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How did rap feuds get so wack?

How did rap feuds get so wack?

by Tom Baker, 18 February 2013

Ah, I remember this when it was all killing fields. It wasn't like this back in my day, I'll tell you that for free. None of this fighting over parking spaces nonsense. But then we had to do without these Tweeting doo-hickeys which cause all these young whippersnappers to get in a tizzy. Christ, it makes me thankful we even got Eamon and Frankee a few years back. Of course, we also didn't have rappers who'd leave the house looking like this, either...

Nas and Jay-Z, now, that was a great beef. Probably the last great one. It wasn't perfect, of course – but we'll get to that, Sonny Jim, don't you worry – because they were still just bitching and moaning at each other through songs. But those songs had teeth, dag nabbit, and there was actually something at stake – Biggie was dead, the title of King of New York was up for grabs! They weren't just arguing about who had lived there for longer, like a pair of squabbling condo board members.

Then there are the classics. Whew laddy, you think a couple of dashed-off diss tracks that you stick up on that there interwebs is something? You didn't grow up with the Roxanne Wars – an almighty battle of beefs that was so huge it's basically a legend. Legendary! About thirty answer tracks, flying back and forth at each other, whistling right over your head like they did in the Great War, exploding on impact. All because some two-bit operation called U.T.F.O didn't show up to a gig. They released this single, 'Roxanne Roxanne' which had... ah y'know... the usual respect for women thing a little off-message. They cancelled a gig, and this young lass decided to call herself Roxanne and rapped back at 'em, and then they rapped back, then their comrades, then hers, and her family... Before you knew it, there were about a half-dozen women claiming to be Roxanne, sending disses back and forth! No, not like the Police song. Whoever raised you did a dreadful job.

So, you never heard of U.T.F.O? Hell, I bet you've heard of 50 Cent, at least. That stocky lad with the lisp. He's had some tasty fights, even if he didn't get shot fifty times or whatever he says. I'm not saying he didn't, but a couple of the lads down the local have read otherwise. Yeah, on that precious internet of yours. No no no, not any of that bollocks with Game or whatever his name was. It was Fiddy against Ja Rule. Now I know you remember Ja Rule. See, this one stands out because they actually hated each other. People got stabbed! I bet this Joey Bada$$ character can't even lift a damn knife. Hmmm? Well, no, I suppose it's a good thing that doesn't happen so much any more. Spoil sport. But the Big One, that was bloody as all hell.

East Coast vs West Coast, Bad Boy vs Death Row, Biggie vs Tupac. You've heard of this? Thank Christ, I was losing hope in you there. People got robbed, shot, all that violent stuff you hate – wuss – plus they got to make fun of Puff Daddy's dancing. What's he called now? Ah, who cares. I mean, in the end it was kind of tragic, sure – Tupac and B.I.G. both gunned down – but they left behind a heck of a lot of good, real diss songs, that's for sure. Go watch that film about it or something, then you can come back to me. Anyway, that was probably the LAPD or the CIA or the Illuminati or something...

Okay, I'm gonna interrupt this old-timer now, because I know what he's getting at but I think he's maybe a little... unhinged. This latest raft of rap feuds is pretty...well, awful, and embarrassing, and doesn't even have the benefit of decent tracks coming out of it. Why's that? Because hip-hop has become the mainstream, because the rappers who appear in the charts have become so divorced from the gangland lifestyle that the nineties heyday documented, celebrate, and admonished in equal measure. Which, in a way, is a good thing – less people are dying needlessly, which is obviously good. Even so, do the current "feuds" we're saddled with have to be so neutered, lacking in inspiration and venom, so boring? Do they all have to be Common trying to bully Drake? Why has this happened?

Maybe it's just the simple truth, as (in fact) Azealia Banks herself put it to Will Self (why Will Self? Why not, I guess?) in his piece on her for the New York Times: "Half of her fans were, like, middle-age white guys... for a long time her songs existed only in the iTunes libraries of record company execs, and, as I was no doubt aware, most of them are indeed middle-age white guys." And what do middle-age white guys like to argue about? Who has more money, who knows the coolest places... and if they're gonna kill someone, they probably keep it on the down-low.

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