The bad blood between Lil Wayne and Young Thug took an odd turn yesterday when a veteran hip-hop star with—up until now—no reason to jump into the fray decided to inject a little more controversy into the battle for preferred status as Birdman’s golden goose. For those unaware, Wayne has been estranged from Cash Money and his former mentor Birdman for almost a year now—and he’s taken shots at Cash Money star Young Thug. Thug initially announced that his mixtape was to be called Tha Carter VI, a blatant reference to Wayne’s infamous album series. The name was eventually changed to Tha Barter VI, but the damage was done. Weezy, who hasn’t released Tha Carter V amid ongoing lawsuits with Cash Money, dismissed Thug during a performance in Mississippi.
“Before I go any further, I want y’all to do me a favor and stop listening to songs of niggas that pose naked on they motherfucking album cover,” Wayne told the crowd, referencing Thug’s nude pose on Tha Barter VI.
But now, Compton rapper Game has entered the fray. At a recent concert, Game proclaimed his loyalty to Weezy and made it clear that he’s going at anyone Wayne has an issue with—specifically Young Thug.
“My nigga Tune [Wayne] ain’t never been Hollywood, he’s just Hollygrove,” Game stated, referencing the New Orleans projects Weezy grew up in. “Anybody fuckin’ with Tune got a problem with me. I will fuck Young Thug up.”
As one could’ve predicted, Thug didn’t take too kindly to Game’s words. He released an Instagram video responding to the Cali rapper’s taunts.
“See you used to be a Crip, now you’re a Blood. So I don’t want no smoke with you—you’ve got Bloods and Crips on your team,” Young Thug says in the clip. “And you was a male stripper once before. So I don’t want to fight you—I don’t want no germs from you, pussy nigga. And you know I’m in L.A. more than Arnold Schwarzenegger and he’s the governor, fuck nigga.”
An associate of Thug’s then brandishes a weapon from the backseat.
We’ll forgive Thugger for not realizing that Ah-nuld hasn’t been the governor of California for over four years. But let’s be clear: this is incredibly stupid. For many reasons.
Game launching into a tirade against Thugger on behalf of Wayne makes about as much sense as Game getting into a Twitter beef three years ago with Shyne over a Kendrick Lamar album. This is a rapper whose music has become a footnote to his petty feuding—like 50 Cent with a less impressive rogue’s gallery. He quickly responded to Thug’s diss with his own Instagram video.
“I just seen your little video, you ho ass nigga,” Game says. “You paint your nails like a fucking girl. You call your niggas ‘bae.’ And you a ho ass nigga. Keep fuckin’ around, niggas gonna drive by that nail shop and light that muthafucka up.”
This is a sideshow that hopefully doesn’t spiral into actual violence—as Game’s beefs have been known to do. He was involved in a shootout with 50 Cent’s crew during his well-known beef with G-Unit in the early 2000s, and assaulted rapper 40 Glocc in 2010 on a video shoot. But even aside from Game’s antics, the ugliness of the Wayne-Birdman split should serve as a reminder to all aspiring hip-hop artists who become seduced by these fleeting ideas like “family” and “loyalty”: The music industry—especially the hip-hop industry—tends to use these ideas and terms to create the illusion that a business agreement is something more; rappers are “bestowed” the chains of their respective labels as if they are joining a brotherhood of some kind. But it’s all ceremonial. If that album fails to meet expectations or if other acts on the roster take higher priority, artists will learn quickly that they are an investment and a commodity. Rap labels are not “family.”
In the 1990s, the feud between hip-hop stars Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. was inextricably connected to their respective rap labels. The “Death Row vs. Bad Boy” beef was a much higher-profile extension of earlier rap beefs like The Bridge Wars, which pitted the South Bronx-based Boogie Down Productions against the Queens-based Juice Crew. But Death Row vs. Bad Boy magnified the idea of a rap crew or collective and projected it onto a record label. By the late 1990s, rap labels and crews were virtually synonymous, and this was the era in which Lil Wayne and Cash Money experienced their initial burst of stardom. Rivalries between various camps became a common occurrence, with some animosity turning violent. Most of these young artists were so caught up in the idea of “family” that they never realized that the dumbest thing in the world to feud over is a record label.
In this particular scenario, Young Thug has become the salt that Birdman has to rub in Wayne’s wounds. In the midst of Wayne, Cash Money’s biggest star and Birdman’s long-tenured protégé, suing the label, the CEO allowed his newest star to co-opt Wayne’s brand. Thug, before responding to the Game’s childish taunts, should have thought about the fact that he’s embroiled in feuds that are rooted in that disrespect. Maybe he’d recognize that his boss exploited a bad situation for publicity. Maybe he’d prefer not to “beef” on those grounds.
As for Game, he’s a 36-year-old hip-hop veteran at this point. Randomly announcing his loyalty to Wayne and picking a fight with a popular, younger rapper reeks of desperation and controversy-baiting. But we know he’ll take this as far as it can go. The prospect of two successful rappers threatening each other with violence via social media is remarkably juvenile—now more than ever. In an era of social unrest and protest, and with many other hip-hop artists creating music or sparking conversations born of that unrest, this is a reminder that some rappers are still in a state of arrested development and faux machismo.
It remains to be seen whether or not both of these guys can walk away from this without it turning into a worse situation. Young Thug is basically a kid—he may not grasp how ridiculous this entire scenario has become. He may not understand how he’s being pimped for controversy by his mentor and baited into beefs by an aging rapper who craves attention. But he needs to stop and think, because these kinds of hip-hop pissing contests aren’t predicated on being thoughtful. Rappers get dissed, make threats, and everybody waits to see who blinks first via social media. In that respect, rap’s beefs have just become a game of chicken.