I get it. A reputation is invaluable in the game that demands a throne. And lives were once actually on the line. But rap beef doesn’t age as well as the bovine sort and their impact on the ecology of the respective systems served is too severe to understate. At 29 years young, I’ve seen some good bouts, mostly revolving around the increasingly poor decisions of 50 Cent throughout the bell of his career. But pre-internet heads were much kinder to the Queens MC than the Twittersphere would have been presented with the same sequence 10 years down the line. The only current presence in hip-hop with as many tiffs as Fitty under their belt is yet another puffy-in-all-the-right-places NYC titan with overinflated stock.
HEAR: Remy Ma Offers A Seven-Minute Diss Session On “ShETHER”
Like the Queens rapper, Nicki Minaj, has feuded with just about every breathing body in pop culture. There have been well-justified, forever commendable takedowns and set-straights (Iggy Azalea, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, The VMAs) while others only found the rapper bowing to either generational supremacy or the weight of her own words. But so much of what makes beef beef is a response. And with her latest run in the ring, against the Bronx’s own Remy Ma, Minaj appeared to be taking the high road despite the hit to her regional and cultural clout. Withholding from firing back at the “Shether” dismemberment, a diss track that basically just runs down the list of men Nicki’s allegedly slept with (a pretty thin stand by conventional forms of rap beef metrics) Nicki had the opportunity to put rap beef to rest for good. Not just in her case, but for the game. Then she conceded to convention and tacked on her own flimsy clap-back to a 2 Chainz song that has already been forgotten, plus one more off his upcoming Pretty Girls Like Trap Music. Though the full verse has yet to surface, like the former and all previous return volleys, Minaj relies entirely on numbers to hold what’s remaining of her ground in hip-hop circles. And the math is just boring at this point, especially when who outsold who was never on the table for discussion.
“I’ve been winning eight years consistently, at least respect it/Papoose wrote that ‘Ether’ record, but I broke Aretha record / See this is chess, not checkers / You cannot check the checkers / Did Nas clear that ‘Ether’ record? / Nah, but I will complete the record.”
Over the weekend at Hot 97’s annual Summer Jam (yet another institution on Minaj’s hit-list) Remy shot first, again, and did so by brigade. Bringing out Cardi B, Lil Kim, Queen Latifah, Young MA, MC Lyte, Remy basically brought out every queen of every generation of NYC hip-hop before declaring once more, “to be the queen of rap, you gotta actually rap,” in an unhinged “Shether” cap that echoed the meme-filled treatment Drake gave Nicki’s ex during their own lopsided 2015 affair. And if that’s how rap beef victories are decided these days, Bronx came for the kill and took the W. There was no question as to who remained standing after that star-studded OVO Festival (Kanye, Pharrell and Future all graced the stage,) and we shouldn’t be wondering who’s hand Michael Buffer’s holding up at the end of this one.
HEAR: Nicki Minaj Drops Three New Songs + Responds To Remy Ma On “No Frauds”
But again, what exactly have we accomplished here? Nicki’s not going anywhere. Too many hits to discount no matter her dwindling commercial viability (even with the L,) and Remy Ma may be “doing it for the culture,” but who’s really listening outside of NYC? Sure, the “All The Way Up” remix has been getting its share of burn, but if that’s not the most regionally-sourced rap record of the year, I don’t know what is. After all, New York hasn’t been anything reminiscent of a definitive king or queenship since the days of Rakim and the crowning of “royalty” is far too frequent an occurrence for there to be any real weight to the title. In the case of Ra, no ruler has been so unanimously heralded as something more than human in the city that birthed the battle-ready culture. To this day he remains one of hip-hop’s most deified. But what made the heavyweight the undisputed champ of at least a generation is that his barbs never left the subliminal realm. They weren’t scrapping for a PR bump. Ascension was on the line.
Even when a purported rift between Ra and Big Daddy Kane flooded late-eighties rumor mills as “the greatest beef that never was,” our only real trail was a pair of seemingly contentious verses on “Set It Off” and “Microphone Fiend.” No war of the thumbs or whatever the era’s equivalent might have been. No public embarrassment of any sort because, again, a reputation, particularly in those adolescent years, was integral to the come-up and both men knew warring factions did nothing but tear at the seems of a fresh cloth. If anything, Remy merely added her name to a mile-long list of New York emcees grabbing at an imaginary crown, proving yet again that hip-hop isn’t run by any one man, woman or geography, but by council. A sprawled out cut-throat committee comprising the world’s most prideful and beautifully diverse creatives. No retaliation necessary.
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