For the most part, mainstream rappers rarely feud in 2015. One can probably attribute this to the fact that all these guys are constantly working with one another—Kanye works with Drake, Drake works with Kendrick, Kendrick works with Taylor Swift. It's just not smart business to start shit with your co-workers.
According to an indictment uncovered Thursday, however, it seems as if rapper feuds aren't completely stuck in the '90s. Jeffrey Williams—also known as Young Thug—was arrested by police yesterday for threatening to shoot a mall cop in the face, and that allowed Mike Petchenik, a reporter for Atlanta's ABC station, to discover this indictment, which sure makes it sound like Young Thug and Cash Money records CEO Birdman may have been involved in attempt to kill Lil' Wayne.
Whoa! If you don't know what a Barter is, or why Birdman might be chucking champagne bottles at Lil' Wayne (and how Drake is involved), or, most importantly, you want to understand who all of the characters are in this drama, look no further than the next few hundred words or so.
Who is Young Thug?
Young Thug resists explainer journalism. In fact, it may be his singular purpose on the planet Earth. But if one were to attempt to explain Young Thug, I guess the place to start is to describe him as an alien sent from the future to disrupt conventional notions of what rap music ought to look or sound like. His music defies traditional expectations of "melody" or "lyrics" or even "saying words that sound like anything remotely similar to English or, really, any human language." Here's one of his most famous songs, "Stoner." You'll get the idea.
Anyway, Thugger rose to fame in 2014, and released his debut album, Barter 6 (more on this later) earlier in 2015. Much of his success could be attributed to riding on the wave of some postmodern interpretation of Lil' Wayne's surreal, scratchy-throated flow. Young Thug himself called Wayne one of his primary influences, saying in March of 2014 there's no one he'd rather get in the studio with. Times have changed!
Why doesn't Young Thug like Lil' Wayne anymore?
Tracing the drama of this feud takes a little bit of work. When Young Thug named his album Barter 6—a direct shot at Lil' Wayne, whose most famous album is titled Tha Carter III—very clearly something was up. That came out in April 2015, but in September, Thugger, Rich Homie Quan, and Birdman—the founder of Cash Money Records, Lil' Wayne's record label—released Rich Gang: Tha Tour Pt. 1, and subsequently promoted the hell out of it, dropping seven promotional singles. Noisey theorizes this might've pissed off Lil' Wayne, who was probably wishing Birdman dedicated that much focus to his ostensible comeback album, Tha Carter V. In any case, Birdman and Young Thug were certainly working together in a close personal capacity.
So maybe Lil' Wayne saw Birdman as replacing him with Young Thug—who knows. But Lil' Wayne definitely sued Birdman for $51 million in January, and that probably didn't make Birdman very happy.
Wayne's decision to sue Birdman is just a piece of the larger drama surrounding the whole Cash Money brand. Around 2013, Cash Money started "messing up payments," and just generally stopped listening to Wayne as much, turning down his suggestions for artists to join the label's roster. Presumably as a result of this money drama, Wayne has began to distance himself from Cash Money, as has another very famous person also on the Cash Money label.
You know who.
Yes! Drake, a world-famous Instagrammer who also makes music sometimes, released an album in February 2015 titled If You're Reading This It's Too Late, and the central motif is, basically, "Birdman, where is my money, why are you not paying me my money." One lyric: "Envelopes coming in the mail/Letter opener, I'm hoping for a check again/Ain't no tellin'." Another lyric: "Walk up in my label like/Where my check though."
Like Lil' Wayne, Drake is signed to Cash Money Records, and like Lil' Wayne, Drake is unhappy about the lack of accountability from Birdman vis-a-vis on-time payments.
OK, so, why are Birdman and Young Thug allegedly trying to take out Lil' Wayne?
Meanwhile, while Lil' Wayne performed in Atlanta the same night, a member of the Young Thug's Blood-affiliated "Young Slime Life" named Jimmy Winfrey rolled up on the venue with an assault rifle. Later, he allegedly chased down Lil' Wayne's tour bus and started firing gun shots. After the gun shots were fired, the indictment claims Winfrey called up Birdman to, presumably, give him an update about what went down.
A few weeks after this, Young Thug said in his music video "Halftime" that "Jeffrey Williams stated that if he pulled up next to 'Lil Whodi' he would 'pop him in the noggin', and thereafter a gun was pointed at the camera." Lil Whodi, according to the indictment, refers to Lil' Wayne, and the implication here is that next time Thugger sees Weezy, he's planning to shoot him in the head.
So! Make what you will of that. But you can see the underlying layers here. Professional jealousy, money problems, ego, general feuding—within this morass of factors lies an answer. (Drake, thank God, is safe, for now).
Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.