I’ve decided it’s high time for me to start getting involved in some beefs. Because from what I understand, it’s hard to “blow up” in the rap game without amassing a portfolio of well-publicized beefs with already-established rappers. You might be surprised to learn that I’m actually an outsider to this world, but based upon my extensive research on the topic of beefs–viz. once watching a documentary aptly entitled, Beef–the best way to get publicity for your album, other than to do prison time or die right before it “drops,” is to place oneself squarely in the midst of a beef. Let’s face it, I’m not cut out for prison, one night in the drunk tank was enough for a lifetime as far as I’m concerned, and I think Mini and Mr. Right-Click would be pretty bummed if I told them I had to die just to become famous.
If my studies are correct, what you have to do to get into a beef is to diss a big rapper in your song or challenge them to a “battle,” a musical showdown that takes place preferably in front of a large audience and with the help of beat-boxing sidekicks. [Note to self: acquire beat-boxing sidekick–scout prospects at BlogHer?] But it’s not as easy as all that, of course–establishing a beef with a rapper who is more powerful than you are is a delicate business, because if you go at it too hard, then you might end up being the butt of everyone else’s jokes, like Ja Rule. And also, you have to make sure that the target you choose will actually take the bait–there’s nothing worse than trying to get a beef started with somebody who just ignores you. Then again, sometimes a beef will kind of sneak up on you, and a big rapper will take notice of something you said that you didn’t intend necessarily as a challenge or a beef. And sometimes, those are the ones that work out the best in the end.
And beefs can be even trickier for the ones who are already on top. Because even if you were able to establish yourself in part by taking part in beefs, once you’ve acquired a position of power, you are expected to behave differently. All of a sudden people have expectations from you. Whereas they might dismiss a newcomer’s beefing as posturing that’s part of becoming famous, once you are on top you are expected to rise above the fray and set an example for everyone else. All of a sudden, you have followers who will do things in support of you, and with that power comes responsibility. On the other hand, if you just fold and don’t respond at all, people may think that this is a display of weakness. So what can you do if you’re already a big rapper, and challenged with a beef? From what I can tell, your best bet is to just hope the beefer self-destructs. Which happens more often than not anyway.
Rap is not so much an emerging genre anymore, but it’s still new enough to have power struggles and confusions over the appropriate use and distribution of power. So that’s why I found this article about politics and power in the rap world so interesting. It seems like you always have to have a beef to get established in emerging genres that are dependent upon a social conversation of some kind. Which is not unlike blogging, if you think about it, or academia for that matter–the fact is that many different businesses or art forms rely, however directly or surreptitiously, on the establishment, maintenance, or reconciling of beefs to usher in new talent and reinforce the supremacy of the old guard. In that sense, perhaps we can take a page out of the history of rap to see what the future of blogging will be. I, for one, am depending on it not involving booty chicks and videos with yachts, but I’m willing to remain open to the new possibilities presented by social media, I guess.