The Cost/Benefit of Hip-Hop Beef and Battles

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by Alexander Cain

Beef is part of hip-hop. Whether it’s the lyrical battles between rap superstars or the more theatrical arguments done through the airwaves, rappers are always trying to top one another. While each dispute between artists can start from different reasons, the impact of beef can be seen almost immediately. The enhanced publicity and buzz among fans are some of the positive outcomes for artists who engage in starting disputes. There can also be negative consequences for artists who unsuccessfully handle beef and lose their reputation very quickly. Each situation presents different outcomes for artists, but creating beef still offers the right opportunities for artists trying to make a name for themselves.

Rappers can create beef in an effort to establish themselves. The best example of a hip-hop artist using beef to propel himself is 50 Cent, who  reached the peaks of his popularity during his rift with then-popular rapper Ja Rule. By attacking one of rap’s most popular rappers, 50 Cent soon gained notoriety for his gangster mentality and battle lyrics.

His album Get Rich or Die Trying achieved multi-platinum status. 50 Cent continued to use this formula of creating beef to create buzz and album sales with top artists such as Kanye West when they both released albums on the same day. While 50 Cent wasn’t able to attain the same record numbers as he did with previous albums, by creating a dispute with Kanye he was able to remain the topic of conversation and still remain relevant in the rap game.

Beef between artists can also have a negative effect, especially within rap groups. As recently seen in the BET awards, the Diplomats, a very popular rap group throughout the early 2000s, were seen reuniting for the first time in nearly four years. Due to ‘creative differences’, prominent members Cam’ron and Juelz Santana refused to work together, disrupting the Diplomats rise to prominence.

While Jim Jones and Juelz Santana were able to experience relative success in their solo careers, they still weren’t able to reach the popularity achieved by the Diplomats. When the collective announced their reunion in June 2010 and later performed at the BET awards, it was clear that their fans had moved on and the buzz that the group once commanded had faded away.

Social media has also made disagreements between rappers and those affiliated with the hip-hop community easier than ever to garner the attention of fans. Twitter stands as the main source of beef today, with artists often expressing themselves not through their lyrics but through their daily tweets to fans.  Soulja Boy is the pioneer of Twitter beefs with his first argument against rap godfather Ice-T. He continues to get buzz with his recent Twitter rants against celebrity groupie Kat Stacks. Soulja Boy’s tweets became one of the top trends with Twitter and remained the topic of conversation without producing a new track. The use of Twitter provides artists with a convenient way of expressing their opinions about fellow rappers to millions of fans and can even have a greater impact than lyrical battles.

While beef remains an integral part of the hip-hop culture, the battlegrounds are different: more artists are straying away from using verses to display their superiority, but rather are using social media outlets such as Twitter to announce their dominance to the world. Gone are the days of great lyrical battles such as Jay-Z and Nas, but are replaced with Twitter arguments of Soulja Boy and Ice-T or Omarion and Raz-B from B2K. Beef in the hip-hop community can be best described as a two-edged sword, providing success for many artists looking to gain a name for themselves (a la 50 Cent) or ruining the progress for those involved (like the Diplomats).

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