Rap beefs are, as a rule, bad. The name is corny to write and even cornier to say out loud. Compared to feuds that shaped the genre — Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac representing their East and West coast factions of rap, Jay-Z and Nas warring to be the king of New York, Kanye West and 50 Cent’s album sales face-off — rap beefs landing in the headlines lately are more often petty and inconsequential.
It’s a tired game by now, in which superstar rappers start drama timed to their release dates, implicitly boosting sales and dominating weeks’ worth of headlines. Just look at the brewing conflict between Machine Gun Kelly and Eminem, which is barely a week old and already exhausting.
MGK, for those unfamiliar, is a 28-year-old rapper from Cleveland whose recent accomplishments include his single “Bad Things”with Camila Cabello and not much else. It’s become easy to confuse him for his better-known rap peer G-Eazy, which is hilarious, because before the Eminem drama boiled over, MGK was trading diss tracks with the “No Limit” rapper over an alleged love triangle with singer Halsey, claiming his opponent dyed his hair and “got a hanging earring” in an attempt to look like him. That’s apparently the state of hip-hop drama in 2018 — fully-grown men accusing one another of suspect ear piercings.
Enter Eminem, who also bears a resemblance to G-Eazy and MGK, in that they’re all white guys with various stages of blonde hair. The Detroit rapper released his surprise album “Kamikaze” on Aug. 31, and in between angering his collaborators with his repeated insistence on rapping gay slurs, he carved out room in his lyrics to take shots at MGK on the song “Not Alike.” For the source of this feud, Slim Shady looked way back to 2012, to a tweeted comment MGK made about his daughter Hailie, who was 16 at the time, with MGK writing, “Ok so I just saw a picture of Eminem’s daughter… and I have to say, she’s hot as (expletive), in the most respectful way possible (because Eminem) is king.”
Why Eminem decided to reach back years to reignite a fight that nobody was asking for is beyond understanding. Perhaps he’d worked through his kill list, down to MGK’s name at the very bottom. Or, maybe he confused MGK with a rapper whose business we actually care about. Either way, MGK enthusiastically took Eminem’s bait, responding with the diss track “Rap Devil,” while painting their feud as a generational struggle.
“I’m standing up for not just myself, but my generation,” he tweeted about the song, telling an audience in Grand Rapids Thursday night that the feud is “a battle between the past and the (expletive) future.”
MGK’s wild confidence is one of the many bad parts of this feud, as if a rapper with no consequential releases this decade could ever be considered the future of the genre. One thing he did get correct, though, is that Eminem is indeed the genre’s past, with his new album “Kamikaze” roundly criticized by critics as proof the rapper may be past his prime. And as noble as Eminem thinks he’s being by defending his daughter, the fact that he’s a 45-year-old man who’s spent a lifetime rapping disgusting things about women and spends the rest of his “Kamikaze” album making questionable claims about “females” and “whores” negates any kind of moral superiority he’s trying to claim.
Unluckily for the rest of us, the feud probably isn’t over yet, with Eminem still needing to respond to MGK’s “Rap Devil” claims. And, as the two men’s race to the bottom continues, it’s hard not to be nostalgic for Pusha T, whose evisceration of Drake earlier this year with “The Story of Adidon” had everything that MGK and Eminem’s limp drama was missing — musicianship, lyricism, newsworthy gossip and, most importantly, actual stakes.
In comparison, nobody cares how MGK and Eminem’s story will end. So it’s probably time we all stop paying attention.
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