This is one of my favourite MetaFilter posts in recent memory.
Marc Lynch’s article, posted here is a pretty fascinating analysis of hip hop feuds as an allegorical look at the principles behind international relations.
His basic premise (which he expounds on more here in his interview with NPR) is that Jay-Z is the closest thing in the rap world to a hegemon, and he chose to use The Game as his challenger. The NPR story states that
“If you go back to, like, 19th century bounce-power politics, this is how rising powers would make it,” Lynch says, citing conflicts between Japan and Russian as well as among rising powers in Europe. “If they wanted to get somewhere, they had to take someone out.”
It’s a nifty theory and quite an interesting read. And Lynch continues to track the feedback about his article here.
The changes in Jay-Z’s approach over the years suggest that he recognizes the realist and liberal logic… but is sorely tempted by the neo-conservative impulse. Back when he was younger, Jay-Z was a merciless, ruthless killer in the “beefs” which define hip hop politics. He never would have gotten to the top without that. But since then he’s changed his style and has instead largely chosen to stand above the fray. As Jay-Z got older and more powerful, the marginal benefits of such battles declined and the costs increased even as the number of would-be rivals escalated. Just as the U.S. attracts resentment and rhetorical anti-Americanism simply by virtue of being on top, so did Jay-Z attract a disproportionate number of attackers. “I got beefs with like a hundred children” he bragged/complained on one track.
In some ways, beefing with an upstart (much like Ice Tea’s beef with Soulja Boy, frankly) just doesn’t seem worth it. When you’re that powerful, sometimes it makes sense just to ignore it, because you just don’t want the little punk to get any free publicity.