Chris Brown and Rihanna Image Credit: AP

News that New York City police are investigating last week’s brawl, reportedly between Chris Brown and Drake and their respective entourages at the club W.i.P. in Manhattan, will undoubtedly dominate hip-hop blogs for the coming days.

But as details, tweets, video and denials emerge, fingers are being pointed at a certain pop star as the catalyst: Rihanna.

For some time, rumours of a feud between the two have proliferated, but it’s only been in the last few months that fans and bloggers have paid closer attention (and dissected) this alleged beef. By now, everyone is surely exhausted by the story. But here’s a quick primer for those still in the dark: After Brown’s pre-Grammy assault on Rihanna in 2009, the former couple briefly reconciled. She then moved on and briefly dated Drake shortly after.

The Young Money rapper channelled his rebound guy pathos into the song Fireworks, off his 2010 debut album. Drizzy and RiRi managed to remain pals and used their sizzling chemistry for his and her singles (What’s My Name and Take Care, respectively). As speculation rose that Rihanna might have reconciled with Brown — after the former flames issued two remix duets after this year’s Grammys (this after people were already cringing at the irony of them both performing at the ceremony, separately, of course), including the sexually charged Birthday Cake — Twitter and gossip sites made it a sport to romantically link the pop diva with every man she’s been spotted with. Meanwhile, sites linked Drizzy with a few ladies, and Brown was busy with his current girlfriend, Karrueche Tran.

Now enter Meek Mill, a Philly rapper who is swimming in a sea of buzz and signed to Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group. Recently, Meek was spotted with Rihanna at a strip club. What could have been two friends just indulging in lap dances for his birthday was immediately twisted into something more. The rapper only helped fan the flames when he issued a quick jab on Twitter. “U took me off ya song cause she let me watch da throne! #dreamsandnightmares,” he wrote in the cryptic dispatch (known as a sub-tweet), inferring that Brown removed him from his upcoming album Fortune because of the rumoured fling. Brown quickly, and in equally cryptic fashion, wrote, “She’s a dream chaser! There are a lot of dreamers so she’ll be running forever!” — a clever play on the name of Meek’s acclaimed mixtape Dreamchasers.

Such messages didn’t stop there, with Drake jumping in and (innocently?) asking his 7.6 million followers, “Oh that’s your ho? That’s our ho too. Lol” before saying, “We get gyal eeeeaasy,” making sure to stress a Caribbean patois. Slick, right? Brown found the tweet funny, and Meek reminded whoever was reading (obviously, he meant Brown) that “dese chicks belong 2 da game ... not u! Never get confused and think that’s all u!”

Even if the reported fight was the result of a lost guest verse, it’s still an incredibly pathetic display of violence and aggression that ultimately fuels the perception so many in the hip-hop community have fought to change. And it definitely doesn’t help matters for Brown’s reputation, which his team has to be fresh out of ways to spin — that’s unfortunate, considering the man makes fantastic genre-pushing music that again has to take a back seat to his messy personal life.

Those tweets were nothing more than an embarrassing back and forth that makes Thursday’s alleged physical altercation all the more absurd. According to the Associated Press, citing the New York Police Department, more than five people were injured and had to be taken to area hospitals, which is deplorable on its own.

Twitter rants and feuds are nothing new, and with artists proving to be especially revealing in 140 characters or less, it’s important to note that not everything they tweet has a deeper meaner than those watching and reading want them to. It only adds to the fodder when these rants, attacks and sub-tweets are issued and then quickly deleted. Despite what anyone thinks, that delete button isn’t quite permanent.

For someone like Brown, who has cried foul over the public’s lack of support for him following the assault on Rihanna, Twitter continues to be his greatest weakness. He has routinely engaged in feuds or sent bitter rants, only to delete them later, a logic that unfortunately doesn’t work when millions of people read them and you occasionally end up face-to-face with the targets of your attacks.

Regardless of the nature of this fight (none of us were there), it’s impossible not to link this very physical incident with the ongoing digital war, and that’s exactly what has happened.

Brown quickly deleted a number of tweets, but he didn’t take down a picture of his chin split open (sad, considering that it was a few years ago that pictures of a bloodied and swollen Rihanna were all over the internet), making it clear that he felt he had been the victim in this brawl.

“Chris, Karrueche and his friends were victims of a brutal attack last night at WIP. They sustained several injuries,” a statement from his camp read. “Chris and his party are cooperating with NY authorities who are pursuing this incident further.”

Drake’s camp stressed in a statement that the rapper “did not participate in any wrongdoing of any kind last night at W.i.P. He was on his way out of the club when the altercation began. He did not engage in any activity which resulted in injury to person or damage to property.”

Meek, who is on Drake’s current tour, tweeted: “It wasn’t me ... [shaggy voice] lol.”