Did Troy Ave, Spaceghost Purrp, and Kanye cross the line in their recent beefs?
Earlier this week, Troy Ave continued even further down the path of making his career double as a masterclass in wildly misguided beefing, taking aim at the deceased Capital STEEZ on a Joey Bada$$ diss track. It's merely the latest questionable statement by Troy, who in the past has called ILoveMakonnen a "fat bitch," implied that Chance The Rapper and Manolo Rose are drug addicts, deemed Kendrick Lamar a "weirdo" for the length of his shorts, and repeatedly played the world's most morally repugnant game of "would you rather" on Twitter. For people in Troy's position though-- conservative genre traditionalists fighting to stay afloat in the unpredictable tides of the game-- those previous close-minded remarks are a dime a dozen. Specifically disrespecting someone who killed himself though... that's a different ballgame.
Troy's "Bad Ass" does make some hilariously astute observations ("You tryna do music for Coachella/I make shit for foreign whips and drug sellers," "You a finger snappin', poet rapper, spoken word"), but the air goes out of the room as soon as he brings up Steez's jump from a Manhattan rooftop ("This n*gga's tryna fly, he think he a superhero-- splat!"). Not only that, but he reiterated this sentiment in a recent interview. While some, including Bada$$, have voiced their outrage, many have complained about those left "in their feelings" in the wake of this event, with one commenter reminding us to listen to disses by "Pac, Ice Cube, Em, Jay Z, Nas, Canibius" if we thought this level of scumbaggery was anything new.
It's true, beef has been somewhat de-fanged since the days of East vs. West, Eazy vs. Dre vs. Cube, Jay vs. Nas. Now that rap lyrics are fair game in court cases, we probably won't get another "Who Shot Ya?", lest someone wants to go out like GS9. We'll never hear something as homophobic as DMX's first verse on "Where The Hood At" on the radio, thanks to both this country's increasingly progressive sexual politics and the outrage culture that's been wrought by social media. Most contemporary artists have gone the way of Drake, honing their subliminal diss games and making things less obvious so as to only attract the attention of those in-the-know enough to understand. But others, like Troy, have taken advantage of the relatively diminished threat of violent retaliation, and regularly have field days saying wild shit that never would have flown in the '90s.
Likeminded firebrand Spaceghost Purrp also recently levied a tragic death in service of some diss tracks, bringing A$AP Yams' name into a beef with A$AP Mob. The track "Cookin Yams" was disrespectful enough, but a tweet that followed was even more egregious:
We gone play the music at his grave or stick head phones in his dissolved ass ear https://t.co/dMg3Z6Ry0p— SPACEGHOSTPURRP (@BloodRedMoet) January 5, 2016
Disgusting imagery aside, Purrp's choice to aim the bulk of his diss at a guy who had clear addiction problems, who can't respond now, is the problem here. STEEZ and Yams share the status of being arguably two of the most influential figures in 2010s NYC hip hop, but also of deeply troubled individuals, whether depressed or addicted. The problem with dissing them is twofold: they can't respond, and at some point before their deaths, they couldn't control what they were doing. That's not even mentioning what effect the invocation of their names must have on their respective groups of friends-- crews who have hosted and attended each other's tribute concerts for the deceased.
Along with those who died too young of unfortunate causes, another group many believe should not be brought up in beefs is children. Somewhat like the dead, they don't really have the ability to speak up for themselves, and in addition, can't control many of the aspects of their lives that are often attacked (parentage especially). When Kanye recently told Wiz Khalifa "I own your child," even he quickly realized that he had crossed a line, soon tweeting "[I'll] never speak on kids again." Despite that, he went on to bring up music producer Bob Ezrin's kids when haranguing him on Twitter last week (albeit in a much less offensive way).
All three of these recent instances skeeve me out in a way that even the most braggadocios, violent diss cuts don't. I think it's the fact that those attacked are either innocent or afflicted with some sickness, and that none can retaliate. By no means should their be a rulebook for rap beef-- part of the genre and culture's beauty is that nothing is sacred and anything goes-- but especially in the arena of rappers who aren't particularly violent or gang-affiliated, instigators seem to be getting away with a lot more than they used to. Sooner or later, someone will snap after their deceased friend or child is mentioned by a rival, and I don't mean "snap" in the lyrical sense. It's certainly a difficult balance between creating ruthlessly butchering diss tracks and not seeming like the world's biggest scumbag, but focusing solely on the rapper in question is probably a good place to start. Every rapper, regardless of status, has some flaw you can hone in on and exploit in a hilarious, effective way, and in my mind, that approach always has more chance of a KO in beefs than a cheap shot at someone else close to the target.