By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Hip-hop is rife with senseless rivalries: Nas and Jay-Z, KRS-One and Nelly, Eminem and Chris Kirkpatrick of 'N Sync. (Note to Eminem: Dude, you're almost 30 -- you shouldn't even know who he is.) Such public sparring usually amounts to rank self-promotion, an easy way for MCs to get a little buzz at someone else's expense -- ideally someone more popular, who will then respond in kind.
Therefore we're suspicious when we hear rappers are feuding: If it's some kind of publicity ploy, we don't want to reward anyone with column space because, let's face it, that shit is tired. Someone's copping someone's steez? Big fucking deal. Radar Station has more important things to worry about, such as who's gonna win on American Idol.
So, naturally, we weren't sure what to make of Big Sexy Kool DJ Kaos' request that we convey the following message to our readers: Contrary to popular opinion, Da Hol' 9 has not been hatin' on the St. Lunatics. Flattering as it was to be entrusted with this news, we couldn't help but wonder whether making a public announcement to this effect was really in anyone's best interest. People will talk, and they will talk trash. Writing about rumors just reinforces them. Kaos doesn't subscribe to this theory: "The bottom line is, I want people to know we don't got no beef with Nelly and them, and I don't think they got a problem with us."
According to Kaos, the whole thing started with a popular dance, variously known as the Monastery, the Chicken Head and Da Nina Pop: "Our song 'Urbody N Da Club Up,' people made that the anthem for the dance. As a DJ at the Monastery every week, I'm pretty much the captain of the ship -- the dance was originated by a couple of girls and guys that are cool with me. What happened was, the Lunatics came home, saw the dance everybody's doing and then Ali went into the studio and recorded 'Breathe In, Breathe Out' about it. I guess after that the streets are talkin', and everybody and their mama's trying to start something."
Kaos isn't saying Ali ripped him off. "Maybe he'd never heard our song before at all," he admits. "Maybe he just saw people doing the dance. Anything's possible, so we're not trippin' off that. Besides, Da Hol' 9 isn't all about making dance songs."
But shortly after "Breathe In, Breathe Out" broke, things got a little nasty. A teaser in the St. Louis American's "Partyline" insinuated that Nelly's bodyguard pasted Kemo, Kaos' partner in Da Hol' 9, right in the mush at an industry party in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Kaos admits that Kemo and the Lunatics entourage had "a couple of words" but denies that Kemo got socked. "He-say-she-say turns into you got your side of the story, they explain what they heard and whatnot," Kaos says mysteriously. "Kemo got real animated. I wasn't right there when it happened. Word got back to me that Nelly's bodyguard swung at Kemo, Kemo ducked and then everybody broke it up. That was it. And before we even get back to St. Louis, I'm getting two-wayed: 'I heard you got smacked; I heard you got rushed by Nelly's security and everybody started fighting and woo-woo-woo and then Nelly ran on the tour bus!' I heard all that, and I'm, like, 'What the hell?' That's just people starting shit."
Besides, Kaos says, he has nothing but respect for Nelly and the 'Tics: "I was the first DJ to play "Country Grammar" on the radio; I made calls to my people in Detroit and Atlanta. When they weren't feelin' his shit, I worked hard to get it played in other markets. Why would I hate on someone I've gone to bat for?"
So, everybody shut up about it already! (We told you it wouldn't work, Kaos.)
Speaking of hatas, underground rappers Bits N Pieces have a good song about 'em on Poverty's Cry, their new double CD: "I hate chicks that don't suck dick and politicians/Most of all, I hate hearing myself bitch/I hate to say it, but the truth of it is/We all hate shit." Were truer words ever spoken? Alas, though we commend the sibling MCs for their chutzpah in making their second release twice as long as their first, we fear ambition may have gotten in the way of common sense. There's a lot of masterful rhyming, a fair amount of interesting, off-kilter beats, some cool dialectical gender commentary and even the unexpected delight of a long sample from Radiohead's brilliant "Paranoid Android" (for which we sincerely hope Bits N Pieces isn't sued). Unfortunately, there's also a smattering of weaker tracks, marred by stale, monotonous beats. Paring it down to a single disc would probably have made for a stronger album, but Poverty's Cry is still worth checking out.