Ranting and Raving: The Declining Relevance of Hip-Hop Beefs

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Hip-Hop is a competitive sport. And these days, it’s the Super Bowl, the UFC, the NCAA Tournament, the WWE and the NBA Finals all molded and wrapped up in one. Everyday. It seems like a week can’t pass without us hearing about two or more emcees embroiled in some war of words.

In the past few months alone, we have witnessed what many would consider a laundry list of high profile Hip-Hop beefs.

The most notable in recent memory is the spat between Drake and Meek Mill, resulting in October’s Very Own utterly dismantling Philly’s favorite street emcee. And we’ve just come off of a contentious back-and-forth between Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa. And waiting just around the corner seems to be a long-brewing rivalry between Future and Young Thug, with each emcee throwing undercover shade as much as possible through social media.

But sadly, today’s Hip-Hop beefs seem to be missing a key ingredient that has made these bouts a thing of beauty in the past: memorable music.

Sure, Drizzy gave us “Back To Back” and “Charged Up”. And yes, Meek fired back (five months later) with the surprise 4/4 EP featuring some shots at Drake. But a brief history of some of Hip-Hop’s most enduring battles reveals that, at their core, there are songs that brought out the best in each artist involved.

In the Golden era, we had disagreements between the likes of Boogie Down Productions and the Juice Crew, resulting in seminal tracks like “The Bridge”, “The South Bronx”, “Kill That Noise” and “The Bridge Is Over”. The beef between Kool Moe Dee and LL Cool J produced “How Ya Like Me Now” and “Jack The Ripper”.

Moving into the 90s, there arose disagreements resulting in beefs between artists like Ice Cube and Common, Dr. Dre and Eazy E, and so on. The result of that, would be memorable diss tracks like “B*tch In Yoo” and “F*** Wit Dre Day”.

The most infamous of these beefs was of course the situation that arose between The Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac. And though not considered a full-fledged beef by some, it still resulted in what many consider the most vicious diss song of all time in “Hit ‘Em Up”.

Then came Jay Z against Nas, which gave us “The Takeover” and “Ether”. Many of us remember exactly where we were when we heard these songs. That’s how memorable they have become to Hip-Hop history.

Today’s beefs in Hip-Hop are of a different breed. Why? Mainly due to power of social media. Instead of taking the time to churn out an entire song, it’s much easier for an artist to take to Twitter, Instagram and or Snapchat and release a diatribe or rant. Let’s think about it for a minute: have any beefs we’ve seen in the past two to three years created any diss tracks that have been truly memorable or game-altering, with the possible exception of Drake’s “Back To Back”? Doubtful.

Arguably, these social media beefs may be seen as more genuine or forthcoming. But it’s a lot less entertaining, even while it’s extremely dramatic. Beyond that, Hip-Hop beefs in the current era, while losing one prime element, has added another that goes hand-in-hand with social media: direct responses from the fans.

There was a time when fans of Hip-Hop music acted as spectators and sideline players in terms of Hip-Hop beefs. Reading about it in magazines. Getting wind of a new tiff via word of mouth. But now, it’s all front and center.

We as fans have a direct connection to some of our favorite artists any time we want. We can even insert ourselves into a beef via Twitter or Instagram (if we’re brave enough.) And while this may make things more interesting in some respects, it also takes a lot of the intrigue and the mystique out of a good Hip-Hop beef.

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In the end, should we really be using spats between Hip-Hop artists as a source of our entertainment? It’s debatable at best.

But moving forward, we probably shouldn’t expect much in the way of Hip-Hop beefs and battles being much more than they are right now: social media-centered rants that are good for the moment, but are usually forgotten after a few days so that we can move onto the next item in the 24-hour news cycle.

Welcome to the new normal for Hip-Hop beef, folks.