Where’s the beef ? The sad state of hip-hop – by Cameron Heffernan

Cameron takes a look at the recent Nicki Minaj/YMCMB dibacle with New York’s Hot 97  and what has happened to the rap game and battle raps.

Long ago in the world of hip-hop, when someone called you out, whether it be on a track or a live insult you stood up for yourself and you let your fans know why you deserve respect for your craft.  Nicki Minaj has seemed to have forgotten this tenant of rap, as well as YMCMB (Young Money Cash Money Billionaires). Over the weekend at Hot 97’s Summer Jam it came from on high at YMCMB that Nick Minaj and other YMCMB acts were not allowed to perform at Summer Jam due to the fact that 97’s DJ Peter Rosenberg dissed Minaj’s popular track “Starships” and also insulted Minaj personally leaving YMCMB and Minaj feeling very disrespected.

Minaj had a phone interview on Hot 97, Monday, which leg to a heated discussion with popular show host Funkmaster Flex, not only a hip-hop legend but a man who understands branding, and let’s face it; everything in entertainment these days is based around “brands”. YMCMB’s brand is that of young hot-heads who heed no warning and live a life of lavish decadence, thus their asinine motto that they refer to in many tracks, “YOLO” (You Only Live Once). Drake, Lil Wayne and Minaj being their titular artists.

In 1981, hip-hop, still relegated to small time clubs like Harlem World in New York City, Busy Bee Starski stood on the stage during a party rap and threw down the gauntlet against hip-hop icon Kool Moe Dee. Dee came out and killed Busy Bee on the mic soon thereafter. This was the beginning of battle rap, what could be considered to some  a “sweet science” in hip/hop; not only the fact that you lay waste to “haters” but also prove in some delusional way that you are “numba one”. Hip-hop much like boxing and some say chess is a one man sport. Wu-Tang clan, Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and so-on-and-so-forth excluded.

KRS-One vs. Marley Marls, a battle of words on the foundations of hip-hop whether it was Queens or South Bronx, Biggie vs. 2pac, which turned into a more than just rap battles, drawing a line in the sand on East vs. West, Nas vs. Jay-Z, a gods honest best-at-what-they-do song-off that everyone knows Nas won no matter how much people like to stroke Jay-Z’s ego, and most recently Nicki Minaj vs. Lil’ Kim, which was basically a who is the queen bee of slut-tasticness, cause let’s face the facts Minaj and Kim aren’t going to be joining any congregations any time soon.

Back in the day and even most recently when you got put down on a track you fought back with piss and vigor, and by all means it seemed in the Lil’ Kim beef Nicki knew what she was doing, she kills Kim in the track ‘Dungeon Dragon’ off Minaj’s first commercial album Pink Friday, which personally is a damn good album, but we’ll get to where Minaj has gone wrong in the coming paragraphs. My question is, why in the hell didn’t Minaj and Drake and whomever else was scheduled to perform at Summer Jam get on that stage, tear apart DJ Peter Rosenberg and Hot 97 throw down their mics and send a proverbial F-U to both parties and let the rap world know YMCMB don’t take shit form anyone.

Why Lil Wayne supposedly told Nicki’s manager she isn’t performing and then like some tyrannical hip-hop mogel he also made it clear that no one on YMCMB is to perform at Summer Jam because he and Minaj felt disrespected, which in some ways appears they’ve forgotten their freestyle roots and can’t actually muster anything that could resemble a good comeback maybe the Brand has taken over. Minaj also goes on in her interview with Flex that she felt disrespected as a woman by the insults, sounds off some numbers about how many albums she’s sold worldwide and then her and Flex continue their shouting match.

One of the biggest arguments Rosenberg made was that Minaj was no longer hip-hop, that she had sold out, which selling out is no problem a person has to eat right. But this is a step above that, it’s the factor that Minaj still is trying to front like she’s a hip-hop artist, which in some ways she is, but as anyone who’s listened to Roman Reloaded, her second commercial album, it’s the furthest thing from hip-hop to be called hip-hop in a long time, it’s No.1 single ‘Starships’, although she may rap in it is closer to German house music than it is hip-hop, let alone rap.

I unlike DJ Rosenberg don’t hate, I appreciate. I love YMCMB and their outlandish lyrics and don’t give a shit attitude. The factor that label was able to transform a Jewis/Canadian teenage-soap-opera star into one of the biggest hip-hop/rap acts today is absolutely amazing. But that is no excuse for such an adolescent baby move. (YM does stand for Young Money so that says about as much as it can say on where most the artists’ maturity level is at.)

YMCMB should’ve gotten on that stage, pure and simple. If someone disrespects you; you fire back. That was the rule, and if you backed down you didn’t deserve respect. It seems these rules have passed, along with the purity of actual hip-hop and now the only thing you have to do to feel a sense of grandeur is record sales. Even if sometimes it’s just pandering to a bunch of morons as opposed to crafting true art that appeals to the more enlightened.

Cameron Heffernan is a writer and co-editor-in-chief at Hefferbre.wordpress.com/Hefferbrew.tumblr.com. He actually loves Nicki Minaj and that ridiculous Starships song.  

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