In professional wrestling, kayfabe /ˈkeɪfeɪb/ is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as “real” or “true”, specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or predetermined nature of any kind. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Doesn’t that sound like something that is enjoyed by billions throughout the globe? Yes my friends, I am talking about The Sports Entertainment world known as Hip-Hop. While the culture and essence of Hip-Hop is still very much intact, The advent of “beef for profit’ has been something that many of the labels have sought after since the first Hip-Hop record was sold.
When Hip-Hop was in its infancy in the late 70’s and Early 80’s, the life blood of the art form was based widely on competition and crew rivalries(Factions). During that time battles took place within the boroughs to see who could lay claim to the proverbial throne. As Hip-Hop fought for acceptance and viability, it wouldn’t be long before labels came calling, seeking to cash in on what would later on become known as manufactured beef.
Much like Wrestling, Hip-Hop is littered with “BabyFaces” and “Heels”. As early as the 80’s you had your “Face Rappers” like Will Smith and Young MC while “Heel Rappers” could be seen as Ice T and NWA. While the face rappers were radio friendly and safe for mainstream ears, It was the heel rappers that gave Rap its edge and street cred during that time. It was cool to root for NWO and DX…oops I meant NWA and Public Enemy.
On the T.I. track “Tell’em I Said That” he rapped:
Please pay attention to this part of the bull
One time got robbed got shot got shook
Got a job started rhymin’ came up with a hook
Got a chain and some tats came up with a look
Went and made it here
Workin’ talk tough in a book
F*** the image and perception they never tough as they look
This quote from the album “T.I. vs. T.I.P” succinctly describes the current era of Hip-Hop. The “Image” is what the label heads are trying to sell the consumer on a daily basis as it churns out act after act. In true Kayfabe fashion, many of the artists don’t bother to separate fiction from reality instead they straddle the line. “Am I really this mega rich, doped up superstar?, Or am I just a actor?” Now some may view this as pure conjecture but to the impressionable, try telling them that wrestling…err..um..Rap is fake.
When the Drake and Meek beef took place, both artists positioned and postured themselves with a story line that seemed like it was ripped straight from the WWE writer room. While Drake used the Titantron…Shucks I meant the OVOFest screen to get at Meek, Meek cut instagram promos like a true mid carder trying to get over and make it to the main roster. Was it good clean fun for those few days that it occurred, sure but how many of us really believed that any kind of real harm would come to either one of them during this spat.
The Lil Wayne and Birdman situation is something I would liken to the “Montreal Screw Job”. Vince McMahon has been billed as a true heel in the industry and the way he treats his artists….I’m sorry I mean wrestlers… is something that is akin to Birdman. Weezy to me is The Brett Hart of the Rap game and was forced to put other rappers over while his own product suffered.
2017 gave us another WWE like feud…and it even included microphones being tossed on the floor! Again it was mindless fun like an episode of Raw or Smackdown but for some reason many of us thought there was a legitimate threat of a real altercation. No Such luck, just more comedic fodder to create memes and music.
In Ending, there is much to love about about both mediums. Both have their merits and adversely both are not without flaw. The gangsters are hyper gangsters while the more gentle rappers are damn near priests on the mic. As the veil of mystery and secrecy has all but dissolved between artist and consumer, it seems to me that the Rap Kayfabe machine has gone into overdrive. We create hashtags out of catchphrases, we walk around in our favorite wrestlers (there I go again) rappers merch, and throw up their gang signs in our pictures. To be clear there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a good time connecting with our favorite artist but we must always remember to take a step back and see it for what it truly is…..Music Entertainment.