While some debate who won the latest round between Shady/Aftermath and Murder Inc., others are debating whether dis songs belong on the radio. With mixtape kings such as Kay Slay, Clue, Whoo Kid and Green Lantern all holding down radio gigs, beefs aren’t limited to the streets anymore.
New York’s DJ Funkmaster Flex has been voicing disdain for how flagrant the disses have gotten lately. “I’m disappointed with everybody involved,” he said Monday on his Hot 97 show, going on a diatribe about how recent battles are putting a black eye on the rap game.
His clique of DJs, the Big Dawg Pitbulls, some of whom also spin for Hot 97, agree. “We got together on that same sentiment; he just got really vocal,” Pitbull Cipha Sound said Tuesday. “We all feel that it’s really getting out of hand. [The disses] are not even for the spirit of hip-hop no more. It’s corny. It’s just another way of trying to get on the radio without putting out a real record.”
Obviously artists like Eminem, 50 Cent and Ja Rule were getting love on the radio way before their dis records started to infiltrate the airwaves (see “Ja Rule Calls 50 ‘Loose Change,’ Disses ‘Feminem’ And Dr. Dre” and “Eminem Says If Tupac Were Alive, ‘He Would Never Ride With Ja’ “ ). So what does a DJ do when the public wants to hear major stars go at each other?
You play what the people want, Chicago DJ Mike Love said.
“It goes back to the old days of the Juice Crew battles to LL Cool J and Canibus,” Love said. “They may be talking a little bit more violently [now], but [battling is] the essence of hip-hop. As far as me, I’m gonna play all the joints I get. It’s a demand for them, people want to hear them.”
“If we don’t play it, the competition is gonna play it,” Cipha said. “The boss is looking at it like, ‘Well, listeners want to hear it, and if I don’t play it, the guy next door is gonna play it.’ … We started thinking about it [and decided] we don’t need to stoop to that level.”
DJ Felli Fel of Los Angeles’ Power 106 pointed out that MCs who want to voice their differences with a peer need to be prepared for some level of hype.
“When an individual makes a record, they have to take into consideration that it may get play on the radio, a mixtape or it may get some type of publicity on MTV,” he said. “When somebody like Eminem or Ja Rule says something, they know the other person is gonna find out. The only difference is that on the radio, everybody hears it at once as opposed everybody slowly hearing it on mixtapes.
“A DJ’s responsibility definitely encompasses playing what the people want to hear,” he added, “but you also have a responsibility to bring quality music to the airwaves and mixtapes.”
Fel, who has a rule that he’ll only play a dis record once on his radio show, also said it’s important for DJs to give each side equal airplay. Tuesday morning on Hot 97, guest morning show host Fat Joe complained that the station was not giving Ja Rule’s dis freestyle against Em, 50 and Busta as much play as their “Hail Mary” comeback.
“When it comes to dis records, I don’t think an artist can complain about a particular record being played,” Fel said. “The airwaves and mixtapes are open for you to comment. The lines are open to the other artists as well. I’ve even had it where a particular artist did a dis record and another artist responded and the first artist is like, ‘Why you play that dis record?’ That’s crazy to me.”
On Monday night Flex called for a stop to the madness and declared he was going to fall back from playing dis records. He even sarcastically admonished hip-hop godfather Russell Simmons for not taking a more active role in beefs such as the one between Murder Inc. and Shady/Aftermath.
“I talk to them all the time. Flex doesn’t know what I do,” Simmons said. “I put half a million dollars of my own money in that Hip-Hop Summit Network. I hold meetings with these people and I’m working behind the scenes all the time. I don’t have to put it on radio; I do the best I can with them. Sometimes they don’t call me back and don’t want my help and tell me to stay out of it. Sometimes I’m able to help resolve these conflicts.
“I’ve taken meetings with Chris Lighty and Irv Gotti and their crews,” he added. “I talk to them individually, and I’ve paid for security at the meetings they’ve had. I don’t resent [Flex's comments], but I know he’s not aware of the work I do.”