"What's beef?" the Notorious B.I.G. asked on his song of the same title. "Beef is when your moms ain't safe up in the streets."
There's no need for rappers' mothers to put on the Kevlar just yet, but their MC sons are spewing a lot of venom at each other these days. Jadakiss has been beefing with Beanie Sigel. Sigel has made it clear he's not feeling DMX. DMX may have it in for Jay-Z; Nas definitely does. Nas is also going at it with Sigel, Cormega, Freeway and Memphis Bleek.
Jadakiss swears it's mostly hype.
"The industry ain't like that," said Jada, whose solo debut, Kiss Tha Game Goodbye, was released Tuesday. "Most of the beefs you hear about ... are phony because the people you hear talking about each other, you can catch them downtown having a [hand]shake over some seafood, and it's not that serious.
"Usually everything is to make money," he explained. "If you can make money off it, then it's beneficial."
"It's music," Jay-Z said last week, on the set of the video to "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" (see "Jay-Z Gets Serious, 'Soulful,' On New Video And Album"). "It's rap music. Rap music was built on being competitive MCs from back in the days battlin' and trying to be the best. But now you've got money involved, so you take that competitive fire and you add it along with money, and you got a lethal combination. But it's good for rap music."
The most talked-about quarrel right now finds Jadakiss and fellow LOX member Styles going at it with Beanie Sigel who is part of Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records stable. That fight has been a featured attraction on the mixtape circuit in the past few weeks.
"You 'bout to make me really hurt you, Kiss… The reverend gonna have to get a hearse for Kiss," Sigel warned on a freestyle he recorded in late June for DJ Envy's latest offering to the street, the Roc-A-Family-hosted Empire Strikes Back. Rapping over Jada's beat for "Put Ya Hands Up," Beans goes on to send a shot at DMX, referencing the Dark Man's character in the movie "Belly." "I leave it up to Hov to X-out Tommy Buns."
Kiss came back full throttle on DJ Kay Slay's Return of the Jada mixtape. On a freestyle titled "Fók Beanie," the Yonkers MC claims that his Philadelphia nemesis copied his rhyme style and that Beanie's professed thuggery is a façade. "Sigel's not real to me; therefore he doesn't exist," he raps. "So poof, vamoose, son of Kiss."
Now Jada says "vamoose" to the quarrel itself.
"It's not gonna go on," said Jada, who added that he spoke to Sigel to iron everything out. "It's not gonna be no more disrespectful songs made. If it is, it's gonna be handled differently than making a song about it. [Making dis records] can be good and bad; they help it if you need the hype. I need it, then I don't need it because I'm doing good anyway. I'm about to cash in real big this year and I ain't about to let nobody or nothing stop that."
Even before the disses hit the streets, Sigel said, "Somebody must have been feeding some sucker sh-- in [Jada's] head or telling him something. It's all gravy though. I got respect for him; hopefully he got respect for me so I won't lose the respect I got for him."
Jadakiss' upcoming album (see "Jadakiss, DMX Team Up For Goodbye") is at the center of another battle. After a bootleg copy of the LP hit the streets in July, hip-hoppers inferred there was beef between DMX and Jay-Z because of X's guest appearance on "Un-Hunh!" (which is called "Here We Go Again" on the bootleg). X, whose fourth album, The Great Depression, comes out just a week after Jigga's The Blueprint hits stores next month, barks, "I only gave you the crown to shoot it off your f---in' head." (Jadakiss, meanwhile, throws a mild jab at Sigel, saying he "ate too many Beanie Macs.")
Nas piles on the Jiggaman on his new dis record, a freestyle called "Stillmatic," on which he also spits fire at Cormega, Freeway, Memphis Bleek and Beanie Sigel.
"I rule you, before you used to rap like the Fu-Schnickens," Nas raps. "Nas designed your Blueprint; who you kiddin'? It's H-to-the-izzo, M-to-the-izzo ... the rapper version of Sisqó."
To Jay-Z, it's all about positioning to be at the top of the rap ladder.
"[Nas] is definitely gonna bring out the best of me; he's gonna put me at the top of my game," Jay said of his fellow lyrical giant. "It's like playing basketball with a guy. He's gonna put me on top of my game; I hope I do the same for him. I don't want to hurt the guy. It's just verbal sparring. No one is fighting. It's just records."
The problem, according to Jadakiss, is that the game is getting larger.
"Now it's more at stake," he said. "People are going five platinum. It's ex-drug dealers in the game, like myself. I went to college and all that, but right now this is my loophole to get some good money. You can't let nobody step on your ego, dismantle your whole image for no reason. Too much is at stake here. I got kids, I got a mother I got n---as in a jail. I can't let no one man or no team come and try to take that away from me."
"Anything is possible," Jay-Z said. "That's just part of life, but I'm not a dummy. I'm not a stupid guy. I'm sure if we wanted to do something to each other we wouldn't be talking about it on music."
Influential New York radio DJs Funkmaster Flex and Clue are trying to keep heads cool on all sides.
The record spinners, who have been playing the vendetta-filled music to the masses, told listeners last week that they were going through inner turmoil, trying to give the fans what they want to hear, but at the same time trying not to amp the beefs.
"If I don't have these freestyles on the show, I wind up looking moist," Flex said on his Hot 97 show. He stopped the music to call for a cease to the disses.
"I don't want this to get ugly," Flex said. He said the rhyming between all the factions was getting disrespectful and "this is not gonna be good ... I can't see those people seeing each other [in public] and it not being a problem."
DJ Clue, who was in the studio with Flex, called for MCs to "Keep it on the mixtapes." And he said he was done playing the battle raps.
Ironically, minutes before he called for the rappers to calm down, Flex played Nas' "Stillmatic."
Nas and DMX could not be reached for comment.
(For a full-length interview with Beanie Sigel, check out "Beanie Sigel: Rhyme And The Reason".)