As the most popular hip-hop radio DJ in the nation’s biggest media market, Funkmaster Flex is a bona fide legend. Serving listeners in New York City and beyond with the hottest tunes that the genre has to offer, Flex has carved out a niche over the last 20 years as the rap game’s go-to radio DJ.
Known for his exuberant energy behind the tables and signature bomb sound effect, Flex embodies the heart and soul of the New York City streets and quickly transitioned into a household name as a result of his place at Hot 97. When digital became the wave, Flex was a bit dismissive of the online arena, but eventually adapted, launching his own website, InFlexWeTrust, which has become a competitive force in the rap blog rat-race.
But heading into his third decade at Hot 97, his popularity has come into question with new DJs on the rise and there has been backlash from the very listeners that once held on to his every word — just go to Twitter to see how many complain about his excessive bomb-dropping. Antics such as dissing Tupac while at a concert in New York City, beefing with Nicki Minaj live on-air and refusing to play songs from artists signed to Interscope Records have put him in a bit of a bad light.
The latest head-scratching occurrence involving Flex began earlier this month during his mixshow on Hot 97. While a Funk Flex rant is nothing new to anyone familiar with his career, this one in particular made waves like no other in recent memory. He took shots at Jay Z‘s Life+Times website for sending him a request via email for an interview on his involvement in the reunion of rap crew, Dipset. Flex said the site previously skimmed info from him during a previous interview centered around his InFlexWeTrust app and used it to bolster Hov’s own app.
The DJ also accused the rapper’s camp of banning him from playing songs by artists affiliated with Dipset during his appearances at Hov’s 40/40 Club. He continued to peg the site as “trash, a bunch of dumb big pictures and no numbers” on air and subtly accused Jay Z and his team of being in on the interview request. “You wanna know how we moving, and what’s the next move, I know it, I’m not stupid. Y’all played me with the app already and I figured that out. But I let y’all slide and you took what I said for ‘I’m soft,’ that’s why I’m dealing with you today,” Flex said, before unleashing an exclusive freestyle of Dipset disparaging Jay Z.
The tirade and diss track was the talk of the rap world with fans, media and artists giving their own personal take on the situation via social media and wondering what would come of the situation. The public didn’t have to wait long for the storyline to take an interesting turn, with Flex posting an Instagram photo of a text message, allegedly from Jay Z, simply reading “This is HOV.”
Well, Flex didn’t take too kindly to what he felt was subtle disrespect, captioning the post with, “Really? After calling private for hours you texting with CAPITAL letters????? This guy thinks it 1997 ???? Tomorrow 7pm I got this???? I see you need a tune up and lesson in respect!!!!!” And when Funk Flex arrived at Hot 97 that day, he didn’t pull any punches. He let loose, discussing his involvement in breaking Jay Z’s ‘Streets Is Watching’ record, ‘It’s Allright’ and insinuating that he helped keep the Brooklyn MC’s buzz in the city afloat. However, he voiced his respect for Hov’s accomplishments.
He didn’t stop there, going on to admonish Jay Z for sending the alleged text message and challenging the rapper’s current standing in the New York rap scene. Flex took the gloves off this go-round, referring to Jay as a “a commercial, corporate rapper that drops a little catchphrase every three months,” and adding, “Don’t talk to me funny in the text, bruh. I don’t work for you. Don’t you ever capitalize your name in my phone no more, bro.”
From clowning his laugh to questioning why he hasn’t shown vocal support of J. Cole’s new album, Flex went directly for Jay Z’s throat, all but taunting him and even threatening not to play his records and saying that Hot 97 doesn’t need him. If the first rant raised a few eyebrows, the follow-up was nothing short of a jaw-dropper.
Outside of a handful of artists that went head-to-head with Jay throughout his career, there hasn’t been anyone in rap with a voice and platform as prominent as Flex’s to publicly take direct shots at him — and in a dismissive manner to boot. And while Jay or his camp have yet to respond to the accusations, many have taken Flex’s claims with a grain of salt. The conclusion here seems to be that the rift is a result of the DJ having delusions about the theft of ideas for his app and misinterpreting the intent of the Life+Times staff. Basically, Flex made a big deal of what may have been a simple case of auto-correct on Hov’s part when it comes to those capital letters.
Others have questioned the validity of Flex’s statements and the authenticity of the alleged text from Jay, deeming the whole situation a publicity stunt drummed up by Flex and Hot 97 to create a buzz for an increase in ratings. There was even an outrageous rumor that Flex’s ire was due to the fact that Jay Z was in negotiations to buy Hot 97, which the station’s parent company, Emmis Communications, refuted in a statement.
I’m not as quick to shrug off Funkmaster Flex’s claims as others have been, as the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle of two stories. Yes, it is very possible that Hov’s team — being the notoriously cunning and calculated group of people that they are — may have bit an idea or two that Flex mentioned during his initial interview and implemented it into their own app in some variation. It sure wouldn’t be the first time and sure won’t be the last.
There’s also the possibility that Hov may not have been privy to the first interview or the request for the second one, let alone the nature of either. As for being aggravated about not being allowed to play Dipset records in the 40/40 Club, that rant lost everyone. We’d like to think Flex has enough common sense not to play music from a crew that has openly disrespected the guy who owns the establishment, Jay Z. That’s akin to doing the Crip Walk in known Blood territory.
While assessing the whole situation and taking in the various opinions on Twitter, this battle may not be one that Flex emerges from unscathed. Unlike many of the artists that the DJ has bumped heads with in the past, there’s virtually no turning back when you beef with Sean Carter.
Infamous for his vindictive brand of warfare, he has put a nail, or at worst, a dent in anyone’s career not named Nasir Jones who have spoken ill of the God MC. Funkmaster Flex may not directly need Jay Z, but the rapper could possibly sway others in the music business from working with Hot 97, most notably, artists under the guidance of his Roc Nation management team.
And being that rival radio station Power 105.1 — radio personalities on ‘The Breakfast Club’ have gone to war with Flex on multiple occasions — is in direct competition with Hot 97, having Jay take his exclusives and those on his roster to the enemy could be a big factor in New York City’s rap radio war. Flex’s longtime relationship with Jay was seen as one of the better things going for Hot 97. The station’s popularity has diminished greatly over the past five years due to the emergence of Power 105.1's younger roster of talent, longtime radio personalities such as Angie Martinez jumping ship and various missteps and stunts by the station that have offended artists and listeners alike.
Flex is the last man standing of the original Hot 97 family, having the added pressure of carrying the station on his back. Unfortunately, he’s on the brink of losing the faith of the people who support him. Known more for his outrageous rants and car shows than breaking records these days — artists tend to debut their own songs instead in this digital age — the radio legend is slowly becoming a caricature of himself and, dare we say, starting to turn listeners off with his increasingly outrageous commentary.
Even comedians like Hannibal Buress have started to mock Flex’s occasional WWE-esque tirades in sketches, with much of the rap world laughing along at his expense. The talk that Flex is past his prime is also littered throughout social media. The iconic DJ is definitely in the hot-seat in terms of public opinion.
Only time will tell what will be the end result of Funkmaster Flex going against the grain and taking on Jay Z in a public forum. Will he emerge unscathed or get dealt a severe blow to the legacy and image he has built over the years? This is hip-hop, where respect is the cornerstone of reputation, so if Flex feels slighted enough to go mano a mano with the Michael Corleone of the rap world, by all means, go for yours. But intentions and speculation aside, what we do know is that the gauntlet has been thrown and it’s only a matter of time before someone folds.