Monday, July 09, 2007

Re: The Bridge is Over (10 Responses)

Slate says Youtube is killing the hiphop beef, and endangering the genre as a whole. While I like Hua Hsu's observation that beefing over Youtube is just plain lame, the analysis (such as it is) deserves some more careful attention. Hsu's arguing that, instead of putting creative energy and effort into dis tracks, like they used to, hiphop artists just release crappy videos with no thought given to care or quality. Well, the conclusion certainly rings true, but there are a few flaws here:

1) Dis tracks are, on average, not very good. They don't tend to be well-crafted, incisive commentaries on their target. The beef between Nas and Jay-Z produced two really good tracks, maybe not even that depending on your tolerance for homophobia and for sampling the Doors. The rest were pretty "LAAAaaaaaaaame," and that particular beef occurred between two fairly gifted lyricists. What do you expect from writers like 50 Cent or Cam'ron? The fact that Youtube beefs involve weak, self-centered, poorly-conceived video comebacks should surprise no-one who's bought a mixtape or listened to Hot 97.

2) Beef isn't at the heart of hiphop, and the end of highly-publicized beefs on record will have no effect on the quality or the future of the music. People seem to confuse beefs with battling -- a legitimately crucial element to hiphop. We can trot out Shan/KRS, LL Cool J/Everyone, Biggie/Pac, but the truth is that the best hiphop doesn't come from beefs. Entertaining songs, album hype, identity politics? Sure. But at the core, hiphop is about projecting yourself, not critiquing someone else (unless you're applying your worldview to them (cf The Coup or "Pussy Galore"). Ask someone to tell you about The Chronic, they aren't going to mention the Eazy-E disses, because those moments are the least interesting and most forgettable on the album. Did beefing with Wrecks 'n' Effect put A Tribe Called Quest at the top of their game? How about Eminem or Tupac? Dis tracks usually end up the least memorable parts of an MC's catalogue, even the good ones. Obviously there are exceptions, but treating hiphop beefs as anything more than manufactured hype betrays the real nature of the genre.

3) The examples in this article are terrible. Were we really expecting a masterpiece from Fiddy? Or Cam'ron? Or Puff Daddy? We're worried because these guys didn't put any effort into releasing a quality product? Mainstream hiphop tends towards cookie-cutter, homogenously dance-able crap that leaves absolutely no taste in your mouth. Youtube is not the problem here.

2 comments:

Not a Flaneur, I Just Walk A lot said...

and Shan/KRS wasn't particularly un-homophobic or unsexist - "MC Shan and Marley Marl rhymin' like they gay," "Roxanne Shante's only good for steady fucking, etc."

I'm wondering if the most "notable exception" to a dis track becoming a memorable part of a catalogue is "Pop Goes the Weasel," but that may be because mainstream media only paid attention to 3rd Bass because they were trashing Vanilla Ice and not because they put out a much better track featuring some kid named "Nasty Nas." And of course "Mama Said Knock You Out," but that was really after the whole beef was over and LL had lost.

I like how half the wikipedia beefs article is about 50 Cent.

Manuel said...

Yeah, I agree with Alek. Youtube isn't killing hip hop, hip hop is killing hip hop and 50 is trying to turn the whole thing into the WWE. 'Now it's backfired on him with the whole Kanye situation.

One of my favorite dis tracks is 2nd round knock out by Canibus.