“What’s beef?” the late, great Notorious B.I.G. asked on his classic 1997 track of the same name.
Well, in 2015, beef is when you post a YouTube video threatening to murder your rival by disembowelment as Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes plays in the background. Veteran Wu-Tang Clan wordsmith Ghostface Killah did just that yesterday, having finally responded to fellow rapper Action Bronson’s comments regarding Ghost’s latter-day career. Bronson has long been compared to Ghostface in voice and flow, something the younger rapper clearly began to bristle at during a recent appearance on ESPN’s SportsNation.
Bronson appeared on the hit sports/pop culture show early last week, and was asked if being compared to Ghostface Killah has helped or hurt his career. Bronson has shared his thoughts on the issue several times. “To me, there is no comparison—he is a legend and I am a newcomer,” Bronson told HipHopDX in 2011, shortly after the release of his debut album, Dr. Lecter. “If I would try and emulate with anyone it would be Kool G Rap, he is the person I look up to the most. In the end, I am not upset but at the end of the day I am my own person and no one can take that away from me.”
Ghostface has also spoken about Bronson before, telling VladTV back in May that he’s mistaken Bronson’s voice for his own. “I thought he was me,” Ghost said at the time. “I’m asking myself, ‘When the fuck I do that verse?’”
Bronson sounded less reverential during the SportsNation appearance when the discussion shifted to the well-worn comparisons. “I think it’s indifferent at this point. People compare Coke and Pepsi,” he said. “People compare everything. No matter what, you’re going to get a comparison to something. I’m just glad it’s one of the greats.” When co-host Max Kellerman mentioned that he bought some of Bronson’s music because he initially thought it was Ghost, Bronson seemed to take a shot at the veteran emcee.
“He’s not rapping like this no more.”
Marcellus Wiley and the rest of the SportsNation hosts immediately reacted to what sounded like a diss. “Is that a shot at Ghost?” Wiley asked Bronson.
“No, just being honest,” a defiant Bronson replied. When Wiley suggested that Ghost remixed a hit, Bronson added, “He needs something, he needs something.”
The initial appearance generated some attention on social media, but Ghostface issued a rebuttal that was equal parts funny, bizarre, menacing, and ridiculous. In a six-minute YouTube rant, the Supreme Clientele rhymer threatens physical violence, quotes Teddy Pendergrass, and rattles off his own career highlights as he eviscerates Bronson—whom he refers to as both his “son” and “you little fat fuck.”
"Who gives you the right to even mention my name out your motherfuckin’ mouth?” Ghostface declares in the clip. “Boy, you done made a mistake.”
“Listen man, you could never fuck with my pen, my nigga,” he continues. “My sword, my blade—whatever you want to call it, I’m too nasty for you. This is why the fuck you look up to me and sound like me.”
From there, Ghost’s words get more threatening.
“I got shooters and them shooters not from New York, nigga,” Ghost warns. “I don’t think you know the magnitude of this. Y’all young niggas like to play games and then when you get tested, y’all runnin’ to the police, B.
”I got those kinda niggas that’ll do disappearing acts on muthafuckas for nothing—in all states. I’m just telling you, bruh—I know the tour schedule.”
“Don’t let me hang you from a fuckin’ rope and gut you like a pig to let you out to dry, ’cause it can get done,” he threatens after mentioned that Bronson previously apologized but deleted his tweets. “Be for real.”
Bronson’s response? A series of tweets in which he said he was wrong for speaking disrespectfully.
This “beef” couldn’t be more 2015 if the two engaged in a VladTV-sponsored battle at Club LIV on a Saturday with TIDAL securing the exclusive streaming rights.
This “bad blood” involves YouTube, Twitter, and a fairly witless sports talk show. A beef that begins after a cable TV appearance escalates via video upload shared on social media—which is where it most likely will be diffused. Couldn’t have happened in any other era.
Bronson looked half uncomfortable and half cocky during his appearance on SportsNation. And he sounded fairly clueless. Ghostface Killah may not be the most high-profile rapper with the younger generation, but he’s had quite the respectable run of late. His Twelve Reasons To Die with Adrian Younge and 36 Seasons albums were critically acclaimed and Sour Soul, his project with hip-hop jazz instrumentalists BadBadNotGood, was also well received.
But then there’s this WWE-meets-Godfather-meets-Philly soul approach that Ghost has taken in response to a younger emcee basically questioning his skills. Such an affront would and should be grounds for a scathing diss track from one of the illest rhymers to ever put pen to pad—not this occasionally disturbing-but-mostly-goofy YouTube clip. Because let’s be honest here: only an idiot would actually put a real hit on anyone, let alone a moderately famous person, after having announced it to the world in a widely circulated video. But in a year when Game vs. Young Thug happened on Instagram and Meek Mill blasted Joe Budden via Twitter, this is where we are. Instead of headlines and a few RTs, Ghost vs. Bronson could’ve yielded some great cross-generational competitiveness and antagonistically inspired art. Hip-hop’s competitiveness is healthy, but only if it refuses to let TMZ take priority over the booth.
Do better, Ghost.