Music

What is it really like to be in a rap beef?

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Chris Sayer
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What is it really like to be in a rap beef?

US rapper Waka Flocka Flame on the music business’s best beefs, how it feels to be trapped in one and what hip-hop rivalry means in 2018

Waka, what was the rap beef that captivated you the most as a kid?

I was in second grade when the Canibus and LL Cool J beef happened. Bruh, it was the best beef ever. LL Cool J just crushed him. Canibus had tried to diss LL for being soft, he dropped his name in his lyrics. He was being disrespectful, that he was better. Then LL dropped 4, 3, 2, 1 and it was over. Nobody got killed – it was all in the music – but Canibus’s career died. When your career dies, it’s worse than dying.

Really?

You dead in the inside, then. That’s a tough cookie to swallow. From walking around being famous ’cos everyone like your music to walking around with people shouting, “Boy, you suck!” That’s fucked up.

That was more than 20 years ago. How has rap beef changed?

It ain’t competitive no more. It’s personal. When something’s personal, it becomes emotional. When it’s emotional, it’s anger. With anger comes physical contact and harm. And broken bones. And death. That’s crazy. But when it’s competitive, it’s word play. Who’s smarter. Highlights, career, your stats, your clothes, your swag, who you with, where you started. The only thing that’s exempt is your girl, your kids, your mom. Always. “Yo mama suck my dick”? Whoa. No. C’mon bro, you taken it too far.

How much influence does ‘the industry’ have in manufacturing beefs for profit?

You see manufactured beefs all the time. Beefs created by suits. I can’t give you examples now, though. I can’t do that. That’s gonna hurt.

What’s the overriding emotion when you’re caught up in a beef? You’ve had a reoccurring beef with Gucci Mane, re-emerging as recently as last year…

I ain’t gonna lie: I’m mad as fuck. It feels like, my older brother, he knew how to get under my skin. Man, we all lose in games. But why do you need to be this close to me, up in my face, laughing at me? All, “Ah, he fuckin’ whack!” When that happens, you are testing a man’s manhood. And you can’t just smack them. Then they won. The only thing that’s gonna happen is your skin is gonna fuckin’ boil. Like a million ants just walking all over you. That’s what it’s like. It used to happen to me so bad, and I wouldn’t talk to my brother for a week.

And the cure for the anger comes in the form of a diss track?

I thought about making diss tracks. I did. I was gonna go down that route. But I chose to be quiet about it. When you beefing, nobody wants to go to a concert with a guy who’s beefing. Someone gonna get shot in that motherf*cker. ’Cos it’s serious now. You wanna tone that shit down. I’ve learned not to give a shit. Half my old career I was beefing: all those raps, I’m talking about people, I just ain’t saying the names. That’s my anger side, verbally expressing itself.

I always been good and nice, I also used to be physically violent, violent as fuck. I was raised in beef. When I was a kid, it’s all I knew. I was born in war and raised in a warzone. I grew up in a ghetto. When I was running around there were [crack pipes] on the floor and folks with the needles, all passed out. Drunks. I seen dead bodies as a kid. It all seemed normal. But I also seen love. I seen the jump rope on the streets. I didn’t just focus on the bad.

I liked to stay in the middle ’cos I liked the best of both worlds. The love was always fun.

Finally, one diss track that beats them all.

It’s Hit ’Em Up [by 2Pac]. But if we’re talking diss tracks of my time then I can’t even lie, no disrespect to nobody’s career, but Gucci Mane got the best. It’s Round 1 – “The dope game hard, The rap game easy/This is round one of Gucci Mane versus Jeezy”. When I was beefing, I lived by that record for a long time. It was everything.

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