Hip Hop Blood Sport
The history of hip hop is replete with controversy. Fueled by money, fierce rivalries have been waged publicly by some of the most successful musical artists in the last 25 years. Unlike other music genres hip hop feuds have resulted in the death of artists marking it a blood sport of sorts.
The origins of hip hop rivalry in general can be found in the nature of rappers themselves as they tend to do the utmost to best each other. Rappers are like boxers in their persistence to replace the top guy. Early in the 90’s Puffy Combs created Bad Boy records which met with great success as it became the darling of the hip hop industry. Based on the east coast, Bad Boy featured local artists bringing them national exposure.
Meanwhile a movement was happening on the west coast. Rappers like N.W.A and Ice Cube innovated a new hardcore style of music deemed “gangsta rap.” The release of the “The Chronic” by Dr. Dre established west coast music squarely on the hip hop scene. Artist like Snoop Dog and Warren G, hip hop urban bracelets gleaming and urban hip hop chains hanging arrived hungry for the spotlight. These two commercial forces eventually collided with rappers hurling insults and threats at one another on record after record. Rappers like Mobb Deep, Jay-Z and Nas all participated. The tension culminated as two titans of hip hop, Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, went to war in what would come to be the most notorious of hip hop rivalries.
Biggie was Bad Boy's most successful rapper. Highly talented Biggie commanded respect in the hip hop industry for his rhyming skills. His counterpart on the west coast, Tupac was respected as well for his aggressive yet poetic rhymes reflecting on the harsh realities of life. After joining forces with the infamous Death Row record executive Suge Knight, Tupac began attacking Puffy Combs and Biggie labeling them soft. What ensued was a tit for tat series of verbal insults and accusations that ended with the death of both Tupac and Biggie within a six month span. This rivalry created so much interest that both Death Row records and Bad Boy records benefited greatly through increased record sales. The lesson was hip hop controversy sells. Cottage industries selling urban jewelry flourished. Since then there have been numerous attempts by artist to replicate the Tupac vs. Biggie scenario.
Hip Hop Rivalries
50 Cent, one of top guys in the rap game today, has been involved in a few rivalries as well. He was in a beef with west coast rapper The Game over charges of disrespect. In the midst of this battle a shootout occurred between the respective factions. It was ended in a public meeting where bother rappers stood together shaking hands. As a result they garnered worldwide publicity which translated into successful album sales for both artists.
50 cent also instigated a beef with another great artist of our recent generation, Kanye West. He boldly stated that he would outsell West or retire from rap. Much attention was attracted and both albums were hits. There have been recent rivalries involving some of the top hip hop artist including Jay-Z, Nas and LL Cool J.
Rivalry creates drama and controversy which translates to sales. Artists today have continued to manipulate the media by creating drama with other artists but have learned when to pull back without drawing blood. The commercial success of these controversial rappers proves definitively that these tactics are a winning formula which means for the consuming public a continuation of rap rivalries on demand.