A History of the Most Popular Rapper Memes
How well do you know your favorite rapper meme? Over the last 10 years, an innumerable amount of rapper-based jokes have been stitched into web iconography to such an extent that you might not even consider where they're from, but all of them have a story.
One of the first major rapper memes to take over the internet focused on the time Kanye West infamously interrupted Taylor Swift during her acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Within days of Kanye's interruption onstage, which happened before Instagram even existed, fans across Reddit, Twitter and YouTube used PhotoShop and other software to immortalize the moment by having Kanye interrupt other celebrities throughout history.
For his part, in another early meme that first surfaced in 2010, Drake turned into an epic viral phenomenon when folks unearthed an image from his days on the teen soap opera Degrassi: The Next Generation. Years later, in 2015, Drizzy would use meme culture to his advantage when he dropped off one of his most iconic music videos to date.
Since then, memes have evolved and expanded as folks on the internet have found new ways to use irony and technology for internet jokes. Future is another artist who's been memed to oblivion. Over the last few years, fans have used social media to reinvent Future's stoic trapper persona into everything from problematic preacher to shamelessly manipulative boyfriend, further embedding the Atlanta superstar into pop culture in the process.
Today, XXL takes a look at the history surrounding some of the biggest rapper memes in history. Peep the list below.
Future as Toxic Boyfriend
With the badass appeal of a tortured blues guitarist and a layer of mystique that's somehow escaped the overexposure of the social media age, Future is the proverbial guy your mother warned you about—and he's got many albums' worth of toxic lyrics to prove it. So then, it wasn't all that surprising when he became the subject of a meme about toxic ex-boyfriends in late November of 2019.
For the meme, fans post one particular image of Hendrix looking down at his phone. The image started being used for news stories some time in 2017. For the caption, the user concocts fake text messages designed to manipulatively tug at the heartstrings of their ex-girlfriends and possibly parlay that into a hookup.
The first memes for this surfaced on Twitter for Thanksgiving 2019, so the idea likely stemmed from people being back in their hometowns and, presumably, being able to hit up their old flames so they can "hang out" while they're still back around. Within a few days, the meme was recreated thousands of times across Twitter and Instagram and Future was once again proven to be an icon for #CityBoys. Sensational.
Young Thug and Lil Durk Troubleshooting on Computer
Back on June 13, 2018, Lil Durk uploaded a photo of himself and Young Thug in the studio to Instagram. Within days, the post, which includes an image of Young Thug and Durkio gazing at what's probably some sort of computer monitor, became one of the funniest memes of summer 2018.
Thugger's uncharacteristically studious glare was what led to the jokes. Social media users on Twitter and Instagram came up with fill-in-the-blank scenarios to describe what was going on in the photo. Some pretended Thugger was the captain of a space fleet in a sci-fi movie. Others pretended he was an angry parent looking through a computer, and Durkio was the child. It was all good stuff.
6ix9ine Snitching in Court
In September of 2019, 6ix9ine testified in a racketeering trial against Aljermiah "Nuke" Mack and Anthony "Harv" Ellison, two Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods members he associated with as part of the gang. Because of live reporting from Manhattan's Thurgood Marshall Courthouse, fans were able to get real-time details about 6ix9ine's testimony, and, naturally, hundreds of memes making fun of the rainbow-haired rapper spread Twitter.
The most prominent meme featured an image of Tekashi wearing a suit as he sits next to his lawyers while speaking to a judge in court. For the caption, folks pulled from a well of rappers and celebrities who'd been accused of things from earlier in the year and had 6ix9ine fake tell on them. For one meme, meme 6ix9ine told a judge that 21 Savage was actually born in England. If you recall, 21 was arrested the previous February for being an illegal immigrant who was born in England.
The memes were pretty much everywhere. By the time of Tekashi's sentencing, Judge Paul A. Engelmayer admitted that he'd seen the memes and enjoyed them. With that in mind, 6ix9ine had inadvertently added to his legacy as a viral legend even while behind bars.
Jay-Z on a Jet Ski
Generally speaking, Jay-Z is the portrait of boss status in hip-hop. That image was transformed into something much sillier for at least a few days in the summer of 2018, after a picture of Hov riding a jet ski while on vacation with Beyoncé in 2016, was turned into a meme.
In the image, which was captured in Italy, Hov rocks a helmet and a life vest just like anyone else would. He's also got a facial expression that made people think he wasn't enjoying the moment. Fans subsequently posted side-by-side images of Hov and cartoonsm subsequently memeing him into oblivion.
Cardi B as a KidCardi B
Back in July of 2018, a Twitter user turned an image of a young Cardi B into one of the funniest memes of the summer. In the picture, which Cardi B herself said was taken when she was 5, Bardi flashes a sassy, unimpressed look that led one person to come up with a caption in which Meme Cardi tells everyone about her mother's orders. Most of the memes focused on the idea of a child being a little too honest because they don't know any better. Cardi herself posted the meme.
6ix9ine's The Breakfast Club Interview
In a career that's had more ups and downs than even seems possible considering it's brevity, 6ix9ine has delivered countless viral moments. One of them unfolded during a March 23, 2018 interview with Power 105's The Breakfast Club. During the interview, Tekashi responds to host Charlamagne Tha God's claim that 6ix9ine, who'd just explained that he left an event he was supposed to perform at because there was a gang of people trying to prevent him from performing, didn't live up to the tough guy image he portrayed when he refused to confront the group.
While responding, 6ix9ine uttered the instantly viral phrase: "Am I gon' go against a hundred niggas that wanna get me or be the smarter person and be like, 'Stupid, I'm not gon' let you get the chance to WorldStar me and violate me when I could be the bigger person."
It took some time, but months later, in December, Twitter and Instagram users began posting variations of the meme with the "Stupid, I'm not going to let you get the chance!" angle, referencing The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and more.
21 Savage as a Supervillain
A little over three years ago, on March 1, 2017, 21 Savage made an appearance on ESPN's Highly Questionable talk show. During the conversation, he was laughing as he jokingly censored his lyrics from his 2016 Metro Boomin collab "No Heart." While spitting his verse—a moment that ESPN suddenly cutoff, presumably as a result of some sort of censorship violation—he flashed a wicked smile. That smile, the tattooed cross on his forehead and the twists in his hair sprawled out in every direction led folks on the internet to compare 21 to a supervillain. One Twitter user said 21 looked like a supervillain prepared to reveal his masterplan to the world.
The first meme was retweeted over 100,000 times and it was liked over 200,000 times. Plenty of others like it soon took over the internet.
Drake as Wheelchair Jimmy
Before the beard, the mansion and pop culture ubiquity, Drake was just a young actor that was primarily known for playing wheelchair Jimmy, a teenage basketball player who ended up paralyzed after being shot by a classmate on the teen soap opera Degrassi: The Next Generation. Back in 2010, one of the promo images shot for the show's 2005 season turned into an iconic meme. For the image, Drizzy sits in the wheelchar, striking a pose with one of his hands being pointed outward on his leg.
While Drake's a cool dude, the pose, along with his overly jovial facial expression, practically begged to be memed to eternity—and it was. Usually, social media users adjusted Drizzy's own lyrics so that they applied to his character's wheelchair.
Soulja Boy Yelling Out "Drake?!"
In a January of 2019 interview with Power 105's The Breakfast Club, Soulja Boy unleashed an incredulous response to questions about Drake and Meek Mill, and that moment instantly went viral.
In that moment, which came during a rant in which Soulja Boy claimed Drizzy copied his style, Soulja incredulously shouts Drake's name. Soon, folks across the internet re-purposed his quotes and applied the tone and delivery to a wide range of historical and hypothetical situations.
DJ Khaled's "You Smart, You Loyal" Phrase
The line between knowing satire and genuine enthusiasm has always been hard to trace for DJ Khaled. That much was made clear again when he released the video for his Chris Brown and August Alsina-assisted 2014 single, "Hold You Down." In the video, he looks a women in the eyes and tells her she's smart and loyal before handing her stacks of money for any and everything she'd ever want.
As is always the case, eventually the internet grabbed hold of it and turned it into a meme for giving excessive amounts of praise for mundane things.
Back in 2013, Jay-Z found himself at the center of a hilarious meme after paparazzi in Stromboli, Italy snapped a photo of he and his wife Beyoncé diving into the pool of a luxury yacht. Unfortunately for Hov, his facial expression was a tad awkward, so the internet did what it does and proceeded to spam Twitter timelines with Jay-Z diving memes.
The memes usually consisted of Hov lunging in the direction of another famous person doing something. For one meme, a Twitter user pasted Hov onto an image of Miley Cyrus twerking in front of Robin Thicke at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards. For another one, Diving Jay is lunging toward Kanye West in the photo of Kanye grappling with a photographer. In another meme, Diving Jay-Z dives through the air so he can catch Michael Jackson's baby, whom the the King of Pop famously dangled from his balcony in 2002.
Birdman's "Put Some Respek on My Name" Moment on The Breakfast Club
During an April 2016 appearance on Power 105's The Breakfast Club, Birdman made it clear he had a bone to pick with DJ Envy, Charlamagne Tha God and Angela Yee. Before their interview could even begin, Birdman told the hosts to stop "playing with my name" and to "put some respek on my name." Baby seemed to be upset with prior comments that the hosts made about him on the show. His frankness and pronunciation of "respect" led to a lot of memes spreading around the internet.
Most of the time, the memes used a screenshot of an indignant Birdman and a caption about something either completely inconsequential or mildly annoying. The memes ranged from having to sit in an Uber Pool or being told you're grounded when all of your friends' parents are out of town.
While most celebrities have to simply take the L to the face, Birdman made the best of things and launched his own "Put Some Respek on My Name" merch. In July 2016, he said he even made a couple of hundred thousand dollars off it.
Kanye West's "I'ma Let You Finish" at 2009 MTV Video Music Awards
It's hard to lock down just what was the first meme, but Kanye West interrupting Taylor Swift's acceptance speech for the Best Female Video trophy at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sept. 13, 2009, has to be one of them. For the meme, which is centered around Kanye's interrupting Taylor so he can announce his opinion that Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" should have taken home the W, fans had Meme Kanye interrupting any and everyone getting props for anything.
When fans didn't use Photoshop for the memes, they used Kanye audio to make videos poking fun at the incident.
Running Joe Budden
On July 25, 2016, a couple of young men snapped some photos of Joe Budden without his permission, and predictably, he wasn't having it. Not so predictably, the rapper ended up chasing them while they were in their vehicle. The young kids then recorded video of Budden running toward them. A screenshot of Budden running quickly turned into an internet sensation.
Some fans made memes super-imposing Budden onto action adventure video games. Others put him into movie scenes.
The memes were so good that even Joe had to admit they were funny. "These are some of the greatest memes ever, but I truly hope u kids don't make running up to ppl's homes a thing," Budden wrote in a tweet responding to the memes. "It's dangerous."
Drake's "Hotline Bling" Dance
A content creator as much as he is a musician, Drake might have been the first rapper to drop a video that's practically designed to be a meme. He did so with the video for "Hotline Bling," which he dropped back in October of 2015. For the video, he expressively dances in a variety of colored lights, and he looks awfully dorky while doing so. This led to folks across the internet creating memes based on his facial expressions and dance moves.
For a screenshot of Drake scrunching up his face, fans made memes about getting the phone call they didn't want. When he pointed his finger at the camera, someone joked about asking if someone was going to finish their fries. You get the idea, and you probably remember the "Hotline Bling" meme craze. Seriously, it was everywhere.
Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" Single Art
Six years ago, in July of 2014, Nicki Minaj rocked nothing but a pink top and a g-string as she squatted backwards on the cover for her The Pinkprint single "Anaconda." After she revealed the artwork for the single, the internet promptly made thousands of memes featuring Nicki. Some memes re-imagined cartoon characters mimicking Nicki's pose, while others transformed Nicki into national landmarks.
Nicki shared some of the memes to her Instagram account.
If the internet can do anything it's sleuth, and that's a lesson Bow Wow learned the hard way in March of 2017. At that time the rapper uploaded an image of a private jet, indicating that he was about to be riding on it. However, a passenger who was on a plane claimed that Bow Wow was actually on his plane and that it was a public flight.
From there, the web commenced roasting Bow Wow to oblivion by launching the Bow Wow Challenge, a social media game in which people uploaded one picture of a luxurious or cool thing next to an image of something substantially more mundane.
Yung Joc's Hair
Four years ago, in 2016, Yung Joc debuted a slicked-back hairstyle that immediately led to an internet-wide roasting session. For the memes, fans posted pictures and captions comparing Joc to everyone from the whale Pearl from Spongebob Squarepants to Terrence Howard's character DJay from Hustle & Flow.
In an interview with Atlanta's V-103 radio station later that month, Joc claimed that he'd actually created several of the memes to spark discussion about his hair, which he suggested was a hairstyle he donned for a movie he was working on.