Last week a simmering dislike erupted into a battle of words between Pusha T and Lil Wayne. Pusha T is fifty percent of the Clipse, a Virginia Beach rap group whose hallmark is ridiculously hard lyrics and a cozy relationship with hit-maker Pharrell. Lil’ Wayne is the impish high energy pop rapper with a legendary work ethic who sells a lot of ring tones.
The themes of this “beef” could have been foretold. Pusha T was likely to argue that he was more real, having sold crack more recently than Lil Wayne (and since his former manager Anthony Gonzales, was recently sent to prison for 32 years for drug trafficking). Wayne is likely to argue that his sales numbers put him out of the reach of a little guy like Pusha T. Pusha was going to have some exceptionally clever jokes about neon fashion. Both of the rappers would insult each other’s masculinity, intelligence, and strength. They would both go after the other emcees they are affiliated with. (In fact they had almost this exact beef seven years ago.)
Here is Lil Wayne following the insult script including calling Pusha T “softer than a motherfucking nerf ball.”
The topic of this conflict that I would have forgotten about is the kiss. In 2006 Birdman, the CEO of Cash Money Records and Lil’ Wayne smooched.
Turns out they’ve been doing it for years! (There is no way to read sarcasm through the internet, so I’ll just tell you – I’m not bothered by two men kissing. ) Here is a video from years back of the Big Tymers, Mannie Fresh and Birdman on Rap City. When Wayne shows up he drops a quick kiss on Birdman’s lips.
Birdman explains that he basically raised Wayne from the age of a young kid and considers him his actual child. In family relationships kissing each other isn’t uncommon.
In a recent interview, Baby, who calls Wayne his son, discusses/justifies the kiss. “That’s my son, ya heard me,” he explains. “If he was right here, I’d kiss him again. I kiss my daughter, my other son, I mean, you have children? Well, if you did you’d understand what I meant with it. I just think people took that too far man. That’s my son. I’ll do it again tomorrow, I’ll kill for him. Ride and die for him.”
I don’t think that Birdman and Lil’ Wayne have to justify kissing each other. The framing that Birdman has used to help viewers interpret the kisses have been particularly masculine and patriarchal. One spin has been that the kiss is a mafia symbol of closeness. Another positions Birdman as a literal father of Wayne.
We need to be really careful here because Birdman is not Wayne’s parent or guardian. Birdman AKA Bryan Williams was a rap star and label head when Wayne was onstage in grade school plays.
Lil Wayne was born Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. and grew up in the Hollygrove neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana. Carter was born when his mother, a chef, was 19 years old. His parents were divorced when he was 2, and his father permanently abandoned the family. Carter enrolled in the gifted program of Lafayette Elementary School and in the drama club of Eleanor McMain Secondary School.
He wrote his first rap song at age eight. In the summer of 1991, he met Bryan Williams, rapper and owner of Cash Money Records. Carter recorded freestyle raps on Williams’s answering machine, leading him to mentor the young Carter and include him in Cash Money-distributed songs. He also recorded his first ever collaboration album True Story with rapper B.G.. At the time, Carter was 11, and B.G. was 14, and was billed as “The B.G.’z”. When he was 12, he played the part of the Tin Man in his middle school drama club’s production of The Wiz. At age 13, he accidentally shot himself with a 9 mm handgun, and off-duty police officer Robert Hoobler drove him to the hospital. At McMain Magnet School, Carter was an honor student, but he dropped out at the age of 14 to focus on a musical career.
If you’ve seen The Carter documentary on Lil Wayne then you’ve seen the disturbing scene where Wayne describes being raped as a kid.
In the middle of The Carter, an obviously high Lil Wayne jokes openly about being raped at the age of 11 with the encouragement of his surrogate father, Baby—and informs Lil Twist, a 15-year-old member of Wayne’s record label Young Money, that Wayne is going to help him get raped, too.
This gives some insight into the relationship between Wayne and Baby Birdman. I’ve been thinking about using parts of this clip and the Jimmy Kimmel interview referenced in Amanda Hess’s Washington City Paper essay to talk about male sexual assault. In particular the idea that because men are socialized to be sexual all-the-time, then any predatory sexual attacks against men are okay. This terrible notion is essentially the idea that anyone who says “no” is really saying “yes,” and that men are saying “yes” all the time.
I wonder if kissing Birdman isn’t a power thing? A move of control? A sign of closeness? I don’t think it quite counts as parental given the exploitative sexual history between the two. The kisses don’t seem particularly sexual or erotic. Perhaps Wayne and Birdman are lovers. I don’t know and honestly it seems a little bit junior-high for a person with a Ph.D. to spend so much time writing about two grown ups kissing.
But then again, I’m not the only person fixated on this kiss.
The song Exodus 23:1, Pusha T’s diss track is actually fairly generic. Pusha T had to explain that the song was about Lil Wayne. Wayne confirmed it by tweeting: “Fuk pusha T and anyone who love em.”
This morning No Malice, the non-violent, higher road-taking, reinvigorated Christian half of the Clipse tweeted his opinion about the Pusha T/Lil Wayne beef.
“Well I LOVE Pusha! That’s my blood and I ain’t never kiss em.”
Obviously beef sells records, but I think that Pusha T chose Lil Wayne because he thinks that the kiss gives him some annihilating ammunition against him. You might call it a Ronald Reagan electoral strategy of fear. Making your arguments based on the assumption of prejudice in the general population. At the heart of the attacks on Lil Wayne so far is simply homophobia — and a particularly twisted desire to police male sexuality.