Rap battles go as far back as the genre of music.
Built on gravitas and status, the idea is for lyricists to show off their raw talent regardless of record sales and mainstream appeal.
“Rap will always be a competitive sport,” Brooklyn-based MC and DJ, Donwill told ESSENCE. “Battling is where true champions are forged. Battles aren’t beef but they can easily go beyond the bars if things get too personal. This verbal sparring is part of what makes hip hop a unique genre, because it doesn’t really exist anywhere else.”
On Friday, rappers Nicki Minaj and Gucci Mane reunited after years of rumored contention, on a track called “Make Love”. The slow tempo Trap song gave Nicki the perfect opportunity to address someone in her lane of competition.
“Everybody know you jealous, b**ch it’s so clear,” the Queens-bred rapper says. “Oooohhh, oh you the qu-e-e-the queen of this here? One platinum plaque, album flopped, b**ch, where?”
To the naked eye, the subliminal verses were made for anyone calling themselves “the greatest” rapper currently in hip-hop. But to Reminiscence Mackie aka Remy Ma, it was a direct shot.
After dropping hard-hitting verses on Phresher’s “Wait A Minute (Remix)“, the rap community was wondering if the pair had issues beyond the surface.
The truth is, in addition to their being only a handful of chart-topping female rappers, Nicki and Remy have a marred history of accusations and co-opting that’s been bubbling since Remy was released from prison in 2014.
So it was no huge surprise when the 36-year-old talent dropped “ShEther,” a ruthless diss track directly pointed to Nicki.
Over Nas’ classic “Ether” beat used to crush Jay Z in a very public rap battle, Remy spews out public and private information about Nicki that hit at the core.
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“With Jay and Nas, it was male machismo on display,” says Starrene Rhett Rocque, author of Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted about the 2001 battle between the two rap heavyweights that erupted after Jay Z claimed to have slept with Nas’ ex-girlfriend.
“With Remy, bringing up Nicki’s alleged body count works, whether true or not. Because classically, when it comes to dissing women you go for their looks and imply promiscuity. It drops jaws and keeps people buzzing. So Remy achieved the desired affect.”
The only difference between the rap major battles of the past the include Nas and Jay Z, Biggie and Tupac, Common and Ice Cube, and 50 Cent and Ja Rule is that social media is now in play. Instead of fans waiting to possibly give their two-cents on the radio, everyone has the opportunity to voice their opinion on social media— adding more flame to the fire.
“One of the best elements of hip-hop culture is battle rapping because it’s solely about the lyrics, not going mainstream, not the dumbing down for dollars—just heart, soul and going all the way in,” Rocque adds. “It’s how MC’s used to establish themselves as the nicest. It was almost expected that the greats would eventually clash and when that clash happened it was all out war with nothing off limits.”
Many agree, but are also hoping that Nicki responds in a timely manner. Or she could take the less traveled road of accepting defeat by ignoring the song.
“ShETHER was entertaining,” says Donwill. “Remy’s first shot was solid but it definitely didn’t finish the battle before it started. They both seem to be in the same weight class so I think it could be pretty interesting to watch this play out.”