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Remember the good ol' days when rap feuds were as harmless as blind items in "Page Six"? In particular, we're thinking of the legendary beef between Kool Moe Dee and LL Cool J, which began when Kool Moe Dee dropped the line "I'm bigger and badder, forget about deffer" into his seminal single "How Ya Like Me Now?" prompting LL to shoot back months and months later in "Jack the Ripper" with the line "How ya like me now? I'm gettin' busier; I'm double platinum, watching you get dizzier." (Yes, we're old.) However, now that everyone is YouTube-ing and tweeting and the like, the retaliation cycle when it comes to rap beefs has not only compressed in time, but it's also taken a turn towards the technological. As the Village Voice points out in its cover story this week, it is no longer sufficient to simply respond to a challenge on wax; nowadays, the likes of 50 Cent and Rick Ross have taken their beef onto the Information Superhighway (that's what the kids are calling it these days, right?). This has forced rappers to get creative and add additional head count to their already-sizable entourages. For instance, did you know that 50 Cent has a VP of digital marketing?
It's true! The VV introduces us to one Chris "Broadway" Romero, who, in addition to being the VP of digital marketing for 50's G-Unit label, also created the popular website thisis50.com, the platform from which Curtis Jackson has been launching most of his barbs at Ross. While we are totally onboard with rappers taking advantage of all the Internet has to offer (especially when it involves Snoop smoking down on webcam), we would've never guessed that the 2008 Presidential Election would be used as inspiration for one rapper to post homemade porn on the Internet as a means to escalate a beef:
"I looked at this beef like how Barack ran his campaign," says Chris "Broadway" Romero. "He had people who understood how to mobilize people on the Web. People always asked me, 'Why are rappers always going at each other's throats?' I say, 'Why do politicians or businesses go after each other?' Rap is very competitive."
We're not sure we have any other response to that statement other than: "Oh my."
Such an insatiable appetite for beef naturally led him to the Internet. When longtime rival Fat Joe released his eighth studio album, The Elephant in the Room, last year, 50 posted a free G-Unit mixtape the same day to thisis50.com, subtitled Elephant in the Sand, in addition to a litany of mocking videos; he waged a similar multimedia war against Harlem-based adversary Cam'ron.
But while that brief skirmish came down to lyrical wit, 50 Cent blew out his "rap" battle to variety-show proportions. After Ross's 48-hour challenge, he posted a faux-presidential video address to thisis50.com. "There's nobody in control of me," he declared. "I do what I want to do. . . . Rick Ross, I'm-a fuck your life up, for fun. . . . You're gonna really understand how resourceful I am." Then 50 got into character—several characters. He released "Officer Ricky" cartoon spoofs (playing off Ross's controversial pre-rap history as a corrections officer), diss songs, and disparaging videos. He also developed an over-the-top, wig-sporting persona named Pimpin' Curly who sometimes takes time out from working his "hos" to belittle his enemies. "Rick Ross started calling 50 Cent 'Curly' in interviews—we didn't know where that came from," Broadway recalls. "After that, 50 just went in and said, 'I got some stuff to shoot. Let's get going.' We'd shoot something, and it would be out the next day. And because he is who he is, we learned to shoot more discreetly. It's usually done in one take, too. It's guerrilla filmmaking mixed with a director and lead actor who knows exactly what he wants to do."