always be stronger than those that tear us apart. I love you. I need you. I don’t want to spend another day without you. With that said, Tahiry-my-mom-didn’t-give-me-a-middle-name-Jose, will you marry me?”
“Love is trust,” she said. “And I don’t trust you right now. I can’t believe you. One day you’re good. One day you’re bad. One day there’s foundation on my pillowcases. One day you have a ring. How am I supposed to believe you?”
Why is a guy who’s already put his romantic history on public display be so loud in his criticism of another rapper’s by-all-accounts healthy relationship? If Tahiry had said “yes,” would the intensely introspective Budden have recorded music that reflected his romantic bliss? Would it have been wrong for him if he had?
Considering how his own relationships have gone, Budden could be bitter—at least Nicki seems to think so.
“Jealousy jealousy that's how u feel? Lol. #podcast,” Nicki tweeted. “Why would you be bothered by another man showing love to his girl? Let's celebrate black love. All the best w/ur podcast. All jokes aside.”
Budden’s criticism isn’t unique nor is it limited to Meek Mill. We hate it when rappers get too affectionate in their songs. When they cross some invisible line of machismo into more romantic territory, we accuse them of everything from selling out to going soft. But as hip-hop has become the defining voice of contemporary black youth, love should be as recognized a part of that culture as the anger and violence that is typically associated with the struggle. The disdain for rappers in love is another facet of the hypermasculine rhetoric that breeds contempt for women and frames relationships as “traps” to be avoided at all costs, lest that woman be responsible for your downfall as an aspiring rap superstar.But it also reveals the somewhat more benign side of hip-hop misogyny. Of course, endless derision of “bitches” and “hoes” serve as blatant examples of the culture’s tendency to women-bash, but there is also the criticism of “going soft” that often accompanies emcees who decide to rhyme about love and sentimentality. In a genre where celebrating male camaraderie is stock-in-trade, being as open and unapologetic about romantic love still warrants snickers and condescension. Women are only to enter the frame as ornaments, there for the rich and famous rap star’s enjoyment and as status symbols—not as intimate partners whose love is valued and needed. So there are those who react to a rapper like Meek Mill dropping verses about his girlfriend with dismissals. It’s a part of that segment of the culture that remains committed to adolescence. The idea that “my boys” will always mean more than “some broad” is obviously juvenile. At some point you have to grow up emotionally, fellas.
This attitude is especially antiquated considering where we are in 2015 hip-hop. Since the mid-’90s, even the mainstream rappers that were considered “hardcore” have released love songs. Big Pun was one of the most gifted lyricists in hip-hop history and could be unflinchingly dark and violent in his rhymes, but his breakthrough hit “Still Not A Player” was about settling down with his girl. DMX was that generation’s grittiest voice, but had hit romantic songs like the Faith Evans duet “How’s It Goin’ Down?” After mocking Ja Rule for being a street rapper who’d “gone pop” by doing love songs with R&B ingénue Ashanti, 50 Cent followed suit—and the former crack dealer with the harrowing “shot nine times” backstory hit No. 1 with the me-and-my-boo anthem “21 Questions.”Rappers older than 30 shouldn’t spend so much time embracing the kind of mantras that drive young men’s thinking. It’s okay to want to settle down with someone, and even if it goes bad, it’s not an excuse to regress into some emotional second childhood. We shouldn’t be so quick to ridicule rap songs that celebrate love—the genre has given us some flat-out classics in that regard—and we shouldn’t be so eager to celebrate the culture of single maledom to the point that we can’t recognize when our favorite emcee is evolving past it. In 2012, on the track “Bye, Baby,” Nas addressed the pain of his public breakup with R&B star Kelis, while admonishing the childish mindset of so many of his peers who couldn’t understand the value in risking your heart and more for the person you love:“Half of your soul, half of your heart, you leaving behind It’s either that or die, I wanted peace of mind And all I seen was selfish cowards, under their breath Saying ‘why did Nas trust her?’ But look at yourself Speak louder bro You live with your babymoms and scared to make an honest woman out of her And make her your bride, fake pimps you ain’t even alive At least I can say I tried—plus enjoyed the ride.”Rappers showing love to black women is something the game should always embrace with the same (or greater) enthusiasm that has bitter young men reciting “These Hoes Ain’t Loyal” at the top of their lungs at parties. And when gunplay and tough-guy posturing is what passes for manhood, maybe the hardest shit is the thug who admits he has a soft spot.