Historically, beef and battling in as Hip-Hop as good ol fashioned apple pie is to America. But, will that continue as a new decade begins in 2011?
Salt-N-Pepa did it.
KRS-One did it. Roxanne Shante did it.
50 Cent did it.
They all came up through the ranks of Hip-Hop, getting their true opportunity through battle/beef with another well-established entity in Hip-Hop.
The rap battle is truly tied to Hip-Hop culture in a way that is unique and special. Ultimately, it is a sport. In fact, from the beginning, the artistic battle served as a tool of culture that prevented people from fighting and killing each other in real life. The metaphor soon changed as people were being slain via hammering metaphors and viscous bars. KRS-One once boasted, "I don't battle to win or lose/ I battle to ruin your whole career." And, that he did to a number of emcees.
But, a curious thing has started to occur in recent history and the trend changed in 2010.
Rapper's stopped replying and began to ignore their competition, even those that had legitimacy in the rap space. Jay-Z has ignored The Game, Beanie Sigel, Peedi Crakk and even MC Hammer. He has barely made mention of them even though they all hold some serious weight in the game. He schooled Drake on "Light Up," where he said other rappers were merely starting "silly rap feuds trying to distract you." Even Nicki Minja subliminally dissed Lil Kim to death on songs like "Roman's Revenge" with nary a mention of Kim's name. And, now that Kim has returned fire with "Black Friday," Nicki still has nary a mention. I suspect Sun Tzu would be proud.
What is this new phenomena?
Is lyrical battling dead or is this something a new?
As rap has grown up a bit, it appears that the rappers have opted not to engage in the ways of old. Jay-Z is 41 now, Nicki Minaj is pushing her brand to a pop audience and frankly, cats just don't want to give their haters a stage to stand on. So, it is highly unlikely that there will be any more 50 Cent's birthed in our lifetimes. This new Jay-Z isn't going to say, "I'm about a dollar, what the f**k is 50 Cent" to his millions of minions. He'll certainly sublime them, but engage directly nah.
Perhaps these backdoor wranglings are good for the game.
Once upon a time, rap battles were a genuine clash of titans, not a vital point in somebody's marketing plan. When Nas and Jay-Z's beef came to the surface, there were soft jabs and subliminals in a number of songs before it bubbled over. KRS-One's war against MC Shan and The Juice Crew was established in a real place, in a real time. Nowadays, every silly thing sets somebody off into a war of words and the public sees it as silly and juvenile. The Hip-Hop lover sees it as another act of immaturity from people that are probably too old and too established to be acting this way.
Speaking of the Hip-Hop Lover, when was the last time there was a beef that actually had anything to do with Hip-Hop? You, know - lyrics. Rick Ross vs 50 Cent was entertaining, but the rap phase of the beef fizzled out after round one. After that, it went into a whole new level of debauchery and controversy with 50 throwing everything at Ross, but the kitchen sink. 50 vs Kanye was a war of sales. Jay-Z vs Beanie was so personal, it pained fans of Rocafella Records. And Nicki Minaj and Lil Kim would be so much better if the two simply collaborated on a record. And, then there are the underground beefs that nobody seems to care about too much.
The point of this entire piece is to say that it is definitely time for unity.
Sure, it sounds corny, but I believe this year has been a strong indication that this is the path that will lead us to the Hip-Hop Promise Land.
Its already here in many ways. Kanye working with Drake, who works with Jay-Z, who works with Nicki who works with Lil Wayne, who...just got out of jail. But, it isn't limited to the commercial rappers. Look at Big K.R.I.T., Curren$y, Yelawolf and Wiz Khalifa. They are all working together in their own way, which has galvanized their base of fans without murdering each other's career. Slaughterhouse is further proof of this. Joe Budden and Royce Da 5'9" had a beef at one point and, in joining forces with Joell Ortiz and Crooked I, they got Eminem's attention. Eminem and Royce, once best of friends, had one of the worst beefs. (At press time, that Slaughterhouse/Eminem deal had yet to be signed, but insiders swear it will happen.) Kanye, Camron and Jim Jones were at odds earlier this year, but they just got together on a Christmas song. Hopefully, the point is understood.
I love where Hip-Hop is headed. Yes, I loved the Kanye West G.O.O.D. Friday series for its display of solidarity between the elite, all the while ushering new acts like CyHi Da Pryce in. 50 Cent won't be linking back with The Game no matter how much the Compton rapper pleads, but he's still shed a lot of his old angst towards cats like Kanye. Lloyd Banks wins in the end. I suspect even 50 knows that beef has run its course. Hes on everybodys songs these days. The Game certainly knows and, to be honest, he made some solid points in his effort to rejoin G-Unit.
Truth is, a lot o acts have an even bigger battle ahead of them the battle for a career in music. Clique up and lets do it. Beef for the sake of beef is dead stinkin and rotten.