I dumbed down my lyrics to double my dollars They criticize me for it, yet they all yell "holla!" If skills sold, truth be told, I would prob'ly be Lyrically—Talib Kweli.One of the areas where this is easiest to see is in the battle. Back in the day, the battle was always, always, always about lyrics. In There's A God On The Mic, Kool Moe Dee's version of the top 50 MCs of all time, he breaks down some battle laws. Law number one is, "On wax, the best rhyme wins. Many emcees forget that a battle, first and foremost, is about lyrical skills." This is important. Back in the day, even when there was violent content, it was understood in a lyrical context. To get mad and turn to a physical confrontation was to concede defeat. Once people started acting 'hard' and proving how 'real' they were, the battle dynamic started to change with the rest of it. For instance, one of the most famous battles was between LL Cool J and Kool Moe Dee. It spanned at least three albums per artist and even more songs. While the mode of dissing ranged from physical appearance to general "you-can't-rhyme" material, the only violence was figurative. Peep Kool Moe
…Make him feel the wrath/beat him down and laugh/and when I'm finished, then I'm gonna ask him who is the best/and if he don't say Moe Dee/I'll take my whip and make him call himself Toby.Only somebody with absolutely no understanding of the battle paradigm would take something like that literally. An important thing to note, however, is that Moe Dee's regular content was not violent, so it was easy to distinguish between lines he meant to be literal and those he meant to be figurative. On the other end of the battling spectrum was the beef between Tupac and Biggie, which unfortunately grew off wax. Although Biggie's Who Shot Ya? was ostensibly about Tupac, there's no conclusive proof. Tupac came back with Hit 'Em Up, which was unquestionably about Biggie. Lyrically, there's no comparison. Hit 'Em Up was trash. It basically amounts to a recorded threat with some rhymes thrown in. The most substantial "lyric" was "I fucked your wife, you fat bitch." Ooooh, he must've really worked a long time to come up with that one. Contrast that with Biggies, "your heartbeat sound like Sasquatch feet/thunderous, shaking the concrete." Probably not his best lyric, but the metaphor and details are solid. But even at that, there's a line in there that keeps it centered in the rap realm—"Niggas know, the lyrical molesting is takin' place." Unfortunately, it's not about lyrical anything anymore. It wasn't, at least. In Jay-Z's battle with Nas, on the notorious Supa Ugly, he raps, "…don't let the nine, homey/put you out your mind, homey/just rhyme, homey." Wish people would just do that…and stop making all these doggone strip club records.