5 biggest hip-hop news stories of 2018

BY STEPHEN ADDANTE

2018 was no stranger to hip-hop headlines as artists dropped music, videos, and a whole lot of bold statements. This unfortunately was not all, as there were a good amount of events that took place that most of us probably could have done without. In this article, I will recap some of the biggest hip-hop moments of 2018.

MEEK MILL & PRISON REFORM

Meek Mill’s first mugshot (2007)

Meek Mill’s first mugshot (2007)

On April 24th, after months of protests, Meek Mill was finally released from prison. The rapper was sentenced to 2-4 years in prison back in November of 2017 for violating parole, causing an uproar as critics pointed to the several issues regarding the American judicial system. While Meek did violate his parole, the issue stems much deeper than that and is part of a long line of systematic oppression on African-American men. Meek's parole actually stems from when he was 18 years old and his 2008 jail sentence for drug and gun possession in which he was sentenced and later released in 2009 with 5 years on parole. 

In 2014, Meek was once again sentenced to prison, this time 3-6 months for violating his probation. He was released in December of 2014 but almost an exact year later he was found guilty once again of parole violation and given 90 days on house arrest. Meek's probation was extended after this and he had been on probation up until his 2017 court summons.

In 2017, Meek was arrested for a fight at a St. Louis airport and also for popping wheelies on a dirt bike a few months later. Both of these charges upset the judge, despite both being dropped, and this is what ultimately led to the rapper's most recent incarceration. There is no doubt that Meek made mistakes or did things that he shouldn't have been doing, but none of those things deserved the amount of jail time that he received. Meek's lawyer Joe Tacopina echoed these notions, stating "He's been on probation for nearly ten years. Nobody goes on probation for 10 years". Meek has been trapped by the system and set up to fail his whole life and this case speaks to the larger issues the U.S. is facing.

While Meek was serving his sentence, protests online and in the streets took place with hashtags #FreeMeekMill and #Justice4Meek becoming national topics. Big name celebrities such as Jay-Z, Colin Kaepernick, and Kevin Hart, spoke out sharing their support for Meek and their desire for his release. In April of 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered Meek to be released after the District Attorney's office suggested a new trial.

On the night of his release (April 24), Meek was flown to the Philadelphia 76ers game via helicopter with 76ers minority owner Michael Rubin, who was a big part of helping to get Meek out, and rang the ceremonial bell before the game. On November 30th, Meek put out his fourth studio album Championships. Since his release, Meek has been a huge advocate for prison reform and very vocal about the issues facing black men in America.

KANYE ENDORSES TRUMP

This is one that hurt a lot of hip-hop fans and even Kanye stans. Antics aside, anyone who knows anything about hip-hop understands the importance and influence of Kanye West to the genre. He has continuously reinvented himself and has paved the way for hundreds of artists around the world. It is common knowledge that Kanye speaks his mind and doesn't really care about the backlash that he might get (most notably the famous Taylor Swift 2009 VMA's). Interesting enough, many people were quick to point to Kanye's famous "George Bush doesn't care about black people" quote from A Concert for Hurricane Relief live broadcast in 2005 after his Trump endorsement.

This all picked up in April 2018 when Kanye reactivated his twitter to promote a new solo album, collaborative album with Kid Cudi, and that he would be executive producing Pusha T, Nas, and Teyana Taylor's new albums. However, in true Kanye fashion, he had a lot more to say than album promotion. After a stream of tweets, Kanye tweeted out his support for Trump, comparing their "dragon energy" and posting a picture of his signed MAGA hat.

A week later (May 1), a 1 hour and 45 minute interview with Charlamagne Tha God was released in which Kanye confirmed his love and admiration for Trump. Kanye noted that much of this support simply comes from the amazement behind the unconventional path to presidency that Trump took and the fact that he doesn't care what people think about him. It is easy to see that Kanye must see a lot of parallels between himself and Trump in that regard, however, much of this appraisal likely didn't consider many other factors and this made things even worse for Ye later that day when he showed up on TMZ.

Kanye made national headlines after saying "When you hear about slavery for 400 years…for 400 years? That sounds like a choice". While the quote isn't necessarily taken out of context, it was certainly bad phrasing and a bad look. Kanye took to Twitter to clarify himself stating that he is well aware slavery was not actually a physical choice, however he stated: "My point is for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved".

After weeks of criticism, Kanye gave us something new (and refreshing) to talk about as he pushed out 5 albums (Daytona, Ye, Kids See Ghosts, Nasir, K.T.S.E.) one week after the other. With critical acclaim on several of these projects, many hoped that Kanye would just focus on music and stay out of politics. And of course that didn’t happen.

In September, Kanye was featured as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, where he sported his MAGA hat and discussed some of his ideas during his closing performance (which was cut off). Trump has tweeted out his support for Kanye several times throughout this whole process and it all came full circle in October when Ye pulled up to the White House, where he had lunch with Trump and discussed several issues.

While some people feel more strongly than others about Kanye's support for Trump, there is no denying that Kanye is going to do what he wants and whether you cancel him or not, a lot of people are interested about what he has to say. However, this is definitely the strangest timeline of 2018.

"IT WAS WRITTEN LIKE NAS, BUT IT CAME FROM QUENTIN" (drake vs. pusha t)

Pusha T’s Daytona artwork (the photo itself is Whitney Houston’s drug filled bathroom - licensed by Kanye for $85,000)

Pusha T’s Daytona artwork (the photo itself is Whitney Houston’s drug filled bathroom - licensed by Kanye for $85,000)

On May 25th, Pusha T released his third solo album Daytona. The album served as the first of five executive produced Kanye West albums that would release that summer. Despite only featuring 7 songs, the album was met with rave reviews, however, one song in particular stood out and captured headlines: Infrared.

As the final track on the album, Infrared featured several bars addressing Drake's character and ghostwriting accusations. Many were unaware why Push was going at Drake as there was no real pressing beef that was well known prior. However, traces of animosity go as far back as 2006 when Clipse (Pusha T's former rap duo with brother No Malice) had issues with Lil Wayne. Wayne of course signed Drake in 2009 to Young Money Entertainment, so it makes sense that Push wouldn't have thought too highly of Drake from the very start, especially considering their styles of rap are so different.

Throughout the years several subliminal shots were sent both ways on tracks including Exodus 23:1, Tuscan Leather, and Two Birds, One Stone. However, it wasn't until Infrared that Drake directly responded, in fact, he must have had some sort of tip that it was coming as he released Duppy Freestyle the same day the album was released. Backed by the smooth jazz beat, Drake took several shots at Pusha before claiming he had an invoice on the way for giving Push extra attention on his album weekend.

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You’re welcome. 🦉

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However, four days later, Pusha T released The Story of Adidon, perhaps one of the harshest diss tracks of all time. Backed by Jay-Z's The Story of O.J. beat, the song revealed all sorts of new information and featured an old image of Drake in blackface as the song artwork. The most shocking piece of information though was the reveal that Drake has been "hiding a child" from the world. It was confirmed later that Drake and former porn star Sophie Brussaux did indeed have a child together and that Drake initially wanted Sophie to get an abortion. It was also rumored that Drake was going to join Adidas in June and that his line would be titled AdiDon after his son Adonis.

artworks-000358847394-z5c5nw-t500x500.jpg

“Sophie knows better as your baby mother
Cleaned her up for IG, but the stench is on her
A baby's involved, it's deeper than rap
We talkin' character, let me keep with the facts
You are hiding a child, let that boy come home
Deadbeat mothaf*cka playin' border patrol, ooh
Adonis is your son
And he deserves more than an Adidas press run, that's real
Love that baby, respect that girl
Forget she's a porn star, let her be your world”

The song also featured vicious shots at Drake's father and best friend/producer 40 (Noah Shebib). Push brings up Drake's father's departure from his life when he was a child, as well as 40's issues with multiple sclerosis, stating that he only has so much time left (in his life). Many believed Push went too far (including Drake) with this final line, however, some believed Drake opened those doors when he brought up Pusha's fiancé on Duppy Freestyle. At the end of the day, this is hip-hop and these things are bound to happen, let's not forget that Hit 'Em Up and Ether happened.

Drake did clarify the artwork noting that it was from a project he was apart of when he was an actor on how black actors are often stereotyped and struggle to get roles. However, he made no official response to the track until October when he discussed the situation on LeBron James' "The Shop". He claimed Pusha went too far with the 40 diss and claimed he had another track ready where he said "terrible things" but that he didn't want to "further" Pusha's career. Little jabs have been thrown back and forth since, including the bad feelings between Drake and Kanye, however this ship has likely sailed and this moment will be cemented in hip-hop history forever.

XXXTENTACION MURDERED / MAC MILLER OVERDOSES

XXXTentacion (by Jack McKain)

XXXTentacion (by Jack McKain)

XXXTentacion

On June 18th, XXXTentacion was pronounced dead at 20 years old after being shot and killed during a robbery. X was shopping for a motorcycle in Deerfield Beach, Florida and was followed by a group of men in a SUV. Two of the suspects were actually caught on tape in the shop while he was browsing. When he proceeded to leave, the SUV blocked him in and two men exited the vehicle pointing a gun at the rapper. After a few seconds of struggle, X was shot several times in his car before the men took his Louis Vuitton bag and fled the scene. Video of X's body lifeless in his car circulated the internet and he was confirmed dead a few hours later.

Several vigils and ceremonies were held celebrating and remembering the rapper in the days following his death. X's cult following drew in thousands of fans from across the world to Florida where his funeral took place on June 27th. Many celebrities and rappers expressed their sadness online as well.

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LOVE IS WAR

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The controversial rapper had been in the news constantly the months prior to his murder for his 2016 abuse case with his former girlfriend. X was caught up in legal issues his whole career, yet maintained his innocence regarding this case up until his death. Despite the charges being dropped (because of his death), never before heard audio surfaced a few months later of X seemingly confirming his abuse of his ex-girlfriend.

X was definitely one of the more talented artists of the last few years with his distinct (and ever-changing sound), however, it is unfortunate that is legacy will be overshadowed by the personal and legal issues he faced. This is one of the many instances we've seen recently with popular artists being thrown into the spotlight for their legal issues. With recent artists like R. Kelly and Michael Jackson also facing criticism, it begs the question of whether or not it is possible to separate the artist's music from their personal life.

After his death, his song Sad from his album ? which dropped earlier in the year, went to number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making him the first artist to do this posthumously since The Notorious B.I.G's Mo Money, Mo Problems in 1997. On December 7th, X's third solo album Skins was released featuring a mix of short and "unfinished" songs. Regardless of the issues he had, it is still sad to see someone so young with so much talent murdered because of something as meaningless as a Louis Vuitton bag. The four men suspected of the crime are in custody awaiting trial.

Mac Miller

September 7th - Just a month after dropping his album Swimming, Mac Miller was found dead in his Los Angeles home following a drug overdose. The rapper was a known drug user and had talked about them in many of his songs. Fentanyl, cocaine, and alcohol were all found in Mac's system, and this combination ultimately led to his death.

His death is yet another chapter in the artist overdose book, and likely not the last with the amount of drug use in hip-hop today unfortunately. Mac had dealt with drug issues throughout his career and even became sober for a few months. Mac had also recently gone through a high profile breakup with pop superstar Ariana Grande in May of 2018. He was arrested and charged with a DUI a few days after the breakup was reported.

It had seemed as though he had gotten better and found peace in the music again as Swimming was considered one of his best albums (also nominated for a Grammy later on). However, we are all human and we all go through things and for Mac, drugs likely helped him get through the tough times. It is unfortunate that things had to end the way they did, and the hip-hop community shared this feeling.

Mac's passing marked a sad moment in music history as he was truly a very talented individual. He continuously showed signs of improvement and matured as the years progressed. Mac will forever be in the hearts of hip-hop lovers across the world.

the rise and fall of tekashi 6ix9ine

Tekashi 6ix9ine in the “FEFE” music video

Tekashi 6ix9ine in the “FEFE” music video

Perhaps the most electrifying and eye-catching moments of 2018 hip-hop came from none other than Mr. Billboard himself. The polarizing rapper was first noticed in late 2017 after dropping singles Gummo and Kooda. However, it wasn't until 2018 that Tekashi 6ix9ine began to become a household name. The past year was full of ups and downs for 6ix9ine, and after his insane amount of success and rise to fame, it all ended with him behind bars.

6ix9ine's buzz really started to build in early 2018 when he released his third single Keke featuring Fetty Wap and A Boogie wit da Hoodie. Soon after, Tekashi dropped his debut mixtape Day69. His distinct image (rainbow hair, teeth, tattoos) and sound played a huge role in separating him from the rest of the so-called "SoundCloud rappers". With multiple tracks reaching the Billboard 100, the rapper's really began to blow up and so did his ego. 6ix9ine became an internet sensation over the following months, often bragging about his success and calling out other rappers on his Instagram. His confidence became a captivating marketing tool and he realized this early on, often using this to his advantage.

Peak 6ix9ine really came in the summer of 2018 after he climbed up the charts with his single Fefe with Nicki Minaj and Murda Beatz. The music video was released on the same day (July 22) and the song became the rapper's highest charting single to date. On the same day, news broke that 6ix9ine was in the hospital after being kidnapped and robbed. However, many believed the timing was too close to the release of the track, and thus wrote it off as staged.

Throughout the year, he beefed with several rappers including Trippie Redd, Juice WRLD, YG, Casanova, and Chief Keef. The latter two ended up having legal implications, particularly after a Chief Keef shooting, when he was investigated for a potential connection to the case. 6ix9ine's 2015 sexual misconduct case with an underage girl, resurfaced in 2018 after the judge learned about his other recent legal issues. After being in and out of court, Tekashi managed to get himself only four years probation for the misconduct case.

Jefferson Siegel / New York Times

Jefferson Siegel / New York Times

In November, 6ix9ine announced his debut album Dummy Boy would be dropping later in the month. During this time, he also fired everybody on his team including former manager Tr3yway ("Shottie") after belief that they conspired against him. On November 16th, 6ix9ine did an interview on the Breakfast Club where many of these things were addressed including his happiness that he avoided jail time. However, 3 days later he was arrested on robbery, racketeering, and firearm charges, among others. He has been in jail ever since.

6ix9ine is currently facing life in prison and is awaiting his 2020 sentencing after pleading guilty to nine different charges related to gang activity and other serious felonies. Many of his charges involved several members of his former management team and it was reported that he has been working on a plea deal that would help imprison many of these members, potentially giving him little to no jail time. While it is hard to believe this will happen, given what we've learned about 6ix9ine the last year, I wouldn't put it past him to make it happen.

His album Dummy Boy was leaked on November 24th and was officially released November 27th. The album featured appearances from Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Tory Lanez, and more. It debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200.

Tekashi 6ix9ine was one of the most interesting and insane artists of all-time and he will always have a place in hip-hop history. Whether you loved him or hated him, he definitely had your attention.