By Simon Vozick-Levinson
Updated October 10, 2007 at 12:00 PM EDT

There’s been a serious brouhaha brewing on the ‘nets ever since great alt-rap hope Lupe Fiasco flubbed the lyrics to A Tribe Called Quest’s “Electric Relaxation” in the middle of a tribute to the group at VH1’s Hip-Hop Honors (broadcast on Monday). The actual slip-up was over in the blink of an eye; check it out below and you’ll probably wonder what the fuss is all about, if you even notice Lupe’s memory lapse at all.

For a lot of web-savvy fans, though, this relatively minor incident provided an excuse to dredge up an old point of contention. Earlier this year, Lupe caught a lot of flak for talking trash about one of Tribe’s most highly-regarded albums on a popular rap message board: “i dont know one word of Midnight Marauders and truthfully dont have the interest to go and find out,” he wrote in the middle of a rambling reflection on hip-hop history. (Lupe’s fateful post has since vanished into the ether, but the full text is archived elsewhere.) Many saw this as point-blank blasphemy, and disingenuous to boot, given the major stylistic debt which Lupe’s own music seems to owe to Tribe’s work. Performing Marauders‘ “Electric Relaxation” at the VH1 tribute could have been a graceful way to make amends to those aggrieved fans. Screwing it up drove them absolutely ballistic.

Lupe only made things worse this week by firing off a confrontational, caps-lock-abusing missiveto that same message board. (He’s the guy posting as “FNF UP UP ANDAWAY”; “FNF” stands for 1st and 15th Entertainment, the label he owns.)To wit: “HAVE I LISTENED TO MM IN ITS ENTIRETY?…NO!!!…GET OFF YOURHIGH HORSES AND YOUR SACRED COWS…SOME OF YA’LL MAKE ME SICK.” Cue500+ furious replies (not even counting spinoff posts) and sundrydisapproving blog items. Lupe further claimed (and reiterated in a separate interview) that he only agreed to participate in the VH1 tribute because Tribeleader Q-Tip personally asked him to…which Q-Tip himself unfortunately deniedalmost immediately. If there was any chance Lupe would win over thoseTribe fans whose feathers he’d ruffled, it’s long gone now.

So who’s in the right here? That lyrical mistake was sortaembarrassing; but mistakes happen, as Lupe argued in a lessinflammatory part of his recent post. And yes, he’s being needlesslyprovocative with his message board posts — would it really kill him tojust listen to Midnight Marauders (an eminently listenablerecord!) and apologize already? Still, it’s no fair expecting him to beless arrogant or self-contradictory than any other star just becausehe’s a so-called “conscious” rapper. But that’s just my take. Pick yoursides now! Are you on Team Tribe, Team Lupe, or (gasp) both?