The only artist honoured with a guest appearance on Jay Z‘s 2001 album The Blueprint was Eminem. This makes it all the more worse for Jigga when fans discuss how he was supposedly killed on his own song. That instance has become such a big topic of conversation in the game that the term “renegaded” is used whenever an artist featuring on a song has a better verse than the artist whose song it is. For the sake of giving examples, Lupe Fiasco on MMG‘s ‘Poor Decisions’ was a “renegade” and Kendrick Lamar also “renegaded” the MMG crew on ‘Power Circle’.
There’s plenty wrong with the term. First of all, Jay Z’s ‘Renegade’ isn’t even originally his song. It’s a Bad Meets Evil cut that Royce was taken off of and Em’s verses are the same on both versions – you could argue that having heard Eminem’s verses already, Jay actually had the advantage going into the booth. Also, despite what Nas might have washed generations of fans’ brains with, Hov was far from murdered on the record – he at least held his own. While we could go back and forth about that all day, there’s a more paramount debate at hand.
How concerned should rappers be with being the best on a record? If you’re like me, you feel that there’s a time and place for your Futures and your Young Thugs but do believe that ultimately, the most important attribute of a good rapper is their lyricism. However, as a community, perhaps far too often we’re far too concerned with who had the most double entendres on a record than the actual quality of the music as a whole. Where should the balance lie?
The fact of the matter is rappers should never not put their best foot forward during a verse. However, as fans maybe we should no longer only praise individual verses and look out for who gets the better of who but just support the song. If having the most clever lines was the only thing that mattered in Hip-Hop, Hollow Da Don would be on everyone’s top 10 list. But whether we like it or not, in 2015 where it’s relatively easy to be noticed online, being a good rapper isn’t enough any more. The reason why so many battle rappers struggle to thrive in a mainstream market is because they lack song writing capabilities and the skill to actually craft a sonically sound piece. Why wouldn’t we hold those who can manage both to a higher standard?
You can even take into consideration the conversation about ghostwriting that was sparked a few months back. If Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Diddy, Drake and Kanye West are just some of the rappers who have received help with writing before, how much pride is there in penning the best verse on a song anyway? As long as the bars are of a respectable standard, the entire record should be the main focus.
However, others will say that this takes away the competitive element that we all love. Hip-Hop boasts being the only intentionally competitive genre of music in the World. An extensive part of the content of our music is literally about being better than the next man. In any other genre (sans 2015 R&B where lines blur), that is a completely foreign concept. When was the last time you heard a Rock band sing about playing guitar the best? Rappers function best with the reassurance that they’re better than the next. But the bigger win in the long haul could be making a song that stands the test of time like classics from other genres. Not that we need it, but focusing on that aspect of song crafting could be our ticket to the GRAMMYs too.
It’s a shift that could be uncomfortable at first but in the long term could benefit us greatly. Even when critiquing rappers individually, the history books will show that having them be a part of classic songs will hold more weight than them having the best verse on songs. Including and appreciating the musical aspect could not only enhance the quality of our music but finally get us the respect we rightfully deserve on a larger scale too. It’s not “going Pop”, it’s a necessary shift in the game to move forward. A sacrifice for the greater good.
– Akaash Sharma (@AkaaSH_SHarmA)