On Keri Hilson’s song Turnin’ Me On, she suggests she’s been ghost-writing for another artist, and tells an unnamed foe to move “to the left.” When the song came out a few months ago, a giddy blogosphere responded with a collective “aw snap!” as she showed her claws; Hilson, it seemed, had released a diss record.
Even though it set off only a minor furor and a yawn (mostly because she seemed to be referencing Ciara and/or Beyoncé but, when pressed, said she wasn’t) Hilson had the dubious distinction of becoming the latest singer to engage in the uncharted sport of R&B beef.
Of course, we all know hip-hop beefs. Yet as hip-hop has moved into the realm of pop/dance music, its ethos that you must always stomp out your enemies in song seems to have trickled down to a crop of young (and apparently gangsta) singers.
The list of R&B beefs has grown to staggering, if not laughable heights: Usher has taken shots at Chris Brown. Ne-Yo and Trey Songz had a spat. Etta James dissed Beyoncé. Mariah Carey’s song Obsessed takes shots at Eminem. Thespian/crooners Jamie Foxx and Terrence Howard got into a feud after Howard dissed Foxx’s music.
And we can’t ignore how ridiculous the Black Eyed Peas’ spat with blogger Perez Hilton was earlier this week.
Naturally, some rivalry among entertainers is to be expected. Yet the general reaction among the people hearing beefs unfold is that there’s something fundamentally absurd — so West Side Story — about seeing song and dance singers squabble. “It’s ridiculous to think of guys and girls singing about love and tenderness who dance in choreographed motions as tough,” says Rashaun Hall, an entertainment journalist who has worked at Billboard, MTV News and Giant magazine before launching his own blog, rashaunhall.wordpress.com.
Chris Brown was rumored to have had a row with the Dream after the songwriter gave away a track Brown wanted. When we spoke to Dream, he wouldn’t go into specifics about the incident, but says he’s not one to back down. “If it looks like a beef,” he says, “it’s probably not over nothing. It’s probably going to be on the principle of how a person should be treated.”
Ultimately, who wants to hear singers’ squabbles played out in song?
“Their bread and butter is slow jams, making people feel a certain way,” says Hall. “So saying, ‘Eff this person’ isn’t going to translate.” Then again, it could he says, “if you got a hot track — a Timbaland or Justin Timberlake producing a beat that’s sick.”
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