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Inside the lyrics of mainstream rap

    There are no championships in rhyming. No heavyweight belt given to the undisputed titleholder.

    Because of this, we never really know who the best rapper is at any certain point. The only way for our brains to hash out who’s the alpha dog between two spitters is for them to go head up and toss 16 bars at each other, about each other.

    Beefs are pointed to as culture-shifting events. Diss records broken down to the syllable. We instigate them and then try to write off the negative energy by telling artists to “keep it on wax”.

    What does it say about us that we so enjoy watching skilled poets reduced to clowning and threatening each other over tracks? If we stopped caring would artists stop doing it?

    Regardless, we all know what a standard diss record looks like when we see it on a blog: “Song Title by Rapper X (Rapper Y Diss)” Here’s an unfortunate example.

    In these cases the roles are defined. We know what song it is, who made it and who they’re dissing. Those of us sitting in the rap gladiator arena are free to ogle the two fighters from the cushioned safety of our office chairs.

    What we all may want to pay closer attention to, however, are the records where there is no parenthesized diss name. The ones that we hear, dance and rap along to everyday.

    “Look at you…then look at us. All my niggas look rich as fuck!”

    What does a diss record boil down to?

    1. Here’s why you suck.
    2. Here’s why I’m that dude.

    Listen to urban radio for an hour and count how many songs don’t use those 2 elements. Somewhere along the lines, commercial rap became bragging about what I got and dissing you for what you don’t have at the same damn time.

    “I got your baby momma in my new Bugatti she throw it back like my engine”

    – Juicy J (Bounce It)

    It’s not enough to just be the nicest MC. You gotta be the the nicest MC, while getting all the money on earth and smashing everybody baby momma; which shows that you’re smart enough to simply have sex with a girl that another dummy would want to start a family with.

    “Four hundred thou, bitch you wished you saved that”

    – Ricky Rozay (I’m a Boss)

    Why the listener gotta be a bitch for being fiscally responsible Ricky?

    Ok, you could argue that the “you” is some anonymous punk served up as a punching bag for these rappers to get their lines off. Maybe. I mean 80’s rappers sure did have a problem with ‘Sucka MC’s’. Though it’s easy for the listener to figure out who’s the target in those cases.

    “Am I a Sucka MC?”



    When the target is just ‘you’ though, how can we be sure that there’s no subconscious effect on the listener? At least on the most easily influenced amongst us?

    Black unemployment under the Obama administration is worse than ever, yet blacks are arguably the #1 consumers amongst all ethnic groups in the United States. Less money coming in but more money going out? We have to continue to figure out why our culture is being influenced into buying things we can’t afford.

    We’ve all heard of ‘keeping up with the Jones’. Now imagine the Jones’ on your radio telling you how their life is better than yours over various Mike Will Made It beats all day long. They’re your neighbors and you’re happy for them but it would have to have some effect, right?

    Are we sure that constantly hearing about money we don’t have and hypothetical women that left us for another man is psychologically healthy for a culture?

    Maybe I’m looking too deep into it. Maybe in-depth analysis is exactly what our culture needs more of. I can’t say for sure but in keeping with the theme I’ve got going Ill add some lyrics that best describe my feelings on the subject…

    “Ain’t building up they confidence, we telling ‘em they aint shit.”

    – Lupe Fiasco (ITAL [Roses])


    Jam.Lx is a writer, entrepreneur and hip-hop history buff that loves to explore the relationship between sports, music, race and pop culture. Follow him at @jam_lx. He promises to tweet more often. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].