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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

What's Beef?


With a transfer to Amarillo High School prior to the schoolyear of ’93, I didn’t have any friends in the new district. That was until I met “Moby” and “Caesar” in debate class. We quickly became friends and were seemingly inseparable during my sophomore year.


As happens on occasion, my friend group eventually experienced drama and conflict. By “drama,” I’m referring to a state, situation, or series of events involving interesting or intense struggle of forces.


By “conflict,” I’m referencing competitive or opposing action of incompatibles; an antagonistic state or action such as that which involves divergent ideas, interests, or persons. Whereas drama entails intense struggle, conflict is antagonistic action produced by drama.


In hip hop, a singular word encapsulates both drama and conflict: beef. There’s more to come regarding this term. When in school, I valued both Moby and Caesar equally. Each had their own distinct personalities and qualities they brought to the friendship.


Nevertheless, both of my friends began to continually have beef with one another. I was caught in the middle of their growing rivalry and experienced unpleasant consequences stemming from my belief about the matter. Allow me to explain.


From the perspective of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I use the ABC model to illustrate how when Activating events (“Actions”) occur and I maintain irrational Beliefs about the events, these unhelpful assumptions – and not the actual occurrences – are what create unpleasant cognitive, emotive, bodily sensation, and behavioral Consequences.


Therefore, from a psychological standpoint, I disturbed myself using a Belief-Consequence (B-C) connection. Of course, this isn’t to suggest that in the context of the naturalistic or physical world there is no Action-Consequence (A-C) connection.


When Moby and Caesar had beef with one another (Action), their personal problems aren’t what led to my uncomfortable experience of frustration, fear regarding the potential loss of a relationship, or jittery sensation throughout my body when they argued (Consequence).


Rather, the unhelpful narrative which I Believed regarding the beef is what created my unpleasant reaction. By our junior year, Moby and Caesar parted ways. Although neither of my friends required that I choose sides, in the course of time I grew weary of hearing about what each thought of the other.


Now, I’ll address the matter of beef as a term to which I alluded earlier. In hip hop, rivalry among emcees is known as “beef,” usually involving behavior whereby artists “diss” (disrespect) one another in their songs.


Providing his views about such behavior, lyricist KRS-One – representing hip hop group Boogie Down Productions – stated on the group’s song “My Philosophy”:


Rap is like a set-up, a lot of games

A lot of suckers with colorful names

I’m so-and-so, I’m this, I’m that

Huh, but they all just wick-wick-wack


In the early days of rap beef, artists used braggadocio lyrics to compete with one another. KRS-One expressed that he believed such behavior was “wack”—annoyingly or disappointingly bad.


Providing an example of two lyricists who engaged in verbal beef, hip hop legends Nas and Jay-Z took proverbial shots at one another on various tracks. Both artists represented New York – arguably the birthplace of hip hop – and one imagines that various boroughs sided with one or the other lyricist.


Still, in his song “Get Out My Way,” New York rapper Cormega stated of the feud, “That Jay-Z–Nas beef doesn’t involve me (I’m sorry).” Reflectively, his admission reminded me of the situation with Moby and Caesar in high school.


However, Cormega was wise enough to distance himself rather the disturb himself regarding the matter. Interestingly, “Get Out My Way” was chock-full of braggart lyrics customary of rap at that time.


Over the course of history, hip hop beef evolved. No longer was bravado the main mechanism that inspired beef, because emcees began actually targeting one another. Perhaps the most devastating example of this from the golden era of hip hop relates to the East Coast-West Coast beef of the late ‘90s.


2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. (“Biggie”) engaged in beef that would later result in the deaths of both artists. Noteworthy, in his classic song “What’s Beef?” Biggie clearly outlined his perspective on beef by stating:


What’s beef?

Beef is when you need two gats to go to sleep

Beef is when your mom’s ain’t safe up in the streets

Beef is when I see you

Guaranteed to be in ICU [intensive care unit]


Admittedly, beef tracks likely fueled album sales. When MC So-and-So had beef with MC This-or-That, and the Internet wasn’t used as prominently as it currently is, people purchased albums or singles in order to hear lyrics about drama and conflict.


However, some people erroneously believed in an A-C connection when in actuality there was a B-C connection at play. Unproductively believing that when MC So-and-So disses MC This-or-That (Action), the situation resulted in anger (Consequence) was an inaccurate portrayal of events.


Yet, without understanding how people disturb themselves with irrational beliefs, the result of one’s unfettered B-C consequence sometimes ends in fatal outcomes. Regarding this matter, I value KRS-One’s outlook – that sort of behavior is wick-wick-wack.


Recently, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and other emcees have engaged in beef. Regarding the matter, I assume a rendition of Cormega’s position – that beef doesn’t involve me (not sorry). Although I used to consume hip hop material related to various beefs, I’ve evolved since those days.


Yesterday, I saw a response from someone on Reddit who appropriately summed up the latest beef by stating something to the effect of it reflecting a number of grown men sitting around and writing poetry to one another. Accurate!


Of my evolving perspective, I think of what Jay-Z expressed to his nephews in the song “Anything” when stating, “Don’t follow no nigga, that’s ho shit man. Stand on your own two, do yo shit man.”


Perhaps a person doesn’t like my reference to “offensive” lyrics, the individual erroneously subscribes to the A-C connection, and now one has beef with me for having freely expressed my opinion. To that, I follow up with Jay-Z’s advice to his nephews:


Standing back from situations gives you the perfect view

You see the snakes in the grass and you wait on their ass

Bite your tongue for no one and whatever is said

Take it how they want, a closed mouth don’t get fed


That wack beef doesn’t concern me. For others who value living rationally, I help people forego the process of self-disturbance so that they may lead more fulfilling lives. If you’re interested in reducing drama and conflict in pursuit of healthy interests and goals, I’m here to help.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW




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