Disclaimer: This article wasn't written with the intention of making a case for who won this battle. Nor is this the end-all-be-all documentary of what has happened. More useful than calling a winner, in my opinion, is a closer look at the elements that seem to have caused this moment of tension to begin with, as well as the factors that make this situation unique. Let's delve into the Royce da 5'9" vs Lupe Fiasco and Mickey Factz situation.
The catalyst for such an unexpected exchange depends on who you ask for input. Royce’s stance is that the loosely dispersed declarations of dominance seen lately from fellow rappers ought to be checked. If rappers claim they’re the best, let’s see it. Otherwise, the statement means nothing.
Late June 2021 found a number of different rappers having discussions about who's the best. Royce let off a stream of statements around the same time that prompted onlookers to theorize and draw conclusions. Royce's words were mistaken with subliminal, passive-aggressive rants toward those claiming to be the best rappers doing it. It became apparent in the subsequent events that Royce took this as a misrepresentation of his character.
In an IG Live chat, Mickey Factz suggested that Royce may have felt some type of way about Cassidy’s words in an interview with Math Hoffa about the art of rap. Mickey later expressed to Royce that his intention wasn’t to cause division. Although Mickey's goal was to facilitate compelling conversations about rap, this miscommunication appeared to remain a point of contention for Royce. It appears that, from Royce's perspective, the situation went from friendly competition between elite MCs to feelings of uncertainty about the nature of his relationships as things became less about who the best is and more about respect and sincerity among comrades.
Continued boisterous back-and-forths about dominance and bars would go onto make headlines for the next few weeks. The highly energetic IG Live conferences featured Crooked I, Ransom, RJ Payne, Cassidy, Lupe Fiasco, and many more. As the MCs egged each other on, the talk only got spicier, including subtle jabs between Lupe and Royce. It was only a matter of time before one of the rappers stopped talking and started rapping.
It was on a Thursday afternoon (July 15th) when battle rap legends, Loaded Lux and Murda Mook, injected another shot of energy into the situation when they joined an IG Live discussion featuring Young Guru, Royce da 5'9", and Mickey Factz. The subject of Royce vs Lupe was broached. In typical battle rap fashion, Lux and Mook put the “hype” in the hypotheticals, stirring the pot, taking bets, and expressing their excitement around the potential match up. Enter a not-so-enthusiastic Lupe Fiasco.
If there was ever a single moment to point to for the shift in the energy revolving around the past month's discussions, this was the one. Like a dragon coming out of his cage, Lupe came in breathing fire, warning that any further mentioning of a battle between him and Royce will not end well. No one had any idea at the time how true that was. In an appearance that lasted no more than two minutes, Lupe addressed Royce with an energy that prompted an equally sharp and forthright response. I need not repeat the words exchanged. In a micro battle for respect that resembled a wolf fighting a bear, the former podcast co-hosts went from light-hearted smack talk to overt aggression and cold demeanor in a matter of seconds. It was in this moment, among many others, that Lupe and Royce were forced to question the nature of these exchanges and evaluate the validity of their friendship in general.
"Start practicing," Lupe shouted, before abruptly leaving the Live. The exchange was immediately followed by a 9-minute freestyle from Lupe in which he detailed the entire situation from his perspective. Later that day, the two MCs went on to address the situation on their respective platforms, both of them visibly upset and both of them as serious as a heart attack. For many days, things were left up in the air for fans of Royce da 5'9" and Lupe Fiasco alike. Is this real? Have they talked yet? What's gonna happen to the podcast? What would a battle between the two even look like? The answers would soon come in ways that no one would've expected.
In the spirit of poetic justice, Royce addresses the genesis of the whole situation in seven days' time. On Thursday, July 22, Royce dropped Silence of the Lambda, a remarkable display of lyrical excellence that expresses Royce's disdain for how the situation was handled and the passive-aggressive energy that has plagued it all. In the midst of a monologue that appears to be more about asserting dominance than sending direct attacks, Royce questions the core of Lupe's character. Putting Lupe’s loyalty to black people into question, Royce takes a psychoanalytical approach that would demean the most secure of lyricists. There’s a lot to appreciate about watching a master at work, and Silence of The Lambda is no different. However, the time allotted to sit back and dissect the intricacies in Royce's penmanship was nearly non-existent as Lupe Fiasco struck back before most people finished brushing their teeth that morning.
Lupe Fiasco presents, Steve Jobs, a scathing diss record that leaves one questioning whether Lupe and Royce were ever really friends to begin with and makes it abundantly clear that we will not be seeing the two on a podcast anytime soon. The Chicago-native, notorious for triple entendre and storytelling, goes directly for the jugular leaving nothing to the imagination on the most cunning diss record we've seen since Pusha T's Story of Adidon. Lupe would later explain (on an IG Live) why accusations of not supporting black people were so personal, citing heated behind-the-scenes arguments that almost ended the podcast. From pointing out hypocrisies in Royce's woke persona to attributing his success to his co-signs, it's clear that Lupe is ready and willing to burn the entire house in response to such attacks.
The following days consisted of many IG Live sessions featuring other acts giving their perspectives on the situation. It became apparent that Royce has spent some time confronting the nature of his relationship with Lupe and Mickey Factz. During the nights following the exchanged blows, Mickey joined Royce's live for a discussion so rife with condescension and so full of tension you could cut it with a knife. As Royce stated in the past, it didn't sit right with him that his statements on prominence in rap were construed in such a way that he would appear as passive-aggressive. In Royce's eyes, Mickey had a hand in compromising his word and reputation. Couple that with Mickey's allegiance to Lupe Fiasco and the result is an hour-long masterclass in sarcasm during which Royce implies that Mickey Factz does not "check the boxes" necessary to be an elite MC.
If that wasn't enough to light a fire in Mickey, he would find the necessary motivation in discussing the Sun Chips line in Royce's Silence of The Lambda, a bar in which Royce states he will put a "hole in your son while he's holding your Sun Chips." Royce clarifies that he didn't write the line with Mickey Factz in mind, but implied the line can be for him if the shoe fits. Those blinded by Mickey's uncanny ability to maintain his composure throughout the dialog would soon be surprised by what would come next.
Three days after his exchange with Royce, Mickey Factz releases WRAiTH. With a runtime of five minutes and fifty-nine seconds, released at 5:59PM (EST), the diss record is fully loaded with everything that rap fan comes to love rap for. But if the medley of metaphors and complex cadences don't do it for you, Mickey takes the liberty of borrowing some familiar flows, channeling his inner RJ Payne and Ransom for the fight. Respect was earned, not given, in what felt like a moment of redemption for Factz as he checked every box in what makes a diss record impactful. All while expressing his admiration for Royce da 5'9" at the same time.
When removing favoritism from the equation, there are so many elements to consider in diss tracks in general. In the bout between Royce da 5'9" and Lupe Fiasco, it initially came down to a matter of preference; are you impressed by the display of technical skill vs or do you find direct delivery on personal points to be more impactful? Things were complicated further when Mickey Factz entered the equation with a combination of both delivery and depth. Having had a few days to let the dust settle on the most recent diss track, it's anyone's guess as to what will happen next. Will Royce respond? Will Lupe and Mickey continue to apply pressure? Will other voices enter the ring? Or will cooler heads prevail?
Seeing collaborators feud is nothing new in Hip Hop, but seeing respect between seasoned veterans dissolve in a matter of seconds over something that was, for the most part, lighthearted and friendly is almost inconceivable. Perhaps things look different if this didn't happen in front of thousands of viewers. Perhaps it isn't obvious to all parties that there truly is love from the other side. Perhaps it’s for this reason that Royce hasn't responded to Lupe's record. Perhaps there's a point where the cost of winning is too great.
All parties involved respect themselves and obviously have a level of respect for each other. However, when certain boundaries are crossed, the rules of engagement can change instantly. It's at that moment where humility, openness, and trust are essential to salvaging relationships. It's also when humility, openness, and trust are most difficult to muster.
It's our hope, as fans of these LEGENDS, that a space of shared meaning and mutual respect can be re-established. While there is much excitement in seeing titans clash, we prefer that the energy begins with, remains in, and ends with love.
Written by Geronimo //@ScreamGeronimo (IG) / @ScreamGeronimoo (Twitter)