As detrimental as it can be at times, beef has always been part of hip-hop’s DNA. In Ice-T’s ‘The Art of Rap’ documentary, beef master KRS-One recalls his career starting after someone dissed his clothes. Those were the days when rappers would fight over who had the most creative lines and who rocked the party the best, not who has the most money or who stole who’s diamond chain. Depending on the tone and context, beef is one of the healthiest and most entertaining parts of the rap game, especially if it results in artists stepping their game up (looking at Nas circa 2001). Just like theatre, there needs to be an emotional attachment or something on the line to even care, rather than artists just beefing because they can.
The conflicts between the likes of Boogie Down Productions and the Juice crew in the ‘80s and the Jay-Z and Nas feud captured imaginations because they were ultimately about the music. Today’s dudes should take notes on how to beef without it turning fatal. None of the pioneering beefers were thrown in jail or killed as the result of a rap beef. In the social media era there’s so many beefs popping up, it’s almost hard to even know how they started. Lil Wayne, who got completely murked by Pusha T in one-sided fashion, admits that he reacted purely out of emotion when he recorded his diss. The worst example of beef is when it publicly spills out into violence and ignorant behaviour, during a tribute to a dead legend no less. If we’re going to devolve into violence I’d rather see Hulk Hogan vs. Bubba the Love Sponge. At least they’d be fighting over something, even if it’s about the release of a sex tape. How do these public beefs come across in the mainstream media? It looks like some ignorant rappers doing ignorant shit again. Some of these feuds don’t even have anything to do with music or even the artist themselves, it’s between associates within their crew. That’s not to say that all modern beefs aren’t about a larger issue, like Lupe Fiasco crusading against Chief Keef and ‘ratchet rap’.
If they’re not playing out at award shows the current breeding ground for rap beef is Twitter. A vague statement or reference will escalate into full-on beef over the course of a few tweets, even when they claim not to care or want to get involved. Beef is now a formula that the music industry and artists feed off to boost their record sales. It’s not doing anything for the “art” or the “culture”, if such a thing even exists in this homogenised era. Beef and competition are needed but let’s just have a clean fight, is that too much to ask as a rap fan and a person? With that in mind it’s time to dig into the words and moments that captivated and those that made us groan. Miss any beefs? Let us know!