Friday, April 28, 2006

The Art of the Diss

Slate discovers that the art of the diss extends back centuries before the "Busy Bee vs Kool Moe Dee" battles of lore...
Cunningham deploys fierce wit. Marianne Moore achieves a similar effect from control of tone: Her dry, precise idiom is a literary version of social agility. Her title is unbeatable:


"Attack is more piquant than concord," but when
You tell me frankly that you would like to feel
My flesh beneath your feet,
I'm all abroad; I can but put my weapon up, and
Bow you out.
Gesticulation—it is half the language.
Let unsheathed gesticulation be the steel
Your courtesy must meet,
Since in your hearing words are mute, which to my senses
Are a shout.

Moore's poem is, paradoxically, about not using words: on her side, because they would be wasted on her listener; on the other side, because her opponent is verbally incompetent. Putting away her verbal sword, the poet bows her antagonist out with a gesture. This is a classy, fast, and subtle version of the old joke about declining a battle of wits because the enemy is unarmed. The phrase "I'm all abroad" adds a poignancy that the joke lacks: Dealing with this candid poltroon, to whom words are toneless, Moore feels like someone in a country where she understands neither the language nor the behavior. The final word "shout" suggests bad manners or danger, and the poem is about both. For Moore there is something fearsome, as well as rude, about someone who can physically hear but remains intellectually tone-deaf.

Which reminds me of something I read in SOHH today...
Last weekend marked a special occasion for West Coast Hip-Hop as Ice Cube, Dilated Peoples and Xzibit were among the West Coast MCs that gathered at Los Angeles' Elysian Park for The Dogg Pound's "Cali Iz Active" video shoot.

The gathering also included appearances by Battlecat, Julio G, Fred Wreck, DJ Quik, WC, King Tee, Roscoe, Warren G, Too Short, Kam, Soopafly, Tyrese, MC Eiht, Mykestro, Krondon, Dilated Peoples, Big Boy and JT the Bigga Figga, among others.

...which is interesting for several reasons...Snoop (the real leader of the Dogg Pound) is not really friends with Ice Cube. Cube, a friend of Snoop's ex-NWA member, Dr Dre, is a Westside Blood (and formerly of rap supergroup "Westside Connection"), whereas Snoop is an Eastside Crip.

Even more interesting is the pairing of MC Eiht and DJ Quik. Quik's diss track "Dollaz and Sense" is probably one of the hugest diss tracks in rap history...the subject? MC Eiht:
Tell me why you act so scary
Givin your set a bad name wit your misspelled name
E-I-H-T, now should I continue?
Yeah you left out the G cause the G ain't in you

One completely overlooked diss track that made 50 Cent is his underground track "How to Rob..." which landed him huge credibility within the rap industry, and a record contract...all by threatening to rob/kill every heavyweight rap and r&b artist in the game:
I'll rob Boys II Men like I'm Michael Bivins
Catch Tyson for half that cash like Robyn Givens
I'm hungry for real im bout to stick Mister C
That ***** still eatin off Big's first LP
I had Busta and the whole Flipmode on the floor
He asked me if I had enough
I told him "Gimme Some More"

Gimme some more. Nice work.

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