Words By Andrew Ricketts
In a genre rife with conflict and devoid of love, Birdman and Lil Wayne had navigated the perfect bromance. They shared freely. One wrote albums and verses for the other. One bankrolled the Red Lobster cornbread and Lamborghini leases. Heck, they even kissed at one point. You know.
Out of respect.
For each other’s thug.
But now, they’re all splits, and it’s gotten super ugly. Birdman’s mid-life crisis bro-friend, Young Thug, is everything you’d want in a second wife: young, brash, chart-topping, fickle, drinking so much she’s unintelligible at the banquet table but her chittering giggle’s even cuter than her invisible waistline. Fresh off an upgrade from Gucci Mane, Thugger’s even got a bit of pretense to him ‘cause all the cool guys liked him before Daddy came along with his shiny rings and well-sanitized hands.
Meanwhile, Tunechi has been left to wonder if it was real love in the first place. Guess it’s Weezy F. [Who will get the baby in the divorce?]. The “f” is for forgotten.
The codeine syrup addiction his Atlanta replacement is sporting, Birdman Junior wore that little black dress in ‘08, slurring his way to a suspect liver and pop-rock stardom. Around the same time, it was more than okay to be seen hugging your best bro and mentor, and forfeiting all rights to your intellectual property was like the ultimate OG salute, if you will.
Talk about a match made in Gucci heaven.
Lil Wayne may not have benefited from the same creative freedom elsewhere. Even as Jay Z and new-stud-on-the-block Roc Nation courted him, Weezy pointed to the tattoo of his likeness over Birdman’s right pectoral muscle as the best predictor of where his loyalties would go. The surrogate-father-orphan-son duet album, Like Father Like Son said, unembarrassed, “tat my name on your chest so I know it’s real.”
Playboy, you ain’t got to say another word. The last time an older bro-younger bro duo had played so nicely together was on Jay Z’s “Coming Of Age” featuring Memphis Bleek.
Hahah I like your style (Jay-Z)
Nah, I like your style (Memphis Bleek)
Let’s drive around awhile (Jay-Z)
Cool nigga (Memphis Bleek)
Here’s a thou’ (Jay-Z)
A G? I ride with you for free
I want the long-term riches and bitches (Memphis Bleek)
Have it all, now listen to me
You let them other niggas get the name, skip the fame
Ten thou’ or a hundred G keep your shit the same (Jay-Z)
On the low? (Memphis Bleek)
Yeah, the only way to blow
You let your shit bubble quietly (Jay-Z)
And then you blow (Memphis Bleek)
First Bleek and Jay are complimenting each other’s styles during a street pick-up, then they’re riding together — oh, on the way to nowhere — scheming on how they can make this come up “on the low.” Brotherly love at its finest, but still a rare instance in the macho hip-hop main line.
Baby and Wayne went ten steps further, avowing success through affectionate embraces and shared tattoos. Wherever Wayne was, Birdman was; and wherever Birdman could plausibly add his musical stylings, Wayne enabled that too. It was symbiotic in the way Cam and Jim Jones never managed, in a way Jay and Dame couldn’t quite sustain, in a way Eminem and Dre might relish too much at the expense of releasing material.
And now they’re fractured. Could be for good.
Weezy F. Baby. The F is for First Wife.
The Birdman and his boy.
For those children of the single parent era, this is a watershed moment. Baby and Wayne were supposed to be blood, and the game had to carve out a special place for their kind of fraternizing, far from its accepted place on the masculine image spectrum. They were unerringly devoted, moreover, to a single cause in the blooming Young Money/Cash Money empire, which their creative vision had steered.
Yet they loved openly and so profusely that the demise of their decades-long union has launched a mini-War of the Roses in hip-hop. Their unique example of co-existence topped out in complex handshakes and a public peck on the lips. Thug and collaborator Rich Homie Quan now call each other “hubby” on Instagram, leading to feverish speculation about the limits of brotherly ardor.
Like so many kids of divorce, Nicki Minaj and Drake are old enough to have flown the nest, but are as shaken as the YMCMB foundation when Pusha dropped “Exodus 23:1.”
Essentially, a cornerstone of millennial rap cracked completely down the middle, and the style it created continues unbothered. What really died was our belief that any bromance, no matter how solid, could prevent Money Over Bros.