As no doubt many of you are aware, there’s been a developing scuffle between rappers Drake and Kid Cudi in recent weeks.
To briefly recap, Cudi fired shots at Drake and Kanye West via Twitter in September, accusing them of using ghost writers and extending fake friendship toward him. A few weeks later, Cudi announced he’d been struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, and would be entering rehab.
Whereas Kanye mostly extended an olive branch to Cudi, calling him the “most influential artist of the past 10 years,” Drake responded by way of a diss track. In “Two Birds, One Stone,” the Toronto rapper sniped, “You were the man on the moon/ Now you just go through your phases/ Life of the angry and famous.”
Fans were swift to condemn Drake’s dis against Cudi while the latter is undergoing struggles with mental health. “Drake dodges lyrical rappers but disses a depressed suicidal Kid Cudi that’s in rehab, Drake is a clown,” read one tweet.
Kid Cudi himself hit back via tweet last week, declaring, “Say it to [my] face, pussy. You think it’s a game. I wanna see you say it to my face. I’ll be out soon. Promise.”
It remains to be seen what new developments will take place in the Cudi-Drake feud. Will Cudi release a dis track of his own (probably), or will this battle rage for the most part over exchanges of 140 characters? (Unlikely.) Will either rapper sue for peace before we see violence on the twitter and soundcloud streets?
Hip-hop as a musical genre has thrived amid altercations between rappers. The act of spitting a verse lends itself to rappers flexing their lyrical muscles and throwing insults at each other via ever-escalating displays of virtuosity. Fans and listeners are often left to determine the winner of a given beef, with plenty of room for disagreement.
While we await the impending thunder of beef between Drake and Kid Cudi, it would behoove the cultured listener to go on a quick trip through memory lane and visit some of hip-hop’s most relevant feuds.
Enter the time capsule. To borrow a few words from the Midnight Marauders tour guide, “we hope that you will find our presentation precise, bass heavy, and just right.”
The year is 1985. Hip-hop is a burgeoning musical movement for the most part still confined to New York City. Queens-based Marley Marl and MC Shan drop a track called “The Bridge,” in which MC Shan raps, “You love to hear the story, again and again / Of how it all got started way back when / The monument is right in your face/ Sit and listen for a while to the name of the place / The Bridge / Queensbridge.”
In the South Bronx, KRS-One takes offense to this proclamation. He ascends the stage to perform at a party where MC Shan had just performed “The Bridge” and spits the following bars from his song, “South Bronx:” “Party people in the place to be, KRS-One attacks / Ya got dropped off MCA cause the rhymes you wrote was wack / So you think that hip-hop had its start out in Queensbridge / If you popped that junk up in the Bronx you might not live.”
Into the late ‘80s, Marley Marl and MC Shan’s Juice Crew would continue to trade blows with KRS-One’s Boogie Down Productions. While it remains hard to point to a single winner, the prolonged beef would prove a formative influence for a host of young MCs.
Jump to 1988. Long Island-based duo Eric B. & Rakim have put out a towering debut record of enormous influence, Paid In Full. Powered by Eric B.’s innovation of jazz and soul samples on beats and Rakim’s masterful, highly intricate rhymes, the record proves a critical, if not a commercial success. On “Eric B. Is President,” Rakim raps, “But still say a rhyme after the next one / Prepared, never scared, I’ll just bless one / And you know that I’m the soloist.”
Big Daddy Kane likewise establishes himself as a verbal powerhouse with his debut album, Long Live the Kane. On his track, “Set it Off,” Kane declares, “Feel my blood fist, or my death kiss / The rap soloist, you don’t want none of this / Supreme in this era, I reign with terror.”
It was the greatest rap beef that never was. While Rakim was preparing a vicious assault track with a few bars directed at Kane, “Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em,” he purportedly received a call from Kane. The Long Island MC later recounted how, “They called me up like, ‘Nah, Ra, don’t let people gas it up and say I was talking about you,’ he continued. So it was a couple of bars in ‘Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em’ that I took out because I spoke to Kane. … But big up to Kane, he always kept me on my toes, and I hope vice versa.”
The greatest rap beef period, in my opinion, comes down to Jay-Z vs. Nas.
Nas’ debut album was immediately recognized as a masterpiece upon release in 1994. Thanks to superb rhyme displays and gripping imagery and narrative, Nas was touted as the “second coming of Rakim,” and enjoyed a reputation only Biggie could surpass on the east coast in the mid-‘90s.
But by the turn of the 21st century, Nas’ career was in a slump after a series of poorly-received albums. Jay-Z released his landmark album The Blueprint in 2001. On “Takeover,” Jay fired, “Went from, Nasty Nas to Esco’s trash / Had a spark when you started but now you’re just garbage,” and “That’s one every let’s say two, two of them shits was due / One was, no! The other was ‘Illmatic’/ That’s a one hot album every ten year average.”
Nas fired back with what is widely recognized as one of the greatest dis tracks of all time, “Ether.” The track opens with “Fuck Jay-Z!” and closes with, “So little shorty’s getting gunned up and clapped quick / How much of Biggie’s rhymes is goin’ come out your fat lips? / Wanted to be on every last one of my classics / You pop shit, apologize, nigga, just ask Kiss.”
The Nas vs. Jay-Z feud was finally laid to rest in 2005 when the two rappers joined forces onstage at a benefit concert in New York. It was a clash of titans that raged for years, and opinion is still split as to who exactly won.
There’s so much more material to unpack in the time capsule, but ironically enough, not enough time to survey it all. Let this journey serve as a primer on the prominence of beef in hip-hop, and a measuring stick against which we might measure the verbal artillery to be exchanged between Drizzy and Cudi.
Regardless of who wins that beef or any other, bear in mind that as my man Nas so presciently declared in 1994, “The World Is Yours.” That’s what the music itself should be about, if you ask me.
Featured photo credit: Feature photo courtesy of Dana Beveridge on Flickr.
Horus Alas is a senior philosophy major and can be reached at email@example.com.
Leave a Reply