Music

Today in Rap Beef: El-P and Vast Aire Joust Over MySpace (Yes, It’s Still August 2009)

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Consider Def Jux, the brash NYC label founded by EL-P at the onset of this decade and immediately conjuring up murky, enigmatic, gorgeously menacing hip-hop records like El’s own Fantastic Damage, RJD2’s Deadringer, and Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein. Following those up has proven difficult: RJ’s stuff got increasingly bizarre and he soon left the label, El-P took five years to craft a (pretty great) follow-up, and Cannibal Ox? Well, the duo of Vast Aire and Vordul hasn’t managed a Cold Vein sequel at all, and most likely won’t, or at least not on Def Jux, as evinced by the fact that Vast and EL-P are now sniping at each other on MySpace.

Vast Aire struck first on Friday with a long, oft-caps-locked treatise that, after briefly shouting out Def Jux rapper/producer Camu Tao (who died of lung cancer last year), complains about EL-P’s financial chicanery, lyrical censorship (“the last thing i needed was some emo white kid telling me how many ‘niggas’ i can have in my rap songs!”), production megalomania (“IF I DONT LIKE YOUR BEAT I DONT LIKE IT, YOU FUCKING EMO BITCH!”), etc. etc. There’s also stuff about incriminating emails, secret diss tracks, and a particularly fraught dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Lots to unpack there; go nuts.

El-P responded early Monday morning, also via MySpace, in a far more reflective and vague “you know who you are” fashion. Early representative line: “Lets say (as a metaphor, of course) someone was morbidly obese but thought he was a ninja.” Big closer:

now i’m sure the person i’m writing this all about will just respond in his usual manner after reading this. denial, anger, threats, capital letters, misused question marks and exclamation points and more accusations. but i’ve got a suggestion for a better way to proceed… just let it go. you’ve gotten your rocks off. you’ve said your peace. now make some music. stop lecturing the world and contribute while you still have time. none of this shit means anything. at all. go make the art you believe in and spend not one more second trying to take other people down or blaming people for the place you find yourself in life. spend time with and cherish the people you love while they are still alive so you dont find yourself feeling like you have to defend the validity of your commitment to them after they’re gone. be grateful for the things you have and wish no man harm. be happy or die trying. i know i will.

It’s all fascinating reading, initially kind of funny, eventually very much not. In terms of their friendship at least, I feel it’s better to remember them in happier times: say, during the recording of “Dr. Hellno and the Praying Mantis.”