When digital beef gets real: What Drake, Chris Brown, Meek Mill can learn

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News that New York City police are investigating an early Thursday morning brawl, reportedly between Chris Brown and Drake and their respective entourages at the club W.i.P. in Manhattan, will undoubtedly dominate hip-hop blogs for the coming days.

But as details, tweets, video and denials emerge, let’s get one thing out of the way: Brown and Drake -- whatever this alleged beef is about, stop it immediately.

For some time, rumors of a feud between the two have proliferated, but it’s only been in the last few months that fans and bloggers have paid closer attention (and dissected) this alleged beef.


RELATED: Chris Brown, Drake reportedly brawl in New York City nightclub

Of course, fingers are pointed at a certain pop star as the catalyst: Rihanna.

By now, everyone is surely exhausted by the story. But here’s a quick primer for those still in the dark: After Brown’s pre-Grammy assault on Rihanna in 2009, the former couple briefly reconciled. She then moved on and briefly dated Drake shortly after. The Young Money rapper channeled his rebound guy pathos into the song “Fireworks,” off his 2010 debut album. Drizzy and RihRih managed to remain pals and used their sizzling chemistry for his and her singles (“What’s My Name” and “Take Care,” respectively).

As speculation rose that Rihanna might have reconciled with Brown -- after the former flames issued two remix duets after this year’s Grammys (This after people were already cringing at the irony of them both performing at the ceremony, separately, of course), including the sexually charged “Birthday Cake” -- Twitter and gossip sites made it a sport to romantically link the pop diva with every man she’s been spotted with. Meanwhile, sites linked Drizzy with a few ladies, and Brown was busy with his current girlfriend, Karrueche Tran.

Now enter Meek Mill, a Philly rapper who is swimming in a sea of buzz and signed to Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group.

Recently, Meek was spotted with Rihanna at a strip club. What could have been two friends just indulging in lap dances for his birthday was immediately twisted into something more. The rapper only helped fan the flames when he issued a quick jab on Twitter.

“U took me off ya song cause she let me watch da throne! #dreamsandnightmares,’ he wrote in the cryptic dispatch (known as a sub-tweet), inferring that Brown removed him from his upcoming album “Fortune” because of the rumored fling. Brown quickly, and in equally cryptic fashion, wrote, ‘She’s a dream chaser! There are alot of dreamers so she’ll be running forever!’ -- a clever play on the name of Meek’s acclaimed mixtape ‘Dreamchasers.’


Such messages didn’t stop there, with Drake jumping in and (innocently?) asking his 7.6 million followers, “Oh that’s your ho? That’s our ho too. Lol” before saying, “We get gyal eeeeaasy,” making sure to stress a Caribbean patois. Slick, right? Brown found the tweet funny, and Meek reminded whoever was reading (obviously, he meant Brown) that “dese chicks belong 2 da game … not u! Never get confused and think that’s all u!”

We hope that what reportedly happened Thursday jolted Drake, Brown and Meek into realizing just how ignorant and pathetic this ongoing behavior was. Especially if its alleged root was a woman all three had just been insulting on Twitter. A troubling thought, considering that Rihanna (or any woman) doesn’t belong to anyone. If she has chosen to have a fling with either of them, or rekindled something with Brown, that is her right. Even if the reported fight was the result of a lost guest verse, it’s still an incredibly pathetic display of violence and aggression that ultimately fuels the perception so many in the hip-hop community have fought to change. And it definitely doesn’t help matters for Brown’s reputation, which his team has to be fresh out of ways to spin -- that’s unfortunate, considering the man makes fantastic genre-pushing music that again has to take a back seat to his messy personal life.

Those tweets were nothing more than an embarrassing back and forth that makes Thursday’s alleged physical altercation all the more absurd. According to the Associated Press, citing the New York Police Department, more than five people were injured and had to be taken to area hospitals, which is deplorable on its own.

Twitter rants and feuds are nothing new, and with artists proving to be especially revealing in 140 characters or less, it’s important to note that not everything they tweet has a deeper meaner than those watching and reading want them to. It only adds to the fodder when these rants, attacks and sub-tweets are issued and then quickly deleted. Come on -- this is the booming digital age: Despite what anyone thinks, that delete button isn’t quite permanent.

Earlier this year, The Times analyzed this growing culture. Whether it’s a furor-filled rant or a late-night soliloquy, these tweets are growing more personal, emotional and especially reckless.

Although they whip up more interest in an artist, the tweets can also chip away at an image that in many cases has been carefully constructed and manicured.

For someone like Brown, who has cried foul over the public’s lack of support for him following the assault on Rihanna, Twitter continues to be his greatest weakness. He has routinely engaged in feuds or sent bitter rants, only to delete them later, a logic that unfortunately doesn’t work when millions of people read them and you occasionally end up face-to-face with the targets of your attacks.


Regardless of the nature of this fight (none of us were there), it’s impossible not to link this very physical incident with the ongoing digital war, and that’s exactly what has happened.

What’s most frustrating about this incident is that Brown quickly deleted a number of tweets, but he didn’t take down a picture of his chin split open (all the more sad considering that it was a few years ago that pictures of a bloodied and swollen Rihanna were all over the Internet), making it clear that he felt he had been the victim in this brawl.

‘Chris, Karrueche and his friends were victims of a brutal attack last night at WIP. They sustained several injuries,” a statement from his camp read. “Chris and his party are cooperating with NY authorities who are pursuing this incident further.’

Drake’s camp stressed in a statement that the rapper “did not participate in any wrongdoing of any kind last night at W.i.P. He was on his way out of the club when the altercation began. He did not engage in any activity which resulted in injury to person or damage to property.”

Meek, who is on Drake’s current tour, tweeted: ‘It wasn’t me… (shaggy voice) lol.’

Even if Drake or Meek had zero involvement, public opinion is already swayed thanks to their busy fingers sending shady musings.

Thursday proved how dangerous 140 characters can be, and people will continue to watch and dissect what these three will say. Would this melee have happened had there never been these cryptic exchanges piling up for weeks? Who knows for sure?


Let’s hope whatever this is about doesn’t go further than Thursday’s reported incident.


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-- Gerrick D. Kennedy