How YouTube is ruining the hip-hop beef.

Arts, entertainment, and more.
July 6 2007 7:28 AM

Where's the Beef?

It's on YouTube. Why that's a problem for hip-hop.

Click here to launch a slide show.

Click the launch module to the left for a video slide show on how YouTube is ruining the hip-hop beef.

Beefs have always brought out the best in rappers. In 1986, it was a beef that launched the star of KRS-One, when his withering attacks on MC Shan effectively ended his rival's career. The following year, a young LL Cool J established his legend by felling old-school pioneer Kool Moe Dee. And in 2002, a beef reignited the careers of two giants, as Jay-Z and Nas clashed for the title of King of New York.

For most of rap's history, one-upmanship has been hip-hop's engine of change. Recently, however, beefs have lost some of their creative spark, as battles have migrated from albums and mix tapes to YouTube. Today, a rapper with wounded pride is more likely to cut a made-for-YouTube video than to bother penning a vicious rhyme. The result: videos with laughably bad production values showcasing sloppy dis tracks (or worse, no track at all). Why waste time writing music—the vocation of a musician, in theory—when you can upload a rant? YouTube has done wonders for spreading viral hip-hop dances like the Aunt Jackie and the Chicken Noodle Soup. But it's spoiling the beef.

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Click here for a video slide show on how YouTube is ruining the hip-hop beef.

Hua Hsu teaches in the English department at Vassar College and is completing his first book, A Floating Chinaman.

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