In hip-hop, it can be argued that reputation is as important, if not more so, than lyrical content. Many beefs stem from a desire to maintain one’s reputation, and detractors often opt for character assassination as a chief method of assault. Consider the infamous line from Cash Money mogul Birdman. In a since-immortalized interview with The Breakfast Club, an aggravated Birdman unleashed his frustrations on Envy, Angela, and Charlamagne, imploring them to “put some respect on his name.” Respect is one of the driving forces behind reputation, and like its conceptual compatriots money and power, it must be earned.

In Birdman’s case, money and power are not an issue. As of 2017, Forbes listed the mogul’s net worth at a staggering $110 million, a status reflected in his record label’s name. As for power, well, not everyone has to power to prevent on of the biggest artists in the world from releasing one of the most anticipated hip-hop albums in the world. But what about respect? Yesterday, Birdman released a ten-minute rant video, in which he expressed frustration and aired out the people who dared look down on him. Using a slew of colorful insults, which yielded a few gems like “suck a dog’s dick” and “little biddy bitch,” Birdman’s tirade eventually drew the ire of another boss: Rick Ross.

Rozay felt some type of way about Birdman’s IG session, and retaliated with his own monologue. From the comfort of his tropical paradise, Ross issued a warning to Birdman: "Boy, you a year late, and five years late paying that man his money. Pay that man [Lil Wayne] his money. We know you ain't right. Stop with the jokes, n***a. Bring that shit. Bring it. Have no fear. All that talkin' shit, nuh-uh, all that shit don't work round here baby. We'll put you in check n***a, we'll put you somewhere else."

For someone like Birdman, this sort of affront is simply unacceptable, and it’s an aggressive step up from the narrative portrayed in “Idols Become Rivals.” In the end, it’s hard to say how Birdman will respond to Ross’ callout - after all, both artists are bosses in their own regard, and no doubt have some shooters on the payroll. Nobody wants this to end in bloodshed, yet both Birdman and Ross have no problem with increasing the severity of their threats. But how did it come to this?

Respect The Name (Winter 2015 - Summer 2016)

It may be hard to believe, but Rick Ross and Birdman were actually once friends, and the pair of them collaborated on a joint mixtape called The H, which dropped back in 2013. It was actually recorded in 2008, which provides some context to the longevity of Ross and Birdman’s relationship. Unfortunately, the relationship began to sour around the time Birdman’s Cash Money star Drake began feuding with Rick Ross’s MMG Star Meek Mill. Despite having previously collaborated with Drizzy, Ross released a song called “Color Money,” in which he fired off the following bars:

“So run Forrest, got some shooters and they dying too
I got more money than that pussy that you’re signed to”

A couple days later, Ross confirmed on The Breakfast Club that the lines were directed at Drake, making Birdman the “pussy” by extension. While there was initially suspicion that the lyric was directed at Lil Wayne or J Prince, Ross debunked those theories, and alluded to Birdman as the recipient. The catalyst appeared to be Birdman’s alleged treatment of Wayne and the lost Carter V album (an interesting saga, which you can read here), as Ross told Charlamagne the following:

“Right now, really me just seeing what Wayne going through as an artist, me idolizing Birdman at a time, me looking up to Lil Wayne... that's something I took personal. For me to see the way things are transpiring, I can't respect that, and I don't respect that.”

Afterward, Charlamagne all but asked if Birdman was the “pussy” in question, to which Ross insinuated it should have been easy to deduce. It seemed as if “Color Money” was one of the first shots, and Rozay continued his campaign with some Snapchat shade, ridiculing Birdman and Lil Wayne’s potential reunion.

It wasn’t long before Birdman was being asked about the simmering beef with Rozay. After the aforementioned “put some respect on my name” incident, Birdman returned to Hot 97 for a significantly more insightful interview, whereupon he addressed Rozay’s comments, and admitted he didn’t understand why Ross had a problem with him in the first place.

“I don’t take Ross or Trick [Daddy] as an enemy to me,” Birdman told Ebro and Laura Styles. “Me and Ross was like brothers, every day hanging together...I don’t know what his call was, to even get into me and my son business. That’s my son...That shit gon’ work itself out. I have the utmost respect for Ross. I taught him a lot of game in this shit. He watched my pimpin’.”

Afterward, things more or less remained quiet, save for the occasional interview shade. In a move that would make 50 Cent proud, Ross actually sent Charlamgne bottles of Rose, ostensibly because Tha God stood up to Birdman in the “respect” interview. Time passed, and tension between Birdman and Lil Wayne began to rise. It would be a few months before the drama between Ross and Birdman would come to a head, but the seeds were most definitely planted.

Idols Become Rivals (Summer 2016 - Fall 2017)

While fans were watching a father and son drift apart, Rick Ross was biding his time, writing the scathing epic of betrayal, “Idols Become Rivals.” The track, which leaked ahead of time, was released on Ross’ Rather You Than Me album, and put all of Ross’ complicated feelings toward Birdman on wax for all to hear. For nearly six minutes, Ross pens a lyrical Greek tragedy in which he chronicles the rise and fall of his respect for Birdman. By now, you’re well familiar with this song, so I’ll only highlight the climactic lyrics below:

You would give us self esteem and motivate our drive
But was in our pockets by the time we count to five
I pray you find the kindness in your heart for Wayne
His entire life, he gave you what there was to gain
I watched this whole debacle so I'm part to blame
Last request, can all producers please get paid?

 In the final moments, Rick Ross talks directly to Birdman, telling his former friend that he “still loves him” and calling him out on what he did to Khaled. In an interview, Ross revealed some of the primary motivations that led to Idols Become Rivals, and once again, they centered around the Cash Money family drama. “Birdman is supposed to be in that fucking building making those fucking people give him money to take care of his man,” says Ross. “Not fucking suing each other, fighting lawsuits and everybody starving. Not putting out music, not being creative...There’s nothing more I hate than that -- us not doing what we came here for.”

 And like that, Idols Become Rivals served to paint Birdman as the supervillain his moniker always suggested. The public opinion turned on the Cash Money mogul, with many lamenting the loss of Lil Wayne’s Carter V; after all, Wayne was widely respected as one of the best rappers of all time. Birdman did issue a response to Idols Become Rivals, which was as close to a brush off as they come:

 “I don’t get caught up in hoe shit, man. I just keep doing what I’m doing and keep pushing. I don’t get caught up in that, I don’t play like that. I’m a man and I stand my ground and do my thing. Numbers don’t lie, and that’s all I give a fuck about: numbers, and putting them up.”

 A corporate response through and through, and a stark contrast from the video response that Birdman would eventually go on to record and release. In fact, the ten-plus minute rant that Birdman fired off a few nights back was almost a startling departure of character. With a reputation as a cold, calculated mastermind, Birdman was certainly feeling emotional when he hit record. And, looking back, it’s no wonder that the man who once asked us “What Happened To That Boy?” was finally pushed past the breaking point. It seems as if Birdman is fed up of his reputation being slandered, and many were quick to speculate that he was taking direct shots at Rick Ross.

 Ultimately, Rick Ross drew the same conclusion. Yung Renzel responded with a video response of his own, the contents of which can be read in the opening paragraph. Suffice it to say, the tension between the two men is at an all time high, with both parties openly alluding to violence. It’s interesting to note that Birdman’s response is quite far removed from “Idols,” which begs the question: what set him off? And if Ross is so willing to take the beef to the next level, what does that mean for both parties? For now, Ross may have had the last word, but his parting shot seemed to open a dangerous door. After all, there’s no telling what a man might do when his reputation is on the line.