It's Who You Know 

Where's the Beefs? Maybe it's 50 Cent and the Game's ceremonious kiss-and-make-up session last week on the eighth anniversary of Biggie Smalls' murder. Maybe it's all the fluff and bluster surrounding "Piggy Bank," the limp-wristed attack on everyone that 50 hasn't already alienated (Fat Joe, Jadakiss, your mother, etc.) that appears on his zillion-selling The Massacre. Or perhaps it's that I finally got suckered into watching Tupac: Resurrection recently--I don't really know. But for whatever reason, I've taken a renewed interest in the sordid and illustrious history of the hiphop beef. I'm not gonna front and act like I'm a serious hiphop head or anything (though admittedly, it is a point of embarrassment that my knowledge and enjoyment of contemporary hiphop rarely strays below the radar of the blatantly commercial), but when it comes to the soap opera of petty rivalries--competitive shit-talking, artistically orchestrated bullshit calls, and creative one-upmanship--hiphop is endlessly more engaging than any of the sniveling, navel-gazey shit I waste so much time thinking about.

It's a shame, really, that this sort of thing doesn't have more of a place in other creative ventures. Not to say that there aren't ridiculous, petty rivalries that exist between all sorts of creative types, or that shit-talk isn't a major part of most artistic pursuits, but rarely does such contention lead to work as overtly compelling (or near as violent) as hiphop beefs. In rock music, for example, beefs tend to surface as catty publicity battles, an occasional obtuse lyrical reference, and the rare bar scuffle. I can't think of a single interesting work of animosity-fueled creation to come specifically out of a rock beef--and don't start talking to me about the Beatles, because that shit doesn't count. I'm talking about diss tracks, battles--shit that's explicitly personal, calling a beef out for the sake of heated, healthy competition.

And why stop there? I sure as shit have beef with a lot of ego-bloated music critics--maybe it's time that I start calling people out. (I mean, the groundwork's already laid for a pretty heated exchange with Julianne Shepherd ["Zac Could Do Better," 2/17/05]--though I think it's pretty clear that I'm doomed to be the Nas to Shep's Jay-Z.) I challenge you, Barista, dishwasher, receptionist, web designer: this is your call to arms. Identify your respective arch nemeses, openly profess your intention to systematically tear them down, and do so in a contest of professional one-upmanship. I mean, what else are you doing with your time? Isn't it about time you fostered some healthy animosity?

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