“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.
Starting 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.
Some 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.