In the aftermath of the Meek Mill and Drake feud, I found the need to explore the part of rap that deals with the most up-front, personal, and confrontational lyrics. This subgenre is known as the diss track. Celebrities often get into disagreements or arguments (aka beef). Rappers have a powerful tool at their disposal. Their poetic capabilities give them the opportunity to artistically and creatively criticize their opponent and bash their reputation, instead of employing sneaky passive aggressive comments towards each other (as many celebrities seem to do). In his diss track “Hit ‘em Up,” 2Pac puts Biggie Smalls down by exclaiming that he had sexual relations with his wife (but not in those words, of course). Furthermore, America has a special love for diss track. In this post I will also explore why this is. I want to investigate a popular diss track, “No Vaseline” by Ice Cube, to show integral aspects of what makes a diss track a diss track. First off, the break up between N.W.A and Ice Cube was bitter to say the least. In Ice Cube’s track, “No Vaseline” he vehemently pokes fun at each of the members that remain in N.W.A. For instance, he says, “Who ya fooling? / Y’all n****s just phony / I put that on my mama and my dead homies / Yella Boy’s on your team, so you’re losing / Ay yo Dre, stick to producing / Calling me Arnold, but you Benedict / Eazy-E saw your ass and went in it quick.” In effect, he is publicly calling the members out and making fun of them. The track shows disdain for the opponent while pointing out the facts of reality. Ice Cube addresses Eazy-E and their manager, Jerry Heller, with particularly harsh words, accusing them of unfairly exploiting the rest of the group. Ice Cube says, “It’s a case of divide and conquer/ ‘Cuz you let a Jew break up my crew/ House n***a gotta run and hide/Yellin’ Compton, but you moved to Riverside.” Diss tracks, like this one, highlight all the negative aspects one thinks about his opponent, thus criticizing them. Here, Ice Cube employs harsh fighting words to discredit their reputation and authenticity. Defamation of character involves wrongfully hurting a person’s good reputation. Diss tracks often involve a type of defamation known as slander in which a person makes defamatory statements of fact about another individual. Defamation and slanderous lyrics are written throughout diss tracks to detract from a person’s status. Although diss writers often pull from the truth, they do exaggerate to the effect that distorts reality itself in order to further show up their foe. For instance, Ice Cube claims that Eazy-E and MC Ren are homosexuals when in reality they are not. He exclaims, “You’re gettin’ fucked real quick/ And Eazy’s dick, is smellin’ like MC Ren’s shit.” From this example, we see that rappers are able to launch an attack on other individuals through their poetic craft. However, their ways are so violent and aggressive, and often so exaggerated, that it can lead down a road into possible tortuous or criminal language and behavior. America has become captivated by beef and, in turn, by diss tacks. Rappers are in the public eye and when they have issues with each other, the whole world wants to know every detail. But why do Americans love diss tracks so much? For one, it is human nature for people to want to compartmentalize things and other people. In this case, Americans want there to be a winner and a loser. As with the case of the beef between Meek Mill and Drake, people believe there to be a clear-cut winner, Drake, and loser, Meek Mill. The distinction between winner and loser is who is able to roast the other person more successfully, incorporating humor and sometimes violence, while displaying facts of the plain truth where the rapper sees fit to harm the reputation. In essence, it is like rooting for a team. It turns into an urban-like rap battle like in 8 Mile even though the physical stage is not present. Another reason why Americans are drawn to diss tracks and beefs is because we simply love drama. We almost live vicariously through the drama and excitement of celebrities. By paying tons of money on these diss tracks we are supporting and promoting this crude and aggressive behavior. In turn, the rappers are now more motivated to spend more time on thinking of ways they can defame their opponent, which further expounds the vicious cycle of hatred and violence through the art of rap.
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