Before I get into the topic at hand I have to first caution you that I am in no way, shape, or form a music expert. I am just a fan of sounds who likes to watch too many documentaries on the history of music. So, feel free to disagree with anything I write because it’s the American way.
Okay, now I’m ready.
Is it just me, or is hip-hop the most competitive music genre of them all? I guess I should differentiate the titles “hip-hop” and “rap” before I continue because they always seem to get mixed up. Personally, I would define rap music as a sub-genre of hip-hop. Some people have said all hip-hop is rap, but not all rap is hip-hop. Hip-hop pioneer KRS-One once said, “Rap is something you do, but hip-hop is something you live.” So when I say “hip-hop” I am also referring to “rap”.
Since its conception hip-hop has always had its share of conflict. Most notable are the “beefs” or grudges between artists. I would call them emcees or rappers, but then I would have to define the differences between the two because there are definitely differences. This whole post can get off topic fast, so bear with me here.
Hip-hop artists have always tried to battle each other for the either the top spot on the charts or the top spot in the streets. You never see artists in other music genres act as hostile towards each other as hip-hop artists. Have you ever heard of diss record from The Beatles to the Rolling Stones? No. Other than the diss song that the Dixie Chicks recorded about country crooner Toby Keith I would say that most artists of other genres tend to support each other or at least tolerate each other at award shows. I will also admit that there have been rivalries in rock music between band members, but at least they keep it in the “family” and none of their grudges have ended in death.
Nowadays hip-hop beefs are encouraged more than ever with lists like MTV’s “Hottest MCs in the Game” pitting artists against each other by ranking the top ten rappers (in their opinion) of the year.
There are various reasons that hip-hop as a musical genre is the most competitive. These reasons include the egos of the artists, a desire for the artists to showoff their lyrical prowess, a deep dislike of other artists, and a need to separate themselves from others in the genre. For many young people music is the only way they think they can make it in the world. Who would blame them for thinking this when famous artists like T-Pain walk around wearing a dumb $400,000 “Big Ass Chain” . By starting beefs emerging artists are able to create a name for themselves in the industry. Starting random beefs with other artists is actually how 50 Cent got his start.
The question now is whether or not competition is healthy for the hip-hop community. A positive aspect of competition is that it forces the artist to try to better themselves lyrically in order to become more notable. However, competitiveness often takes a turn for the worse in hip-hop when it goes from the recording studio to the streets (or, the Source Awards). It would be more beneficial for hip-hop artists to support each other and work together in more ways than collaborating on a DJ Khaled record. I think that Russell Simmons had the right idea with The Hip-Hop Summit, but there is more that needs to be done. Artists need to learn that there are other ways to become successful in the music industry that do not include creating beefs with other people who are after the same goal. Starting beefs may seem like a easy way to the top, but it won’t help you stay at the top.
I’ll just end this here before I get lost in my own thoughts, but I would like to pose this question to you: Do you think competition in music is healthy for the hip-hop community?