“Y'all Niggaz Better
Recognize”: Hip Hop's
Dialectical Struggle for
JOHN P. PITTMAN
You's a flea, and I'm the big Dogg
I'll scratch you off my balls with my muthafuckin' paws
Y'all niggaz better recognize
And see where I'm comin' from, it's still East Side till I die
Why ask why? As the world keeps spinning to the D-O-Double-G-Y
—Snoop Doggy Dogg, “Doggy Dogg World”
Do y'all remember Roxanne? Of course you do: the fictional object of the Kangol Kid's affections in UTFO's 1984 hit “Roxanne, Roxanne” will long be remembered as triggering one of the first and most extended “battles” in the history of rap. When Marley Marl and the girl (Lolita Gooden) who came to be known as Roxanne Shanté came out with “Roxanne's Revenge” the following year, the floodgates opened. Around the country, rappers scrambled to get into the action; more than fifty “response records” came out by the time the whole thing was all over. This incident established once and for all the importance of “battles” to the hip-hop industry.1
But are battles just a gimmick, a marketing strategy? Or are they an essential part of what hip hop is all about? What, if anything, do battles signify in hip-hop culture? Let's break it down, starting from the top. A bit later on, we'll get some help from
1 An extended account of this episode, and of other battles as well, can be
found in the video documentaries Beef and Beef II (QD3, 2003).
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Hip Hop and Philosophy: Rhyme 2 Reason. Contributors: Derrick Darby - Editor, Tommie Shelby - Editor. Publisher: Open Court. Place of publication: Chicago. Publication year: 2005. Page number: 41.
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