Hip-Hop Beef – Does it Hurt or Help the Genre?

“Beef”–a slang term used to refer to conflict–within Hip-Hop, is nothing new to the modern day Hip-Hop fanatic. It would seem with each passing day, a new conflict between a rapper that takes issue with another rapper’s style or what they record on their songs comes to fruition; adding on to a long list of other rappers that have problems with one another. Though beef is what the genre of Hip-Hop is notorious for, is its presence necessary?

Since its conception in the streets of Bronx, New York during the 1970’s, Hip-Hop has been the most sought-after genre for the majority of music followers today.

Birth of Hip-Hop in Bronx NYCStarting off as an art form created by African-American adolescents growing up in the inner cities in an attempt to escape the Pop and Rock & Roll music that dominated music in that decade, Hip-Hop has quickly evolved into a billion-dollar international success that is one of the driving forces behind sustaining record label credibility; the same labels that believed that Hip-Hop was just a fad instead of the future.

Though many people looking in on the genre may view it as nothing more than just music, Hip-Hop is also considered a culture. Its existence has inspired clothing, dancing, and even language. Beef within Hip-Hop did not happen overnight nor was it as filled with the vastly disrespectful personal attacks as it is today; it all started with friendly competition.

The Origins of Hip-Hop Beef

With its popularity came an influx of rivalries; these rivalries were known as “battles.” Battle rapping still exists today; but during the days when Hip-Hop began cementing itself in music, it was the norm and the way of making a name for oneself as a rapper or emcee. One of the most notable rap battles were between Queens, New York, rapper Roxanne Shanté (real name Lolita Shante Gooden) and Bronx-native KRS-One (real name Lawrence Parker).

The rap battle that took place during the 1980’s started when KRS-One mentioned Shante’s name in his song “The Bridge Is Over.” Not pleased with her portrayal in the song, Shanté fired back with “Have a Nice Day” which included a name drop of KRS-One’s moniker. Though the battle was a heated one, both artists flexed their lyrical skills for bragging rights making it a priority to keep it on wax.

Tupac Shakur and Notorious BIGSome rap battles fail to end as peacefully as Roxanne Shanté and KRS-One’s. During the mid-90’s, there was one battle that evolved into a violent beef that left two talented rap artists dead. In a rap battle between Notorious B.I.G. (real name Christopher Wallace) and Tupac Shakur, the two rappers attacked one another’s personal lives with embarrassing revelations and threats.

Their public quarrel caused not only a rift between the two former friends but also a division between two coasts, the East and West. Their deaths have been rumored to have happened because of their problems with one another and their murders have since been unsolved.

The Unnecessary Beef of Today

Like all entities there is evolution and Hip-Hop is no exception to the rule. Hip-Hop music of today is dissimilar from the political rap and gangster rap of the 90’s as well as the rap battles from the 1980’s. What seems to be more prevalent, are kinds of beef that revolve around envy. The rappers of today find interest in rapping about materialism or about false precedence over fellow rappers and stir-up trouble with peers they deem as threats to their careers.

Hip-Hop artists become so enthralled with aiming their below-the-belt controversial lyrics at one another, that they forget to direct their personable thoughts—that were once seen as poetry in motion–towards the audience that perceive themselves to be devoted fans. Because of this, Hip-Hop enthusiasts are finding it difficult to identify the genre as a culture and are now seeing it as a progressive gimmick.

The Future of Hip-Hop

The future of Hip-Hop music lies in the hands of its artists. Hip-Hop has hardly been viewed as the “kumbaya” genre of music, nor was it seen as the genre filled with excessive conflict; however, Hip-Hop’s ability to be filled with a variety of artists that brought something unique and diverse to the table was what allowed the genre to be loved internationally.

The conflict within Hip-Hop, by way of the Hip-Hop artists, inadvertently takes away from its essence and demeans what the genre initially set out to conquer; which was a place in music as a respectable genre that provided the voice of America’s inner cities.

Creative & Out of the Box Musical Exercises

Playing the same chord progression over and over? Want new ideas to spice up your compositional and improvisational skills? Then take a look at these exercises, designed to break free from the musical box that musicians can sometimes feel confined in.

Developing Associative Synesthesia

Pick up any painting you would deem art worthy (artwork from the expressionist, surrealist, cubist, or abstract modernist movement are preferable as they may provide more subjective personal interpretation). Deconstruct the painting in your mind’s eye; analyze the colors, the line weights, and the tones, etc. What is the emotion conveyed in the painting?

What aspects of the illustration support your reasoning for such emotional depiction? If the painting is an abstraction of shapes, is there is a method behind the artists’ abstraction? What do the lines, shapes, blobs express to you?

Synethesia translates sounds into colorsOnce you find that you have sufficiently spent time analyzing the painting and its emotive qualities, ask yourself what kind of music would you attribute to the painting? Imagine that you are a film scorer and compose a piece of music yourself that you feel successfully illustrates the artistic intention, or acts as an accompaniment to the piece (which you may choose to counterpoint with consciously).

This process helps the musician develop associative or metaphorical Synesthesia. Synesthesia is defined as “the mapping of one sense onto another,” and is a rare occurrence where certain individuals are able to see colors or shapes upon listening to music.

Getting Your Instrument to Sound Like Other Instruments

Trey Anastasio encouraged his students to emulate the tone of their favorite singers on the guitar (much more difficult than it sounds – try to differentiate between the tone of Whitney Huston and Dolly Parton while performing “I Will Always Love You”), while Steve Vai encouraged his readers to try to give a guitar value to mundane actions (like trying to emulate the act of sneezing or taking a whiz on the guitar). This next exercise shares the same theme – whatever your primary instrument is, pick another instrument, and try to get yourself to sound as close to the other instrument with your primary instrument as possible.

This has already been going on in the musical repertoire. For example, heavy metal percussive palm muting is an attempt for the guitars to sound more like percussive drumming instruments, while the bluesy and jazzy guitar bends are attempts to sound more like brass instruments.

Transcribing Soundscapes

Grab your recorder, and head out to town. Sit down in a comfortable spot, and record the sounds of your surroundings for about five-ten minutes. It doesn’t matter where you live (noisy city or quite a suburbia), every recording you make will be different and give you different criterion for you to work with. Upon returning to your studio, listen to the piece over and over, and start to establish a list of different sounds you have recorded (footsteps, animal sounds, ruffling leaves, sounds of transportation, electrical buzzing, wind…etc). Make sure you have listed and classified every sound on the recording, and have not missed anything.

After the classification process, score what you have recorded – or rearrange the sounds you have recorded into a sound collage until you have transformed the series of sound clutters into something that sounds musical. It is up to you to embellish it to make it sound musically emotive, or just transcribe the sounds you hear.

Jam Out of Tune

Get everyone in your band to each play on a different scale, a different beat, maybe even different tempo and try to create the most intolerable, most cacophonic, most chaotic jam ever. When each of you is playing on their island, you all start to perform what are you are most used to the standard licks and passages that you have practiced on and on. This initially isn’t an exercise to get you to improve, but rather an exercise to get to know your band members and their playing better. At first, what may seem cacophonic and chaotic will eventually spring forth new sets of ideas that your band has come up with together.

Rearrange and cover the songs of pop artistsRearrange Popular Pop Songs

Make it into every musical genre you can think of. Take a teen standard like Britney Spears “Hit Me Baby One More Time” (everyone has done this one… maybe you can think of something else), and arrange the music (no vocals) to fit the style and essence of many different genres. This will allow you to figure out what are the limitations of each style, as well as the boundaries of the chord progression and form of the pop song. Once you feel that this isn’t as challenging as it was, broaden your horizon to non-western music. Good luck with that, most non-western music is not based on chords, so you need to figure out different ways to seek musical expression (here is a word that might be handy: heterophony).

MMHr Ep 68 Pt 1 Featuring – The Deep Roots Music Project

Deep Roots Music Project – St. Johns Poets Vol.3

Join us in Episode 68 Part 1 where hosts Jeremy Wilson and Sam Densmore bring you the 3rd Annual Deep Roots Music Project Special.

Bands featured in our special this year include:
Rasheeda Ameera, Kyle Lang Jessica Stiles, Keegan Smith & Tony Smiley, Bliss Junkies, Kim Viik.

music studioNow in its third year at Roosevelt High School, and over a decade and counting as an independent school music program, the Deep Roots Music Project added a new dimension this year. The North Portland School’s participating student lyricists, known as the St. Johns Poets, participated in a March 20-25 living history trip to Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia. There, they explored the history of our nation’s civil rights movement. (pictured: l to r Cody Palmer, Jermeisha Hampton, China Lundy recording this podcast at MastanMusic Studio.)

In preparation for a ten mile walk, titled “A Day In The Life Of Martin Luther King” the students studied the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s and also the political music that grew out of the events of the time. By reenacting King’s famous 1965 jaunt, the young writers came home with a sense of what it was like to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, back in 1965, when black Americans were taking a stand for their right to vote.

Two of the traveling students have collaborated on a song, which will appear on The St. Johns Poetry Sessions, Volume III, about this historic event of change. The new Roosevelt Deep Roots CD will be released May 21st 2009. You can hear this amazing song “My Change My Gain” with lyrics by Aundre Lesure and U’Aundrick Nath-Clark in this episode of The MastanMusic Hour.

MastanMusic Studio and producer Jeremy Wilson also celebrate three years participation in this fine project. Five of the ten tracks for the new CD were recorded right here at MastanMusic Studio. We hope you will enjoy this in-depth SPECIAL FEATURE on this year’s Roosevelt High School Deep Roots Music Project class.

This week we are releasing the DJ segment – Part 1 of Ep 68. Join us two weeks from now when we will release Part 2, featuring Lotus Isle recorded and filmed live for The MastanMusic Hour – Club Showcase at Kelly’s Olympian in downtown Portland, Oregon.

Visit our MastanMusic YouTube Site to see our exclusive MastanMusic Hour Video Singles. This week Western Aerial performing “I’ve Got A Van” live for The MastanMusic Hour – Club Showcase filmed and recorded from Kelly’s Olympian night club in downtown Portland, Oregon.

Episode 67 Part 2 Featuring New York Rifles

Join us in Episode 67 Part 2 where hosts Jeremy Wilson and Sam Densmore bring you the show live from Kelly’s Olympian in downtown Portland, Oregon.

This week we’re featuring
New York Rifles

new york riflesIn this Episode we have one of our all time favorite Portland punk rock outfits, New York Rifles – we recorded them last October before the release of their latest CD, Make A Wish (Buy at CDBaby) that came out in March on In Music We Trust records.

New York Rifles are fresh off a West Coast Tour, so if you didn’t have the pleasure of seeing them live, well at least you can hear them here. Catch Scott Young on vocals, guitar, Sean Moultrie on drums, Kari Schafer on vocal, keyboard, and guitar duty and Brent Williams on bass and vocals as they rock you in one of the coolest most high energy sets the MastanMusic Hour has hosted. These guys created a great vibe and we think we captured a really great performance. Please do enjoy!

This week we are releasing the LIVE segment Part 2 of our show. Join us two weeks from now when we will release a new DJ’d segment in Episode 68 Part 1

Western Aerial performing “I’ve Got A Van” live for The MastanMusic Hour – Club Showcase filmed and recorded from Kelly’s Olympian night club in downtown Portland, Oregon.

If you or your band want to be featured on the MastanMusic Hour Podcast or considered for the next round of live.

MastanMusic Hour – Club Showcase shows, please:

Send us your CD and press kit for consideration, to:

The MastanMusic Hour
ATT: Podcast
1028 SE Water Suite 230
Portland, OR 97214


MastanMusic is happy to announce our affiliation with the new concert listings website and podcast www.portland.concertcoop.com/ a/k/a The Concert Co-Op.

Jeremy Wilson is producing the new Concert Co-Op podcast that is hosted by two very cool and industrious music fans, Christian and Junichi. We are sure that you will be very impressed with the extensive (and we mean COMPLETE!) concert listings for Portland that is updated daily; the massive amount of cool extras like free song links and videos; plus a fabulously produced podcast that also features full length tracks from some of the best bands around.

Seriously, www.portland.concertcoop.com/ is something both music fans and bands of all stripes will want to be part of. The Concert Co Op is the real deal! Check it out and don’t forget to subscribe to their podcast, “it’s GGRRRREAT!”