Rap beef is officially dead. Just look at the embarrassment that is the “beef” between Jay-Z and Drake. In summary, Drake said that Jay’s references to art were “getting kind of corny” in his Rolling Stone interview. Jay responded in his “We Made It” freestyle: “Sorry Mrs. Drizzy for so much art talk/Silly me rapping ’bout shit that I really bought.” Which brings us to yesterday, when Drake said Hov is “somewhere eating a fondue plate” in an interview during the Nets v. Raptors game. Drizzy — really swinging for the fences on that one.
So is the sad state of rap beef. It may be hard to believe, but back in the day rap beef wasn’t corny. Some of the biggest cats in the game legitimately went at one another, both on and off the mic. Rappers had more regional pride and weren’t afraid to call people out. And this wouldn’t just be in an interview or tweet; they would go and spit their diss over a beat. Imagine that. Our collective memory of what real rap beef looks like may be a little fuzzy; let’s take a moment to reminisce over two of the biggest beefs before we mourn:
Common vs. Ice Cube
When hip-hop was blowing up in the early 90s, Common released his seminal record “I Used to Love H.E.R.” The song features an epic extended metaphor, using a women to represent the degradation of hip-hop as it went mainstream and became all about guns, hoes, rims, and cash. Ice Cube took offense and hit the studio to write “Westside Slaughterhouse.” Some choice bars:
“Used to love her, mad cause we fucked her/Pussy whipped bitch with no common sense/Hip hop started in the West”
These rhymes alone are already at a level that would be shocking to see today, but Common stepped shit up to a whole new level with his reply:
Those opening bars tho:
“A bitch nigga with an attitude named Cube/Stepped to the Com with a feud/Now what the fuck I look like dissing a whole coast/You ain’t made dope shit since AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted.” It’s unimaginable that a rapper today would get even half as personal and heated on a diss track.
Jay-Z vs. Nas
Due to both Hov and Nas being from New York and their respective statures as two of the most acclaimed and successful rappers ever, this is one of the most famous rapper beefs. Spanning almost five years and involving Prodigy, Nelly, Cam’ron, and Allen Iverson, it’s also one of the most complex. As these things usually do, shit started small but blew up when Nas dropped “Ether” in 2001.
You catch that? “When these streets keep calling, heard it when I was sleep/ That this Gay-Z and Cock-A-Fella Records wanted beef” and “Then you got the nerve to say that you’re better than Big/ Dick-suckin’ lips, why don’t you let the late great veteran live” stick out in particular. And these were two of the biggest rappers out in the prime of their respective careers! If Kendrick were to say some shit like that to Drake, the Internet would explode.
Keep that old-school gear on lock: