The Games We Play

“We should form a Senate to govern critic opinion” – Terrence Thornton aka Pusha T

There are so many things from our upbringing that we kind of forget. Significant things that shaped the order of our households and our communication dynamics. One of those things was the kids table. Even if you were the taller of the kids and your feet could touch the ground in an adult chair, kids sat at the kids table. Sometimes that table was on a patio or in the backyard, sometimes that table was in the same kitchen / dining area as the adults. In that case, once you were done eating, you had to get out. My grandfather was a very very very strong proponent of “kids don’t need to be around when adults talking.” I feel that same way about Hip-Hop. Scratch that, I feel the same way about high level Hip-Hop.

Flash Without The Fire. Hip-Hop “officially” became the most popular music over the last year according to some metric not worth mentioning. We’ve known for far too long what culture was the most imitated. Unfortunately, with the ascension of Hip-Hop into higher commercial plateaus, like anything else, something suffered. There used to be a standard, then money and fame became the only standard for most. Throw in social media and there’s a lot of opinions with no passion for nor knowledge of the codes of yester year. Rap beefs always bring this to a glaring head. Enter the “new” rap beef between Pusha T and Drake. Not new at all for those of us who care, if you know you know, but now it’s front and center. Pusha T’s album Daytona was released Friday. The closing song, “Infrared”, spawned a lot of interest online because of the blatant shots (for the 1000th time) towards Drake and continued shots at the YMCMB conglomerate all together. This time, Drake responded. Responded pretty handily to, I must say. “Duppy Freestyle” while prolific, was overhyped. Overhyped because with all the popularity that comes with rap beefs on social media, everything is a rush to look like they know how this goes. It’s moments like this when there needs to be a kid’s table. No disrespect to the Uzi’s and Yachty’s of now, but this quality of rap isn’t what these kids are used to now, and bar breakdown requires a certain level of maturity and experience in this thing of ours. If you don’t know the history of the Cash Money / Clipse turmoil, you can’t sit at the adult table. If you don’t know how formidable an opponent and former idol of Drake’s that Pusha is, you can’t sit at the adult table. If you the only lines you caught were these recent ones, sit at the table outside. The fact of the matter is this used to be normal. It used to be very normal when the competitiveness in hip-hop was about who was the dopest, who was the freshest, who’s pen was the best instead of about who has the most money or the most followers. It used to be normal for rap fans to dig deep into the metaphors to find the jewels before it became just about “the vibe”. It used to be blasphemous for anybody who was considered to a top tier MC to say “Yea somebody else helped me write my rhymes”.

What Would Meek Do? I’m not here to crown a victor. I have no desire to. I want to live in this moment like a time capsule. It’s rare in these modern-day times that you have two rappers that are willing to go into the ring like this. Make no mistake either, even with the ghostwriting instances, Drake is still a very high caliber rapper. I don’t think that’s in question here. I do think the casual rap fans are too unfamiliar with Pusha’s pen and too consumed with celebrity to understand that this won’t be a cake walk for Drake. There’s a very LL Cool J vs Canibus sort of vibe here. Drake deserves all the respect in the world for recording in such a short time and putting out “Duppy Freestyle”. He even deserves cause for pause in Pusha because of how good it is… but it’s not a kill shot. The people, in the industry and civilians, hyping it as such are either irresponsible, minions, or they just don’ t know any better. The better MC doesn’t always win, but If I had to pick who will put together the better more critical bars, I’d pick Pusha T by a step or two. I think all he has to do is make it close. Drake stands the most to lose. Not like the 90’s and early 2000’s where, besides Jay-z (I think he won), losing a big rap battle could almost end your career, Drake just stands to lose a bigger chink in his armor if Pusha lands a higher percentage of power punches. Joe Budden landed a lot in his sparring with Drake but Budden had a strong public dislike or “irrelevance” working against him that Pusha doesn’t have. People are going to pay more attention to this. The Kanye ties and the album rollouts all set this stage up for greatness and great debates. If the records are dope enough, the debates will last for decades. These are the games we play!

-Travis Cochran

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