Well, Houston, at last we've arrived as a hip-hop city: We've finally played host to physical combat between two rappers with national reputations. On March 24, Atlanta's T.I. and Houston's own Lil' Flip rumbled Grease-style, and fittingly enough for a rap "beef," the brawl was at Cloverburger, a joint in Flip's south-side Cloverland neighborhood. T.I. and Flip had been calling each other out for about a year on radio stations and in raps. At this point it's pretty much impossible to tell how it started, but we do know that the two are battling for the title of the King of the South. Which is pretty, well, ludicrous, when you've got guys like Luda, Scarface and OutKast out there.
Anyway, in this particular feud, the lines of acceptable rap-beef behavior have been crossed several times, and physical violence was inevitable. T.I. has paraded around with pictures of Flip in his old Y2K-era leprechaun suit and has released mix tapes on which Flip is accused of mistreating his mother and not really being from his hood. More recently, Flip and Z-Ro released "Fuck Dat Nigga," on which Flip threatens to shoot T.I.'s son, and it was these charming verses that T.I. says led directly to his invasion of Cloverland, where he shot a Flip-dissing DVD, which is soon to be available at car shows and out da trunk near you.
The vid has yet to surface, so right now it's all but impossible to tell who won the Battle of Cloverburger. Either Flip walked up to T.I. and laid him flat out, or Flip hid behind a car while one of his homies sucker-punched T.I. All agree, though, that T.I.'s posse kicked some ass before the brawl was brought to a halt by an unaffiliated onlooker who fired his pistol in the air. And all unbiased observers also agree that T.I.'s brazen adventure scored him major points in the all-important hip-hop cred game, even if he did get his ass kicked. He came to Houston, went on the Box and dared Flip to meet him in his own hood, and then showed up there with his boys. Flip will probably have to do something similar in Atlanta, or else T.I. can just sit back and reprise Flip's biggest hit by declaring "Game Over." (Though some say the whole feud started when Flip called out T.I. from the stage at an Atlanta club, so maybe they'll just end these stupid and increasingly dangerous shenanigans.)
So now that H-town is a player in the hip-hop beef game, we've decided to put together a roundup of local and national hip-hop beefs. It's a hard job -- beefs are as much a part of the rap game now as bling, Cristal and sports throwbacks, and you're nobody these days until you either beef or get beefed against, and it seems like every label, radio station and artist today regards a beef as much a part of launching a new album as sending out press kits and payola, but we'll try to at least give you an overview of some of the best.
Eminem vs. Benzino and Michael Jackson:
In addition to rapping, Benzino is the co-publisher of The Source magazine, and he has always hated Em. In 2003, when an old tape surfaced of a teenage Eminem venting racist about his black ex-girlfriend, Benzino ran the story with relish, leveling a charge of racism and accusing Em of being a tool in the hands of the white corporate devils who run the rap game from ivory high-rise towers. Em responded in a freestyle that denied those charges and elaborately insulted Benzino and chums. Late last year, when Em released the anti-Jacko video "Just Lose It," the Gloved One turned to Benzino and The Source for aid and comfort, and the mag complied by urging a mostly bemused hip-hop community to stand by MJ.
(Advantage: Eminem. He forced The Source to go where no one wants to be, and that's in bed with Michael Jackson.)
Nas vs. R. Kelly:
A new one, fresh outta the box...Last month, Nas, who famously feuded with Jay-Z a few years back, turned his guns on Hova's current foe, R. Kelly. Pretty much apropos of nothing, he told an Irish audience that Kelly was a "child rapist."
(Advantage: Nas. After all, there is a video of Kelly having sex with and peeing on an underage girl. And what's up with that, anyway? Why hasn't there been a trial?)
Tupac vs. Biggie:
No need to rehash this one too much, but it's easy to forget that they were once friends. (Advantage: People who hate hip-hop. They could point to Biggie's and 'Pac's violent deaths six months apart and say smug things like "See? All rappers are criminals.")
Bill O'Reilly vs. Ludacris:
If hip-hop is the "CNN of black America," then Fox News is hip-hop for the Reddest of the Red States, and O'Reilly is the top MC in that crew. Anyway, Loofah Boy called out Luda's morals when the Atlanta rapper was about to sign an endorsement deal with Pepsi, and kicked up enough sand to bring about an end to that plan. Luda responded first by cutting the O'Reilly-bashing "Hoes in My Room" on Chicken & Beer, and then by cheekily admonishing O'Reilly to "kiss the plaintiff and the wifey" on last year's Red Light District. (Advantage: Ludacris, for working hard at being amusing instead of unintentionally being hilarious.)
Jay-Z vs. R. Kelly:
Young Hova's had many other beefs, most notably with Nas, Tupac, Ja Rule, Lance Rivera and 50 Cent, but this is among the more recent, and it's somewhat rare in that lawyers are doing most of the rapping, as only lawyers can. Last year, the two co-headlined one of the more disastrous tours in American history, one that was ironically titled the Best of Both Worlds. The music came to an abrupt halt in November at Madison Square Garden when Kelly quit his set mid-song, claiming at the time that he saw audience members with guns. Kelly was persuaded to come back the next night to finish out the show's four-night run, whereupon a member of Jay-Z's crew allegedly Maced or pepper-sprayed his ass. Kelly has since sued for $60 million; Jay-Z has since countersued, and the suit, when translated from legalese, says that Kelly is an insecure, bawling little baby of a man, and quite likely crazy as a shithouse rat.
(Advantage: Too soon to tell, but Jay-Z is in the lead.)
50 Cent vs. the known universe:
50 Cent is the great cattleman -- his road to fame is a veritable Chisholm Trail of beefs on the hoof. That's his hustle, and he's very, very good at it. Long before his megahit "In Da Club," he was making his name a boatload of disses at a time. His first underground hit, "How to Rob," found Fiddy belittling Puff Daddy, Lil' Kim, Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston, Brian McKnight, Keith Sweat, Big Pun, Silkk the Shocker, Master P, Jay-Z, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett, Timbaland, Missy Elliott, Da Brat, various Wu-Tangers, Blackstreet, Boys II Men, Mike Tyson and for good measure, gospel artist Kirk Franklin, among others. Later came the long-running feud with Ja Rule, in which Louis Farrakhan himself felt compelled to intervene. And on this year's Massacre, Fiddy returned to his rapid-fire, Uzi-like dissing ways with "Piggy Bank," in which he tears into Fat Joe, Kelis and husband Nas, Shyne, Mobb Deep and Jadakiss, and that's not to mention his new beef with the Game, which culminated (or appears to have culminated, anyway) in the nonfatal shooting of one of the Game's flunkies. And then there was Hamo, the now-deceased Brooklyn thug who shot him nine times, whom he really must have had a beef with.
(Advantage: 50 Cent. He has built and maintained a multiplatinum career by dissing every other rapper out there and then ignoring their responses.)
Mike Jones vs. Chamillionaire:
Two of Houston's hottest up-and-comers whom everyone assumed to be tight shocked the Dirty South last year by embarking on a feud. Chamillionaire fired the first shot: On his three-disc set Mixtape Messiah, he dedicated almost one whole album to a litany of Mike Jones disses. In a later interview, Jones said the whole thing was a joke; Chamillionaire said it wasn't, but he wouldn't say why he was so pissed off at Jones.
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(Advantage: Draw. Both Jones and Chamillionaire should know that you need to aim higher with your beefs. 50 Cent, the master of this game, got where he is by aiming his barbs upward at the biggest names in the business, not sideways at the guys grinding next to him. It's that old principle of crabs in a bucket: You have to pull the higher guy down to get where he is. But hell, I could be wrong -- I've seen crabs escape from buckets by walking all over each other, too.)
Chingo Bling vs. Cleto:
Like 'Pac and Biggie, Houston's Tamale Kingpin Chingo Bling and his fighting cock Cleto were once really tight. Cleto toured with Chingo and even used him as a tax shelter. But then he caught his rooster in bed with his woman; worse still, Cleto had stolen his most expensive ice and platinum.
(Advantage: Chingo. The absurdity of this beef with a chicken makes all the rappers who do this shit for real look pretty dumb.)