The way things are shaking out, Eminem will go down in history as starting more feuds than Richard Dawson.
Last week the rapper’s latest battle, pitting his Shady Records camp against Ja Rule and Murder Inc., took center stage at Giants Stadium during Summer Jam, the annual hip-hop fest thrown by Big Apple radio’s Hot 97.
Em protÃ©gÃ© 50 Cent started his set with several Ja digs accompanied by a video display. Then Eminem delivered da bomb, performing the blistering Ja Rule-dissing salvos “Doe Ray Me” with D12 and “Hail Mary” with 50 Cent and Busta Rhymes. But don’t start checking your Eminem album track listings-these raps can only be found on the streets and on the Net.
Artists like Eminem increasingly use mixtapes to address their myriad ongoing feuds. As a foil to the mainstream media machine, hip-hop mixtapes hit the underground market with tracks from both top gunners and hot newcomers, but only knowledgeable fans can track down these albums, which typically aren’t on the racks in the corner record store. (Some are sold at post-show booths, some on the Web at sites like www.buymixtapes.com and some literally on the street in makeshift stands.)
With the medium’s growing popularity, some mixtape deejays host their own radio shows, like DJ Kay Slay’s the Drama Hour on Hot 97, where many of the feud-fueled tracks make their debut.
“Mixtapes are a great way to release tracks without record label interference,” says another Hot 97 spinner, DJ Green Lantern, who hosts Sunday night’s In the Lab and has been Eminem’s deejay since early last year. “Mixtapes are targeted directly at the streets, which is the main audience that most of these artists are seeking.”
(Historically a New York-based phenomenon, mixtapes could be soon migrating to the Left Coast. Snoop Dogg announced last month that he’s planning to release three mixtapes this summer, although those are likely to be legit collections available in stores.)
DJ Green Lantern compiled many of the recent Eminem battle tracks on the Shady Records-sanctioned mixtape Invasion and Invasion II: The Conspiracy (samples are online at www.djgreenlantern.com).
Invasion focuses heavily on a feud with Source magazine investor/rapper Ray Benzino and includes attacks and responses from both Em and Benzino. The recently released second disc takes aim at the Eminem-Ja Rule feud and features both raps that Eminem performed at Summer Jam. The disc includes an anti-Em track in which Ja Rule target’s his rival’s family: “Em, you claim your mother’s a crackhead and Kim’s a known slut, so what’s Haile’s gonna be when she grows up?”
“Eminem wanted to respond,” says Green Lantern, “but if he’s going to record new tracks, why not make a full album that promotes the other Shady artists as well.” So, in addition to the back-and-forth jabs, the discs also feature exclusive remixes, bootleg mixes and new tracks.
Between the two Green Lantern mixtapes, Eminem delivers nearly a full disc worth of personal disses, an indulgence the rapper couldn’t afford on his official Shady/Interscope albums. In his national releases, Eminem only takes passing jabs at a lengthy enemies list: Moby, Christina Aguilera, Jermaine Dupri, Canibus, Insane Clown Posse, ‘N Sync’s Chris Kirkpatrick and onetime buddy Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit. Other feuds and/or insults heated up in other media involve Everlast (House of Pain), Evidence (Dilated Peoples), Australian Prime Minster John Howard and, according to one British tabloid, Osama Bin Laden, who apparently did not enjoy Em’s parody in the “Without Me” video.
Those looking for a jab at Mariah Carey, another artist currently in the Eminem sites, will be disappointed-there’s only a brief mention on Invasion II. The singer and rapper were supposedly an item for a short time, but Carey denied it and even slighted the rapper in her song “Clown.” Eminem’s reportedly was threatening to release Mariah’s voicemail messages, many of which were apparently left in a little girly voice, on an upcoming album. (Invasion III, anyone?)
Since Invasion II hit the streets, Ja Rule has already responded with “The Wrap,” which suggests more Invasion mixtapes will be forthcoming. In fact, DJ Green Lantern recently signed with Shady Records officially, so the deejay’s major label debut could take these feuds to a whole other level.
The Hatfields, McCoys and Richard Dawson would be proud.