Bayern Munich kind-of-defender Jérôme Boateng caused the biggest rap feud of 2015. I think.
In case this is your first time having internet access in the last two weeks, allow me to hit you with some important news. Professional yeller of inspirational street hymnals, Meek Mill has been locked in a battle with Canadian actor-turned-rapper Drake. The common theory is that the Meek vs. Drake beef started over an accusation that Drake’s guest verse on the song “R.I.C.O.” from Meek’s new album Dreams Worth More Than Money was actually written by someone else — an unforgivable sin in hip-hop purist circles.
Travel further down the rap beef conspiracy wormhole and you’ll find other theories that Meek was insulted that Drake did not send out any tweets encouraging his fans to buy DWMTM, and the possibility that Drake took subliminal shots at Meek’s relationship with Drake’s label-mate Nicki Minaj on “R.I.C.O.”
But with a bit of investigation, it’s clear that another important figure may actually be at the center of rap’s biggest feud: Boateng.
What could have been an easy “Streets vs. Suburbs” battle victory for Meek Mill has turned into the most embarrassing defeat any rapper has taken since 50 Cent made us all realize that listening to a frog-voiced Ja Rule sing love songs was actually a bit silly. In hip-hop’s unforgiving court of public opinion, Meek looks like a sucker for letting Drake release two (mediocre) new diss tracks before he finally released a (forgettable) song of his own.
Though it was Meek who started the fight, Drake has been the clear aggressor. To put it in soccer terms, being backed down by Drake in a rap battle is like being scored on by a newborn Canadian puppy in a World Cup final. It should never be allowed to happen.
Back to Jérôme.
On June 22 — with unusually little fanfare — Boateng became the first European athlete and first soccer player to sign with Jay Z‘s management company, Roc Nation. Four weeks ago, Boateng posted of photo from Tidal’s album release party for Meek Mill’s DWMTM. (Tidal is Jay Z’s music and video subscription service.) Boateng’s very next Instagram post? A photo hanging out with Drake, captioned, “Always good to see you.”
Take a scroll stroll down his IG page, and there they are, right next to each other.
On the surface, there’s nothing suspicious about a player hanging out with Drake. He’s a well-known fan of the game, has been spotted grinning like a U-12 camp attendee with seemingly every player to ever score a goal in Europe. But as Rick Ross said, it’s “deeper than rap,” or in this case, soccer.
Meek’s biggest miscalculation was letting Drake drop “Charged Up” and “Back to Back” without a response. What could possibly have lead him to decide to fall back, fail to deliver a diss track sooner (as promised), and let Drake have free reign to shape the battle narrative? Was there no one in his camp warning him that perceived hesitance to deliver a knockout blow in the fight he instigated could be career suicide?
The possible answer is shocking when all facts are considered.
According to multiple hip-hop journalists, the person who advised Meek to not release a song aimed at Drake as quickly as possible was Jay Z himself. It’s an incredibly strange move on Hov’s part because Meek Mill is also under the management umbrella of Roc Nation, the same company recently joined by Jérôme Boateng.
Allegedly, Jay Z wanted Meek to release his response track exclusively through his Tidal service, rather than deliver it to radio through DJ Funkmaster Flex. After four days of #MeekBeLike embarrassment, Meek finally gave the song to Flex early last week. Compounding the delay of releasing the song with rejecting the idea of doing so through Tidal couldn’t have made manager Jay Z very happy with Meek.
I theorize that as a result of having his requests ignored, Jay Z devised a plan to make a sacrifice of Meek Mill’s now all-but-ended career to improve the profile of his new signing, Jérôme Boateng. It is important to keep in mind that the news of Boateng’s move to Roc Nation didn’t really hit the press until the middle of last week.
The last time we thought about Jérôme Boateng, we were holding a community vigil. His fans were deep in sadness over the prospect of what looked like a career-ending injury to his pride and ankles at the hand of the ruthless Lionel Messi. The world saw Boateng torn to shreds during the Champions League semifinal, and we wondered what it meant for the rest of his life and career.
Would Boateng have to retire? Was he be spending the summer in a hospital (medical or psychiatric)? Rather than face the continued indignity of having people write “Messi Messi Messi Messi Messi Messi” in the comments of all his Instagram posts, would it be better for him to spend the rest of his life deep into Germany’s Black Forest, where not even the strongest cell phone signal could disturb his peace with unwanted push notifications? Or worse, travel the globe with Bayern Munich, playing a bunch of meaningless friendlies in a terrible disguise? Or telling people he was actually his brother, Kevin-Prince?
The prospects for the latter half of Jérôme Boateng’s 2015 appeared to be grim. If he was going to recover his positive image of being Bayern’s resident peace-sign thrower, fashionable hat and glasses combo enthusiast, and usually competent defender, something drastic would have to happen. But what could anyone do to make an entire planet forget that Boateng was the victim of the most violent loss of dignity in 2015?
Jay Z isn’t a business man, he’s a business, man. He swooped into to invest in Boateng’s career when it was at a low point, and if he wanted it to pay off for Roc Nation, he was left with only one option. Another victim needed to be sacrificed to the gods of internet ridicule. He had to thrust someone else into the spotlight to take Boateng’s place. A new unfortunate soul would have to be the main source of inspiration for the meme industrial complex if Boateng was ever going to get past the disgrace of almost being spun lifeless by Messi in front of millions of people.
If Jérôme was going to re-join the world’s social and soccer elite, someone else was going to have to take an even bigger L this summer than he did, and being the strategic genius that he is, Jay Z made that happen.
Jay Z wasn’t advising Meek Mill on how to handle his battle with Drake in an effort to boost subscriptions to Tidal or give Meek some needed buzz for DWMTM. He was laying out a Machiavellian plan to use Meek as a pawn to take everyone’s mind off of clowning Jérôme Boateng. Why? Because Meek Mill is a lost cause and Jay Z finally has a foot in the door of the most lucrative sport in the world. After Drake’s crushingly insulting performance at last night’s OVO Festival, there is no coming back for Meek Mill.
As any savvy business man would do, Jay Z has sacrificed one local asset as a means to gain access to the whole world. You can’t knock the hustle. It’s a brilliant tactical move for him and Boateng.
Also, I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in nine days, so this is probably bullshit.