Rap Is Outta Control

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Chris Lee looks in at Azalea Banks who's looking to put heads to bed:

While precisely no one can claim to be surprised when a bonfire of hip-hop vanities boils over into outright "beef" between artists, a recent spate of feuds between female MCs-femcees, if you will-has been playing out across social media and over the airwaves, throwing the cutthroat stakes of rap stardom for women into stark relief. Even at a time when hip-hoppers with XX chromosomes are arguably gaining more mainstream traction than at any other point in the genre's history, the rap game has changed into a kind of Hunger Games for the fairer sex where only One can be victorious.

And within this hostile pop-cultural environment, hipsterdom, notions of authenticity, questions of race, and even old age butt up against one another while the co-sign of a male rap superstar can still help define a femcee's commercial viability. "Music is a competition," remarked Kreayshawn, another female MC who was recently embroiled in a beef with Azealia Banks. "And girls are more competitive than guys are."

With her "runaway slave master" tweet, Banks-a 20-year-old African-American rising star from Harlem--was referring to the Iggy Azalea track "D.R.U.G.S." in which the Australian raps: "Tire marks, tire marks/Finish line with the fire marks/When the relay starts/I'm a runaway slave...master."

I don't know that there's much gender analysis to be made here. It is mildly interesting that both the MCs Banks is beefing with are white. The Kreayshawn dis looks like an attempt to pick a fight, but again, there's nothing original there. Rap beefs are really tailor-made for the era of tweeting and headlines. As an aside, I really like that slave master. It strikes me as firmly in the tradition of hip-hop irony.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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