Rappers taking jabs at each other on Twitter ain't nothing new. But after last year's non-indictments for the deaths of Mike Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in Staten Island by police, social media wars are cutting straight to the heart of hip-hop. Sensationalist reporting of tit-for-tat tweets miss the point: MCs are battling over hip-hop, appropriation, and the culture's responsibility to the black community that birthed it.
Harlem-born rhymer Azealia Banks lit the fuse in December when she openly challenged Iggy Azalea calling out her silence on the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The Aussie appropriator's been a problem since releasing a music video for "Pu$$y" that shows her posted up in a black neighborhood with accessorized sisters--and worst still, a young black boy hanging around her neck while she delivers sex raps.
its funny to see people Like Igloo Australia silent when these things happen... Black Culture is cool, but black issues sure aren't huh?
— AZEALIA BANKS (@AZEALIABANKS) December 4, 2014
Q-Tip, in doing all the work for Azalea, sent a number of followup tweets her way explaining the history of hip-hop and arguing it can never be divorced from its socio-political roots. Iggy shrugged and called the effort "patronizing."
The battle raged on. In a Billboard cover story, Kendrick Lamar offered his insight on Iggy. "She's doing her thing," he told the music magazine. "Let her." Those words aren't the ones that drew Banks' ire, though. When asked about Brown and Ferguson K Dot said, "When we don't have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us?" That's all Azelia needed...
"When we don't respect ourselves how can we expect them to respect us" dumbest shit I've ever heard a black man say.
— AZEALIA BANKS (@AZEALIABANKS) January 9, 2015
Lupe Fiasco, one of hip-hop's top wordsmiths, previously chimed in on Iggy tweeting that the rapper from down under has a place in the game (A vaunted one with Grammy nominations this year and a Forbes article that originally declared "Hip Hop Is Run By A White, Blonde, Australian Woman"). That angered lots of folks but pleased Azalea who thanked him for his comment. Fiasco didn't stop there. Into the new year, the rhymer added this fuel to the feuding flames:
2015 will not and can not be the year of the feelings. You young crazy emotional bitches and jaded old bigots gotta chill da fuck out
— Lupe Fiasco (@LupeFiasco) January 9, 2015
The Coachella-bound Banks took it as a personal jab and cracked back on Fiasco calling him an "old Chief Keef" tweeting a picture of the dread locked rapper. All jokes aside, she missed an opportunity to point out how freely Fiasco tosses the word bitch around these days when he wrote the mansplainer song "Bitch Bad" (which I sadly tried to see the good in) for Food & Liquor 2!
Bank's underscored her passion offline in an interview on New York's Hot 97 radio station saying, "This little thing called hip-hop that I've created for myself, that I'm holding onto for my dear fucking life. I feel like it's being snatched away from me or something.The blackness is gone." It wasn't the first time the notion came up. J. Cole's "Fire Squad" verse where he said "white people have snatched the sound" while name dropping a number of rappers, including Azalea, drummed up discussion.
Rappers are chopping it up left and right over their craft on Twitter and in song. It's a deeper discussion than the one touched off by Lamar's braggadocio call out verse on "Control." With #BlackLivesMatter taking to the streets of the nation, it's created a parallel fault line of 'black culture matters' playing out most vividly in the realm of hip-hop.
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The struggle is for its very soul, one that in the wake of tragedy in Ferguson sounds akin to J. Cole's "Be Free" with a poignant refrain well within Twitter's 144 character confines.
"All we want to do is break the chains off. All we want to do is be free."