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  • Writer's pictureAuthor T.D. McLaughlin Talks

Hip Hop Maturing?

For those of us who witnessed the "golden era" of hip hop, reminiscing about Ice Cube's "No Vaseline" or Nas's "Ether" or Jay-Z's "Takeover" (Sorry if I didn't mention your favorite

Diss track) we are transported back to a time when verbal sparing was the norm. So when Kendrick Lamar decided to unleash lyrical warfare with his bars on a Metro Boomin and Future track, where he uttered the phrase, "F, the Big Three, it’s just Big Me," we were all here for it and a feeling of nostalgia washed over us all. Hip Hop heads everywhere knew what K-Dot's not so subtle yet not overly assertive claim as the best rapper of his generation meant. It took direct aim at fellow heavyweights Aubrey "D.R.A.K.E." Graham and Jermaine "J. Cole" Cole.

The internet exploded with debates, awaiting responses, and spawning memes, fueled by Kendrick's seemingly out-of-the-blue lyrical assault on his peers. However, a closer look at their discographies reveals subtle jabs and shots fired between the trio over the years. This is the essence of hip hop—the relentless pursuit of claiming the throne and defending one's title as the best rapper alive against all challengers. It's the very essence that drew many of us to the genre in the first place. But hip hop beef hasn't always been just about lyrics and rhymes. There was a time when it turned dangerously serious, claiming lives in its wake. Yet, this current feud seems different. It's a battle of words, a clash of egos, but not a life-threatening situation. It's a three-headed monster fighting for one spot, because unlike in sports or other entertainment forms when it comes to hip hop, there's only room for one king. It seemed that the three musical titans were set to engage in a ongoing lyrical war until J. Cole's unexpected move.

Over the weekend, Cole dropped a track ahead of his annual Dreamville festival, which, much like Kendrick's initial shot, sent the internet into a frenzy. But within 48-72 hours, Cole had a change of heart and told the world he was choosing a different path. He extended an olive branch to Kendrick, signaling an end to their lyrical warfare. He expressed that the verbal sparring affected his mental peace, prompting him to step back from the fray. As a 42-year-old husband and father I can understand how he had a change of heart and found himself in a space he no longer wished to occupy.

His quick shift and pivot raises questions about the changing landscape of hip hop beef. Has the game that we all fell in love with as kids matured before our very eyes? Hip hop, now fifty-one years old, seems to be growing up, shedding its youthful bravado for a more mature perspective. Mos Def once asked, Biggie once asked, "What's BEEF?" Today, we ask, what does beef actually cost, and is that cost worth it anymore? The cost of beef in hip hop goes beyond record sales and chart positions. It's a toll on mental health, personal relationships, and artistic integrity. In an industry where egos clash as often as beats drop, the cost of beef can be immeasurable. It's the sleepless nights spent crafting diss tracks instead of creating meaningful art. It's the strain on friendships and collaborations, tarnishing what could have been beautiful partnerships.

As hip hop evolves, so too must its approach to conflict. While competition is inherent in the culture, it doesn't have to come at the expense of peace of mind. Perhaps, as J. Cole has shown, there's more to gain from unity than division. Maybe the true mark of greatness lies not in tearing down others but in uplifting the culture as a whole. So, as we reflect on the evolution of hip hop beef, let's not just ask what's beef, but also what's its cost and whether it's a price worth paying in the pursuit of musical supremacy. As the genre continues to mature, may it find ways to resolve conflicts without sacrificing the essence of its competitive spirit. For in the end, it's not just about who's the king of the hill, but how we navigate the journey to the top together

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