Throughout hip-hop’s 30 long year history there has been constant feuding between artists, driven by ego, territorial disputes and, of course, all dat money. The waging of these feuds has also been somewhat varied, varying from passive aggressive lyrical content, to outright murder, to very 21st century feuds on Twitter.
Perhaps the most infamous of rap feuds was caused by the infamous East/West coast divide, which overshadowed the 1990’s hip hop scene in the US. In September 1996, Tupac Shakur, a rising Hip Hop artist and proponent of the East/West coast divide was killed in a drive by shooting, not 6 months later in March of 1997, Biggie Smalls, a.k.a Notorious B.I.G, was shot and killed by an unknown assailant, both of the crimes remain unsolved. This was amongst the most famous of many tragic deaths of Hip Hop artists involved in the culture of Criminality portrayed in their music, for some, like Dr. Dre (In Dre’s case his authenticity) became the subject of a bitter feud (see the header video for more details). This urban environment filled with violence and rampant drug abuse was simply a pipe dream, but for some others like Old Dirty Bastard of The Wu Tang Clan, the lifestyle took the ultimate toll.
In todays sanitized world of mass media, fostered by the internets revolutionary effect on society over the past decade, the world of hip hop feuds is a much safer one, restricted by the digital cushion of the interwebs, in which artists can have well publicized meltdowns. Azelia Banks, queen of the 21st century rap feud utilises modern social media to provide her inflammatory, sometimes ill- informed opinions on issues of the day. Whilst the hip hop feuds of yesteryear would have been on-going for periods of months and years, with the dawn of the internet, a diss can be sent instantly over the human zoo of social media, no longer do artists wait months for a diss track to drop, a Twitter account is the hyperfast, amusical answer to lyrical beefs.
Through the technological transitional phase hip hop culture (and most elements of Western Culture) has been through in the previous decade, the nature, context and location of feuding within the hip hop world has expanded with the recognition of Hip Hop in the mainstream. It’s now so neutered, that it’s a wonder they were even relevant in the first place.
Words by Richard Lowe