2015 was a blessed year for hip-hop heads. Over the last 12 months, Spotify and Billboard records were broken, award show drama was not in short supply, and we were treated to new material from pretty much all the genre’s big hitters, withstanding the delayed release of Kanye’s SWISH.
Outside the music itself, here are 19 viral moments that made waves in the hip-hop landscape this year.
Drake Becomes Embroiled in Ghostwriting Controversy, Ethers Meek Mill
With rumors abounding that Drake was enlisting the help of a ghostwriter, Meek Mill lashed out over Drizzy’s verse on “R.I.C.O.” from Meek’s album Dreams Worth More Than Money. After a recording surfaced of purported ghostwriter Quentin Miller spitting Drake’s “10 Bands,” things didn’t look good for Toronto’s favorite son.
But at OVO Festival 2015, Drake asserted his rap supremacy with a barrage of stinging memes.
Ghostface Killah Calls Out Action Bronson
During a televised interview with ESPN’s Sportsnation, Action let slip some derisive comments targeted at Wu-Tang member Ghostface Killah. Talking about Ghost, Bam Bam mentioned “He’s not rapping like this no more,” then followed up by remarking “He needs something, he needs something.”
In the wake of the episode, Ghostface’s video reaction was far from cool-headed, while Bronson later retracted his comments and apologized to the Wu-Tang MC himself.
If you’re dying to relive the incident, check out this game inspired by Action and Ghost’s beef.
Nicki Minaj Challenges Miley Cyrus at the 2015 MTV VMAs
Nicki’s opening performance of “Trini Dem Girls” and “The Night is Still Young” wasn’t the talking point of the night, nor was the fact that she won Best Hip-Hop Video of the year for “Anaconda.”
While on stage accepting her award, Minaj took the opportunity to issue a statement to the host of the night Miley Cyrus. Predictably, a number of “Miley, what’s good?” memes were later circulated on the net.
Tyler Slapped with UK/Australia Ban
Tyler’s often-profane lyrical content has landed him in hot water before, but in 2015, the irreverent rapper’s tour schedule was brought to a full standstill. Both Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the UK’s Secretary of State placed travel restrictions on Tyler’s passport, citing violent lyrics and risk potential as the causes.
Fetty Wap Performs “Trap Queen” Duet with Taylor Swift
There’s no doubt that Patterson, New Jersey’s Fetty Wap had a really great year. Fetty’s infectious hooks have garnered him a lot of attention from the likes of DJ Khaled – who featured Fetty on his anticipated album I Changed A Lot – as well as Taylor Swift of all people. Swift flew Fetty out for a performance in Seattle, where the duo took the stage to perform a duet of “Trap Queen” in front of thousands of fans.
Kendrick Lamar Exchanges Words with Fox News
Fox News’s Geraldo Rivera leveled his sights on Kendrick Lamar following his performance of “Alright” at the 2015 BET Awards. When Kendrick Lamar performed on top of a vandalized police car, Geraldo wasn’t happy about it, in fact the longtime anchor was so offended that he accused him of sending “exactly the wrong message.” Host Geraldo Rivera then made this very confusing comparison:
“And then to conflate what happened in the church in Charleston, South Carolina with these tragic incidents involving excessive use of force by cops is to equate that racist killer with these cops, it is so wrong.”
Kanye Announces Presidential Run in 2020
Admittedly, this is a headline that most of us acknowledge should not be taken seriously, but this didn’t stop Kanye’s announcement from spreading through the internet like butter on toast. Kanye later made a promise in jest that if elected, everybody gets YEEZYs, while later on even Obama chipped in with some advice for Kanye’s presidential run.
Travi$ Scott and Justin Bieber Swap Verses
Justin traded his commercial viability for Travi$’s cool factor when the new best friends traded verses this year. After Justin appeared on Rodeo‘s “Maria I’m Drunk,” spitting some rather catchy lines like “If you want you can meet me at the studio / Yeah, I’ve been drinkin’ all night / Take a shot, all we got is Don Julio.” Justin supported Travi$ in New York with a performance at Scott’s album release party, and later La Flame appeared on the track “No Sense” from Justin’s album Purpose. That’s cute.
A$AP Rocky Dons Full Gosha Rubchinskiy Kit
We know about Rocky’s preference for wearing “camo down to my boxers,” but at the 2015 MTV VMAs Pretty Flacko rocked the head-to-toe Gosha kit, including the socks. Rocky’s performance reinforced the idea that hip-hop and fashion are evolving in unison more than ever these days.
Kendrick Lamar Dominates Grammy Nominations
After a notable snub at last year’s Grammys – when Macklemore took home four awards to Kendrick’s goose egg – Top Dawg’s top dog tallied up 11 nominations across nine categories. We’ll have to hold our breath until February when the actual awards are handed out.
Adding to the Grammy nods, Obama also listed Kendrick’s “How Much a Dollar Cost” as one of his favorite songs of the year.
Kanye Brings Out UK’s Grime Scene at BRIT Awards
The singular instance of Kanye shouting “Yo Skepta” to conclude his flamethrower-powered performance of “All Day” at the 2015 BRIT Awards seemed to create a renewed buzz around the Boy Better Know chieftain. It’s hard to pinpoint the beginning of a gainful domino effect that led Skepta on a mini-tour of the U.S. and Canada, and to later be co-signed by Drake, but there is certainly a case to be made that it all started on this night.
Peaceful Protesters Sing Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright”
Elicited by fragile social conditions in many parts of the United States, a group of students at Cleveland State University engaged in a peaceful protest after an incident of accused police brutality on campus. In this act of solidarity, students collectively voiced the hook of Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” from To Pimp a Butterfly.
A$AP Yams Passes Away
Architect of the A$AP collective, A$AP Yams passed away early this year from what was likely an acute mixed drug intoxication. The turn of events was revealed on January 18, and shortly after A$AP Rocky immortalized his friend and colleague on the cover of his second studio album At. Long. Last. ASAP, while more recently A$AP Ferg paid tribute to Yams at Miami Art Basel 2015 with a photo exhibition.
2Chainz Debates Nancy Grace About Weed
Coinciding with the paradigm shift toward 420-friendly attitudes in certain states, 2Chainz hopped on a video call with American political commentator Nancy Grace to discuss the greener things in life. 2Chainz kept his poker face on lock while Grace could really only contribute anecdotal evidence and conservative rhetoric to the discussion.
Pusha T Named President of G.O.O.D. Music
In November, King Push was promoted to president of Kanye West’s Def Jam-owned label imprint G.O.O.D. Music. In an interview with Billboard, Pusha mentioned that Kanye offered him the position with the intent of bringing a “very manicured” approach to the label.
“I always look at it as an opportunity to help the team and I think that artistically, me and Kanye have the same vision,” he said. “I’m not out here shooting in the dark, doing any and every thing.”
Jay Z Assembles Illuminati For TIDAL Conference
Given the amount of pomp and circumstance that surrounded Jay Z’s TIDAL launch conference, the streaming service hasn’t really lived up to expectations. So far the most exciting aspect of this announcement was seeing Daft Punk and deadmau5 share the stage with Kanye, Jay Z, Beyoncé and others. After TIDAL’s slow start, Jay took to Twitter defending the service.
Pharma Scumbag Buys Secret Wu-Tang Album
Who knew spineless pharmaceutical profiteer Martin Shkreli was a Wu-Tang fan? Wu-Tang Clan’s one-of-one album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, was scooped up by a private investor this year, the identity of whom was revealed as Shkreli earlier in the month.
Suggesting that he had no immediate interest in listening to the album once he purchased it, Martin took the opportunity to unleash a battery of obnoxious tweets, including one that indicated he only bought the album to better his odds with Taylor Swift; ““I could be convinced to listen to it earlier if Taylor Swift wants to hear it or something like that.”
Straight Outta Compton – Box Office Success
Of course the release of Straight Outta Compton was a major inflection in the year, and the film was largely met with positive reviews. While the bio pic was accused of sidestepping some of the darker footnotes in the group’s history, the flick definitely hit it out of the park in terms of entertainment factor.
Don’t Ever Play Yourself
DJ Khaled had to have been one of the most quotable individuals of 2015. It’s hard to narrow down a year full of hilarious and awesome moments to just one incident – between Khaled’s sneaker closet and a handful of interviews – but the “We The Best” chieftain had us rolling when speaking about his jewelry – er, jurly.
Through the year, Khaled also reminded us why he’s cut from a special cloth through his one-of-a-kind Snapchat story.
Hit DJ Khaled’s webstore to grab some We The Best merch.
For more hip-hop reading, dive into Ibn Jasper’s illustrated guide to hip-hop hairstyles, and our list of 12 queer hip-hop artists you should know.
- Lead Image: @re.mark