• 31Jan

    Turning Tables: When Allies Become Adversaries In Hip-Hop

    “Contemplatin’ war, niggas I was cool with before / We used to score together, Uptown coppin the raw / But… a thug changes / And love changes / And best friends become strangers…” –- Nas, “The Message”

    Things change.

    It’s probably the most constant law of nature. Nothing can ever stay the same, no matter how much we want it to, or try to force it to. Life and all that transpires within life can’t just remain how it is at this very moment. There’s got to be growth. There’s got to be renewal. There’s got to be a shedding of the old to make room for the new. It’s unavoidable, and that’s just the way it is.

    But the circumstances that cause change can sometimes come at a very dear cost. And if anything has been a prime indicator of that fact over the last few decades, it’s Hip-Hop.

    Friendship can be an extremely fragile thing. Friendship in the music and entertainment business, even more so. And friendship in the world of Hip-Hop, in certain situations and given just the right amount of time, can be damn near comparable to Christmas ornaments.

    History has taught us time and time again that even when artists that are friends come together in the spirit of unity, community, creating life-altering, amazing art, or even just trying to make a buck off of a God-given talent, the end result is not always happy happy, joy joy. There’s plenty of ammunition within the music industry that can cause the slightest misunderstanding to become an enormous breach of beef between even the closest comrades.

    Be it a song lyric taken out of context, a yes-man or woman gassing up the egos of a tight-knit crews’ supporting cast, a group member not receiving their proper slice of that all-important financial pie, or even the standard, everyday argument that escalates out of control, it’s an unfortunate truth that friendships and alliances in Hip-Hop come with a certain level of vulnerability. The smallest chink in the armor, left untreated and unresolved, can just about spell out a catastrophe.

    The latest example of alliances running cold in the Hip-Hop game comes in the form of Queens MC Consequence and his operation against Kanye West and the G.O.O.D. Music camp. A former affiliate, Consequence is now in the middle of an all-out assault on West and his label that began with a diss track aimed at The Clipse emcee, Pusha T called “The Plagurist Society”, where he accuses Pusha of stealing lines from one of his songs. The Con Man then went on to release a short video entitled “The World is Watching 2: The Puppet Masters,” in which he seemingly labels Yeezy as a tyrant over his G.O.O.D. Music artists.

    And the latest brush comes in an interview Consequence did with Chicago’s WGCI 107.5 on July 29 in response to Pusha T claiming that no one is checking for Cons’ music. After saying that Pusha “could not compete” lyrically and was “dancing around issues” in regards to microphone confrontations and battles, Con went on to call himself “the most talked-about commodity in Hip-Hop,” saying that he would prove this with the release of his latest project, Movies On Demand 3. And finally, right before debuting his latest diss track, “Everybody Told Me to Straighten It Out”; Consequence had this to say on how the rift between him, West and G.O.O.D. Music could be resolved:

    “I’m the brother who’s not going to stand back and watch him [Kanye] do what he’s doing and be up to no good without saying anything. So at this point, I’m going to be honest… it’s gotten a little past Kanye at this point. This ‘campaign of terror’ is going to continue until Jay-Z intervenes. And when Jay-Z and Consequence have a gentlemen’s conversation, this will come to an end.”

    So where did it all go wrong? Kinda hard to say. Just a few years ago, we saw Cons and ‘Ye in much happier, more collaborative times with music videos including, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” and “Grammy Family”. It seemed that all was within the confines of West and his army of lyricists, and the Con man was well on the rise after years of having to struggle to get his name and face known. But, like we hinted at before, things change.

    Maybe the Con Man didn’t feel he was getting his proper shine as an artist while part of ‘Ye’s camp. After all, on top of all the hoopla that’s been surrounding Yeezy and Hova’s Watch The Throne as of late, as well as Pusha releasing one of the most sought after mixtapes of the year so far with Fear of God, and arguably the biggest music success story of 2011 in Big Sean connected with the G.O.O.D. Music label, it’s unfortunate but easy to see how other artists could get lost in the shuffle. Or, maybe it was bigger than just Hip-Hop, record sales and material success. Maybe this alliance disintegrated and transformed into a “campaign of terror” over something outside the barriers of the industry.

    Whatever the case, we’ve seen this before. Think back to the late 80s when N.W.A was riding a wave of newfound mainstream fame, and Ice Cube decided to part ways with Eazy, Dre, Ren and Yella due to financial discrepancies. Or, just a few years after that, Dre leaving Ruthless to form Death Row with Suge Knight and then going at Eazy-E’s neck with “F*** With Dre Day” off The Chronic, allegedly also over finances. Or, probably what is the most famous (or infamous) example of friends turning to so-called enemies in Hip-Hop music: 2Pac and Biggie, which eventually led to the early demise of two of the most talented artists we’ve ever seen, and the ensuing, manufactured East vs. West industry-wide feud.

    The list is almost an endless one. From the early 90s falling out between Busta Rhymes and Leaders of the New School, to The Fugees reaching their apex in ’96 with The Score and essentially splintering due to a supposed lover’s quarrel between Wyclef and Lauryn Hill, to the falling apart in the early 2000s of Roc-A-Fella Records after a series issues and problems between founders Jay-Z, Dame Dash and Kareem “Biggs” Burke were made public.

    And it goes on… and on… and on. Cuban Link accusing his former mentor and Terror Squad affiliate Fat Joe of using talented artists for all they’re worth and then throwing them away; Big Boi and Killer Mike being on the outs for a while after Mike grew dissatisfied with the situation at Purple Ribbon (although their relationship has been mended since); Game waging a personal war against 50 Cent and G-Unit after only a short while of being a flag-waving member with a successful debut album album (even if the beef did seem a bit contrived and fabricated); and another recent example with the up-in-the-air status of Detroit mainstays Slum Village, where nearly irreconcilable differences have arisen between members T3 and Elzhi. Even if you go outside of just mainstream or well-known Hip-Hop to a local or underground level, you’re guaranteed to find a track record of artists and groups that may have very well been on the verge of something bigger, but ultimately, somebody got left behind and bad blood continues to boil.

    Hip-Hop is a competitive sport, that’s a given. From the beginning, there’s always been that need to let everyone know that, “I’m better than you, and here’s why.” And with this environment, there’s bound to be some snags and snares, even (and sometimes especially) between those that are considered family, friends and advocates. There are times when family ain’t family anymore, when advocates become opponents, and when friendships fall into disarray and enter enemy territory.

    There may be a tendency to think that uncooked beef exists only between those in the industry that start out as foes. But sometimes, the one that’s a confidant today could soon feel slighted, looked or passed over, un- or under-appreciated, played, jilted, rejected…and that confidant could quickly convert into something or someone completely unexpected.

    For now, it’s looking a tad one-sided in the feud between Consequence and G.O.O.D. Music camp. But hopefully, both parties are smart enough to not let this escalate into something that becomes irreversible. Will it be settled anytime soon? Will Hova think enough of the situation to intervene? Will it be something that just withers away from the headlines so that everyone can go on with their respective careers for the benefit of the fans? Not many definitive answers at this point. Just like there aren’t many definitive answers as to why these quarrels begin.

    Things change. And the more things change, the more they stay the same. But sadly, not always for the better.

    Follow Ron Grant on Twitter @RonGreezy

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