The Internet Killed Meek Mill, Not Drake

How public shaming turned a pretty average rap battle into an epic one

Last week I started getting text messages from friends and fellow rap fans who were unimpressed with Drake and Meek Mill’s then bubbling rap war. “Not impressed with this battle, not at all,” one read. “These dis records are pretty weak,” said another. This was a snapshot of the larger public sentiment at the time, which literally changed overnight. Now we're seeing statements more akin to “Drake bodied Meek Mill” and “Meek Mill’s career is over.” I knew that once my 70-year-old mother asked me about “this Drake and Meek Mill thing” that the battle had taken on a life of its own.

The beef is a complicated one with several moving parts. At the heart of it are likely the internal problems at Ca$h Money / Young Money Records, between ex-business partners Lil’ Wayne and Birdman/Baby. Despite Wayne’s desire to end his business relationship with the label, it raises questions as to where the loyalties of their flagship artists, Drake and Nicki Minaj, lie. Both artists have remained mum on the subject, with rumors naturally swirling about which side they’ve each taken. Yet Birdman insisted “Nicki [Minaj] and Drake ain’t going nowhere regardless," in a recent interview with Power 105.1's Angie Martinez.

Where this gets complicated is that Nicki Minaj is dating Philly rapper and Rick Ross affiliate Meek Mill and is also currently sharing the stage with Mill on her Pinkprint Tour. Meek fired the first shot in this contest on July 21st, randomly tweeting “Stop comparing Drake to me too…. He don’t write his own raps! That’s why he ain’t tweet my album because we found out!” Meek suggested that Quentin Miller, a collaborator from Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late album, is Drake’s ghostwriter. Hot 97 DJ Funkmaster Flex then played a reference track for “10 Bands” by Quentin Miller to further spectators’ suspicions. That same day, Meek attempted to fan the flames by offering some semblance of an apology to Drake and Nicki on stage in Bristow, VA. “I was just upset as a fan… Shout-out to Drake. Let him be great in all the motherfuckin’ lanes he’s great in…I wanna give a special apology shout-out to Nicki Minaj for my crazy ass going crazy on Twitter.”

Meek’s quasi-apology came too late, as by July 29th Drake then followed up with a pair of diss records, “Charged Up” and “Back to Back,” neither of which name Meek Mill explicitly, sticking to Drake’s mantra of Diss me, you’ll never hear a reply for it.” But fans all knew whom Drake was speaking to when he said “Is that a world tour or your girl’s tour?/ I know that you gotta be a thug for her/ This ain’t what she meant when she told you to open up more.”

The records were lukewarmly received, hardly of the caliber of scathing diss tracks of rap’s past, such as Nas’ “Ether” or 2Pac’s “Hit ‘Em Up.” No instant victor was declared with the release of these songs, as people were still awaiting Meek’s response before they would pass judgement. Funkmaster Flex initially promised he would debut the response on July 27th, stringing listeners along during the broadcast of his radio show, yet delivered nothing.

It was at that point that things began to spiral out of control for Meek Mill. The fans waited patiently for the promised response record that was never delivered and then the memes began. Pictures of the “Waiting Skeleton” meme sitting on a park bench began to pop up on Twitter and Instagram, captioned “I’ll just wait here for Meek Mill’s response.” Three days later on July 30th, Meek finally released the disappointing response record “Wanna Know,” seemingly ending an underwhelming rap battle, with Drake winning by default. Little did we know that the worst was yet to come.

We will never know whether Meek Mill was gun-shy or if he just needed more time to finish the track, but fans took matters into their own hands on social media. Twitter and Instagram exploded with hilarious memes that didn’t so much say that Drake had killed Meek Mill with his diss records, but more that Meek had simply lost the battle through lack of action, flip-flopping, and a weak response. Even brands like Burger King and White Castle got in on the action, making puns about beef and such. Call it a TKO.

The memes had gone well beyond the diss records themselves, as the subreddit /r/BlackPeopleTwitter was overrun on July 31st with virtually every post on its front page a Meek Mill meme. The battle had taken on a “Harlem Shake” effect, with the fan memes actually becoming the most entertaining part of the whole event. The public shaming of Meek Mill rivaled that of Star Wars Kid, in which one part of you is laughing at the spectacle, and another part of you is feeling bad for doing so.

When Drake took the stage at his annual hometown #OVOFest in Toronto on August 3rd, he opened his concert with a snippet of “Charged Up” and then proceeded to perform “Back to Back” against a backdrop of Meek Mill fan memes cycling through behind him. Almost in sensory overload, the crowd lost their minds watching this thing unfold before their eyes, and by the end of it they were chanting the hook to the five day old song like it was his biggest Platinum hit.

To add insult to injury, photos and video surfaced of Drake, Kanye West, and “the best rapper in Philly,” Will Smith, laughing hysterically at their phones, seemingly looking at Meek Mill memes.

Mystifyingly, Meek’s (non)reaction to these events as they were happening came in the form of him posting a picture of himself on Instagram using a teeth whitening device, with the caption “Gotta clean my teeth b4 I talk dirty @affordablelookplus boston George!” Fans clamored “WHAT. ARE. YOU. DOING.” and “You’re getting bodied right now!” Meek had become a living meme.

This loss also now casts a negative light on the Pinkprint Tour, as Nicki Minaj is now endorsing someone that the public sees as a loser. Romantic feelings aside, it’s likely that her camp is now looking at their relationship as “bad for business.”

The #OVOFest performance brought all of the events of the last two weeks to a head, and was truly the nail in the coffin for Meek. It was at this moment that “Back to Back” went from average diss record to epic one. Coupled with the visual backdrop and the screaming fans, the words began to sting more, the insults dug deeper under the skin, creating an event attached to the song that we will never forget. Drake was now truly victorious with the knock-out blow.

While Drake likely sees himself as the dragonslayer, the Internet played the biggest role in what we can now safely call the destroying of Meek Mill’s career. Public rap battles of old took place over a series of weeks, with songs debuting on rival radio stations. As a matter of fact, Meek’s response time came much quicker than the diss records of the past. But things move much faster now that everyone gets content at the same time and we don’t need physical media for distribution. Hip-hop has caught up to the Internet and now everyone is connected, as you only need a $100 phone, not a $1000 computer to access it. That being said, the rap battles of yesterday may have turned out differently if we were constantly connected as we are now, with popular opinion deciding the victor, dragging the loser to the social media guillotine for public execution.