Why beef is unique to hip hop… or is it?

A look at music beef beyond hip-hop

The prevalence of feuds in the rap world has existed since its beginning and shows no sign of slowing down as 2018 nears its end.

The past year has reminded us why it is so hard to take our eyes off of hip hop and why rap has overtaken rock as the most popular music genre. The spontaneous album releases, the frequent guest features and no shortage of new music keeps fans on their toes at all times. Lest we forget, the rivalries.

Drake and Pusha T’s back-and-forth diss tracks about deadbeat dads and poking fun at the diseased had listeners debating whether there was such a thing as lines not to be crossed in rap battles. Cardi B and Nicki Minaj’s physical altercation at New York Fashion Week reignited the beef between the queens of rap that began last year and is likely to continue into the new year. 6ix9ine and Trippie Redd got personal over popularity and women via Instagram Live. Eminem and Machine Gun Kelly traded lyrical disses after Em rekindled the flame with a subliminal shot towards MGK on his surprise album, Kamikaze. 50 Cent has used Instagram as his platform to poke fun at… well, just about everyone.

This is not to say that rivalries do not exist in other genres. Kurt Cobain hated Pearl Jam, his grunge rival. It was virtually forbidden to be both a Beatles fan and a Rolling Stones fan. Lynyrd Skynyrd called out Neil Young by name on “Sweet Home Alabama,” and Taylor Swift probably still hates Kanye West.

Yet why do rivalries seem to be so much more prevalent in rap than any other genre?

One reason may be that the majority of rap music is predominantly driven by hypermasculine rappers with something to prove. As everyone strives to be called the greatest, any threat to them is a threat to their manhood. Violence and ego are often the genre’s primary subject matter, and verbal attacks are commonly the weapon of choice. As such, diss tracks have become a public outlet to be used as a battlefield.

Additionally, the popularity of many rappers today can be attributed to their rise to prominence on social media. With thousands or millions of followers keeping tabs on them, one call-out or comment about another artist can be blown out of proportion and easily turned into something more. Rappers can also use social platforms to directly fuel controversies that build on their personas. Social media apps and streaming sites have been responsible for many SoundCloud rappers-turned-more whose personalities are widely broadcast for everyone to see.

Rappers also tend to be solo artists. This means any fight they find themselves in within the industry is with other artists, making it more likely to be heard of in the media. The type of fights rock bands have tend to be internal, while rap beefs end up on Instagram. Disputes among band members are the reason why the Beatles broke up and why Liam and Noel Gallagher won’t be having an Oasis reunion any time soon.

Rap battles and diss tracks will be around as long as the genre exists. As long as it remains verbal, beef is perhaps what makes the genre so enticing because it forces artists to flex their hardest and outdo their opponent. After all, there’s only room for one winner.

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