09.06.2018

The problematic nature of rap beefs

Caron Williams believes rappers should use lyrical prowess to fire shots, and miss the women getting caught up in their crossfire

The problematic nature of rap beefs

Rap beef, in some form or other, has been an intrinsic part of hip-hop culture since the inception of the genre. It's served as a sparring of skills for many rappers standing in opposite corners of the proverbial hip-hop ring, demonstrated the sheer brutality and ruthlessness of hip-hop as sport, created enemies and friends, served as an example of showmanship and continues to hold the hip-hop community in complete awe. As Brandon Jenkins of Complex eloquently put it, "Rap's ability to be theatre, sport, biography, anthem, therapy, fantasy-sometimes all at once-will forever keep it at the centre of culture."

Pusha T and Drake's current beef follows suit. It's captivated the world's imagination in a way very few feuds in modern hip-hop have. From subtle jabs to devastating blows, it's reignited the impact 90s rap beef had on the game. Initially stemming from shots exchanged between Clipse and Lil Wayne in 2006 over who popularised BAPE, the beef escalated in 2012 when Pusha T dropped his now infamous 'Exodus 23:1', taking his first direct shots at Drake and crew.

"Contract all f***ed up/ I guess that means you all f***ed up/ You signed to one n***a that signed to another n***a/ That's signed to three n***as, now that's bad luck." 

After more veiled shots and what will now go down as the foundation of one of the most fascinating beefs in hip-hop today, Drake and Pusha T's thrilling beef has culminated in the release of 'Duppy Freestyle' and The Story of 'Adidon'. 

Pusha T's clinical dismantling of hip-hop's most marketable star has been hailed by most industry experts as one of the greatest moments in contemporary hip-hop, and whilst that stands to be true, many have questioned if he crossed the line. Pusha T systematically touches on Drake's ghost-writing allegations, blackness, attacks his mother and father and alludes to his producer 40's illness. Among the targeted shots on 'The Story of Adidon', Pusha T divulges information about Drake's alleged baby mama, Sophie Brussaux, and her history as a former porn star, which was sparked by the mention of Pusha T's fiancé in Drake's Infrared rebuttal.

"Since you name-dropped my fiancée / Let 'em know who you chose as your Beyoncé / Sophie knows better as your baby mother / Cleaned her up for IG, but the stench is on her / A baby's involved, it's deeper than rap / We talkin' character, let me keep with the facts / You are hiding a child, let that boy come home / Deadbeat mothaf***a playin' border patrol, ooh." 

Both Drake and Pusha T's lyrics highlight hip-hop's intrinsically misogynistic nature and history of using women as collateral damage in a war of egos. 

Jay Z and Nas' iconic beef has been hailed as one of the greatest rap beefs of all time. Whilst the passionate exchange captured hip-hop's imagination, Jay Z's rebuttal to Nas' 'Ether' left much to be desired. Hugely misogynistic for a large part of his career, Hov infamously rapped about sleeping with the mother of Nas' daughter, Carmen Bryan, and other comments deemed so vile that he was forced to offer an apology by his mother.

"I came in your Bentley backseat / Skeeted in your Jeep / Left condoms in your baby seat." 

How can we ever forget the opening lines to Pac's 'Hit Em Up'?

"That's why I f***ed yo' bitch, you fat motherf***er!"

to

"F**k yo' bitch and the clique you claim / Westside when we ride, come equipped with game / You claim to be a player, but I f***ed your wife…" 

Tupac and Biggie's beef is arguably the greatest hip-hop beef of all time. The explosive battle formed part of the East coast vs West coast rivalry and ended in the tragic death of Tupac at the tender age of 25 and saw Biggie murdered the following year at the age of 24. Having started out as friends in the music biz, Tupac and Biggie's beef was ignited after Tupac was shot and was convinced that Biggie was somehow involved. Their beef escalated into one of the most brutal beefs we've ever seen in the game and resulted in Faith Evans being used by Tupac to prove a point.

Closer to home, AKA and Cassper Nvoyest's beef enthralled the South African music industry and divided it in a way we've never witnessed locally before. From Cassper's scathing, while awfully delivered, 'Dust to Dust' to AKA's hailed 'Composure', two of South Africa's biggest stars pitted against each other made for a spectacular show. The feud made headlines and was endlessly debated by fans, but their war of words impacted everyone including their families. The feud shown a spotlight on AKA's personal life and Cassper's mention of both Bonang Matheba and DJ Zinhle in his diss track resulted in both women having their lives scrutinised. 

According to AKA, "To make the long story short, this is rap music and rap music is all about 'I do this better than you, I got this watch, I got this.' So when the art is based on being competitive, people are gonna clash, and egos are gonna come into contact."

Whilst rap beefs have become part and parcel of the genre, and an exciting facet that many fans revel in, it is fundamentally problematic that women have become weaponised. Women who form no part in rap beefs have been demeaned, disrespected and used as collateral to gain the upper hand and serve fatal blows to their opponents. DJ Zinhle, Carmen Bryan, Sophie Brussaux and countless more women deserve the respect and dignity to not be used as pawns in a game they've never chosen to participate in. The quality of a beef should be measured by lyrical prowess, strategic thinking and how smart a rapper can out manoeuvre their opponent, not the ability to throw shots at women who form no part in their fight. 

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