The big bucks in big fights

Humans have an undeniable intrigue for conflict. This combined with society’s obsession with the rich and famous means we love feuds between musicians, and everything that comes along with them.

Their ‘hard to look at’ yet ‘can’t look away’ appeal is brutally entertaining to the public eye.

Whether they are staged or real, they do an excellent job at taking centre stage on magazine covers, social media, entertainment platforms and radio.  Most of all, they become part of public dialogue, conversation and controversy starters until they run their course or are resolved. The roots of feuds in the music industry are often buried in jealousy and competition. Though feuds are usually filled with plenty of drama and content, a good feud always has a diss track, or a few.

Diss tracks have revolved around several hip-hop industry feuds in particular.

In 1996, 2Pac released ‘Hit ‘Em Up’, which has widely become deemed as one of the greatest diss tracks of all time. The song targeted East Coast rappers, in particular The Notorious B.I.G, otherwise known as Biggie Smalls. Produced by 2Pac as a response to ‘Who Shot Ya?’ by Biggie Smalls, ‘Hit ‘Em Up’ fuelled an already ugly feud, making it one of the most famous feuds between rappers to date.

A recent, ongoing feud in the hip-hop industry is that of female rappers Cardi B and Nicki Minaj. The pair have been in competition since Cardi B stepped into the limelight in 2017 with her hugely successful song ‘Bodak Yellow’. Though they were cordial and encouraging to one another at first, a feud was bound to form between the two and several diss tracks have demonstrated this.

When Minaj featured on the song ‘No Flags’ In 2017 she used the lyrics, “I heard these labels tryna make another me. Everything you’re getting little hoe is because of me.” Though Minaj has denied it, fans have speculated that these lyrics were about Cardi B. In August Minaj released ‘Ganja Burn’ on her new album, in which she calls out her competitors. The lyrics, “They done went to witch doctors to bury the Barbie, but I double back, kill b*tches, bury the body,” is widely thought to be about Cardi B specifically. After many interviews, tweets, and ‘clearing up’ of rumours the pair finally came to a head in September this year at the NY Fashion Week, when a physical altercation broke out between them.

The publicity that accompanies the drama of a feud increases the public’s and media’s interest in artists. Business and sponsorship opportunists come with this, as well as a heightened interest in the artists’ music, especially any diss tracks. For Pusha T and Drake, this is certainly true. These rappers have been passing diss tracks back and fourth for years in their fiery feud.

Research done by ‘The Economist’, showed that at the height of their feud, between May 27th and June 2nd of this year, Google searches for the pair spiked. This coincided with the release of ‘DAYTONA’, Pusha T’s Album, including diss tracks directed at Drake. Google searches for Drake nearly quadrupled and searches for Pusha T was fifty times greater than the previous week. Public interest translated into sales for ‘DAYTONA’ which became Pusha T’s highest charting album on the Billboard 200 to date, for Drake’s album ‘Scorpion’ which struck back at Pusha T’s diss tracks reached platinum on the day of its release.

Feuds and diss tracks are eerily becoming an extremely profitable business venture in the music industry. They provide a tempting reward, leading to the question of whether all feuds are genuine, or whether they’re smart, well paying, decision.


Róisín Phelan
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