The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those solely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.
Well it seems like the Drake and Pusha-T rap beef has finally come to an end, or at least, subsided for now. The rap world waited impatiently for Drizzy’s rumored “career ending” response to Pusha’s vicious diss track “The Story of Adidon”, but sadly that day may never come. Thanks to a Kanye West tweet and J. Prince pulling an Inception job on Drizzy, the feud ended before we could even witness game three of the Toronto v. Virginia rap finals showdown. In respect to both, they are trying to keep the peace, but is it for the best?
I don’t think so, and one rapper who seems to agree is A$AP Ferg. During an interview with Shade 45 show The Whoolywood Shuffle, Ferg revealed that he “love[s] that shit.”
“We need that shit because I’m getting a feeling that like when Nas said hip-hop was dead, he was onto something,” he says. “At first, we was like, ‘You wildin’,’ this that and the third, but he foreseen it. And I think that like with a lot of the stupid shit that’s coming out, the wack shit that’s coming out, like we’re losing the art of lyricism and just being able to be witty with words.”
In some ways, he’s right. Most current rap has forgone complex lyricism for catchy hooks and witty punch lines. Beef changes that. Feuds can get ugly, but it also brings out the best in each rapper, lyrically – no rapper wants to have a bad diss track. Beefs entice MCs to constantly up the ante to one up their opponent as well as keep fans entertained in unique and creative ways. Nas’ lyrical attack on “Ether” was so vicious that it not only jumpstarted his career again but became a verb in the hip-hop lexicon.
Inevitably, lines will be crossed. Families, friends, and relationships will always get dragged in. Drake brought up Pusha’s fiancée in his “Duppy Freestyle”, which resulted in Pusha revealing that Drake has a kid and throwing shots at 40’s MLS disease. But that is part of the game.
Ferg continued, “What about like being sharp, like on your feet. Having an IQ? What about reading a book so you can have more shit to talk about? I think that was being lost and then like Pusha and Drake, they sound like classy n*ggas goin at it.”
This is because the competitive nature in current hip-hop isn’t really relevant. Outside of Drake beefs and Kendrick Lamar’s “Control” verse, what is competition? Back in the days of the “golden era” of rap, there was a dog-eat-dog mentality in the culture. Beef wasn’t just about taking shots at another person, but to prove that they were lyrically superior to their counterparts, while also obtaining serious bragging rights.
If a rapper called you out, backing down or losing a battle could be detrimental to an artist’s career. One slip-up and you could find yourself with a one-way ticket to obscurity. Who remembers Smack DVD? It rang in hoods across the country and city streets, solidifying this culture for generations. Certain MCs have built entire careers around beefs and freestyle battling with artists, while others have had their careers destroyed with just a couple lines. It was a sport.
People discredit rap as a genre because of beef, but it also creates interest in it. In some cases, like Big and Pac, beefs can end tragically, but in other moments like JAY-Z vs Nas or Nicki Minaj vs Remy Ma, it sells a lot of records. What once began as two rappers simply battling over skill has turned into big business, with parody music videos, elaborate stage shows, and entire albums dedicated to the coveted battle.
Two artists who have capitalized on using friendly beef to promote their albums are 50 Cent and Kanye West. The two got into a questionable feud in 2007 after the pair planned to release albums on the same day. The “beef” was more about first week sales and headlines than actually dissing each other. They even got a Rolling Stone cover because of it. Kanye told the magazine, “When I picked that date, I was like, ‘People are going to talk about this so much. Do you know how great this shit is for hip-hop?'”
For sales, it was. Beef sells. For artist and labels, this is great – Pusha-T is currently celebrating his highest-charting album ever on the Billboard 200, as DAYTONA debuts at No. 3 with 77,000 equivalent album units. I’m not saying his beef with Drake is the reason why (DAYTONA is one of the best albums of the year), but it did help boost his name through headlines and social media. All press is good press, right?
In 2018, there’s no better press than memes, especially when there’s beef involved. The only thing better than the Pusha-T and Drake debacle are the memes that spawned from it.
Memes have become a secondary weapon for rappers to continue throw shots while conjuring up the next freestyle. Drake even used a meme powerpoint during OVO Fest in 2015 to throw shots at Meek Mill after he dropped “Back to Back”. A MEME POWERPOINT! It might be worse than a diss track to be honest; there’s always been a social element to rap battles, but as disses began to move from the streets onto SoundCloud, fans have taken to Twitter to weigh in with priceless gif(t)s.
To conclude, beef season is fun, and it can be positive for both artists and fans. Like any sport or job, it brings a good level of competition to the culture. You can’t become lazy just because you’ve been consistent – rappers have to push themselves or someone else will come along and take the throne. Beef entices artists to deliver their best while simultaneously boosting record sales, and it gives fans the ammunition to create hilarious memes and Internet content for all to happily retweet. Beef season is an underrated rap event that should occur more often. Whether it’s fueled by personal feuds or friendly competition, it’s great for hip-hop.
For more of our opinion pieces, read why Kanye’s latest release is telling of our cultural moment of narcissism right here.