hip-hop beef

Do you want to be known in hip-hop? Does your project have lagging sales, little buzz, and lacking exposure? Start a beef. Hip-hop has gone the way of professional wrestling with the amount of fabricated and staged beefs and disses. At no time in hip-hop history has it been almost imperative to be dissing or beefing with somebody. It is probably the most lucrative marketing strategy a camp or artist can now do to draw attention. In the past year weíve seen the rise of marginal rap artists and "has beens" through receiving national exposure for beefing with either those in the industry or other more prominent lyricists. Battling and disses in hip-hop are nothing new; in fact itís very much a part of the culture, as emcees and crews vie to be considered the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time). The difference? Now more then ever, many of the disses and barking seem more calculated, orchestrated, and set up to generate interest or sales. It's to the point that the two largest hip-hop MAGAZINES have become active participants in the war. Crews and emcees no longer battle over control of a borough lyrically, or to cement their place as the #1 emcee (as Nas and Jay-Z did last year), but now you beef to improve your street credit as well as help your sales move, or at least that appears to be the thinking.

The biggest or at least most popular beef right now is between Benzino and Eminem. As everyone knows (or at least has been told over and over), Em is the premier emcee right now in the rap game, and more importantly his seemingly legendary battle status has made him a rarity, a hero of the underground as well as a top-selling pop artist. Enter Benzino, a forty-something washed up rapper whose crew Made Men (formerly the mighty RSO) have never even reached aluminum, let alone come close to the success of Slim Shady. So in the most bizarre move, Benzino begins a war of words with the Shady camp, calling out Em and his crew D12. Hereís the kicker: he gets SLAUGHTERED. Not once, not twice, but three times! Yet the hype from the attacks that Benzino takes - not only in lyrics, but in interviews, Source articles, and ads - has put his face and name prominently in the music media. (He ominously has a very heavy stake in The Sourceís production, a fact Eminem exploits in claiming the artist is only still around because he strong arms his partner in the publication, David Mays.) While fans have dissed and laughed at the act, nonetheless people who have never heard of Benzino now do. Mission accomplished.

Right now, the hottest artist in the hip-hop game also hails from the Shady camp, and his name is 50 Cent. His hunger and hustle not withstanding (his G-Unit has blown up the mix tape game and he has garnered the support of the streets because of his raw style and charismatic attitude), 50 is not the most gifted of lyricists. However, his ďHow To RobĒ track (outlining ways to rob some of the industryís biggest names) helped lead to his being stabbed, beaten, and supposedly shot by the Murder Inc. camp (he was shot nine times, no suspects and it is alleged that the shooting actually might be due to 50 Cent supposedly running his mouth about an ex-con). The main proponent in this beef, Ja Rule, is the crown jewel of the mega-hit monster that boasts Ja, Ashanti and Charlie Baltimore among others. The physical and verbal confrontations between Ja and 50 Cent have pretty much become the stuff of tabloids, and has made 50 a compelling figure and one that the media and listening audience follow like itís Stone Cold Steve Austin versus Triple H. Lyricists and emcees are no longer artists, but actors playing out a very deadly drama in a move to gain more exposure and maintain or establish the street credit that will boost their sales. The crazy thing is 50 Cent loves being the marked man, probably because the hype and controversy most likely was a major factor in Eminem and Dr. Dre reaching out to sign him to Dreís Aftermath imprint.

Since Biggie and Tupac were the catalyst for the infamous East Coast vs. West Coast beefs in the mid-nineties, there has never been more attention paid to artists going at each other on and off the mic. As we all know the beef between the two icons of their coasts at the time escalated to a fatal ending, yet almost seven years later hip-hop hasnít seemed to learn. Itís one thing to try and expose a rival to be ďfakeĒ or to stake claims on who rules the mic, but from DMX vs. Ja Rule, Ja Rule vs. 50 Cent, to Benzino vs. Eminem, none of these beefs seem to be anything more then attempts to prop up a fading career or help jump start a budding one. KRS-ONE vs. MC Shan was legend vs. legend, even the Jay-Z vs. Nas (while probably a calculated attempt by Nas to come back into the light, although Jay started it) pit two true icons against one another. Now the little guy just looks to capitalize on the appeal of the violent climate that has risen steadily each year in hip-hop since the death of Biggie and Tupac. Iím waiting for Russell Simmons to be appointed to the Commission of the World Wide Federation of Rap and a royal rumble on pay-per-view.

The first time I ever was exposed to hip-hop beef was when I was 11 years old and I heard L.L. Cool J dis Kool Moe Dee. Hip-hop beef has evolved greatly since then, and largely not for the better. Dissing another artist has been a part of hip-hop pretty much from the beginning, but it has never been as sensationalized or as senseless as it is now. Beefing with artists in the industry is at times admittedly orchestrated to generate sales, solidify or defame reputations. While the latter is essentially what any dis is supposed to do, itís hard to take much of it serious when it seems so obviously theatric. The violence that off shoots from many of the on-air beefs is also something that has become much more prevalent. Figures such as Suge Knight and 50 Cent have become icons for thug and gangsta rap because of the beefs that have spilled over into the realm of physical violence. Rap is out of control, but it has been for a while now, and so long as the antics and tactics bring the respective artist and their labels fame and fortune, I really doubt it will stop. Hopefully, the Royal Rap Rumble isnít going to hit Showtime anytime soon.

{mikal lee (hired gun)}
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