What’s Beef?

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An early defining moment for me came when I got punched in the throat on the playground in the 6th grade. I ran my mouth and the kid came and found me, which wasn’t hard to do since we were in the same class. When it came to it I failed to guard my grill and ended up winded, lying on my back silently surrounded by my friends. Nobody had a phone. Nobody stomped me out. Nobody told a soul. That morning I had been listening to Naughty By Nature and felt invincible. I was filled with this burning energy that I was untouchable; soaked in that blind hubris we enjoy as kids. I was ready to knuckle up. I was the man. I learned a invaluable message that day; I was not made of glass and I did not have the juice.

I shared my ‘got my ass whooped once’ story this morning because I cannot ignore my Twitter timeline. Florida rap is making such seismic waves we’d be remiss not to talk about it. In a nutshell you’ve got a few young rappers (XXXtentacion, WifisFuneral, Ski Mask The Slump God, Lil Pump…I couldn’t make these names up with an online randomizer) who are the leaders of this new age wave that may or may not be the future of the genre. Sounds heavy, I know. But listen to this. They’re selling out 1000 seat venues, amassing millions of streams on soundcloud, and doing it on the strength of social media. Instagram live drops their life directly into your life, and the kids cannot look away.

So this XXXtentacion kid (yes he’s a kid, he’s 19 years old) is a troubled soul. Like many of the success stories in rap, his rap sheet is impressive. Impressive in the sense that he’s already caught a few cases and has logged some time in jail…at 19. He’s facing an upcoming case for home invasion, holding someone against their will, and allegedly battering his pregnant girlfriend. These are our heroes?

As Twitter cannot let me forget, XXX is on tour. He’s calling it the revenge tour. He shows up, spins the crowd into a mosh pit frenzy, shouts words over the words he’s recorded, flips and kicks off the stage into the arms of his eager fans and secures the bag. The crowds have been massive and the response has been feverishly rabid. The kids have fully bought in.

XXX also has no filter. He hasn’t heard a beef he won’t jump into. He doesn’t pick his spots, he doesn’t hold his tongue, he’s simply all in all of the time. Commendable, most definitely. But for this guy it’s a flaw that finally caught up to him. Earlier in the week he was onstage in San Diego (home of Rob Stone, a rapper XXX has beefed with prior) and caught the wild fade. The punch was something straight out of Mortal Kombat. Apparently, XXX pays 12 security guards to keep him safe, yet he still got snuffed worse than I’ve ever seen during any live performance. Ever. Take a look.

Joking aside, XXX was instantly knocked out and was carried off the stage by his team. There’s a lot to dissect here. First, did anyone else realize he was simply standing at the mic lip-singing? He hit the deck and the verse he was “singing” kept right on playing. And how about that track? It sounded like a Weezer cover…but I digress. The important thing here is that this young man is bringing the violence with him from city to city. The kid who leveled XXX with the punch was stabbed during that melee and was taken to the hospital. The following stop on the tour was postponed by the venue in hopes of dodging any San Diego fallout. Completely insane stuff.

What does all this mean for hip hop? Is it breathing life back into a genre that loopholes itself into periods of complacent boredom? Is this whole new wave simply a blip on the radar? A passing phase of youth and energy? It’s entertaining for sure, but it also feels cheap. Take a few minutes and google some of these kids. Watch some YouTube clips. Visit a soundcloud page or two. It’s a pulse. It’s a vibe, but it’s lacking any semblance to the beats & rhymes formula that’s worked for the last 30 odd years. Hard to ignore that it’s catching like a cold and spreading from high school to high school like an epidemic.

I blame anime. I blame drugs. I blame teachers and parents. I blame Macbooks. I blame history for repeating itself.  I never imagined I would live to see an emo invasion of the genre I’ve loved as long as I’ve been alive. 2017…you’re a real motherfucker. Rap is becoming a Tracy Morgan gif one day at time.

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