Diss tracks can damage or accelerate careers

Illustration by Amy Czachowski

With clever one-liners and raunchy lyrics, people love listening to diss tracks from their favorite rappers. Audiences are captivated by the shade they throw at one another. The beef created between artists can benefit their careers or completely discredit them. Feuds can be a lucrative marketing tool used to increase sales and attention for an artist.

The best diss tracks can boost an artist’s career by using witty and creative lyrics that take a stab at their rival. Polarizing rapper Eminem has created some of the greatest diss songs that have been wildly successful. Though his fame and success is not 100% attributed to his diss tracks, they have given him a lot of attention. His most recent, "Killshot," against rapper Machine Gun Kelly shows what a clever and successful diss does to address a feud. Machine Gun Kelly did not publicly respond with a diss track to Eminem, which to some may be seen as an acceptance of defeat.

However, the careers of innocent artists can be damaged by undeserved targeting.

In 2016, rapper Kanye West released his song, "Famous", that took a dig at pop artist Taylor Swift. In the song, West made an inappropriate statement about Swift. The lyrics in the song that reference Swift talk about West wanting to have sex with her and credit her success to him making her famous.

West ambushed Swift onstage at the 2009 Video Music Awards (VMAs) after Swift won the award for best female video. He stole the microphone from her and started shouting about how she did not deserve the award because he thought Beyoncé should have won instead.

The aggravating part of this feud is the fact that Swift was a 20-year-old girl at the time that West interrupted her acceptance speech.

West has bullied and manipulated Swift and she has not retaliated back at him. If anything, she has tried to make peace with the situation.

After the VMAs incident, Swift came back in 2015 to present an award to West at the MTV Video Music Awards. The next year, West released his song "Famous" that damaged Swift’s career and left her with the damage from being so publicly humiliated.

When the song came out, West claimed that the song was approved by Swift. However, Swift clarified that she was not comfortable with the lyric about her, and had made that clear to West long before the song was released. Swift's publicist, Tree Paine, released a statement on Twitter about the situation, and a recording of the phone call between West and Swift was leaked on March 21 according to Variety.

The emerged transcript showed Swift was telling the truth all along and that she was manipulated by West.

Diss tracks are not OK when it crosses the line into bullying, which is exactly what West has been doing to Swift for the past four years. The tension between the two was created by West embarrassing a young artist near the beginning of her career and refusing Swift's efforts to clear the tension and tell the truth.

An example of the worst case scenario of a music industry feud would be the rivalry between Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur. Two of the most talented rappers of the time ultimately passed away due to a feud that went too far. Both rappers were murdered and to this day, their cases have gone unsolved.

On September 7, 1996, Tupac was gunned down and died six days later. Six months later, Biggie was shot and killed on March 9, 1997. Their murders are presumably linked to the rivalry between them.

What started out as a friendship turned into a deadly feud. The incident that allegedly started the feud was a shooting that took place at Quad Recording Studios in Times Square on November 30, 1994, as reported by the Washington Post. Tupac was shot and robbed while getting on an elevator with his associates. He believed that Biggie was behind it because of comments Biggie made during an interview, according to the Washington Post article. This is one of the most infamous feuds in the music industry that had the worst ending possible.

Whether rivalries between artists are small or big, it is still undeniable that audiences are captivated by the drama. Some feuds are unnecessary and cause drama out of nowhere, but they still get the attention that the artists need to become famous.

Diss tracks carry the tension and energy that audiences crave, but there is a line that needs to be drawn. Whether it's Tupac and Biggie or Kanye and Taylor, no diss or rivalry in music deserves to be ended in blood or the fall of a budding superstar.