Law No. 1 – Don’t Start Shit
All facts lead to the notion that the only reason Jay-Z even mentioned Nas from that Summer Jam stage back in ’01 was because he, Hov, was in his feelings about Nas having repeatedly turned down his offers to guest on some of Nas’ classic albums. A simple “Ask Nas” during a diss song that was otherwise all about Prodigy, was responded to by Nas with the little remembered “Stillmatic” song. Jay-Z came back with a full verse on the song “The Takeover” to which Nas responded with “Ether“, a song so blistering that it has since become a verb meaning: to destroy, humiliate, shame and utterly disgrace.
Law No. 2 Get to the Source
It’s heartbreaking to note that either ignorance of or failure to adhere to this particular law cost us two of the greatest musicians in history. Way back when Tupac even hinted in that now infamous Vibe interview that he believed that The Notorious B.I.G. had something to do with his robbery and subsequent shooting, Biggie should have been mobilized. The two men had, by all accounts, been friends. And if a friend has a misperception, particularly one as serious as this, it’s up to the friend that’s been misperceived to straighten that shit out, even if he has to do so angrily. In fact, in situations like this, the angrier might have even been the better. A simple, “Yo Pac, what the fuck was that bullshit you said in the Vibe?” screamed through the Plexiglas at Clinton Correctional Facility might have made Pac realize how wrong he was, if, in fact, he was wrong.
Law No. 3 Work on a (peaceful) Resolution
Comically, only in Hip Hop is beef actually lucrative. In any other industry, competition is costly. But in the long run, even Hip Hop beef becomes costly, so the shrewder personnel devise ways to profit off of beef before the public grows tired and moves on to another spectacle. The best recent example of this was when Drake hosted the Espy awards and had that hilarious clip where Chris Brown is his attending physician. Here were two men that proved to be smarter than most. Good job, fellahs.
Law No. 4 Agree to Disagree
Who knows what prompted Ice-T to take that random and unnecessary shot at LL Cool J on the song “I’m Your Pusher.” LL fucking crushed him on “To da Break of Dawn“. Things never got much more serious than this. One shot matched another, neither man ever guested on the other man’s song, when both men moved on to movies and television, neither ever co-starred. This was, perhaps, the perfect example of how rap “beef” was supposed to go, right down the wire.
Law No. 5 Keep it Verbal
Lord knows, your mother could be a cow-cocksucking drag queen, and your dad can be a Butt Pirate of the Caribbean, your kids could all be ugly Smurfs and your wife could be the greatest whore alive, but if those are the worst things that can be said about you, leave ’em be. This is also the trickiest law because some things said have to be regarded as something else. See, there’s insults, and there’s threats. And while stick-and-stones is the rule for dealing with insults, threats are something you run and get the guns to handle. For anybody with a shred of decorum, kids are off limits. But how many rappers have been known to have decorum? So as we watch 50 Cent now preparing to go barreling after Rick Ross because of an alleged Ross insult involving 50’s son, we can only hope that we haven’t exceeded the Laws of Beef and that now we’re headed for the Laws of War, for which there are none.