Over its storied history, which stretches past more than 40 years, one of the most holy commandments in hip-hop is showing respect and reverence for the pioneers that helped birth and build the culture. While the rule may be an unwritten one, it has rarely been challenged over the course of the past few decades. Artists, producers and other members of the hip-hop community have been eager to reach back and show appreciation for those that helped inspire the masses and helped kick down the doors that would allow the genre to be the powerhouse that it is today. Regardless of the neighborhood, locale or coast, rappers typically pay homage to the older guard, even if they're in competition for many of the same ears and sales figures.
But as we all know, things are subject to change, and it appears that as of late, the younger upstarts in rap, many of which who were yet to be born or were still infants and toddlers during the first two golden eras of rap, seem to be less concerned with looking in the rearview to the past and acknowledging the architects than ever before. Friction between younger rappers and veteran artists is far from a new concept, as many of rap's greats have had to contend with newcomers looking to become the next hottest flavor of the month or ruler of their respective lane. However, over the course of the past decade, artists like Soulja Boy and Chief Keef been less than willing to defer to the old guard, instead opting to mock and belittle them.
That trend has only grown legs over the past few years, with a number of today's brightest stars including Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert, as an example, making waves for their perceived lack of respect for the legends and the culture of hip-hop as a whole. We've highlighted a few of the more notorious instances here.
Lil Yachty Says Biggie Is Overrated
Lil Yachty proved to be one of rap's biggest winners in 2016, putting together a rookie campaign that included hit singles, endorsements and a growing fan base. However, aside from unsavory critiques of his music, which many refer to as "mumble rap," Yachty caught backlash after deeming rap deity The Notorious B.I.G. "overrated" in an interview in November of 2016. During the interview, Yachty is asked whether a series of people, places and things are "underrated" or "overrated," and when The Notorious B.I.G. is mentioned, Yachty opts to go with the latter, enraging are large segment of rap fans, who deemed his comment as both dismissive and disrespectful. Although Lil Yachty jumped on Twitter to respond to the backlash, stating that it was his opinion and one he had a right to have, the damage was done and too egregious to reverse in the eyes of many.
Lil Uzi Vert Declines to Freestyle Over a DJ Premier Beat
Lil Uzi Vert built one of the strongest followings in rap that a rising artist could ask for in 2016, which was capped off with the Philly native being included as one of MTV's Hottest MCs, strengthening his case as arguably the hottest rookie in rap. But being from a city with a reputation for producing rhyme animals like Black Thought, Beanie Sigel and Meek Mill, Uzi's appearance on Hot 97's Ebro in the Morning show was pegged as underwhelming and caught more headlines for refusing to rhyme on a beat produced by DJ Premier, one of the most celebrated beatsmiths in hip-hop history.
The appearance, which took place on Feb. 24, 2016, rubbed fans and fellow rappers funny; Uzi's behavior was perceived as a slight to the boom-bap sound of the 1990s. Most notably, TDE rapper Ab-Soul took it upon himself to send veiled shots at the 2016 XXL Freshman after watching what went down. But the situation would fade after DJ Premier himself stepped in to throw Lil Uzi Vert props and to announce that all was good between them. “Shout to the LiL Homie @LILUZIVERT for reachin’ out to me directly...dope things were said and I respect that…We all good...Salute,” Primo wrote on Twitter after getting wind of Ab-Soul's comments.
Kodak Black Thinks He's Better Than Biggie and Tupac
Kodak Black's ascension and momentum may have been stunted by various legal battles and him being incarcerated for the majority of 2016, but the teenage phenom managed to cause an uproar during his relatively brief time as a free man. On April 5, 2016, Kodak, who was obviously feeling himself due to his rising profile and popularity, went on Twitter to boldly declare that he was "better than Pac & Biggie," a claim that infuriated many a rap fan and was deemed as delusions of grandeur. While many critics were quick to peg Kodak as a rapper oblivious to the forefathers of hip-hop, his revelation that Nas, a counterpart of both Biggie and Pac, is one of his biggest influences should temper those assertions. However, his confident boast was taken as a sign of disrespect and is sure not to be forgotten anytime soon.
Vince Staples Says the '90s Are Overrated
Since his rise to prominence, Vince Staples has been one of the more outspoken young artists in rap and become one of the most engaging personalities in the genre. But in 2016, Staples' gift for gab caused a firestorm of controversy when the Long Beach, Calif. native shared his opinion that the 1990s as a decade was overrated.
“The ’90s get a lot of credit, I don’t really know why,” Staples said in an interview with TIME in October of 2015. “Biggie and 2 Pac, those are the staples of the ’90s, I think that’s why they get the golden era credit.”
Later, when fans and members of the rap community chose to take Staples to task, the young upstart doubled down on his comments, causing rapper-turned-podcast host N.O.R.E. to chime in, throwing even more fuel on the fire. Fortunately, cooler heads would prevail and N.O.R.E. and Vince Staples would get on the phone to hash things out, and the issue would eventually simmer down.
Rich Homie Quan Messes Up Biggie Lyrics
Paying homage to legends in hip-hop is not taken lightly, and Rich Homie Quan found himself in hot water in 2016 after butchering his performance at VH1's Hip-Hop Honors show. Tapped to perform The Notorious B.I.G.'s verse on the Junior M.A.F.I.A. classic track "Get Money" alongside honoree Lil Kim, Quan barely got out a few words before freezing up and completely forgetting the remaining lyrics. Rich Homie Quan would issue a public apology, which Lil Kim would graciously accept, expressing his remorse and professing his respect for the career and legacy of The Notorious B.I.G., but the moment remains another instance of a relatively young rapper being chided for not properly respecting the pioneers of rap or the culture.
Young Dolph and Pete Rock Go at Each Other
In early September of 2016, trouble between the old and new guards in rap began brewing once again, with legendary producer Pete Rock and rising rap star Young Dolph sending a few shots at each other. After viewing the music video for Dolph's Rich Crack Baby track "In My System," and noting that the clip, which features Dolph rapping about having cocaine in his system, also includes young children, Pete Rock reposted the video on Instagram and added a caption chiding Dolph for glorifying drug abuse in their presence.
However, rather than choosing to explain his rhyme and reason behind the visual or apologize, Young Dolph would instead choose to dismiss the rap icon as simply a "hater," along with dismissing his clout in the world of hip-hop. “I don’t know u, and u don’t know me ap[p]arently," Dolph wrote in the comment section of Rock's post on Instagram. "But u lame as fuk bra."
The Memphis rep would continue to berate Pete Rock via Twitter with a series of posts that have since been deleted. "Sumbody tell pety rock Dolp said eat a dick and choke on it wit da rest of my haters," Dolph tweeted, before adding "Who da fuk is old dude?"
The beef between the two would die down, but would light a fire under Pete Rock, as he would proceed to continue calling out rappers for their lack of skill or behavior.