Black History Month Inspiration - Black Star "What's Beef" (Live)

I remember seeing a live performance at the end of an episode of Chappelle’s show by Black Star and the performance has forever stayed with me. The first verse is a poignant reminder of the deep internal trauma and psychological heft to which African Americans today face and carry because of what happened to our forefathers and foremothers due to slavery and Jim Crow America. When this performance happened it was at the height of some of the biggest battles in Rap in the early 00’s. The first verse and the larger song critiques “Rap Beef” being seen as entertainment and how it is a result of norms of violence and threat established hundreds of years ago within culture.

The second verse puts the onus on consumers of “rap beef” to understand that real “beef” is what African Americans face day to day due to the legacy of slavery and institutionalized racism. The second verse made me feel like our participation in the scuttlebutt around these rap beefs distracts us from understanding and paying attention to the threats that African Americans face. Other themes within the song such as religion as a means to control, poverty, international conflict, and what is considered “entertainment” to society makes “What’s Beef” a layered song that I continue to study. Lyrics below….

Yo I was sold to a sick European by a rich African battlin'
Middle Passages, I can't go back again
Battlin' years of denyin' history, lies and mysteries
Wives with misty eyes watchin' their niggas be beaten viciously
Battle in the wilderness of North America
Ran by the river, only stoppin' to pray
Chased by predators
Terrorists with etiquette who vote and kill their president
Their capacity for evil so evident and prevalent
Ain't no hesitation involved, a nation dissolved
While we sit back waitin' to evolve
Those who would trade in their freedom
For their protection deserve neither
Fuck a name, fuck tradition
Religion, you learn Jesus
Turn the other cheek
Inherit the Earth, just stay meek
Fuck the way you speak
Try to walk, we chop off your feet
Fast forward to 2003, niggas beef
The psychology of children are slaves to run deep

Hell yeah, hell yeah, yeah yeah yeah yeah yo
What's beef? hell yeah, yeah yeah yeah yeah yo
That's beef, hell yeah, yeah yeah yeah yeah yo
It's always your own peoples
Sometimes it's your own peoples yo
Yeah yeah, hell yeah, yeah yeah yeah yeah yo
What's beef? hell yeah, yeah yeah yeah yeah yo
That's beef, hell yeah, yeah yeah yeah yeah yo
It's always your own peoples
Sometimes it's your own peoples yo

Beef is not what Jay said to Nas
Beef is when workin' niggas can't find jobs
So they tryna find niggas to rob
Tryna find bigger guns so they can finish the job
Beef is when the crack kids can't find moms
Cause they end up inna pine box or locked behind bars
Beef ain't the Summer Jam for Hot 97
Beef is the cocaine and AIDS epidemic
Beef don't come with a radio edit
Beef is when the judge is callin' you "defendant"
Beef, it comes with a long jail sentence
Handed down to you in a few short minutes
Beef is when your girl come through for a visit
Talkin' bout "I'm pregnant by some other nigga"
Beef is high blood pressure and bad credit
Need a loan for your home and you're too broke to get it
And all your little kids is doin' is gettin' bigger
You tryin' not to raise 'em around these wild niggas
Beef is when a gold digger got ya seat and a
A manicured hand out like "pay me nigga"
Or I'm tellin' your wife
Or startin' up some foul rumor that'll ruin your life
Beef is when a gangster ain't doin' it right
Another gangster then decided what to do with his life
Beef is not what these famous niggas do on the mic
Beef is what George Bush would do in a fight
Yeah, beef is not what Ja said to 50
Beef is more than Irv not bein' here with me
When a soldier ends his life with his own gun
Beef is tryin' to figure out what to tell his son
Beef is oil prices and geopolitics
Beef is Iraq, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip
Some beef is big and some beef is small
But what y'all call beef is not beef at all
Beef is real life happenin' everyday
And it's realer than them songs that you get at Kay Slay
This has been a Black Star P-S-A
From Mos Def, Pretty Flocko, black Dante
And the Black Star embassy, B to the K