Symba Calls Funkmaster Flex Out While Freestyling For Him
This week marks the 26th anniversary of the death of Tupac Shakur. On September 13, 1996, the MC, actor, poet, and pop culture superstar died in a Las Vegas, Nevada hospital following a drive-by shooting one week earlier. While many Tupac affiliates, insiders, and law enforcement officials have opined who pulled the trigger at the intersection of Flamingo & Koval, the murder remains unsolved.
Even in death, one of the most outspoken critics of Tupac has been HOT 97’s Funkmaster Flex. The DJ, who has been at HOT 97 for nearly 30 years, blamed Tupac’s role in the death of The Notorious B.I.G. Ahead of his death, in interviews and song lyrics, Pac charged that Bad Boy’s founder, Sean “Puffy” Combs and Biggie Smalls knew more information about a 1994 Quad Studios robbery that left Shakur shot multiple times.
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“People always say why I said it 20 years later, I said it when the f*cking sh*t was going on, and Biggie wouldn’t have f*cking died if that ni**a hadn’t had lied,” Flex said in May 2017. Flex worked with Biggie and much of the Bad Boy roster throughout his club, radio, and recording career and made comments around the release of All Eyez On Me, a Tupac biopic. “[Tupac] lied! And he carried that lie for years. He knew Biggie didn’t set him up. Ni**as shot and killed Big because of what he said.” Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls, was killed in a Los Angeles, California drive-by shooting approximately six months after Shakur. His murder also remains unsolved. Flex contends that in 1994, Pac accidentally shot himself and blamed others. That blame, according to the DJ, had major consequences.
Spice 1, a Tupac friend and collaborator, was among those who took umbrage with Flex’s words and timing. “Even when Funkmaster Flex said that sh*t about Pac, I had to smash on him,” Spice said in 2022, recalling their own war of words. “I looked up to Funkmaster Flex, and I didn’t want to do that but, ni**a, you talkin’ about my motherf*ckin’ homeboy, ni**a. Shut the f*ck up. Leave that sh*t alone. That sh*t is…both of them is in the grave.”
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While Spice 1 is a peer of Pac’s who remains active in music, Symba is a Bay Area native who grew up admiring Pac. Although they are not in the same peer group, the Atlantic Records artist—who recently teamed with Dr. Dre and Pusha-T for “Never End Up Broke 2”—used Funkmaster Flex’s freestyle platform to get a word in. “Flex, it’s an honor to meet you, but let’s be clear / I’ve done had a bone to pick with yo ass for four years / You’ve been a big part of this culture my whole life / So what I’m ’bout to say almost don’t feel right / You say some wild sh*t, most times you actually right / But all that disrespecting Tupac sh*t stops tonight,” Symba rapped with confidence overtop the RZA-produced “C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me)” instrumental.
Symba did not stop there. He wanted Flex to know how much the Thug Life MC meant to him. “As a West Coast ni**a, Pac gave all of us pride / That’s why when you said what you said we was surprised / How you wait 20-something years he died / To come on this muthaf*cka and keep screaming, ‘He lied!'” As somebody who grew up many places, including Antioch, California and Vegas, Symba positions himself in the tradition with the Spice 1’s and others. The veteran recently made a powerful commentary surrounding the notion of a G.O.A.T. MC with a concept song that also saw him campaigning.
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Symba also points to fairness in calling out Flex, who appears stunned. “He ain’t alive to tell his side / But I ain’t mad at you ’cause you was speaking your mind / To keep it real, you said what’s on half of these ni**as’ minds / Just the next time you say it don’t sound like you ’bout to cry.” The last bar adds humor, something the HOT 97 mainstay has always included in his radio rants, tirades, and diatribes. Flex raises his hands, and shrugs admission. Symba makes the moment interesting, along with his blistering bars.
This performance follows some noteworthy Funk Flex freestyles over the last five years. While Black Thought delivered a viral 2017 freestyle considered among the best ever, Tyler, The Creator used his spot to flirt with the Hip-Hop vet’, a fiery Big Daddy Kane spot, and a stunning 2018 Mysonne performance.
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Yesterday (September 14), Symba dropped “Never Change,” featuring label-mate Roddy Ricch.
#BonusBeat: Symba music is presently included on the official Ambrosia For Heads playlist: