Calendars turn, but rap beef knows nothing of space and time. It was just three days into the New Year when the first feud of 2013 began to roil. The inciting incident, because this is 2013, was a tweet. On January 3, Azealia Banks, the fashion-fetishized rapper from Harlem, sent out the following missive:
Seriously, if you were not born and raised in NY.... DON'T CLAIM NY. YOU ARE NOT A NEW YORKER.
For those seeking a follow-up, Banks was kind enough to clarify for the Saratoga set. What does a region-claiming message like that mean? In the context of Banks's frenetic, self-mythologizing Twitter feed (aren't they all, though), probably not very much. Azealia Banks prides herself on arch-trolldom. But what is social media for if not unverified assumption and rash response? So Angel Haze, another young female rapper with a rising profile, took the bait. Last year, Haze released a song called "New York," a hard-edged, quick-tongued trio of verses over Gil Scott-Heron's "New York Is Killing Me." Haze, born Raykeea Wilson, grew up in Michigan. She lives in Virginia. Was Banks slyly alluding to Haze, thought to be a friend in the industry, if also perceived competition? Maybe she was. Haze certainly thought so. So she released a dis record later that afternoon.
K-Pop tasted world-conquering glory in 2012, but it was bittersweet: Instead of one of the genre's many meticulously manicured supergroups, it was Psy, a portly second-stringer, who won hearts and minds. That means K-Pop's got some unfinished business to take care of — namely, breaking one of Korea's top names in America. And seeing the exactitude with which the industry whips its subjects into shape, there's no telling what kind of repercussions are on hand for the subjects if this fails; I believe a sort of modern-day musician's version of a debtor's prison is not out of the question. On that note: How are you feeling about Girls' Generation's latest? It's got about 19 songs jammed into one, which is nice; also, according to the subtitled version, the lyrics feature the phrase "deep eyes like a scarred beast."
Last winter, Azealia Banks released “212” — a bubbly, infectious, and hard rap track — alongside a video in which she paraded around in pigtails, short shorts, and a Mickey Mouse sweater. Promptly, the countdown to her superstardom began. And since, things have gotten a bit bumpy.
First, there were release date pushbacks and ugly label problems; according to Banks, she left the esteemed XL Recordings because, after she decided not to use head honcho Richard Russell’s beats for her album, “it got real sour. He wound up calling me 'amateur' and shit, and the XL interns started talking shit about me. It just got real fucking funny.” Later, there would be shots taken at most of the contemporary female rap landscape: Kreayshawn was a “a dumb bitch,” Nicki Minaj was “talented enough to sustain a very fruitful career without the ugly wigs and ugly costumes,” Iggy Azalea was a closet racist.
This song does not exist. It does not contain the lyric “I ball harder / no tennis racket.” It does not contain the lyric “Swag out this world, you should call me Venus / that’s my sister, my name is Serena.” Those aren’t real lyrics. This song does not exist.
Danny Brown, “Jay Dee's Revenge”
If you’ve ever spent any significant amount of time in Michigan, you know worshiping the late hip-hop producer J. Dilla is practically written into the state constitution over there. Which, if you’ve ever spent any significant amount of time driving around a mind-numbingly freezing Michigan winter in a decrepit Mercury Sable blasting his bass monster beat for Frank n’ Dank’s “Marajuana” over and over again, you understand why. (This Danny Brown track comes off the latest posthumous Dilla release, Rebirth of Detroit.)
Lana Del Rey featuring Azealia Banks, "Blue Jeans" (Smims&Belle Extended Remix)
We’re gonna kick off our latest installment of SOTW with this here unholy Lana-Azealia collaboration as a harbinger of what’s to come. I can’t tell you why, but this week is just packed with all kinds of material that certainly exists, whether or not it should. Just a fair warning before we go any further.
I haven’t stepped a foot inside Coachella and already I’m being propositioned into minor illegality. While I loiter outside the gate before heading in, a young man named Edgar, who is smoking unfiltered Lucky Strikes, approaches, having taken me for a potential fence-hopping accomplice. I insist that I have a valid pass and official business to conduct, but he’s not so convinced. He tells me he’s broken in the last two years, and that while security has intensified this year — at some point he uses the phrase “tighter than a dolphin’s butthole,” or something similarly hilarious — there are always weaknesses, and he’s going to walk the perimeter to unearth some. And it almost sounds badass enough to try. Ultimately, though, I wish him well and head inside the normal way. Hope you made it in, Edgar.
DJ Khaled featuring Chris Brown, Rick Ross, Lil Kim, and Nicki Minaj, “Take It to the Head”
DJ Khaled’s talent at collecting all-star posse cuts is directly inversely to his talent at making promo videos where he looks badass. Exhibit A: To push his new single, he got a speedboat and headed out into the ocean and filmed himself, but the swaggiest thing he does is ask some lady offscreen to hand him a Gatorade. Then he dives into the ocean with his shoes on. Those are ruined now!