Growing up on classic hip-hop, when I hear the word “diss”, naturally the first thing that comes to mind is either "Ether" by Nas, "2nd Round K.O." by Canibus, or the scene in "8 Mile" where Eminem slaughters Papa Doc, exposing him for who he really is. Basically, the word “diss” has always meant one emcee going at another emcee’s throat, doing whatever they can to prove that they’re the better rapper. So one morning last week, when“Jay Z disses Drake” clogged the rap interwebs, I assumed that Jay went off on some "Blueprint 2" type shit, and immediately looked for a link to the "We Made It (Remix)" everyone was talking about.
I wasn’t too surprised, however, when I listened to the song and realized that the hip-hop world totally blew a single line out of proportion. The only mention of Drake in the entire track is in a single line, where Jay Z states “Sorry Mrs. Drizzy for so much art talk, silly me rappin’ bout shit that I really bought”, referring to a comment Drake made in a Rolling Stone article in February. I wasn’t surprised that this was the case because it seems like in today’s hip hop world, the words “beef” and “diss” have lost the power they once had.
In the '90s, disses were tracks meant to end careers – and often did just that. Entire songs were written from one emcee to another, and everyone who heard the song knew who the rappers were talking about. Tupac came at Biggie in "Hit Em Up", dissing Big on everything from his crew to his girl. Canibus came at LL Cool J in 2nd "Round K.O.", going after LL Cool J’s rap career and TV show – LL responding with "The Ripper Strikes Back". This trend continued into the early 2000’s, with beefs like Eminem vs. Benzino, and G-Unit vs. Murder Inc. Recently, however, it seems like things have changed.
> In the past few years, the closest thing to a “diss” tends to be 4-8 bars that generally reference another rapper, and we’re lucky if there’s a name drop. The most recent “disses” that come to mind are Hopsin mentioning Tyler, The Creator on "Ill Mind Of Hopsin 4", Tyler mentioning Bruno Mars/B.o.B. on "Yonkers", and Drake subliminally firing shots at Common on "Stay Schemin’". Each of these disses last no more than 30 seconds, and left me feeling like rappers today don’t have the competitiveness that was clearly prevalent in the past. Instead of going at other emcees to prove they’re the best, rappers have gotten used to using disses as a way to make headlines and keep their careers buzzing.
The hip-hop community as a whole has also gotten a bit too used to subliminal disses, which is part of the reason “Control” was such a big deal. Kendrick merely namedropped a handful of his peers while saying that he wanted to be the best, and it ignited the entire hip-hop community. For a week, almost every tweet on my timeline had something to do with Kendrick, every blog I follow wouldn’t stop posting "Control" responses, and countless emcees, called out or not, felt obliged to respond with a verse of their own.
Whether or not this trend will continue is unclear, but one thing’s for sure – disses in hip-hop have definitely changed. Emcees have gotten lazier, and the days of rappers going at each other’s throats seem to be in the past. I hope that this Drake vs. Jay Z “beef” can grow into something more and inspire future emcees, because when beef sparks competitiveness in hip-hop, it can make some of the best music and be one of the most entertaining parts of the artform.