The Beef Factor In Music

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For many lovers of music, the slang ‘beef’ would refer to some rivalry among hip hop and rap musicians or their fans. This rivalry takes many forms including the release of songs in which opponents ‘diss’ each other. As someone rightly explains it in the Urban Dictionary, “beef is what’s for dinner…I am rich, famous but I am street which means I am required by law to have beef with another rapper”.

The release and counter-release of songs, among hip hop musicians with ‘beef’, apart from aiming to get at opponents, also generates a lot of interest among the followers of these musicians. Fans are always eager to find out which musician has dealt the heaviest punch. In the ‘90s, rap musicians in the US were aligned with either the east coast or west coast music factions. Hip hop musicians either belonged to the Notorious B.I.G. (east coast) hip hop faction or Tupac Shakur (west coast) hip hop faction. The interest generated by this rivalry was said to have caused some top guns of the industry to fuel the rift in order to whip up sales of records. This self-invented rivalry turned bloody, and eventually led to the murder of both Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur.

There are hip life and rap musicians in our industry with ‘beef’. The scuffle between Kwaw Kesse and VIP at Joy FMs 2012 ‘Night With The Stars’ event is clearly an example of ‘beef’ between two sets of musicians. Before that, there were instances of hip life musicians releasing and counter-releasing songs in which they ‘dissed’ each other. Although a thing of the past, the Obrafuor and Okyeame Kwame ‘beef’ is a case in point.

In reality, the ego, showmanship and the struggle to prove who has more clout does not make it possible to avoid ‘beef’ among hip life and rap artists. However, the manner in which these artists carry out this banter is important. Pulling guns at each other is surely not the way to go as the end result is obvious. Yes, the idea of a showdown between musicians in Accra and Tema was divisive and must be discouraged. All the musicians billed for the ‘Night With The Stars’ event could have performed on the stage as one big family without necessarily classifying them into the Accra and Tema factions. Although the motif for this move would have been to generate interest in the event, one can only hope the organisers have learned some valuable lessons.

Whether or not it is right for one hip life musician to have ‘beef’ with another hip life musician is entirely a matter of opinion. The popular culture of hip hop and rap comes with its language, fashion and trends. If our rap and hip life artists accept these trends, then they should be willing to play by it and see any form of rivalry as an opportunity to push the frontiers of their creativity.

Again, this ‘beef’ should not be violent or carried on to stage performances as the possibility of physical attacks become imminent. Apart from this, the entire mood of the show can be poisoned by bad blood among artists as recently witnessed at the 2012 ‘Night With The Stars’ event.

As event organisers have a lot to answer for when things go wrong, it will be in their interest to call to order a musician who starts a ‘beef’ on stage. Such an intervention would have preserved the sanity of the ‘Night With The Stars’ event. Nothing stopped the organisers from doing just that, especially when it became obvious tempers were flaring back stage. The failure on the part of organisers to act promptly stirred up more trouble and gave room to VIPs reaction.

Since ‘beef’ among hip life and rap musicians would always become public, event organisers could take note and make sure adequate security is provided to prevent any physical contact between artists with very serious forms of rivalry. This will prevent artists from dragging the name of an event into the mire. Joy FM has a reputation for successfully organising events, but the scuffle at this particular event, although unfortunate, presents lessons for the future.

Generally, the idea of ‘beef’ in the hip hop and rap culture is widespread. One would love for all our hip life and rap artists to co-exist in peace, but that would be wishful thinking. However, the climax of the Obrafuor Vs Okyeame Kwame ‘beef’ is a precedent that all artists must follow. Obrafuor, who was an older artist, was humble enough to reach out to Okyeame Kwame after their ‘beef’,and the latter was gracious to accept his hand of friendship. This ‘beef’ was squashed.

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