By Steven X
“What's beef? Beef is when you need 2 Gats to go to sleep Beef is when your moms ain't safe up in the streets Beef is when I see you Guaranteed to be in ICU, one more time What's beef? Beef is when you make your enemies start your Jeep Beef is when you roll no less than 30 deep Beef is when I see you Guaranteed to be in ICU”- Notorious BIG.
One of the biggest components of Hip-Hop as a culture is the dynamic of emcee feuds aka rap beef. Due to the competition that would spawn from these conflicts, the element of beefs in the culture greatly contributed to the rapid growth of Hip-Hop stemming from the attention that was generated by the artists who participated in them. During the 80’s when Hip-Hop was still in its infant stages; most conflicts amongst emcees formed from a desire to prove who possessed the superior lyrical skill and charisma in an open party setting. While there was a strong sense of animosity that would exist between two artists as they would compete on stage; in those times most of the tension would start and stop with the music itself and was considered more of a battle solely between the emcees directly involved. The earliest example of a battle that can be seen in Hip-Hop was the clash between Kool Moe Dee and Busy Bee. The roots of this conflict stem from Kool Moe Dee wanting to prove that it takes more than just a party time appeal to be considered the best emcee; you must also possess lyrical prowess and substance as well.
Over time however leading into the 90’s the nature and reasoning for battles within Hip-Hop began to have a much more personal and serious undertone compared to earlier instances. This shift in energy can be attributed to the advent of Gangsta Rap and the artists who started it (NWA, Snoop Dogg etc.) changing the mentality of how to approach their music in order to reflect the rough and gritty lifestyles they saw in their neighborhoods. Arguably the biggest battle to come from this time or any other time was the beef between late legends Tupac and Notorious BIG. This was a very pivotal moment in Hip-Hop because with the songs “Hit em Up” and “Who Shot Ya?” from Pac and Biggie respectively, the tone and mood behind the music was much heavier with the intention of defacing and assassinating the character of one another. This series of actions led to countless other battles amongst artists as a result of emcees feeling so passionate about siding with one artist or the other because of the influence that both Pac and Biggie had at the time. The one thing that separated this beef from most before it was that both 2 Pac and Biggie lost their lives as result of the turmoil reaching its apex. From that point forward most emcees would aim to defer from going in too deep into personal aspects of their opponent’s life out of fear of the conflict escalating beyond the music.
Going in to the 2000s the internet and its advances in creating digital platforms for music and artist’s profiles (using media like Facebook, Myspace, Instagram) again changed how artists began a beef and how consumers received the material from the battles. In present times with battles between artists like Drake and Pusha T as well as Eminem vs MGK; the reasoning for the start of these beefs is rooted in the circulation of dated Social Media posts as well as rumors that are perpetuated by blogs and media outlets within the culture. With the advances of technology, artists can take no time in crafting a diss record and sending it to multiple platforms to be heard by a large audience in a few short days. This pattern continues back and forth until one party concedes defeat or a cease fire. The main consequence that comes from beef in today’s climate of digital media is that the damage that can come from losing out to your opponent can be irreversible in a sense because consumers instantly respond to and create content that is meant to belittle or humiliate the artist who is on the losing end of a battle usually in an oversaturated manner.
In spite of many lowlights that have come from these battles over time; the beef amongst emcees is a vital aspect of the Hip-Hop culture that should be studied and appreciated. While the reasoning for battles has changed from the inception of Hip- Hop; it is undeniable that the competition that manifests from these clashes within the art heavily influences how people listen to and perceive the music. In every instant the consequences can be anything from personal embarrassment; losing credibility within the culture or even worse, your very life itself. While the presence of competition is always needed to sharpen the skills of the artists as well as their counterparts; the battles should stay within the realm of testing your musical and lyrical ability rather than leaking over into the personal aspects of another emcee’s life. Hip-Hop was created to entertain, educate and inform the masses on your perspective of life not for causing drama and bringing disrespect on to others who are a part of the same culture.
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