“[Rap beef] is really corporate now,” Pusha T says in between bites of hot sauced-covered chicken wings during his appearance on the popular interview show Hot Ones. The question he’s been asked by unflappable host Sean Evans is, “What would you say is the biggest difference between how diss tracks were exchanged 20 years ago versus today and why is still important who wins?”
Pusha would know; he’s been keeping a running feud going with Lil Wayne for nearly 20 years himself (over a hoodie, no less), pulling in Wayne’s protege Drake and outing the latter as the father of a secret child in 2018. Continuing to share his thoughts, he elaborates that “Now, you’ll have a rap beef and the record label gets involved. The CEOs are like, ‘Whoa! You can’t do this to my artist!’ I don’t think they end careers anymore, because people don’t have the same pride level about the art.”
He also thinks it’s less important who wins, because “Back in the day it was career-ending… Nowadays, people don’t care. They’re like, ‘Oh well, they lost today. No big deal.’”
And okay, I’m sorry, all due respect to Push but as the resident hip-hop historian, I gotta say GTFOHWTBS. 20 years ago, Jay-Z and Nas held a knock-down, drag-out rhyme fight over the King Of New York title that fans still debate about and neither’s career suffered over it. In fact, both became more popular, with Nas’ “Ether” arguably revitalizing his standing with fans after a pair of lukewarm releases to close out the ’90s. And if my man is talking about the 50 Cent/Ja Rule thing, it’s important to remember that Ja Rule’s label was shut down by the freaking FBI.
No one’s career was ever buried by a rap beef. Since the beginning, battle was an integral part of the genre; if there’s any culprit to blame for rappers’ short-lived careers, it’s fickle fans and quickly evolving musical tastes. Of course, the highest-profile rap beef with the highest stakes wasn’t even about rap, which explains why it came to such a tragic end — which, contrary to conspiracy theories that float around the internet to this day, had little to do with the rules of engagement in hip-hop.
Pusha’s entitled to his opinion but at the end of the day, the narrative of rap beefs ending careers is just that: a narrative. As a matter of course, these things are always much more nuanced than we tend to idealize them as with our nostalgia glasses on. Anyway, for Pusha’s latest beef, check out his McDonald’s diss track “Spicy Fish Diss,” which he made in conjuction with Arby’s. How’s that for corporate?
Watch Pusha T’s full Hot Ones interview above