Kelly v. Mathers and why it doesn’t matter

By Thomas Griffin, Staff Writer

Rap beefs and diss tracks have come to be an integral part of the modern rap scene.
Often seen as the most competitive music genre, rap music has roots in bragging about what you’ve got. From money, to cars, to jewelry and clothes, to women, to power and respect, common themes and topics in rap center around the things you’ve earned from being the best in the scene.

More often than not, when two competing rappers go toe to toe with their lyrics, not only do their antics generate publicity, but the sales of their albums grow as a result.
In some cases, what appears to be a heated altercation between two greats in the rap scene turns out to be a glorified PR move by both parties to boost sales and gain fans.

Enter the current feud between Eminem and Machine Gun Kelly. Unlike the haughty beginnings of most rap beefs, both seem to have limped into this one.

Eminem has fallen behind the curve in terms of the modern rap genre. Before this feud, the 45-year-old and aging Marshall Mathers released an album titled Revival. Released in 2017 as his first full-length album in seven years, Revival sold remarkably well, but critically reviewed very poorly.

Fans seemed fed up with his foul lyrics, poorly composed backing tracks, and, above all else, his lack of topical focus or album direction. If this was supposed to be the “revival” of Eminem’s career as a rapper, many thought it would be better for him to hang up his hat.

Machine Gun Kelly, on the other hand, has featured a mostly mediocre discography since 2015, with the release of his second album. As of the time of the feud, the rapper was generally still obscure and irrelevant to the rest of the scene.

It’s likely the feud between the two journeyman rappers wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for both a 2012 Machine Gun Kelly tweet and Eminem’s fondness of diss tracks.

Years before this beef even materialized, MGK directed a tweet toward Eminem’s daughter Hailie, calling her “hot” over the social media platform.

Six years later, in late August of 2018, Eminem releases his latest studio album, Kamikaze, upon which he addresses a handful of competing rappers, including MGK.

On a track titled “Not Alike,” Eminem sends the first shot toward MGK, declaring that he wanted to put a “silencer on this little non-threatening blonde fairy cornball takin’ shots at me.”

After this declaration of war, there was blood in the water. A week after Kamikaze dropped, Machine Gun Kelly responded with a diss track of his own, entitled “Rap Devil.”

In it, MGK responds to Eminem, calling out how Mathers’ “ego is hurtin’” and how he should “go back to Recovery,” amongst insults to appearance, fading success, and losing fans.

Nearly a week later, Eminem shoots back again in a new song, “Kill shot,” in which he brags about how he’s “45 and I’m still outselling [MGK].”

While the initial fallout of the feud was, at the very least, amusing to witness, the pettiness of its origin and the almost slap-fight-like nature of the short-winded, lazy responses leave much to be desired.

This feud lacks a lot of the high-stakes reputations that made classic rap beefs so entertaining. Take, for example, the famous and highly publicized 1990s feud between The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur.

Biggie and Tupac were close, both as friends and in the rap scene. Tupac was a sort of mentor to Biggie, and the two fed off each other to produce what was, at the time, the best rap music in the scene.

That was, until a falling out (and a suspected ordered murder of Tupac by Biggie) split the two and pitted them against each other in a pound-for-pound feud that would last until both of their deaths.

Due to their personal experience with each other, they both knew exactly how to get under each other’s skin.

Comparing this feud to that of MGK and Eminem, the newer beef features two rappers who are currently far from the top of their own game, and far from the best rappers in the scene.

They’re two past-their-prime entities in a rapidly growing world of rap, with both having hemorrhaged fans since their most recent, very low-quality albums.

Second, the petty drama and back-and-forth bickering between MGK and Eminem means that their feud is more about themselves and their egos than the locations and rap collectives that they represent.

The two rappers lack fans, and their feud lacks an involved audience; no fans or spectators have any horses in this race. It’s just two downtrodden paupers battling it out to sell albums, get back in the limelight, and avoid a last-place finish.
No one in this feud wins, except for Machine Gun Kelly and Eminem.

PHOTO COURTESY: USA TODAY

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