Since the beginning of Hip-Hop, competition has always been a part of the culture. From Kool Moe Dee and Busy Bee Starski to Nas and Jay-Z, Hip-Hop clashes have always inspired great music. Even after losing some of the greatest rappers to ever bless the mic, fans still crave fierce competition in Hip-Hop.
With much of mainstream rap switching its focus from lyrics to music, the potential for great rap feuds is all but gone. And the world is different than it was when Hip-Hop began; today’s world is built on progress, change and acceptance. Yet Hip-Hop is still the only genre with competition ingrained so deeply in its foundation.
So the question remains: Is competition really more important than unity in Hip-Hop?
Battle rappers are known to be habitual line-steppers. Unlike records where offensive bars are often scrutinized, anything goes in battle rap. A couple weeks back, King of the Dot held MASS3, a battle rap event featuring the likes of Hollow Da Don, Mickey Factz, Dizaster, Daylyt and more. Everybody showed up, sparred, shook hands and went home. That’s how battle rap works—as much as rappers lyrically dismantle each other, there’s an understanding that it doesn’t go beyond that. It’s entertainment. Why can’t rap beef follow suit?
Competition is great for Hip-Hop in terms of the music it inspires, but music is too often the smallest focus of today’s beefs. Remember The Game and Young Thug’s beef? All that gave us was a weird daughter-complimenting battle and some videos of the two rappers posturing and making death threats. Thankfully nothing happened, but this is a prime example of how quickly a conflict between grown men can escalate, especially with the influence of the machismo attitude perpetuated in Hip-Hop culture.
In a world where Nas’s “One on One” was a reality, disunity in Hip-Hop would be fine. The reality is that gun violence is a very serious issue in America.
That’s not the only problem with disunity in Hip-Hop. Have you ever heard a rapper say “I don’t listen to rap.”? The thinking behind this is that if you don’t listen to rap, you can’t bite anyone’s style. It actually makes rappers unsupportive and ignorant of the culture they strive to preserve and further. One rapper’s success doesn’t close any doors—there is room for everyone to coexist.
Us fans are partially responsible, too. We condone the behavior that brings us the music we condemn. When the internet gave us a look into the lives of rappers we could previously only read about in magazines, it changed the way we consumed music. Hip-Hop has become a social media-driven high school because fans support drama over quality music.
So what can we do to unify Hip-Hop? Fans can support good music instead of the latest viral moment. Writers can be more creative in finding stories to write that aren’t gossip. But rappers have the biggest job—they need to put aside their egos and differences and find a way to push Hip-Hop as a whole, no matter who they have to support. Even if it means OGs giving the likes of Young Thug and XXXTentacion a shot.
Understand that rap is a form of entertainment. A sport. A career. Disunity on wax should not spill out into the streets. The Warriors and Cavs may have split the previous two NBA Finals, but Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving looked like old friends at Harrison Barnes’ wedding.
As Jay-Z said, “Nobody wins when the family feuds.”