Pusha T sent the Hip-Hop world into a frenzy when he proved he was playing cerebral chess by dropping “The Story Of Adidon” — good luck Google searching that and not getting a picture of Drake in Blackface! — acting as a reply to Drake’s cheeky “Duppy Freestyle.” It wasn’t without its critics, though. For those of us that were around when 2Pac dropped “Hit Em Up,” or sat back and watched the Jay-Z vs. Nas saga unfold, King Push probably didn’t appear to say anything too savage. A lot has changed in regards to what is and isn’t acceptable verbal conduct in society since the late ’90s and early ’00s, and some people are criticizing Pusha for crossing the line with some of his angles.
Over the three-minute track that utilizes Jay-Z’s “The Story of OJ” instrumental, Pusha touches on ex-label royalties, identity confusion, Drake’s un-wed mother, a child and baby mother that had been hidden from the public spotlight and, lastly, an eerie reminder to Drake’s friend and producer 40 that his terminal illness exists.
The sport of battle rap has always been a part of Hip-Hop culture and more often than not it is two MCs going bar-for-bar in terms of skills, flexing their best braggadocio styles at each other. In the worst case scenario, we get the tension built to the point that two opposing coasts from an entire country picked sides that ultimately ended the lives of two of the greatest artists all time, ending far prematurely.
There have been a handful of cases that well-known rappers have gone “no holds barred” on wax, as was the case in 1991 when Ice Cube broke down some record label back-end economics for Dr. Dre and NWA on “No Vaseline,” and the same year Tim Dog dropped “Fuck Compton” putting the spotlight on Dr. Dre’s domestic violence rumors. In 1996, Mobb Deep released Hell On Earth with the scathing “Drop A Gem On ‘Em” that featured lyrics alluding to 2Pac being sexually assaulted in prison, and no words need be typed about the reply track, “Hit Em Up,” that has quite possibly the most abrasive introduction and outro of all time. During his 2001 war of words with Nas, Jay-Z took it to the next level with claims of leaving used condoms in the car seat of Nas’ daughter on the track “Super Ugly,” and a rapper’s offspring was again brought into the picture on Ja Rule’s 2003 track “Loose Change,” which in retrospect was more of a career suicide mission against Eminem, D12 and G Unit.
So this begs the question: how far is too far?
The only correct answer depends on the artist’s own moral playing field and the purpose of the track. Is it to prove that one rapper is skillfully superior, or is there a bigger picture? Is it trying to expose the recipient and snatch the respect that their fans have for them right out of their hands? Like any debate or argument, there are usually three sides to the story – rapper A, rapper B and then there’s the truth. While it is arguably one of the most entertaining elements of Hip-Hop music, we must remember that egos are fragile and stakes can rise very quickly. With all that said, let’s get ready to rumble!