It wouldn’t be ground-breaking, but in fact highly likely, if the exhilarating battle between Eminem and Machine Gun Kelly (MGK) turned out to be a big PR stunt.
What better way to engage the masses than with an old-school bars brawl between a rap veteran and a newby. They are the modern-day gladiators in an international colosseum, with the audience thirsty for the next retaliation.
Rumoured to be ignited when MGK called Eminem’s then-16-year-old daughter Hailie ‘hot as f*ck’ in a tweet, the pair have had a fall out since 2012, but Eminem has only chosen to bring it to light now in his new album Kamikaze.
MGK took aim at Eminem’s age and facial hair, saying ‘Somebody help your mans up (help). Knees weak of old age, the real Slim Shady can’t stand up!’ in Rap Devil. Eminem then came back with ‘Younger me? No, you’re the whack me, it’s funny but so true. I’d rather be 80-year-old me than 20-year-old you.’
You can be pretentious about it, but I think the whole exchange has been pretty witty, with some great burns.
Just as when Pusha T released his beautifully blind-siding Drake diss track The Story of Adidon earlier this year, Eminem and MGK’s recent rap feud has reignited a fire in the hip-hop scene that has been dwindling in the past decade.
As new-age hip-hop flaunts its extravagant wealth, women, and wheels, we’re missing the grittier days when the lyrics used to tell the unforgiving and unapologetic tales of the streets and African-American experiences.
That’s not to say hip-hop is dead, Nas definitely made that decree too early as we’ve seen Kendrick, Chance, Childish Gambino, Drake, Kanye, Jme, Giggs, Stormzy and many others create some inspiring art in recent years.
The first published hip-hop battle which gained mainstream notoriety centres on the legendary Bridge Wars. During the mid-80s to the early 90s, there was a feud between rappers from South Bronx’s Boogie Down Productions, led by KRS-One, and Marley Marl and MC Shan’s Juice Crew, representing Queensbridge. The debate? It was over the true birthplace of hip-hop, Bronx vs Queens. This feud was only laid to rest in 2007 when KRS-One and Marley Marl released their collaborative album Hip Hop Lives.
The rivalries of the 80s and 90s were anything but a PR stunt. They were unforgivingly authentic, often ending in tragic deaths, most notably the irreplaceable Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls who found themselves in the middle of a pivotal rivalry between the East and West Coast hip hop scenes.
Though it all began on the East, West Coast rappers, many from California, were making waves, and when the iconic N.W.A began releasing groundbreaking music to make you think, their anger at police attacks and crack cocaine epidemic in the ghetto was launched into the mainstream.
By the mid 90s, the West Coast had made a name for itself, headed by the likes of Dr Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac, and Snoop Doggy Dogg. The East Coast renaissance fought back with Nas, the Wu-Tang Clan, Notorious B.I.G, and Jay Z.
There was a constant back and forth between the two coasts that resulted in genuine gang violence, so when these old-school battles are recreated, it isn’t done lightly. Every modern rap battle stands on the shoulders of a dark but rich hip-hop history with real consequences.
An essence of hip-hop is being the best MC there is, and in-turn verbally assassinating your fellow rappers in any way you can. Marshall Mathers himself highlighted the consequential nature of rap’s violent undertones in Like Toy Soldiers, where he attempted to calm the aggression in the community, citing the feud between 50 Cent and Ja Rule as particularly far gone, as well as his own feud with noted hip-hop publication The Source.
The war between the two white and blonde rappers has indisputably got everyone talking, with Twitter being awakened by the debate on who brutalised who the most. The fact that it is Eminem crafting lyrics for battle sparks huge nostalgia and drags anyone listening straight back to the 90s. Other rappers like Halsey and 50 Cent have also picked sides, trying to get a piece of the pie.
Pop culture is forever chasing authenticity. Our obsession with vintage vinyls and clothing, independent coffee shops, original and ‘real’ travel experiences, and artisan crafts is relentless. Anything that makes us feel like less like a cog. Lyrical battles like Eminem and MGK’s is just what hip-hop needs to feel more authentic. Whether it is authentic is a different matter.
Eminem and MGK are both signed with different sub-labels within Interscope. That as well as the fact MGK’s ‘spontaneous’ Rap Devil was published six months ago on SoundCloud points heavily to the fact this is planned. But most old-school hip-hop heads are just pleased to see Eminem dropping some vintage diss tracks, though disappointed in them being a little lazy and laced with homophobia.
It’s also entertaining to see someone with negligible musical legacy taking on a hip-hop legend like this. Let’s hope for more quick-fire tracks instead of Instagram responses.
Seeing Slim fight his way back into relevance is a match I want front-row seats for, I just hope he decides to drop the designer stubble and dated hate speech while he’s at it.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]