Hip Hop Beef As Marketing

There’s something about controversy that draws your attention into a situation, and if you can catch it at the right time or in the right light, a little beef can be an extremely entertaining aspect to music listening.


Subtracting the potential hazards from largely uber masculine adult males publicly feuding, it’s hard to ignore the human drama. This is nothing new to human history. Consider the human drama behind gladiators and how much the crowds relished in someone being in immediate danger and cheered it. Or, consider how secretly satisfying it is to catch a little TMZ segment where a celebrity you know of is having a hard time losing weight or arguing with an ex-partner or stumbling drunk out the club on an early Tuesday night. This glimpse out of artistry and into a personal section of someone’s life is appealing exactly because you get to identify with them on some level, e.g., you empathize with how it feels to argue with an ex-partner outside the club, with a viewpoint or opinion, with talking shit about a nigga you don’t like.


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Hip Hop has especially found ways to exploit our desire for connection with our favorite rap artists by marketing these beefs directly to us, trying to engage us as much as possible. This article won’t be so much about whether beefs between rappers is real or valid or what have you, but more how this palpability draws us in and how it affects the perception of the music.


Classic example: the 50 Cent vs. Ja Rule beef. While this was a real life beef between people who knew each other on a personal level, 50 Cent knew exactly how to exploit the situation to get the most bang for his buck. Releasing several hard hitting diss tracks, mentioning his real name and names of people he knew, we could identify with that sentiment. Somebody you don’t fuck with like that who’s successful, you might have some shit to say about them once you’re on and far more successful. There’s a level of humor to these diss tracks because you have that insider information and background to fill in contexts you would have overlooked otherwise. The temptation to flex is omnipresent. 50’s attacks on Ja and his Murder Inc. labelmates transformed our perception of their music. Everybody was team 50 and Ja Rule was eventually kicked off his pedestal and fell to obscurity while 50 thrived the way he thrived. 50’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ ended up going Diamond (ten times platinum…) with help from this media attention.


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A more recent example would be the beef between up and coming artists Trippe Redd and Tekashi 6ix9ine. Last summer they released a video for their collab ‘POLES1469’ which attracted new attention to the both of them. Eventually time went on and the two fell out over 6ix9ine’s rape case, during which they both subbed each other on their social media platforms, 6ix9ine allegedly got some of his boys to jump Trippie in Brooklyn—but even so you’ll catch them all in the other’s comments on some high school shit, playing around in a way that doesn’t make me question or care about the authenticity of their beef, but more reminds me that they’re both acutely aware of what this attention is doing for their careers.


These beefs ultimately expose the listener to another side of the artist, and that new connection cannot be discounted. For better or for worse, people will continue to have problems with one another. Hopefully in all cases we stick to diss tracks and not shootouts, because at the end of the day, this is entertainment. Let’s keep this rap shit as rap shit.



Credit: Marcus Scott Williams

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