The Hip-Hop Diss: Why They Do It & Why We Love It

Mollie Mansfield /
Dec 13, 2016 / Music

Whether they’re sly, or giving a prison-like physical description of the target, diss tracks are always good – for either the inner music fanatic, or drama queen.  However hip-hop producer Mike Dean recently targeted the track culture as a whole, suggesting those who write them are “lacking” before an album release. Speculation was made that this indirect tweet was in fact directed at J Cole, who coincidentally released such a track just days before his recent LP. So are diss tracks just a way to create a bit of hype before releasing a new album?

Quite frankly, no, they’re not. If someone’s relevant enough to have “beef” with the likes of Kanye West or Drake, then why would they possibly need to point flashing arrows towards their new album. They wouldn’t, but hey, it doesn’t hurt when the releases coincide. False Prophets by J Cole is the current track under interrogation, with most of the “dissing” being pointed towards Yeezy. With lyrics such as ego in charge of every move / he’s a star and we can’t look away due to the days that he caught our hearts”, it’s clear why the speculation is there. But then the question is asked as to why this happens, and why tracks like this are made. The problem is, us ‘normal‘ people only know the drama between stars if it’s reported on by the trash, celebrity driven media. So when these tracks are released we don’t really know the reasoning behind it, but maybe the only reason they do it in this manner is because it’s the way it’s always been.

When Ice Cube left NWA he wrote No Vaseline’, which is so straight-up, to the point that an NWA compilation introduces the track. Easy-E wrote ‘Real Muthaphuckkin’ G’s’ in spite of ex-best friend Dr.Dre and his new bezzie, Snoop Dogg. If the masters of hip-hop took their anger through diss, perhaps this is just the way it goes. And anyway, could you really imagine hip-hop stars talking it out over dinner, ending with a kiss and makeup?

And it’s probably to do with the fact we fucking love it. Some of us have such boring lives that we can’t stray away from the fame and misfortune of celebrities lives. Even to the point where Drake having a problem with Meek Mill becomes part of our breakfast conversation. So why wouldn’t they please our ever-so-boring needs in such a way?

Also, as much as some of the above artists may not do it for the promotion, it’s undoubted that some do. Whether it’s to return from the dimly lit hallways of chav-rap, such as Chip (formerly known as Chipmunk), or to keep in the limelight, it helps.

And even if they’re not forthright meaning to claim promotion, they’re usually going to. It’s like everyone’s mother more politely used to say, don’t take shit from anybody. If Drake gets dissed, he’s unlikely to surrender, because he doesn’t want to be taken for a mug in front of his fanbase, especially to someone who may be considerably lower than him. But then it bites him on the ass, when he’s subsequently promoting someone he shouldn’t.

All in all it’s a culture thing that is never truly going to stop. It’s been the way that voices are being heard in music for decades, regardless of the topic. And with celebrity relationships ending like the plague this year, it’s undoubted there’ll be some more feuds by January.

Volume #16 is out now.

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Words by Mollie Mansfield

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