OPINION: Let The Rapper Wars Begin

by Reginald Duvivier

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Kendrick Lamar sent out a missive that echoed across the hip-hop world that even mainstream press covered it; the closest we’ve come to such a widespread call to arms was when 50 Cent picked a fight with every rapper out there with his “How To Rob” single that helped launched his career. Usually these things happen during album release cycles when rappers use WWF style tactics to promote things but considering Lamar has already had a pretty great 2013 this latest attempt at hip-hop rabble rousing seems to be genuine.

In 2013 as un-politically correct as rapper lyrics are somehow they’ve learned to channel perfectly tuned public relation responses when talking about their fellow rappers. For instance a few weeks ago you figure Pusha T would have some words about his long running feud with Drake, either positive or negative, after his label head/boss/guy who signs the checks Kanye West showed up for his OVO festival and heaped more praise on him then he ever gave Pusha T. Instead we got this:

“That should be good for them. I mean, you know, Ye seemed happy. Drake, he spoke well about it. I mean, it’s all good. Hopefully, it’s good for music. Maybe they’ll do some great music together.” – Not So Pushy T

Which would be an appropriate answer if he was talking about kid’s play-dates, not his boss seemingly breaking camp and making amends with his enemy.

There’s a reason why some of hip-hop’s classics tend to be battle rap songs, it’s because rappers are their best when they are competing. Like retired athletes in real life, the rapper slide is pretty apparent when there’s no reason or motivation for them to rap. Look at the slow rise of Lil Wayne who went from underestimated rapper during a time where Southern MC’s didn’t get respect to clawing his way to proving his “Best Rapper Alive” boasts’. Look how steep the drop was when he had nothing to prove which had him playing guitar and skateboarding badly when he entered his midlife rapper crisis.

Nasir Jones would still be putting out middling crossover R&B tracks like “Oochie Wally” or “Braveheart Party” if it wasn’t for Jay-Z trying to destroy his career with his battle rap the “Takeover”. As far as Jay-Z is concerned one can argue that the “One good album, one bad album” streak that has plagued his career is due to him getting lazy after a hit album and being forced in a corner to regain his cred. 50 Cent has been putting the best music of his career on the mixtape circuit, reshaping himself befuddingly as a multimillionaire underdog, even if nobody cares.

Kendrick’s announcement throwaway line that he’s King of New York became a focal point because in the rap world nobody has bothered to even claim the throne. Everyone is happy getting paid, being popular, and barely claim themselves to be rappers as opposed to hustlers, businessmen, etc. You will always have rappers in it for the art but outside of a few outliers the schism between the mainstream rap world and the underground has been too wide for too long. It’s not about lyrics, beats or who’s even more hip-hop, it’s about reclaiming the edge that hip-hop had but lost when it became the premier pop music genre in the ‘00’s. Lil B gave up trying to make words actually rhyme, a hip-hop prerequisite, but there’s something genuine happening there as opposed to just trying to get enough mixtape hype to start slinging a special line of t-shirts. It would be a nice change to hear MC’s who actually like to rap, even badly, as opposed to brag about how they incidentally started rhyming words together when they were bored in between major cocaine deals or drive by’s.

So according to twitter legions of rappers are faux outraged and ready to battle. Which is great since a lot of these dudes have squandered so much potential on the major label level that for the past decade underground mixtapes have been the preferred method of distributing quality hip-hop. Will this change anytime soon? No, and it probably never will due to how draconian sampling laws have become. But one thing I know for sure, for at least a little bit it looks like rappers are having fun rapping again.