Saturday, June 30, 2012

Responding in battle

When it comes to hip hop music, I ALWAYS have something to talk about, and this stems from my recent "Nas & Jay-Z: The Battle" topic. I mentioned in that topic that I shuddered to think where Nas' career would've been had he either not responded to "Takeover" OR if his response was "disappointing". It goes without saying that Nas made a lot of people stand up and take notice with "Ether", and as a result, it breathed a new life into Nas and his successful career remained intact! Now, for this topic, I want to focus on two of the more noteworthy cases in hip hop where an artist failed to respond properly and another didn't respond at all and what it eventually did to his career. Read on!!!!!

Prodigy- Failure to properly respond to Jay-Z 
I had to start with this one, because this is one of the most popular choices regarding not properly responding. After putting an obvious pre-Shook Ones Pt. 2 photo of Prodigy on blast at Summer Jam 2001, plus a scathing verse on "Takeover" that would've destroyed an average MC's career, you would think that an artist would come back with a response for something like that, but in Prodigy's case, if you listen to "Crawlin" on Mobb Deep's disappointing, but very good "Infamy" album, it's clear he was taking shots at Jay, but he did so in a rather uninspired way, leading me to believe he either "didn't know or care" about the caliber of an MC Jay-Z is/was. As I mentioned before, when it comes to Jay-Z (and this may be the bias in me talking), you either come hard or not at all. Even if Prodigy would've came with a better response, his credibility as an artist wouldn't have been called into question. And one more point, something I've said for YEARS now, ever since "Takeover", Prodigy, lyrically, hasn't been the same since, and it's still amazing what a picture and a few bars can do to someone's career. Since the "Infamy" album, Prodigy has been relatively hit and miss (mostly misses), and you can't help but notice the obvious differences between "The Infamous", "Hell On Earth", "Murda Muzik", and "HNIC" and everything since.

Ja Rule- NOT responding to the onslaught of G-Unit and friends
You HAD to know this was coming, and believe me, I have some words for this one! Late 2002, 50 Cent was already in the process of changing how mixtapes were done and becoming a big star in the process, while admittedly Ja Rule was the more popular (and known) artist at the time. In the interest of time, I'm not going to go into a complete history of their beef. Before I get into Ja Rule's failure to respond, I do remember the "order of protection" situation that Ja and Irv Gotti talked about, which not coincidentally was the week before Ja's GOD AWFUL "Last Temptation" album was released, and that's exactly what it was and it failed miserably. Getting to the beef, I was blown away when I first heard "Back Down". Dre's beat knocked and 50's lyrics were sharp, plus the ending of the song (you know what I'm referring to, lol) all but put the nail in Ja's coffin. At the time, I didn't wonder how Ja was going to respond, but in understanding hip hop, you CANNOT let a diss like that go unanswered, and that was Ja's biggest mistake. Not only did he fail to respond, he also left the "bidding" to two untalented, ahem, artists in Black Child and Tah Murdah. Granted, when you have the likes of 50 Cent, Young Buck, Lloyd Banks, Eminem, Busta Rhymes, etc, coming after you lyrically, not many can handle that, but coming back to understanding hip hop, you have to respond in some form. Even if your response doesn't win the battle, the fact that you took the time to craft something noteworthy and stood up to your adversary would ensure you maintain credibility with the fans, not to mention keeping your fanbase. 

And what happened to Ja-Rule? Well, outside of releasing a hit in 2005 in the form of "New York" (and you gotta give him props for linking up with two of NY's hottest artists at the time, Jadakiss and Fat Joe), he was rendered COMPLETELY irrelevant and on all levels he was never the same again. After "Pain Is Love" was released in 2001, that was basically it for him (and please don't get me started on "The Last Temptation" again, lol), as his career essentially came to an end thanks to 50 Cent. How can anyone resurrect a previous successful career after an onslaught like that?

Bottom line is, when it comes to hip hop and battling, one should NEVER consider him/herself being "too big" to respond or even feel that responding "is beneath them". Hip hop is competitive in nature, dating back to 80s and KRS vs. MC Shan, as an example. So anytime someone comes at you on record, the first thing that should come to mind "how am I going to respond".  Failure to respond overall and properly will directly affect your career. Ask Prodigy and Ja-Rule.

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