'I Guess' is Kathy Iandoli's battle cry of #shruglife. It's everything that impresses us and unimpresses us—which could be one in the same given the day.
In 2001, at Hot 97's Summer Jam, JAY-Z got onstage for a monumental performance at the heart of his most turbulent time in hip hop. The whole "King of New York" title was still hanging in the balance, post-Biggie era. So, every rapper was proving their weight (some more effectively than others). The result was inter-borough battles throughout New York City.
Here comes Brooklyn vs. Queens...
After JAY kept quiet during the East Coast/West Coast war that claimed the lives of Biggie and Pac, Mobb Deep (who were also musically thrown into that mix via Tupac's "Hit 'Em Up") had a problem with JAY's silence. Then, there was the whole "Money, Cash, Hoes" situation (Google it, because I'm sleepy and my point will get lost). So, by the time JAY hit the stage to perform this mysterious new song "Takeover," a target was introduced on the Summer Jam screen.
It was Prodigy in his dance clothes as a kid, onscreen at Hot 97's Summer Jam. I've mentioned this story about accidentally referencing the Summer Jam screen 15 years later to Prodigy, while working on our final book together and he just laughed. By then, he was so far removed from the ether (pun intended) and thought it was funny. That screen became a footnote in hip hop history, a well-orchestrated intersection of when the street meets technology. It all went downhill from there (technology-wise). But, when JAY tacked on the classic line, "Ask Nas, he don't want it with Hov, NO!" so began the more infamous war, if you will.
You had Nas — who was seven years deep in the game by then — embroiled in this war with JAY (who was about five years into his own fame). The two traded bars and it was glorious. Nas' part in the battle was more popularized because he was the more prominent rapper at the time. Mobb Deep's mention was pushed further down the line. But, that Summer Jam screen became legendary and sparsely repeated.
The festival screen as a means of dissing opponents is one that is rarely used, though when it is, gets a hell of a response. Cut to 2015, when Drake showed a slideshow of memes at OVO Fest during his semi-convoluted conflict with Meek Mill. Then, this past summer, Nipsey Hussle flashed Kanye West in his MAGA hat onscreen at Broccoli City Festival. There are some other examples of lesser impact in hip hop, though still funny (like when Jay and Bey showed Bieber's mugshot in 2014).
The next one happened this past weekend, apparently beyond the artist's control.
Drake and Pusha T have had this lopsided beef for years now. It's like Genius meets MediaTakeOut, where lyricism and gossip have fueled this fire that won't seem to extinguish. Over the summer, Pusha's audiences from Governor's Ball to city tour stops have chanted "Fuck Drake" in unison like some never-ending battle cry of fan loyalty. Neat.
It all came to a head this past weekend, though, when Pusha performed at the Tyler, the Creator curated Camp Flog Gnaw Festival and onscreen behind Pusha were the words "Fuck Drake." Before actually learning this wasn't Pusha's doing, the media mill churned out fast AF stories of Push continuing the beef with this screen. Then, we found out that it wasn't in fact Pusha T's doing, it was a "corny ass tech dude" (his words) who took it upon himself to do that. Pusha swiftly cleared this up on Twitter.
Corny ass tech dude fucking with my screens at @CampFlogGnaw , I speak for myself and all of you know how I make my statements!! Dissing anybody on screen isn’t part of my show... Otherwise great festival, thanx @tylerthecreator for having me out.— King Push (@PUSHA_T) November 11, 2018
Pusha's response was quite polite for someone whose entire set was theoretically hijacked by a tech troll trying to get in on the fun. But, it brings to light something about hip hop right now that has never actually happened in years prior. Sure, when there's a beef, ancillary crew members jump in to puff out their chests. We get everyone from the weed carrier to the fellow big boss, talking shit and ultimately taking a side.
Technology ruined the sport of it all. It's like no longer going to a basketball game in real time because you can pretend to be LeBron when you play NBA Live. And here is where the bigger problems happen, considering who really knows the true extent of the animosity between the two people fighting? Jumping in with half a clue only potentially intensifies what might've been minuscule, until that outsider went and opened their mouth or typed those words on that screen. Over the years in hip hop history, the he-said/she-said has made everything worse. From Biggie and Pac, to Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown; to a lesser extent, even now with Cardi B and Nicki Minaj. Once again, the saga continues with the latter thanks to what? Technology. That and outsiders trying to get a piece of the drama, since it's all become one big show where accessibility is at an all-time high.
So, this person running the boards at Camp Flog Gnaw was the wider scale equivalent of that kid writing "Fuck you" to their favorite rapper on Instagram, hoping and praying for a response to screenshot it and show it to friends or get on that mini Summer Jam screen — now called The Shade Room Instagram page — for the envied "So and so claps back at a fan" post. It's a scary time in hip hop when some far removed individual gets to dictate chess moves.
Here's some advice for everyone: Don't start no shit, there won't be no shit. Put that on a screen.
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