Since Hip-Hop's earliest days, rap beef has been an unavoidable component of the craft. Built on a foundation of creativity, braggadocio and competitiveness, rap is arguably the most masculine genre, empowered by aggression and testosterone filled lyrics. While rap beef may have been one of the most sought after attributes of Hip-Hop in previous decades, times have changed. Nowadays, rap beef is primarily avoided due to changes in the dynamic of Hip-Hop. But what makes beef less enticing for artists and fans? There are a number of factors that have influence, but one of the strongest has to be the lack of demand.
Despite a number of serious beefs that occurred during the Golden Era of Hip-Hop, rap beef reached its peak in the mid 2000's. Everywhere you looked, there were artists taking issue with one another. From Jay-Z and Nas, to T.I. and Lil Flip, to The Game and 50 Cent, the 2000's marked a time when seemingly every rapper had an issue with another, for whatever reason. But, this trend wouldn't last; as a majority of beefs culminated with an increasing number of diss songs and a decreasing amount of physical altercations, fans began to lose interest. People were beginning to catch on to the fact that artists were using rap beef as a method of promoting their album rather than speaking on any real issues the artist may have had with another. Aside from that, it wasn't a very good look for the culture, especially in the midst of a time when the media harshly criticized rap music for promoting violence among younger generations. What did it say about the art form when all of its constituents were choosing to bring one another down rather than express some positivity? This was all the proof that both older rap fans and the general public needed to show that the craft had long since lost its artistic value, having instead turned into the war music of barbaric, violent savages. With everybody beefing, there was no room for the artistic origins of rap to be seen.
In recent years, the media, record labels and artists themselves began to shun rap beef rather than promote it, as people were beginning to realize the extremely negative repercussions of continued animosity. The deaths of Tupac and The Notorious BIG had served as an early benchmark of the extremes that rap beef could go to. Although things had cooled down between the East and West Coasts shortly after the tragedies, violence was again becoming a prevalent side-effect of prolonged beefs, whether it was 50 Cent’s stabbing on behalf of Ja Rule, or Gucci Mane’s killing of Young Jeezy associate, Pookie Loc in self-defense. As things began escalating in Hip-Hop once again, mediators like Pimp C and Minister Farrakhan began to step in to defuse tensions. Talking issues out was becoming more of a trend in the 2000’s, rather than senseless killings. Nowadays, very few Hip-Hop beefs result in violence, instead remaining to the confines of social media. Mainstream media doesn't promote violence in beefs as much either, rather choosing to report on developments and act as a news source on the issue. In the last year alone we’ve seen a number of Internet beefs, the most infamous being Drake and Meek Mill’s” ghostwriting” dispute. Although both sides have had some extremely harsh words for one another (Drake even going so far as displaying memes at OVO Fest), there haven’t been any serious allusions to an actual physical confrontation. Social media has allowed issues to become far less confrontational, creating a vacuum in which anyone can say anything from the safety of a computer, not necessarily having to immediately face the consequences of their words. Artist’s don’t necessarily have to be “gangster” to humiliate someone anymore, with beefs becoming more conversational than physical. Nobody wants to risk life and limb over a song anymore.
The last--and possibly most logical--reason that rappers no longer get involved in beefs with one another is the fact that they have much higher earning potential working together rather than fighting. The current state of Hip-Hop calls for a lot of collaboration and regional cross-pollination to produce hits, making it a better move to befriend artists, strategically speaking. Rap music has become far less competitive since its earlier days, and more about the energy and popularity of a song. Rappers are realizing that the only way to truly be successful in the music industry at this point is to produce as many hot songs with as many hot artists as possible. You never know who the next hit may be coming from, so why risk your chance at a number 1 record by arguing over
where someone is from? Kendrick Lamar was one of the only recent instances in which an artist initiated a competitive or controversial discussion among his peers and saw a positive end result. Although Meek Mill seems to still be doing well and booking shows, his reputation took an unquestionable hit in the public eye. Now, he's burned the bridge with the biggest artist in the game at the moment, which could come back to haunt him later in his career.
Although some Hip-Hop old-heads may say that rap needs beef to remain true to its origins, they are being very insensitive to the fact that Hip-Hop has evolved extensively since it conception. Sure, Hip-Hop is a competitive sport, but what’s wrong with friendly competition on the same song? Not every artist has to be friends or like one another (that obviously wouldn't be authentic), but purposely causing a rift just to promote your record and gain exposure is a dated marketing concept that is especially reckless in today’s trigger-happy society. Hip-Hop has consistently been the only genre where we have to rank its members from best to worst. Why can't things change?