It is unsurprising for one to skulk about these words, “Truth is stranger than fiction”. I remember nursing a black mood when I first chanced on these words. “Musical innovation is full of danger to the State, for when modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the State always change with them” – Plato, in his book, Republic, written around 380 BC.
Life they say is but a constant change, well so is music. Music has dynamism as its middle name. Music has changed tremendously from the era of Harrian Hymn No.6 to Nikkal (Syria) 1400 BC, to medieval music such as Handel’s Aleuya from Messiah recorded in 1750 AD to Mozart’s classical music era. Then there was the inception of Romantic music from the likes of Beethoven leading to our present day, Modern music or Popular music, which is believed to have begun from the era of Scott Joplin’ s Maple Leaf RAG 1900 AD.
However, modern music seems to have a missing pact, ever since it became an avenue of tremendous wealth and fame. It has with it, a constant element which seems ineradicable: animosity. Pop culture would rather put it as “beef” or better still “feud”.
The emergence of animosity between musical artists especially does not occur with a pinprick, it is a situation that gains ground over a period of time; a situation which becomes a popular public sentiment – vox populi. These situations usually leave the minds of fans and supporters at play. It galvanizes these supporters to fan flames of a fire which usually turns out unquenchable.
A quintessential example is a beef between the West Coast and the East Coast represented by Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G aka Biggie. This feud is considered the most controversial happening in music, especially popular music era. Tupac and Biggie were actually close friends. They were the most famous rappers of their time. Somewhere 1994, Tupac Shakur got shot in a lobby of a recording studio in New York, in the presence of Biggie and P Diddy. However, Shakur had reason to believe Biggie set up the shooting incident. This is what staged a tumultuous relationship between the two rappers.
Tupac declared war against Biggie and his allies. For this, he planned an assassination however, he got arrested for that. Upon his release, he became feistier than ever, launching physical attacks on Biggie and even the press. He released tracks with derogatory lyrics such as “Hit Em Up”, ensuring that he lived high on the hog while deteriorating Biggie’s image as a rapper. Through it all, Biggie flew in the face of the allegations.
The feud continued till the night of September 13, 1996, when Tupac got shot at the age of 25. Seemingly the feud didn’t fizzle out easily. After Tupac died, Biggie released the track, “Who shot ya?’’ Even so, Biggie, too, didn’t live long enough to prove his innocence as he was also shot on March 9, 1997. The mysteries of how these two rappers were killed still remains estranged. Many people suspected P Diddy had a hand in the killings; however P Diddy over the years gainsaid that. Conspiracy theorists believe that Tupac is still alive.
In one interview, Tupac said, “It was never a beef; it was a difference of opinion”. This statement may prove to have been fallacious in his case, yet unequivocally the underpinning for other similar cases. Such animosity doesn’t always have moribund tendencies such as the aforementioned story. There have been feuds which lasted for years but were dealt with more intelligently if you ask me. We can talk of the feud that existed between Michael Jackson and Prince.
For many years, there was an apparent existing bad blood between Michael Jackson, King of Pop and the Purple Rain hitmaker, Prince. It is speculated that Prince tried to run over Michael Jackson with a limousine after Michael embarrassed him at a James Brown concert. Michael was quoted once saying, “Everyone thinks Prince is this great legendary Renaissance man and I am just a song- and – dance man, but I wrote “Billie Jean” and I wrote “We are the world” and I am a songwriter too”. Later, Michael invited Prince for several collaborations, but he refused.
Let’s just say these two talents were otherworldly. Prince was an au fait with instruments, making him a stellar instrumentalist, while Michael was this unparalleled vocalist, dancer and songwriter. They had a common ground albeit, and that was being utterly eccentric in their ways and music delivery.
And there are many feuds that have existed in the past, and still, exist today. There’s that of Madonna and Elton John, Taylor Swift and Kanye West, and even Nicki Minaj and Cardi B which is quite still fresh from the oven. Somewhat, that’s how the cookie crumbles in the business of music. It may be a brilliant PR mechanism for the brands and images of musical acts to stay alive and vibrant. It may even be on the grounds of comparison, fuelling a feeling of the need to possess superiority over another.
Modern music definitely thrives on some level of “whataboutism”. Ghana music definitely has its own history of “beefs”. We can talk about Samini and KK Fosu, Amakye Dede and Pat Thomas etc. However, the music must live on! The occurrence between Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy at the recently held VGMA was truly untoward and completely avoidable. Yet the diversity of our preferences and predilections shouldn’t galvanize us, the onlookers to encourage chaos.
This incident I believe shouldn’t leave the parties involved ironclad. It should pave way for rather healthy competitions emanating from learning and supporting each other as creative people. Our forefathers had a great aversion for mortifying occurrence. Let’s never forget that in music or any other endeavor.
Let’s all agree with William Butler Yeats, “Talent perceives differences, genius, unity.”
Dufie Boakye is a former Entertainment Newscaster and a current Administrative Staff at the Diaspora African Forum.