At 24 years old I’ve been through three stages as a hip-hop fan: wanting to hear nothing but Bow Wow and Southern crunk, sticking my nose up at anything that wasn’t Nas, Tribe, or MF Doom, and eventually mellowing out and just finding what sounded good. Not all rhymes and beats are created equal, but there is nothing that makes a head-nodding DJ Premier beat better than a jittery Bulletproof Dolphin jammer and for the most part, that doesn’t change with age. However, if you’re a hip-hop head on social media lately, you’d think it was impossible to like Kool Moe Dee, A Tribe Called Quest, The Ying Yang Twinz, Vince Staples, and Lil Yachty equally. But music should be judged on a spectrum of personal preference, not age.
The two extremes of 90s boom-bap enthusiasts and 2010s carefree post-lyrical rap have been fighting for dominance of the culture for the last 25 years, but things have come to a head this year with legends and newcomers arguing over the future of hip-hop and whether or not they even want to be associated in the first place. It’s seen highs, lows, chest puffs, and a plethora of Twitter fingers. We’ve been keeping tabs on it all, so follow us through hip-hop’s latest age-based scuffle.
October 28, 2015 – Vince Staples TIME interview
Already a controversial figure, Vince Staples’s comments about 90s hip-hop arguably kicked this whole thing off. “The 90s get a lot of credit; don’t really know why,” he said before explaining that hip-hop didn’t have a hit or money maker like 50 Cent back then, even with “Golden Era” artists like Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. at the helm. His comments set both groups on fire and eventually drew Twitter ire from N.O.R.E. that was quickly squashed.
December 10, 2015 – Ebro claims Rae Sremmurd don’t write their own raps
Later in the year, Hot 97’s resident curmudgeon Ebro Darden got into an argument with Complex representatives about them listing Atlanta via Mississippi duo Rae Sremmurd’s debut project SremmLife as their third favorite album of the year. “[Rae Sremmurd] didn’t write that sh*t,” he said, “Any of it. Maybe some of it. Mike WiLL Made-It — you know that his name is Mike WiLL-Made It? He made that album. They’re Kriss Kross. It was a fabricated thing that we all liked.”
Naturally, the group’s mentor and resident producer Mike WiLL Made-It came at Ebro’s face about it.
February 24, 2016 – Lil Uzi Vert refuses to freestyle over Preemo beat
During a later stop at Hot 97, Philly young blood Lil Uzi Vert was asked to freestyle by Ebro (who else?), but had some conditions. “If you pull up one of them old beats, I’m not rapping on it. Straight up,” he said to everyone’s shock. “My fans won’t be disappointed. They’ll get it.” He turned down a beat by DJ Premier, but even after he freestyled to Kanye West’s “Robocop,” he couldn’t have known that this decision would haunt him for the rest of the year.
June 7, 2016 – The Fader runs Rae Sremmurd interview
Rae Sremmurd’s cover story with The Fader paid direct lip service to the duo’s friction with Ebro, which writer Naomi Zeichner elaborates on: “His argument seems to be that Rae Sremmurd are bad because someone else is actually working for them, or because their music is gimmicky and people are fooled into liking it, or because they’re part of a conspiratorial effort to dumb down black music for mainstream audiences. In this view, their appeal can’t be credited to their talent, or to the fact that they have a message that resonates, or that they’re skillfully and authentically expressing themselves.” This and the brothers’ defiantly affectionate cover photo helped turn this interview into a must-read:
June 9, 2016 – The Lil Yachty Freestyle Heard Round The World
Another Hot 97 trip, another clash with a young rapper. During his interview, Lil Yachty spat a freestyle that older listeners crucified him for, but was easily explained. “I never freestyle. I always give a written verse cause I just don’t wanna go out like that.” Intentionally or not, a gauntlet was thrown.
July 11 , 2016 – Rich Homie Quan messes up lyrics to Notorious B.I.G.’s “Get Money” at the BET Hip-Hop Honors
At a night honoring some of hip-hop’s female icons, Lil Kim graced the stage with Atlanta youngin Rich Homie Quan to perform Biggie’s “Get Money.” Quan was an odd choice from the start, but the performance took a nosedive once he started butchering the rhymes.
The criticism got so bad that he took to Instagram to apologize; even Kim herself came to his defense in an interview with Sway Calloway, saying that he was the sixth person they called and that he’d done fine in rehearsals. Either way, the torches were lit and the battle raged on.