It was one of the biggest moments in hip-hop history. Two former friends, now bitter enemies divided by the machinations of the music industry and various misplaced loyalties, finally reunited on the stage, shook hands and put to rest years of animosity. It was a promise of a new era in hip-hop, the culmination of a healing process undoubtedly begun behind-the-scenes but coronated in front of thousands of fans.
I’m referring, of course, to the 2005 reunion between Jay-Z and Nas at Continental Airlines Arena during that year’s Power House festival. The infamous beef between the two New York rap giants had fractured hip-hop along battle lines drawn between the two and their perceived positions within the culture. Their peace treaty showed that rap could be bigger than petty beef and that rappers could grow up and reconcile their differences, even after the salty exchange of diss tracks like “Ether” and “The Takeover.”
You thought I was talking about Drake and Chris Brown, didn’t you? No. That was a disaster. While many celebrated, others — those who examine and think about the effects of such moments on the greater culture surrounding them — shook their heads in disbelief and disappointment. Drake giving that moment to Chris Brown of all people? In this year of all years? That was nothing short of a massive L for hip-hop and for those of us who know how much further our culture has to go before it’s truly equitable and safe for women. We know because that moment showed us how much further we have to go. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
2018 has seemed like the year we learned not to have heroes. Kanye West seems to believe that slavery is a choice and capes for abuser ASAP Bari, Kendrick Lamar (or at least, his business team) threw his considerable, Pulitzer Prize-winning weight behind accused abuser XXXTentacion, and addictions have prematurely ended the lives of both up-and-comers like Lil Peep and burgeoning living legends like Mac Miller. The last thing that hip-hop culture needs at this point is more high-level stars co-signing abusers, yet that’s exactly what it got with Chris Brown’s appearance on Drake’s stage at Staples Center Friday night.