By Richard Wetaya
Rap music gets real exciting to listen to when diss songs between rival rappers are thrown back and forth.
Some of the best rap songs in Uganda have been diss songs; to wit-Atlas the African’s-Jealous Bi*tches and Babaluku’s-“Straight spit”.
Rappers are wordsmiths so needless to say, a real serious rap beef will escalate into a war of words.
Diss songs in rap are songs that deride the authenticity, flamboyance, charisma and lyrical ability of a rival rapper.
In the world of hip hop, originality is treasured and any forms of mediocrity in one’s word play or lyricism are frowned upon.
In the years of old, principally around the mid 80’s and mid 90’s, rap fans across the globe waited for rap beef songs, like 2pac’s “Hit em Up”, Ice Cube’s “No Vaseline” and Nas “Ether” with an almost hysterical sense of eagerness, akin to the Stella Nyanzi fans penchant for her insolent posts in the aftermath of her suspension from Makerere.
To boot; most of olden days rap beef songs were replete with petulant and sometimes humorous punch lines, poetics, threats and diatribes, just like Nyanzi’s posts.
Infamous as some of the diss songs were, they had great massive appeal and pushed sales units for 2pac, Ice Cube and Nas; just like Nyanzi’s posts gained her likes and followers.
The songs drew forth interest in hip hop and that was at a time when the fundamentals of the genre were starting to be compromised.
Increasingly the lyrical template for rappers at the time had become money, cars, women, clothes; subject matter that ran counter to original template for rappers, which was addressing society’s ills and speaking out against oppression and discrimination against African Americans.
The only anticlimax after the release of 2pac’s “Hit em up” record in particular was that 2pac and Biggie Smalls whom most people knew as Notorious B.I.G and whom 2pac was attacking in the Hit em up song, lost their lives.
2pac had accused Biggie and his posse of trying to kill him in a robbery in New York’s Quad studios.
2pac released hit me up in the aftermath of the robbery, in which he was shot 5 times.
Despite that dark chapter in rap history, rap beefs continued but mostly for the entertainment value. Threats were thrown back and forth but nothing out of the ordinary happened. The beefs stayed on wax (on the records).
In Uganda, most rappers with bones of contention have chosen the subliminal way (indirect) when they make diss records, aimed at perceived rivals.
In a subliminal diss song, a rapper hardly name drops his rivals but when you listen close to the rhymes, there are broad hints of who is in his cross hairs.
Classic example has been Atlas the African with his numerous diss records aimed at Navio and his posse of the Mith and J.B.
The reasons that beef sparked off are still unclear but word from the grapevine was that Atlas felt he was not being given enough props (read Hip Hop for respect).
“Atlas was by then still relatively unknown in Uganda’s rap industry. He had created a buzz for himself with songs like “My Swag” and “Wait and See” but at length, he felt he had a bone to pick with the Navio camp and that is when he started releasing songs like illuminated,” Gideon Kibuka, a Hip Hop producer, explains.
In “illuminated” Atlas goes at Navio with ferocity; amongst other things, intimating that Navio is a comic who should be rapping at the comedy nights that used to be held at Effendy’s.
He also called out Navio for agreeing to appear on a child Molester’s song.
The child Molester being R.Kelly and the song referenced was-“Hands across the world”.
Needless to say, R.Kelly has been accused of being a sexual predator.
The word play that Atlas displayed in “illuminated was replay worthy and exciting.
The song created quite a buzz for Atlas among some Ugandan rap fans especially the ones that always felt that Navio was over rated.
To the consternation of Navio fans, he did not release a rejoinder diss song.
A Navio response at that time would have fanned the flame that Atlas had sparked and would have given him chance to showcase his rap battling skills; which skills, Navio himself has said won him laurels in one of South Africa’s toughest rap battle events.
He lost that opportunity and needless to say, his detractors swung into action, saying he is not as lyrical as he thinks he is.
Atlas did not rest on his laurels after the “illuminated” record.
After a fight, reportedly at one of Kampala’s bubbling night spots, with J.B of Klear Kut, he went to the booth and released more verbal venom in a song, he called-J.B or “Jealous Bi*tch”.
Notice how he disparagingly played pan with the J.B initials.
“Fans who thought the J.B song was only aimed at J.B were mistaken as Atlas, as well threw verbal jabs at the Mith and Navio in the second and third verse. For a rap fiend like myself, that song manifested one thing, which was that Atlas is no joke lyrically,” Gladys Kituyi, an entertainment blogger, says.
Atlas went on and released other subliminal diss songs that did not get responses like “You got nothing on me,” and the more recent in “they still hating”
In “they still hating” Atlas again goes hard at Navio.
“If Navio or his crew had responded, it would have created a major buzz for Ugandan Hip Hop but they took a back seat; though some inside scoop had it that Navio had actually recorded rebuttal songs, but rap fans have never heard them,” Kibuka opines.
The Luga flow world has also seen its fair share of beefs.
Beefs that have brought out some phenomenal lyrical poetics and word play from the genre’s best.
Some that stand out include Babaluku’s “Straight Spit” where he lyrically annihilates the Lugaflow duo-Sylvester and Abrams.
In the song, Babaluku attacked Sylvester and Abrams as being run of the mill and calls them out for trying to trash his legacy as the pioneer of Lugaflow.
At the time, Babaluku was on a roll and “Straight Spit” cemented his place as one of the best, if not the best Lugaflow lyricist in Kampala.
As vicious and disparagingly as the song was, it did not get a rejoinder.
“It might have played into the hands of Sylvester and Abrams had they responded but it would have been a tough call for them to pit their wits against a talented rapper of Babaluku’s caliber. The subsequent subliminal diss song-“Twakugudemu” by Abrams, only released about a year ago was not strong enough lyrically and interms of delivery as well,” Ronald Odongo, a seasoned Blogger says.
Babaluku has not only been enmeshed in rap beef with Sylvester and Abrams. It is common knowledge that there is no love lost between him and Navio and his crew.
The most recent subliminal diss record from Babaluku was “Batulidewo” where he and Saba Saba-his cohort from the Bataka Squad fire off lyrical shots at any naysayers.
The other prominent Lugaflow beef has pitted new comer-St Nellysade against an old timer and veteran wordsmith in Mulekwa.
Rumours of beef between the two started doing the rounds after Mulekwa released “Abanno Bano” a diss track aimed at Nellysade.
In the song, he accuses Nellysade of jacking his style-literally meaning he stole his rap style. Nellysade, as you can reckon, has not responded.
GNL, for his part, has also thrown off several subliminals at his competition but the braggadocio and hyperbole embedded in his verses at times makes it hard to make out who he is dissing.
Fans however easily discerned who his intended target was in the captivating songs-“Ceasar” and “Tebangatika”.
Gravity was in his cross hairs. No response has been heard from Gravity, thus far.
Other prominent Ug M.C’s that have been embroiled in beefs include Foeva emcee and Baboon Forest’s Tommy Race.
Code and Tucker H.D.
A BRIEF ON RAP BEEFS
Rap song beefs are as old as the Hip Hop genre itself.
(Hip Hop was started in the early 70’s in New York).
The first prominent rap beef saw rap legends Krs One and Mc Shan squaring off.
The two protagonists dueled over whose neighborhood was the best and who was the best lyrically. In the end, Krs One from the Bronx-New York came out on top. Shan was from the Queensbridge area of New York.
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