The biggest rap beef of 2018 was undoubtedly Eminem vs. MGK, “Rap Devil” vs. “Killshot.” So who won?
Where Eminem and MGK Both Won
In terms of the sonic and lyrical aspect, I’m quoting here James Fortuna, a butcher at Sam’s Club, who put it very well:
“I’m calling this one a tie. Before getting into the reasons why, let me first preface this answer by clearly stating that I’ve been a heavy hip-hop head for 30+ years and I listen to some of the most lyrically dense rap ever made. I have a great appreciation for lyrical rap, I understand its importance and nothing on ‘Killshot’ went over my head. That being said, while Eminem certainly slaughtered MGK lyrically, I feel that overall MGK made a sonically better song. It just sounds better. The beat is better, the cadence is smoother, the hook is catchier, it’s got the kind of vibe that you can move your shoulders to. ‘Killshot’ is miles above ‘Rap Devil’ lyrically, and if you’re strictly paying attention to the lyrical end of it, ‘Killshot’ is clearly the superior song. But not everyone pays that much attention to lyrics, they just want a song that sounds good and that you can vibe to, hence why a segment of people think MGK won. It all boils down to what you value in hip hop, for some people it’s lyrical ability and for some people it’s musicality and vibe. I value both equally, hence the tie. Let me put it this way — ‘Killshot’ is something I wanna listen to at my computer and pick apart and have my mind blown away with how brutally genius it is, ‘Rap Devil’ is something I wanna lean back to and have blaring through the system in my car while I roll through my neighborhood, bobbing my head all the way. Each is superior in it’s own way.”
I like how James gives equal appreciation to different aspects of the music: lyrical and sonic.
The expansion of this complementary worldview can help society strengthen positive connections by promoting the idea of focusing on the positive aspects in both sides.
The next level up from here is the example in human relationships that the two artists gave to the public through their beef. That’s where they’re both still losing, but they have the chance to change that.
Where Eminem and MGK Both Lost
At the moment, the example that Eminem and MGK give to the public is: two guys hating each other, each one is convinced he’s right and the other’s wrong, each one is trying to out-muscle the other, and both of them look unhappy and stressed from the struggle.
The problem is that the artists fail to rise above the level of the problems: to put aside those differences, and seek to unite above the problems.
Why is their trying to unite above the problems important?
It’s important because it shows an example to society.
You could argue and say that the artist is a passive commentator on society, so “if our governing political leaders, and even our own family members can’t overcome their differences, why should us two artists be able to? We’re simply an outcome of this divisive society that raised us, so we beef just like all of you.”
That’s a passive commentator approach of the artist: speaking, shouting, laughing and crying back at the environment that raised and surrounds him.
I believe that artists should accept a certain amount of responsibility for their influence in the collective network of thoughts and desires we’re part of.
Especially today, there’s a lot of scientific research showing how significant environmental influence is in our lives: how the environment we grow up in shapes us, and how this environment is made up of our family, friends and other people around us, and also the media we consume, the schooling we receive, and the values penetrating it all.
The media and the arts are outcomes of the general environment: if society fails to overcome conflict, then so do the media and the arts, and we set off on a doom-destined downward spiral.
Our input in this interconnected system of thoughts and desires we’re in plays an influence on everyone in this network.
As artists gaining a lot of media attention, I encourage them to accept responsibility for the example they show society. There’s an opportunity here for two men to show a real effort to unite above their differences, not because they give into the argument of the other, but above the level of the argument, they do it for the sake of making a positive mark in history: showing an example of unity above division to the masses. By doing so, their positive input would ripple throughout the entire human network, attracting everyone to make that effort to unite above the growing social division.
Where Society Can Help Eminem and MGK Win Where They’re Currently Losing
What I think would be a cool viral campaign —call it #MakeUpMGKMNM — people post swarms of content urging Eminem and MGK to make an effort to connect above their conflict. One possible outcome is a song that they collaborate on together, about how thanks to the support from both their fan bases who relentlessly urged them to unite, they found the strength to create that collaboration. They would both gain from each other’s fan bases, as well as have a major publicity boost surrounding the release. It’s a win-win-win situation: Eminem, MGK and society would all win from the boost of a positive effort that enters into the collective network we’re parts of.