What’s Beef?: Summer Jam Edition

New York rap radio behemoth Hot97 held its annual Summer Jam concert in East Rutherford, NJ last night, featuring a bill of expected performers like Rick Ross and J-Cole, as well as up and comers like A$AP Rocky and Azealia Banks.

One person who did not appear was the advertised headliner Nicki Minaj.

It would seem that earlier in the day, Hot97 morning show host [and PFG hero] Peter Rosenberg took the side stage at the event to introduce Kendrick Lamar and plug a concert ticket giveaway. This is what he said:

So, people took to Twitter, it gets back to Nicki, it gets back to her label boss Lil Wayne, and then this happens.

Luckily, the show had unannounced appearances by Nas [who was going to perform with Nicki] and Lauryn Hill [who was going to perform with Nas] so the crowd didn’t wild out too badly and things didn’t end up going south.

I’ve been thinking about this all morning, and I kind of find it fascinating because it calls a bunch of things into question.

Judging from Rosenberg’s comments this morning, his criticism didn’t have much of anything to do with Nicki herself, but the creative direction she’s taken since she hit the major labels: the David Guetta guesting, Lil Kim-wig jacking space Barbie of Starships and Superbass instead of the lyrical beast that killed Hova and Kanye on Monster and held her own with Eminem. He’s entitled to that opinion, and there are probably a lot of people who were fans of Nicki from way back who wish she would get back to her roots. He’s allowed to not like her recent output, but the criticism that it’s ‘not hip-hop,’ is where things get troublesome. Yes, Starships is a dance track produced by the studio cabal that’s been making hits since the days of the Backstreet Boys. In clear ‘genre definition’ terms, it is not a rap song. But that doesn’t meant it’s not hip-hop. I, and other followers of the culture, put a lot of weight on the idea that hip-hop is first and foremost about being true not just to the realities of the streets, but to an artist’s own reality as well. Is Earl Sweatshirt not hip-hop? Is Cee-Lo? I’d say both are as hip-hop as you can get. If Nicki wants to get some of that Black Eyed Pea money, she can. It’s not rap, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hip-hop.

Still, while I disagree with the philosophy behind Rosenberg’s argument, he makes a valid point when he says if Nicki was that mad she should have just hit the stage and rapped her ass off. I’ll take it one further: to me, the real hip-hop thing to do would have been to just hit the stage and call Rosenberg a punk motherfucker, big herself up and be done with it. Hip-hop ain’t a game, but sometimes you have to play it like one.

Instead, she walked. After already being in the building. After already being paid. Scrolling through her Twitter, it seems she’s filing this under ‘R’ for ‘Respect.’ I mean, I can see that you don’t invite someone to your house only to shit on them, but let’s not pretend that Nicki was showing up out of the goodness of her heart. She got her money. You’re on top, people are going to take shots. You don’t make your fans eat it cause you got your feelings hurt. If Rosenberg’s comments are the worst thing anyone says about you this week, you are living a charmed life, my dear.

Conversely, Funkmaster Flex [never known for holding his tongue] took to the decks between performances and had some choice words of his own on the night’s events.

So. Let’s recap that:

-“If you lost the streets, it’s your fault.” TRUE.
-“If you don’t go Gold, it’s your fault.” TRUE.
-“We ain’t fuckin’ with commercial rappers no more.” FALSE.

-“I am dedicated to tearing you down!” COME ON, YO.

It’s nice that Flex is standing in solidarity, and I love it when he goes off as much as anyone else, but he cannot honestly think that his station will be getting out of the commercial rap game [‘commercial rap’ being as dubious a term as ‘the real hip-hop’]. Hot97 is not some little boutique station, and Flex ain’t Senor Love Daddy, he’s an employee of a giant multi-national Communications Conglomerate, and they like commercial rap. They need it. Just as much as YMCMB or Mindless Behaviour or any other of these 106 & Park acts need Hot97. Everyone’s going to have to play nice eventually, that’s the business reality.

One last item of note is a tweet and reply on Minaj’s Twitter feed between her and YMCMB colleague Jae Millz.

Now that’s…just a whole pallet of racial and gender issues packed into one tweet, that perhaps should be broken down by people smarter than me [Jay Smooth, where you at?]. While I think this is about the last goddamn thing that needs to have race brought into it [and Rosenberg has more than paid his dues and earned his stripes in the NY hip-hop community], it makes me wonder how often some of these artists, especially female artists, get frustrated by criticism from male fans and haters. When Rosenberg talks about the ‘real hip-hop’, he’s talking about a decidedly masculine hip-hop, something Nicki hasn’t been interested in for years. Something to think about.

At any rate, it’s unfortunate that an incident between too affluent individuals had to play out in public at the expense of fans who are mostly less affluent, and may have saved for months to make that show because they wanted to see Minaj. You want to do right, Nicki? You’re talking about a future NY make-up show? Let people swap their Summer Jam ticket stubs for admission to the new show. If this is about respect, give your fans the respect you feel you were robbed of.

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