The Jay-Z/Nas beef will probably go down in history as the last-ever great rap battle: two titans near the top of their games, distilling all the problems they had with each other into two immortally scathing records and then just letting the shit whither and die. That sort of thing used to happen all the time, but we’ll probably never see its like again. The Game/50 Cent beef has been a lot of fun, but it’s a long way from great, and it’s been going on so long that it’s hard to summon even a cursory interest in the proceedings anymore. More often, we’re seeing little territorial squabbles, no-name types using Smack DVDs to air each other out and talking to the miniscule little slice of the public that could be bothered to give a fuck who these guys even are. Today’s higher-profile battles usually involve one actual star who barely comments on the situation and one no-name has-been or up-and-comer hoping to make or restore his name by launching an all-out campaign against his more famous rival; this stuff rarely if ever makes for good songs. The best thing we can really hope for these days is an equivalent of the LL Cool J/Canibus beef from 1998, the one where a respected veteran and a young mixtape turk hated each other so hard you could see the blood in their eyes, where they dragged the best out of each other when they went for each other’s throats. That was pretty great, but it had no real impact; people stopped caring about both of them when Canibus released his laughably scattershot album and LL got back on the long road to where he is now, where he can’t be bothered to do anything other than oiled-up loverman fluff. So nobody really won that one, but the fight at least gave us something. None of the beefs currently percolating on mixtapes are really worth a column by themselves, but it’s not like there’s a whole lot else going on today, so I thought I’d take a look at all of them.
Game vs. Ras Kass
The internet’s been abuzz with this one for the past week, which just goes to show how there hasn’t been a whole lot worth talking about lately. Anyway, this is the rare rap beef that started with an actual physical confrontation. Game and Ras were both at some club, and Game took exception to a subliminal dis from a two-year-old Ras mixtape track, and they ended up getting into a fight, though it’s not entirely certain what happened. If you believe Ras, he turned his back and then Game hit him in the head with a bottle; Ras didn’t go down, but then like thirty of Game’s friends jumped on him. If you believe Game, Game punched Ras in the jaw once and knocked him out. The truth is probably somewhere between those two stories, but this was apparently one of those rare rap events where half of the crowd wasn’t videotaping the whole damn thing. Either way, Ras basically got his ass beat, not especially surprising considering that Game’s about a foot taller than Ras. Still, I’m more inclined to believe Ras, since it’s pretty hard to knock anyone out with one punch and since Game appears to be going through some weird denial-based Napoleonic thing where he feels like the entire world is against him and he can’t do anything wrong. Game also says he’s done with this and he’s not going to be making any dis records, but we’ve heard that one before. Considering that both of these guys can rap, this one might actually lead to some worthwhile music. It’s easy to see why Ras might’ve been mad at Game; he’s a universally respected West Coast legend who’s never managed to sell many records and who’s constantly been involved in record-label and court drama, and along comes this kid who can barely string together a sentence but who gets a huge promotional push and ends up selling millions. And it’s easy to see how Game might feel defensive about his position, especially considering that he’s only blossomed into a credible rapper recently. But so far, this hasn’t had any really good results. Ras has released the first volley, “Hush Little Baby,” but it’s oddly unfocused; he sounds heated but can’t come up with any real knockout blows. There’s plenty to make fun of about Game: Change of Heart, the stripper rumors, his own label problems. But Ras mostly just calls him gay; he mentions a “khaki thong” twice, which sounds uncomfortable. Weirdly, the only person to really come out hard against Game thus far has been Yukmouth, and that feud didn’t lead to much either.
Lil Wayne vs. Gillie da Kid
This one’s been going on for a while now, but it’s all been from Gillie’s end. Gillie is a Philly rapper and a former member of the Major Figgas. He says that he can throw a party in Philly and have a couple of thousand people show up, which I guess makes him the black Diplo. He was signed to Cash Money for a while, and he apparently left after getting fucked out of money and not having his records released. It’s easy to sympathize with him there; based on the testimonies of Juvenile and B.G. and Mannie Fresh and everyone else who’s ever left Cash Money, Baby and Slim seem like the worst bosses in the world, and they’re constantly ripping off their talent, which is probably why Lil Wayne is the only actual rapper left on the label. A couple of months ago, he made the claim that he ghostwrote some of the lyrics on Wayne’s Tha Carter album, and he hasn’t shut up about it since. Now, Tha Carter came out when Wayne was still in the process of maturing into the fire-spitting monster he is now, but it was only a step on the road. Even if Gillie’s claims are true, they don’t mean Wayne isn’t a great rapper; nobody’s claiming to have written any of Wayne’s lines from Tha Carter II or the Dedication 2 mixtape, and both of those are better than Tha Carter. I haven’t really been checking for Gillie’s dis tracks, but Noz posted “Frontin’ Like Ya Daddy” earlier in the week, and it’s not bad. He uses the beat from the pretty good new Wayne/Baby single “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy,” and he gets in a couple of nice little punchlines: “You not a gangsta, you more like Weezy Smurf / You cried over Nivea, I hit you where it hurt.” Wayne hasn’t really responded to Gillie’s allegations or his dis tracks, which is smart; he doesn’t really have anything to gain from attacking someone nowhere near his level. This is probably one of those situations like the Jay-Z/Cam’ron beef where Wayne can win by completely sitting it out.
Loon vs. Jim Jones
Loon has had a funny career. He was a member of Mase’s pathetically short-lived Harlem World crew, whose career improbably launched the production careers of both Just Blaze and Kanye West. He was on Bad Boy for a while, mostly supplying smooth loverman guest-verses on 3LW singles and shit like that. But he always gave hilariously overstated interviews about how he was a legend in the streets and the entire rap world was afraid of him, which is sort of like if James Blunt started bragging about all the people he killed when he was in the army. He was beefing with Mase for a little while recently, and now he’s released “Why Would You Try Me?,” attacking the worst rapper in the Diplomats. It’s not a revolutionary track or anything; he’s mostly just talking about how Jimmy has no street credibility and he’ll get beat up the next time Loon sees him. But it sounds good, Loon slurring melodically over a brooding orchestral beat. Even when this guy’s threatening to attack people, his stuff sounds pretty. If Jimmy has responded, I don’t know anything about it, but it’s not like I spend my day following Jim Jones’ career.
50 Cent vs. Diddy
They’ve already squashed this thing in the lamest way imaginable long before it had a chance to develop into anything remotely interesting. Guh.