I grew up in the Golden Age of Hip-hop. Well before the days of vying for street-cred with lyrics extolling the glories of guns and butter, there were MC’s piecing together bars in staccato rhythm that were designed to dismantle another contender’s skill on the mic.
Sure, there was “gangsta rap” and “hardcore rap” and all the many genres my beloved hip-hop sectioned itself into after pioneering artists boycotted the Grammy’s in the 80s and solidified the musical force as one that was independent, wild and unapologetically telling the story of “us.”
But that was after various boroughs of NY duked it out to be known as the birthplace of hip-hop; at times a very heated battle.
We saw a vast amount of balance in mainstream hip-hop music back then. Salt ‘N’ Pepa, Roxanne Shante, Sweet Tea, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Bahamadia, Heather B, Miss Melodie, BWP, Li’l Kim, Missy, Da Brat, Foxy Brown, etc… these women were on the map in a vast landscape of MC’s spanning sex (and sexual orientation), race and style.
To look at the sparse amount of women rocking mainstream mics now, it’s like staring out into a desert with nary an oasis of femme fatales in sight.
These women paved the way for me to enter the hip-hop arena, write great music and to tell my story early in my career; now there are generations of girls that have no idea who these women are or how they gave agency to others.
It boggles my mind that there are young women who don’t understand the joy of hearing any of these ladies’ first albums; weird and fun, innovative and fresh, empowering and PURE hip-hop.
The possibilities for who we could be were endless, and what we represented and our ability to take on the best of the boys all on our own and win was what made us so dangerous. Those days, it seems, are long gone.
The women I mentioned above paid their dues. Some have been able to remain relevant in the industry decades later, some have appreciated their time in the spotlight and moved into other aspects of business and life.
The interesting thread that weaves throughout each of their unique trajectories is that, once their skills as MC’s were (finally) respected, they weren’t spared being called out for battles and challenges, nor did they step down from those challenges or take any shorts for being women in a decidedly male-dominated arena.
Women making a lane in hip-hop has always been a contentious subject. We are seen as a threat whether we are displaying fierce wordplay or we are taking skilled lyrical ownership of our eroticism.
It never seems to feel like the merit of our skill is judged above image for us. We are exploited for the very things that make us amazing as MC’s, the same traits any other MC is praised for boasting about.
I am here for sex appeal. I am here for strong lyrics that represent women as full characters, including our sexuality, strength, smarts, swagger and our subtleties in between.
What I am not here for is the co-opting of all this amazing strength and creativity, especially in the age of rampant appropriation of Black culture. [Sidenote: did you all read the story of the woman who was raped and set on fire for winning a rap battle against three Atlanta men? I warn you, it’s pretty gruesome, but it’s a necessary read; as I said, women in hip-hop is a contentious subject.]
This brings me to why I decided to pen this piece: the Snoop vs. Iggy “beef” that consumed Twitter and various hip-hop outlets this past week. What transpired between them was more like “Beef Lite” as these types of situations go.
Beefs are usually forged out of longstanding lyrical vendettas and a need to preempt the opponent’s skills, fans and credibility as a musician. LL Cool J vs. Canibus, LL Cool J vs. Kool Moe Dee, MC Lyte vs. Antoinette, Nas vs. Jay-Z, Masta Ace vs. Boogieman; this is a rich history of beefs that changed hip-hop.
That’s not what happened in this case. It isn’t lost on me that one of the most heated battles in hip-hop history is still widely believed to have led to the deaths of Biggie Smalls and Tupac.
I know that if taken too far, these things can escalate beyond bars set to a hot beat, however I’m fairly certain this popcorn kernel stuck between the teeth of rap music was never going to reach that level. Let’s break this down just a bit:
- This all started from a photo of Iggy without makeup that went viral which plenty of people talked about, both good and bad. I won’t say it was right, but I will say it was all for jokes as is current internet custom. Snoop joined in the fun and posted a meme and suddenly it became, “Why does Snoop get to post this about me but we’re supposedly cool?!?” Listen, the things my closest friends and I post about each other on social media has had people thinking we absolutely hated each other while we were laughing and trying to keep the jokes going. It is interesting to me that Iggy decided to single him out, but no one else who made fun of the original photo.
- Daz Dillinger was the one to respond first to Iggy’s questions about why he posted the meme, not Snoop. I have no idea why Daz was involved in this, especially since I’m thinking not many have heard his name in years. After this back and forth exchange, no one has decided to throw jabs on wax. I call shenanigans.
- Snoop did eventually post more memes to Instagram, by that time people had heard about it, but no one really cared. I didn’t understand; if this was any of the women who I named earlier, I could see them going right back at Snoop with memes and laughs and jokes, and eventually links to SoundCloud verses and WorldStar freestyles in which they tried to eviscerate him with skills. This seemed like a whiny attempt to be relevant (for both parties) rather than an opportunity to take it to the musical coliseum. I was not amused nor entertained.
- The internet is the internet, folks. People post memes and people go in on others. It’s a part of our life now, mostly Black Twitter life, and folks will learn to deal. We have fun, we make fun, and that is how the internet dozens are played. You don’t have to like it, but you will probably be a victim of it. I know I have. Laugh and let it go.
This was basically two people showing irritation toward each other in my never-humble opinion. I think Snoop just believed he was being funny when he posted the first meme and Iggy wasn’t here for him (and only him) making fun of her because he’s Snoop.
The funny part is that she did fire her shots, half about thinking they had been “friends” and half about him being irrelevant. If that were true, why would she care what he said at all? I saw a tweet during this week from Xavier D’Leau that summed it all up perfectly to me:
Rap beef is so dumb now. Like. Y’all fonting each other.
— Xavier D’Leau (@TheXDExperience) October 15, 2014
The pièce de résistance of this whole debacle is that the self-proclaimed King of the South and the king of Iggy’s label, T.I. was the one to “squash” the minor literary infraction between Snoop and Iggy.
How magnanimous of him to step in. I just wish he would have asked them to take it to mp3 downloads like real 21st century rappers should do, at least it would have been more entertaining than what actually unfolded.
How has the art and the visceral nature of a battle between rappers been relegated to Instagram memes and the perfect, ever-elusive 140 character read? You’re fonting each other, for Pete’s sake! Where are the verses?
Not that I can take hearing one more song from Iggy in that fake Southern accent and appropriated style or another insane Snoop reinvention, but at least I wouldn’t have to read the sad ramblings of either of these two.
I know some out there will wax poetic about Snoop’s behavior being an affront to lady MC’s everywhere; there will be think-pieces written far and wide about how this is an outrage and how patriarchy has killed hip-hop diversity. That’s a piece for me to write another day.
I will say that I noted another Azealia’s argument, Azealia Banks, as she pointed out that T.I. had threatened her with physical harm and no one made much of a fuss about it.
She may have been the catalyst for T.I. to give Snoop a call by asking where he was in defending his protégé. Either way, I’m glad it’s all over and we aren’t going to be subjected to anymore of this foolishness.
Can we get back to artists actually making music when they have something to get off their chests?
Music needs to be shaken up, but if it’s all going to be Instagram battles and beefs squashed via status updates, I’ll just continue listening to my favorite tracks from the Golden Age of Hip-hop.