How Adin Ross & Kai Cenat Are Making Hip-Hop Streams A Hot Debate

BYGabriel Bras Nevares3.7K Views
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The new guard of rap journalism is catching heat and building their platforms exponentially these days. What will the future hold, and what does that mean for the visibility, culture, and knowledge of hip-hop?

Few hip-hop fans can engage with some of the biggest artists in the genre today without coming across a streamer or two. Kai Cenat and Adin Ross, on the Twitch and Kick platforms respectively, are certainly leading the pack in that regard. Moreover, their livestreams with rappers have been fan favorites for a few years now, and they show no signs of slowing down. However, their rise also provoked a tough, complex, and divisive conversation between the old guard of hip-hop media and journalism and this new emergence. According to "old heads" and critics of streamers like Cenat, Ross, IShowSpeed, and many more, they don't really represent the culture, respect its foundations and missions, or platform it in a benevolent or knowledge-based manner.

But do Kai Cenat and Adin Ross have to hold themselves to these standards of hip-hop coverage to deserve a platform? They are by no means rap-centric, as they make content about a variety of things (and handled their own external conflicts outside of hip-hop, such as the New Yorker's chaotic in-person giveaway and the Floridian's controversial views or his promotion of them). In that last regard, they've resolved and moved past those, but the questions of their role in hip-hop culture remain unanswered. What does this generational divide mean for the future of the genre and community, how can all of us bridge that gap, and can (and should) these young, outspoken voices find not just success in the larger media world, but also respect from it?

Read More: 21 Savage Freaks Out After Kai Cenat Corners Him With Snakes, Travis Scott Calls In To Place A Bet

Killer Mike's Grammy Win: Kai Cenat's Youth Vs. Joe Budden's Experience

There's perhaps no better starting point than to answer these questions at its core: are these streamers "right" about hip-hop? When Killer Mike recently won the Best Rap Album Grammy for MICHAEL, Kai Cenat, Adin Ross, and many others questioned who he was, and lamented Travis Scott's UTOPIA's loss. Joe Budden blasted this take, aggressively saying that "it's not about [them]." Cenat and Ross retorted quickly, flaunting their financial success and remarking how he always trashes both new music and new media. This would've all been much easier to empathize with if they knew who Mike was and just preferred UTOPIA over MICHAEL. A lack of familiarity with a genre you're such a fan of reflects a lack of interest in the culture's roots, and it made valid preferences of contemporary juggernauts harder to justify.

Of course, this "old vs. new" debate has been a part of rap from the very beginning, and it's not wrong at all to prefer UTOPIA over MICHAEL. The real issue is that, while folks like Kai Cenat and Adin Ross get grander in the mainstream, they seem to only champion the most current artists making waves. Their visibility pulls all of hip-hop up with them, and without fully acknowledging their blind spots (which are fine to have), their frustrations don't stand on any weight of fandom, experience, or knowledge. Instead, it turns into an old head complaining about young whippersnappers, and them responding just as stubbornly. In reality, they should cast aside these criticisms more passively, because the truth is that they are beneath them. Know what you are. Until you do, reactionary anger against you will inspire that same vitriol within you.

Read More: Adin Ross’ Joe Budden Rant Leads To Back And Forth With Angry Twitter User

Adin Ross' 21 Savage & Playboi Carti Streams: Biting Off More Than One Can Chew

By launching that rage back, folks like Kai Cenat miss the opportunity to invite them to see their work for what it is, and not as a threat, replacement, or alternative to more traditional media coverage and journalism. Both can have a respected and popular space for their audiences, and streamers are doing great with hosting sessions with rappers. Kai's had Offset, Nicki Minaj, Lil Yachty, and more, whereas Adin Ross chopped it up with Rick Ross, Chris Brown, Tory Lanez, and most recently, two separate streams with 21 Savage and Playboi Carti. Both stirred controversy for different reasons. 21 almost scammed Ross out of hundreds of thousands, whether unintentionally or not. On the other hand, Carti got a million from him and left their post-Grammys stream after about ten minutes when the 23-year-old didn't pay up more.

While 21 Savage apparently paid him back and Playboi Carti might return, this made Adin Ross the subject of much mockery and pity for hip-hop. For example, DJ Akademiks believes that 21's team took the opportunity to "finesse a white boy" because they don't have respect for him beyond an opportunity for profit, content, and promo. Some defended Ross in both cases; others thought he was a fool for thinking otherwise. But it shows how these industries exploit each other to some degree. The Florida native doesn't deserve scamming, but many think that if his streams were more formal or music-oriented, he wouldn't run into these social media-heavy antics. Sure, Ross does talk about serious topics with rappers and provide enlightening conversations, but it's only on occasion. Right now, he's seeing that all that success doesn't earn you an ounce of respect or authority in hip-hop.

Read More: Kai Cenat Mocks Playboi Carti After Disastrous Adin Ross Stream

Respect & Rejection Between Rap & The Streaming Community

That begs two questions: how much do streamers really respect hip-hop? And how much does hip-hop really respect streamers? The first question sits in the middle. For every Joe Budden, there's someone like Drake to shout them out and engage with them excitedly. While Playboi Carti shunned Adin Ross, Offset really appreciated the great time that Kai Cenat showed him. Given how young much of rap is today, most rappers unquestionably respect, admire or are at least cognizant of streaming's importance in the media ecosystem today. But they identify them as platforms and personalities, not as folks to help them develop their craft, take their careers to the next level, or help them translate their artistic identity. As such, they follow engagement... but it might not be a sustainable collaborative model.

As for streamers respecting hip-hop, there's no doubt that streamers who've found a fanbase in the culture are fans of its current form. There's also no tangible obligation for them to particularly like or know of its past because their content reaches a much younger fanbase that doesn't bump Roc Marciano like that. Yet Chief Keef can let Adin Ross say the n-word during a live show. That is the key problem: when they erase history rather than add to it. Traditional rap media isn't going anywhere, despite their close-minded takes on up-and-comers. But streaming can fall into using rap for clout. It's probably fewer negative instances than positives, but arrogantly invalidating legitimate criticism damages that crucial element of hip-hop without providing similar frameworks. For them, it's all about who's more successful, not about how they can responsibly use their platforms as the biggest media voices right now.

Read More: 21 Savage Wants Money From Adin Ross After Streamer Gave Playboi Carti $1 Million For Six-Minute Appearance

Where Does Hip-Hop Media Go From Here?

In terms of that responsibility, streamers have a larger voice than ever. Back in June of 2023, after he moved to Kick and made openly transphobic comments, Adin Ross spoke to Travis Scott's manager about why other artists didn't want to work with him. The manager explained that he was a brand risk because of these comments, plus for endorsing figures like Andrew Tate and inviting Nazi sympathizers to his stream. Rappers didn't want to associate with him. Now they do, which reflects that they saw his numbers go up and wanted a piece of the pie. So streamers have cleaned up their act somewhat, but the price is a transactional exchange for some, whereas others like Kai Cenat are more villainized by the media than by artists.

Both sides are wrong in their combative attempts to downplay and replace each other, despite ample room for both. There's no clear authority to encompass hip-hop's present-day nuances. But folks like Elliott Wilson retracting their dismissals of Kai Cenat and Charlamagne Tha God praising him are the right calls, although most haven't followed. Rappers see streamers as peers; look at Ice Spice linking up with Cenat, a similarly young star from the Bronx. Maybe less trust in casual content with rappers would make the old guard recognize streamers as storytellers, not content chasers. If Kai, Adin, and others want respect in hip-hop, they have to respect its history. If the old guard wants to stick around, they have to support the new generation instead of dismissing their youth. Until then, petty back-and-forths about money, bars, or ignorance will kill hip-hop more than any attempt to preserve tradition or embrace change.

Read More: Kai Cenat Responds To Elliot Wilson’s Nicki Minaj Stream Criticism, Reacts To Charlamagne Tha God’s Praise

About The Author
Gabriel Bras Nevares is a music and pop culture news writer for HotNewHipHop. He started in 2022 as a weekend writer and, since joining the team full-time, has developed a strong knowledge in hip-hop news and releases. Whether it’s regular coverage or occasional interviews and album reviews, he continues to search for the most relevant news for his audience and find the best new releases in the genre. What excites him the most is finding pop culture stories of interest, as well as a deeper passion for the art form of hip-hop and its contemporary output. Specifically, Gabriel enjoys the fringes of rap music: the experimental, boundary-pushing, and raw alternatives to the mainstream sound. As a proud native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, he also stays up-to-date with the archipelago’s local scene and its biggest musical exponents in reggaetón, salsa, indie, and beyond. Before working at HotNewHipHop, Gabriel produced multiple short documentaries, artist interviews, venue spotlights, and audio podcasts on a variety of genres and musical figures. Hardcore punk and Go-go music defined much of his coverage during his time at the George Washington University in D.C. His favorite hip-hop artists working today are Tyler, The Creator, Boldy James, JPEGMAFIA, and Earl Sweatshirt.