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Bullet on the Charts: Beef, the Media Industry and Rap Music in America

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Title: Bullet on the Charts: Beef, the Media Industry and Rap Music in America
Author: Sweet, Eli
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Anthropology
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Running Time: 115618 bytes
Issue Date: 2005
Abstract: "What's beef?" This question, posed by rap legend Biggie Smalls shortly before his death in 1997, is more relevant today than ever--not only within the esoteric discourse of the hip hop community, but also, increasingly, within the American economy and cultural landscape. The short answer is simple--beef is a type of conflict between rappers, most clearly manifested in songs degrading one another. In actuality however, beef is something much more subtle and complex. Beef is a discourse between people and composed of an assemblage of texts--texts that are often mistaken for the beef itself. Beef is a plastic concept; its definition and significance have evolved with the changing role of the media industry in hip-hop music, and with the increasing use of the term beef to describe various scenarios. Within the hip hop community there are many different opinions about beef, often expressed through the discourse of beef itself. The experience of beef through a hip hop text is subjective and often detached from the structural context. My technique is to examine the various texts that make up beefs--songs, articles, interviews, and fan commentary, to find how the discourse connects various agents. My informants are rappers, journalists, DJ's, and hip hop fans, experts on beef. Yet they experience beef in contradictory ways. I would like to understand the role that each of these actors play in the discourse, how they experience beef from each perspective, and finally, how their participation signifies their awareness of their position within the discourse. I predominantly look at the way that rappers signify themselves with respect to beef, its history and values, as well as the material relations in which the discourse is embedded. This is complicated by the politics of the music industry and the history of hip hop music in America.
Subject: Music trade
Subject: Rap (Music)
Access Restrictions: Open Access
Terms of Use:
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Sweet, Eli. "Bullet on the Charts: Beef, the Media Industry and Rap Music in America". 2005. Available electronically from

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