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Cultural Cadence: Weekly Music Anthology

Week of April 29, 2024 - May 05, 2024

Welcome to "Cultural Cadence: Weekly Music Anthology," a curated exploration of sounds that resonate with the rhythms of our times. Each week, we dive into a selection of ten songs that not only reflect the current cultural climate but also evoke the spirit and challenges of the moment. These tracks span culturally relevant music from across genres, eras, and geographies, offering a mosaic of musical insights into the world as we experience it today.

Here, music is more than just melody and rhythm—it's a narrative woven through chords and lyrics, speaking to the heart of societal shifts, personal triumphs, and the universal human condition. Each entry in our anthology is accompanied by a discussion on why these particular songs have been chosen, revealing the deeper connections between the music and the movements shaping our collective experience.

Join us as we tune into the echoes of now, finding context and meaning in the harmonies that define our era.

Cultural Cadence Week 1: April 29, 2024 - May 05, 2024


Alright, during the last Cultural Cadence we briefly skirted around the beef between Kendrick Lamar and a whole slew of rappers against Drake. Now that Drake has officially launched, "Pushups" on streaming platforms, put up and taken down "Taylor Made Freestyle," which featured AI verses from Snoop Dogg and Tupac, and we're awaiting Kendrick's response, we thought it would be the appropriate time to dig into the topic of Beef as a theme for this week's Cultural Cadence. Beefs (arguments, disagreements, battling, etc.) has always been at the heart of hip hop. Some of this has been driven by regional differences, some by individual egos and competitive spirits to prove who's the best in the game, some by cultural and family ties that transcend the game all together. Most of these tracks encompass some of the best diss records in the game from some of the greatest rappers of the game of all time. However, in the spirit of being a little cheeky and remixing this playlist a bit, we start with "beefy intros and outros", i.e. some of the most incredible intros and outros to albums that have substance, style and set the mood for classic records coming and going. I've also thrown in a meta commentary on the topic of "beef rap" from the incomparable MF DOOM!! You can listen to the playlist below. Let's get into it!

This week's "Cultural Cadence: Weekly Music Anthology" delves into the electrifying world of hip-hop beefs with a curated playlist that navigates the intense emotions and strategic brilliance behind the most iconic diss tracks. Here's a deeper dive into each song's significance and the story it tells within the hip-hop community:

Good Ass Intro by Chance the Rapper opens the mixtape Acid Rap, a track that bubbles with optimism and sets an exhilarating tone. It’s a testament to how intros can encapsulate the artist’s energy and vision, priming listeners for the journey ahead with its layered, gospel-infused production and swift, clever wordplay. Over 10 years old, this mixtape stands out as a classic not only of its time but one with immense replay value. And that's a theme that stands out throughout this playlist. While each of the following tracks was bookmarked within a particular cultural context of the game at the time, they teach transcend time and stand out regardless of what era of rap you grew up listening to.

Ether by Nas stands as a monumental track in the Nas vs. Jay-Z rivalry, with Nas delivering a relentless barrage of lyrical assaults. This track is often credited with revitalizing Nas's career, showcasing his ability to blend raw emotion with intricate lyricism to address personal and professional grievances.

Well life is hard, hug me, don't reject me
Or make records to disrespect me, blatant or indirectly

Nas' track is so brilliant because he absolutely bodies Jay-Z, while simultaneously showing reluctance to even be pulled into the discussion and even at times giving flowers to Jay for his come up within the game. Nas, even earlier in his career, had the feel of an elder statesman trying to show the new generation the path, while simultaneously cementing his greatness within the space.

No Vaseline by Ice Cube is Ice Cube's unabashed confrontation with his former group N.W.A. The track is revered for its directness and ferocity, effectively using personal insider knowledge to expose conflicts within N.W.A, marking it as a crucial moment in rap history. Not only was it a crucial moment in rap history, it's potentially one of the rawest tracks on this list, holding no shots back against his former crew and setting the stage for some of the discussions we see today around control of masters in music.

Hit' Em Up by 2Pac is perhaps one of the most aggressive diss tracks ever; "Hit 'Em Up" sees 2Pac not only claiming his dominance in the rap game but also stoking the flames of the East Coast-West Coast rivalry. Its unapologetic, raw verbal attack makes it a defining song in Tupac’s legacy and in hip-hop feud folklore. I also had to include it as it is said Kendrick's response to Drake will "go nuclear" and have a real hit 'em up energy! This is also one of the saddest songs on the list given how 2Pac's life ended. It shows the very real implications of conflict within our culture and how creative conflict can lead to real world conflict with devastating results. A lot of time in our culture we allow for competitiveness to define ourselves and change us in ways that aren't necessarily great. So while often these cultural moments lead to innovation, greatness on display, etc. it can equally turn negative and become all consuming to those involved in ways that destroy them and their creative greatness.

Takeover by Jay-Z delivers a multifaceted diss that not only targets Nas but also Prodigy of Mobb Deep. Using clever samples and sharp lyrics, Jay-Z's track stands out for its calculated critique, packed with factual claims that challenge the artistic credibility of his rivals. Also, "You made it a hot line, I made it a hot song" is potentially one of my favorite lines within one of these songs because it shows the power of remixing cultural moments, lines, signals, memes, etc in a way that you can create something new (i.e. a whole new hit song). Sometimes, it's not whose first that has staying power but who can deliver the message in a way that reaches the masses most effectively, emphasizing the importance of product/market fit over technical skill or ability even in creative endeavors such as music.

Killshot by Eminem is a tactical and scathing response to Machine Gun Kelly’s "Rap Devil." Eminem showcases his veteran experience and lyrical skill, making the track a masterclass in how to dismantle an opponent while entertaining the audience. I like this track because it signals a theme that is often seen in our society - a new generation coming for the current generation's crown and signaling a changing of the guard. Similar to what we're seeing in the NBA with Luka, Ant, etc., MGK came at Eminem with a fairly good initial punch in this battle. However, Eminem signaled he wasn't backing down, comfortable in his age, and that legacy still matters in culture.

Younger me? No, you the whack me
It's funny, but so true
I'd rather be 80 year old me than 20 year old you

Back to Back by Drake is a rare instance of a diss track that doubles as a club hit. Released during his feud with Meek Mill, the track’s clever lines and catchy beat helped cement it as a cultural moment, showcasing Drake's strategic approach to conflict. To be honest, this whole track is a vibe. Drake has been on the winning and losing side of rap beefs throughout his career and is in the cultural spotlight for his current beef with Kendrick. This one he absolutely bodied and encapsulates how even in the most competitive and high profile cultural moments, the best strategy is not to change up who you are and try to play the game your competitor wants you to play but stay true to who you are and create art that embodies your style, culture, and energy.

The Story of Adidon by Pusha T is notable for its stark revelations and brutal honesty, pushing the boundaries of personal space in hip-hop feuds. The track is a pivotal example of how real-life details can be weaponized in lyrical battles to devastating effect. I'm pretty sure everyone felt bad for Drake after this one. Pusha potentially crossed lines here as he unveiled a son that Drake hadn't publicly acknowledged yet. This song also demonstrates how sometimes when you have a crew or ties who "ride or die" with you then they can do your dirty work for you sometimes. This beef had undertones with Kanye and Drake going at it on social media but Kanye's friend Pusha to deliver the crushing blow.

Beef Rap by MF DOOM critiques the very concept of rap feuds with his characteristic wit and dense lyrical composition. The track cleverly comments on the absurdity and inevitability of conflicts in the hip-hop industry. Thus, I thought it was a good way to start closing out the playlist. I think conflict is "absurd and inevitable" within many creative and entrepreneurial industries - it's how the conflict is navigated, how you message your position within the conflict, and the stylistic flare and/or marketing by which you deliver the message that ultimately ends up mattering in the end.

Outro by Lil Wayne from Carter IV is a grand finale featuring a lineup of hip-hop heavyweights. It’s a showcase of unity and lyrical prowess, countering the divisive nature of beefs with a collaborative spirit that celebrates hip-hop’s diverse voices. Ultimately, despite beef driving hip hop forward at certain cultural inflection points, hip hop itself has offered itself as a renegade and counter-culture musical genre that offers a holistic voice for street culture in musical form. This song encapsulates that for me and shows how all the greats respect each other at the end of the day for what they've accomplished in helping push the industry forward in their own way.

Each track in this playlist not only reflects the artists’ responses to their rivals but also captures moments that have helped shape the landscape of modern hip-hop, turning personal disputes into public spectacles and art forms. We hope you enjoyed this exploration of the beats and bars that define the aggressive yet creative nature of rap battles and often been remixed as part of key cultural moments. Join us each week as we discuss songs in the culture that offer a reflection into today's cultural energy.

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#music#culture remix#rap beef#rap#hip hop
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