Does ‘beef’ really pay in music?

Hip hop music, which originates from the United States of America (USA), is often associated with artists deliberately insulting each other.

The dissing is sometimes driven by genuine reasons of hate but at times it is just part of artistic friendly banter aimed at promoting one’s production the market or otherwise.

History also points to the fate of two of the undisputed big names to have ever participated in the rap game, 2 Pac Shakur, Notorius BIG, real name Christopher Wallace. Their east-coast and west coast hip hop was littered with numerous compositions aimed at taking a dig at each other.

Gwamba: There is no beef in my little world of music

Eventually, that feud ended fatally as both artists’s lives were claimed through drive-by shootings by unknown gunmen believed to be members of the opposing sides.

Locally the culture of throwing ‘beef’ (as it is usually referred to) has also been embraced along with the hip hop genre. It is not strange to hear lyrics that are aimed at hitting another artist within the hip hop set-up.

Hip hop duo Dare Devils in one of their compositions, Akuti Cha sang: “Izi siza makape izi, ana amapwepwete omangodyera fees. Ndakulira mu ghetto musandipatse busy. Akazi mukunyadilawo ife tinalowa fisi…

“Izizi sizamitsitsi, wina zikumupweteka ngati ndamkoka tsitsi, lero mukundinena kuti ndine wachimidzi, dzulo dzuloli sister wako ndamuvungira kiss…”

Even in its abstract form, one can deduce that the lines in the song were directed at someone else. And this is just one example of thousands other songs that have flooded the local music industry.

But how do artists react when they feel they are targets of some negative vibes?

Gospel hip hop artist Gwamba said the negative energy that is reflected in compositions of so many musicians is down to lack of better and positive things to sing about.

“I don’t think I have time to care about what someone is singing about me. As a gospel artist, my goal is to preach the word of God through music. There is no beef in my little world of music,” he said.

Lilongwe-based lyrist Macelba admitted that he has ever felt being a target of some diss songs but it is something that he does not take strongly to since he believes the whole ‘beefing’ business is part of the hip hop culture.

The Apse Mtima creator said: “Hip hop is territorial. It is about egos. It is all about who is better. But in other instances what pushes people to hit at someone is jealousy. You cannot have a whole song singing about someone instead of putting together something that people can relate to.” 

However, the singer contends that the concept of aiming digs at each other in songs cannot yield any benefits in the Malawian set-up.

Radio 2FM DJ Joy Nathu, in an interview with Chill, said the tendency of artists waging a warfare through song content is very prevalent in the country, but he doubts if it can add value to one’s artistic profile.

However, he said compositions of the artists where they are competing through trading of words can generate positive excitement.

“It is tough to say because I have never seen anyone benefit from it. Elsewhere the artists do it for fame and money. They have live shows where they outdo each other with disses. Here it is only for fame. If I were already an established artist I would never do that,” he said.

Music commentator Sam Chiwaka, in a separate interview, said he feels the act of dissing each other is not only childish but irresponsible too. He says that part of hip hop music does not have a place in the local music industry.

He said: “This cannot work in Malawi. It will just score them cheap points among their fellow low thinking types but nothing beyond that. The artists involved in this need to seriously rethink their position in the industry.”

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