Hip-Hop: Where's the Beef?

The mainstreaming of hip-hop culture ruined one of the genre's defining traditions: the battle.

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Everyone was beefing with everyone, and the market became oversaturated with beef. After a while, the fans started to find it petty and little more than a gimmick used to generate buzz when an artist was preparing to release a new project and push sales. Interest in the increasingly mundane spats between rappers waned tremendously. In 2009, when 50 Cent (again) went on the offensive in an attempt to curtail budding star Rick Ross' appeal, Ross simply ignored his way into a victory.

Newcomers Wale and Kid Cudi got into a war of words that started in the pages of Complex magazine and dissolved within a matter of days. Then late last year and into the beginning of 2011, Lil' Kim set her sights on the red-hot Nicki Minaj and left everyone within earshot asking, "What's the point?"

Is this a sign of hip-hop "growing up"? Maybe. But it's more the result of the law of diminishing returns: The more beef consumers are provided, the less appealing it becomes. As hip-hop has become more ingrained in pop culture, it has continued to lose its edge and sense of rebellion. Working together on collaborations yields bigger exposure and profits than releasing dis tracks. The loss of beef is a casualty of hip-hop's success.

Of course, this could change, as culture is wont to do. This is hip-hop, after all, and as Big Daddy Kane once warned: "Sucka MCs, it's a must that I dis you."

Mychal Denzel Smith is a writer, social commentator and mental-health advocate. Follow him on Twitter.

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