Throughout the history of broadcast journalism, the concept of the “shock jock” has always had a place on terrestrial airwaves. Although it may have mutated from the days where Petey Greene whipped suburban America into a fervour with his anti-establishment sentiments, the legacy of the late radio host acts as the ground zero for everything from the countercultural comedy of Howard Stern to the misanthropic musings of the now defunct Opie and Anthony show. In hip-hop, two particular media personalities uphold this traditional like no one before or since-- The Breakfast Club’s Charlamagne Tha God and rapper turned podcast powerhouse Joe Budden. Over the past week or so, the two have reassumed their occasionally occupied perch at the top of the news cycle. Sparked by the August 12th edition of Nicki Minaj’s Queen Radio, both Charlamagne and Joey Jumpoff were placed on trial by the rapper and stood accused of propagating what she refers to as the “Nicki hate train.” Dubbed “the most annoying human being on the planet” by Nicki, Joe willingly subjected himself to an Apple Music-funded ambush in which he was confronted for comments from his Everyday Struggle days all the way through to his suspicions about how “Hot Girl Summer” came to be. Amid her verbal evisceration of Budden and his cohorts, Nicki tore into Charlamagne for giving her ex-boyfriend Safaree Samuels publicty and claimed that she’d been unceremoniously blacklisted from The Breakfast Club.
Placed on blast by one of the most celebrated artists in 21st century hip-hop, many media figures would see being pilloried by the “Queen” as the death knell of their time in the limelight. For Charlamagne and Budden, allowing tensions to reach inflammatory levels equates to the comfort of the familiar.
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Veterans of the game, these hard-headed rabble-rousers know how to cultivate attention for their opinions and have even grown accustomed to racking up common nemeses over the years. Both C Tha God and his New Jersey counterpart have bumped heads with Eminem, Peter Rosenberg, Lil Yachty and Migos while both supposedly loudmouthed and brash figures have found themselves on the receiving end of assaults on the street. While Joe’s altercation hearkens back to his days as an MC in 2009— at the hands of Raekwon The Chef’s entourage no less— Charlamagne claimed that the assailants who jumped him did so purely due to his war of words with Hot 97’s Funkmaster Flex.
Among their list of shared foes, Lil Boat hopped on the Breakfast Club to not only suggest that Joe and Charlamagne are in cahoots but that they are in fact, two peas in a pod.
"I seen y’all sitting next to each other. If I see one snake, I see two… Snakes and dogs don’t hang out together."
No matter your stance on the two, it’s not hard to see why they retain their place in the headlines. Beef is publicity in hip-hop, and few manage to accrue it with the sleight of hand that they can. Unburdened by the responsibility of journalistic objectivity that most media figures have, Joe and Charlamagne coax iconic moments out of artists that the more perfunctory radio interviews or appearances simply cannot. Staples of the world’s collective meme glossary, the two are also inadvertent goldmines for content creators such as Muchdank and as such, become virtually unavoidable when incidents such as the Minaj showdown occur. However, one interesting can of worms that’s remained tightly shut is a look at who accomplishes this task more effectively.
For starters, let’s examine the tactics employed by the self-proclaimed “prime minister of pissing people off,” Charlamagne Tha God. From behind his desk at Power 105.1, the Charleston, North Carolina native is an equal opportunities agitator that has gained heat from the transgender community all the way through to Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren. The centre of iconic skirmishes with a who’s who of hip-hop stars including Birdman, Busta Rhymes, Fredro Starr, Yelawolf and more, he’s got aggravation down to a fine art. After all, this is a man who has enshrined a veritable heat-seeking missile for beef into the format of his show with Donkey Of The Day.
There’s no way to debate that Charlamagne’s status in the game is solidified considering how rappers respond to a radio host’s provocations. That said, it is important to remember that he is ultimately still a fan. In a discussion with Esquire, C parried off the barbs that Eminem sent his way on Kamikaze as a metric for success.
"I’m just happy that I have gotten to the level where rappers who can actually rap say my name in records, regardless if it's a diss or not. Early in my career, I was only being dissed by Chingy. Now I'm being dissed by Eminem. Life is great."
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In this respect, Joe Budden does and always will trump him when it comes to serving as an antagonistic force in hip-hop media. Ever since his come-up, Joe Budden has thrived on the visceral energy of conflict. Battle hardened and bellicose, to produce an exhaustive list of every MC that he’s trifled with would be to exceed HNHH guidelines on word count, but a few of the most notorious would be Jay-Z, The Game, Drake and the legendary war of words between himself and Saigon. Now that he’s a broadcaster rather than an active MC, Joe still steps to anyone with the same willingness as his days wielding the pen but now, he simply talks about how he could air rappers out rather than proving it. In fact, Joe has dedicated lengthy tirades to claiming that he’s better than Eminem, would dispatch Cyhi Da Prynce with ease and most recently, claimed that he and an elite team of New Jersey MC’s would lay waste to Black Thought, Meek Mill and Beanie Siegel in a battle.
Budden’s disputes are always going to be more enthralling due to the possibility of a lyrical resolution. In fact, it was none other than Nicki Minaj that completely hit the concept on the head during her visit to his show last week. Without meaning to, the Queen depicted exactly what it is about Joe’s words that gets under an artist’s skin.
"People put up with your shit because you are a great rapper. So, I think people take more of your shit because they respect you as a rapper. But it doesn’t give you the right to treat rappers like paeons when you’re on your show."
Titans of the industry in their own right, Joe’s standing in hip-hop is further documented by the fact that their on-air argument resulted in what Minaj has claimed to be a “record breaking” episode for Queen Radio.
So, even if Joe may be the reigning champion of castigation, what the past week has taught us is that hip-hop needs resolutely unfiltered figures such as Budden and Charlamagne. Peers and occasional collaborators on shows such as Revolt’s "This Year Was Dope/Trash," the argumentative dynamic of that very show epitomizes why audiences continue to listen to them. Their job is to be the contrarians and offer up undiluted and, at times, completely reactionary, incendiary content. By remaining so unabashedly uncensored, Budden and Charlamagne both benefit from the hip-hop world and enrich the cultural dialogue all in one fell swoop.
Who do you think wins between the two? Let us know in the comments.