The legendary Notorious B.I.G. once posed the question “what’s beef?“, detailing the differences between petty ‘rap beef’, which usually stops with diss records or a battle, and ‘real life beef’, which is “when you need two gats to go to sleep” and “your mom ain’t safe up in the streets”. Of all rappers to ever do it, Biggie would know this the best, being that it’s likely that ‘beef’ which led to both his and Tupac Shakur’s untimely deaths in the late ’90’s. What offenses, what violations, what mere words can lead to a disagreement going from music to life and death, though?
Recently, indie rap prodigy Joey Bada$$ released a single called “Ready”, where he boasted about his album sales, as well as those of his Pro Era crew teammate Kirk Knight last year. The 21-year-old NYC spitter raps:
“60K first week for the Bada$$
200K to this date, know you niggas mad
With the 80/20 split, my nigga, do the math
My nigga Kirk just outsold Troy Ave”
Now, before we expound upon what happened next, here’s some background on those bars: last year, Joey was bragging on Twitter about being the number one independent hip-hop artist in the country, based on the sales of his debut album B.4.DA.$$, which moved about 60K its first week. Troy Ave, whose debut LP Major Without A Deal moved less than 5K units in week one, took offense to this, replying with a subliminal tweet clearly pointed at Bada$$, calling him “fake independent” because of his distribution deal with Sony Red (which doesn’t change that he’s still an independent artist, by definition).
NO single, NO party hosting’s NO real endorsements Reminder: NObody cares + u WORK for Sony Red / Cinematic Records #FakeIndependent
— TROY AVE (@TroyAve) June 22, 2015
All of that is decidedly ‘rap beef’, as their dispute is specifically about album sales, not anything substantial that should lead to animosity outside of music. Nothing further materialized at first, as Joey claimed the two emcees patched up their differences and had mutual respect for each other in a Hot 97 interview shortly afterward. Also, the young lyricist discussed his “Steez Day” event, which is dedicated to his former crew member and best friend, promising emcee Capital STEEZ, who tragically took his own life in late 2012. What does Joey’s friend’s suicide have to do with this silly mini-beef over record sales? Nothing at all, yet it was still brought up anyway.
Since they allegedly made amends, it seems Troy Ave’s feelings were clearly hurt by Bada$$ still commenting on sales in “Ready”; so hurt in fact, that he quickly responded with a four minute long (!!!) diss track targeting his fellow New Yorker, to the point that he even titled it “Bada$$”. To call this overkill would be an understatement. Troy spends most of the subpar track claiming “nobody cares” about Joey’s indie success since he doesn’t get radio airplay (as if that really matters in 2016), but he takes the reignited beef to a whole new, unnecessary level with eight bars disrespecting the deceased Capital STEEZ:
“I’m a savage, this gon’ leave you sad, bitch
Don’t get suicidal like your friend, here’s a casket
STEEZ burnin’ in hell, my burner’s on my belt
I’m really killin’ shit, you niggas killin’ yourself
Fuckin’ weirdos, off the roof, steer clear, yo!
This nigga tryna fly, he think he a super hero!
SPLAT, man…fuck you and that man
and all three labels you signed to, they wack, man, here’s the facts, man”
Troy already proved he wears his insecurities on his sleeve via his reactions to being grilled on his low album sales during his own Hot 97 interview, but this overzealous diss track is on a different echelon of sensitive. It’s the sound of an entitled brat throwing a tempter tantrum, shouting the most hurtful shit he can think of, just because he got called out on the truth: Joey Bada$$ is more successful than him, statistically. The sales and sold-out shows speak for themselves. Sure, it’s understandable for Troy to get annoyed that Joey still threw a light jab after publicly claiming they’d patched things up, but this is a full on flurry of sloppy haymakers that rope in a dead man who can’t defend himself; and for what? These are some of the most offensive bars ever spat on a diss track; more so than ‘Pac threatening Biggie’s life and claiming his fucked his wife on “Hit ‘Em Up“. More so than Jay-Z detailing him banging the mother of Nas’ child in her backseat on “Super Ugly“. Definitely more so than Drake dissing Meek Mill for opening up Nicki Minaj’s tour on “Back To Back“. Other than the 2Pac/B.I.G. situation, which was compounded by many non-musical elements, those are all still ‘rap beefs’. Name-calling, disses to significant others, and even death threats are one thing; but dissing even an enemy’s deceased homie is a noted no-no in hip-hop. Diss tracks embody one of the most entertaining elements of rap: competition. Whether simply to prove who’s the better rapper, or to iron out legitimate differences, taking beef to wax stirs up controversy and can be used as a viable promotional tool to boost album sales, which is ironic in this case, and to call more attention to the artists; Joey himself even staged a beef with eccentric rapper Lil’ B to enhance their buzzes. The East Coast/West Coast beef, headed by 2Pac and Biggie, had the whole country talking. The victor in Jay and Nas’ spat is still debated today. Drake’s career-stifling diss to Meek was nominated for a goddamn Grammy. But neither Troy Ave nor Joey Bada$$ are on those legends’ levels of notoriety, so to take their beef to this deplorable level seems like a desperate cry for attention from a fledgling, increasingly irrelevant rapper…because that’s exactly what it is.
People have been killed for less than this in beefs; during Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy’s storied beef, an associate of Jeezy’s was shot to death by Gucci after breaking into his home, which was ruled as self-defense. The Snowman denies ever sending his man to rob Gucci, but even if not, his friend’s actions were probably motivated by his homie being dissed on a record, and his life was ended too soon. Afterwards, Gucci did diss Jeezy’s dead partner on wax, which was far from appropriate; but due to the attempted robbery, his anger towards the situation at least made sense. Capital STEEZ never tried to rob Troy Ave; they never even met each other. Simply put, Troy Ave is doing too much here, and as you can see from the comments on Soundcloud and YouTube (as well as the amount of dislikes), “Bada$$” is hurting his own dwindling career more than it could ever hurt his rival’s. Like most of Troy’s output as of late, it’s a mediocre record to begin with, with boring ’90’s-revisionist production and lyrics devoid of much cleverness; but what has even Troy Ave fans jumping ship is the disgusting display of random disrespect, escalating a music-related tiff to a different animal entirely.
Troy Ave is salty cause Joey Badass is 10 years younger and 10 times better. — Steph (@STEPH_GROUT72) March 1, 2016
I don’t like Joey Badass but I’m hoping he ends Troy Ave’s Career lol
— Ariana’s Daddy (@SirStevieRogers) March 1, 2016
Troy Ave went triple plastic and wants to beef with Joey Badass, incredible. — #TeamSuperman (@SageTerrence) March 1, 2016
Granted, Joey Bada$$ (who is 9 years Troy’s junior), is far from a Gucci Mane and will most likely not be sending shooters after Mr. Ave. However, you can’t say it wouldn’t be justified if he slaps the shit out of Troy the next time he sees him (which we can only hope someone gets footage of). As an artist with a history of rap battling, having tons of rappers spew disses to my family, girl, etc. in front of me, and also having a couple rappers release diss tracks about me (none of which were worthy of a response), I understand that there’s a tolerance of that type of disrespect that you have to maintain in this game. But I can’t imagine the feeling of hearing another grown man saying your beloved friend is “burning in hell” while mocking his death for the world to hear, over comments about album sales.
Joey has definitely heard “Bada$$” by now, and perhaps the level of maturity he projects in his writing has helped him remain calm, putting blinders on and focusing on more productive things; or, he’s understandably furious. Either way, this was completely preventable and does nothing to help either artist’s career or even entertain battle-hungry fans. Hopefully, Drake’s success with “Back To Back” doesn’t inspire more inferior rappers like Troy Average to put out diss tracks that are all shock value and no substance in an attempt to match the buzz the 6 God’s song generated. Competition and hip-hop may go hand and hand, but these rappers need to draw the line somewhere, before lines of chalk are drawn around real victims.
R.I.P. Capital STEEZ