Where's the Beef?

Can KRS-One and Marley Marl rekindle their relevance?

KRS-One Marley Marl
Rap beefs are never going to go away, especially after 50 Cent showed that a correctly managed and sensationalized insta-feud can push first-week sales into the stratosphere. It gets fans interested, grabs media attention, and adds to rap's constantly fluctuating soap operas, which are interesting in a pro-wrestling kind of way. It has produced plenty of great music, but things have gotten to where you can't hold an all-star video shoot without someone getting killed.

Maybe that's why beef-killing has become popular in rap lately: Jay-Z inviting Nas onstage and then signing him, Chamillionaire, Mike Jones, Lil' Flip, and Slim Thug to appear together on the cover of The Source. This trend toward peaceful resolution is great for rap; besides the inevitable violence that comes with everyone hating everyone, the constant animosity is exhausting and predictable. But it also allows irrelevant rappers to make desperate publicity grabs. Let's hope that's not the case with KRS-One and Marley Marl, who announced that they'll be making an album together.

Back when KRS and Marley tangled, in what plenty insist is the greatest rap battle of all time, there wasn't enough money in rap for it to be a pose. That said, it's not like their beef means a thing to rap in 2006. These guys haven't made records about each other in 20 years, and neither has been relevant in 10 (and that's being nice). But Marley's old Juice Crew productions have more warmth and fluidity than virtually anything coming out these days, and at his peak KRS had more force, passion, and eloquence than anyone else working. If this helps him regain focus, he might still have some fire in him. Then again, this is rap, so there's no guarantee that the album will even come out.

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