Rapper rivalries still big news … in Ohio

Adam Griffiths

I’ve never seen a real-life rap battle. Be it a casual exchange of words or full-scale war drama, I’m probably the person you’d least expect to write a column about the dangers of being a modern rapper/R&B artist.

The funny thing is, a real-life rap battle took place less than 20 miles from where I live near Cincinnati.

Early in May 2006, rapper T.I. performed at the downtown Bogart’s nightclub. T.I. and Yung Joc, his brother in rhyme who performed with him that evening, got into it at an after-party at the nearby Club Ritz.

“The fight reportedly moved outside and shots were fired around 3:20 a.m., injuring three men and a woman,” according to a story about the incident from Rap News Net.

“Police told local NBC affiliate, WLWT, that the rolling gun battle began after T.I. left Club Ritz and shots were fired into two vans transporting his entourage as they traveled down the highway.”

Police shut down a portion of Interstate 75 as the pair of vans moved north during the morning rush hour as the firefight continued. By this point in the morning, I had stumbled out of bed and was situated, in my underwear, in front of my television following what may have been the most exciting entertainment news story to hit the tri-state area in years.

I had no idea who was involved, and frankly, I didn’t care. It was exhilarating, but it was also kind of scary that a stretch of highway where I had traveled no more than a week or two prior to that was the setting for a modern rap tiff. In the end, two men and a woman in T.I.’s “entourage,” as all the local media dubbed it, were wounded and one Philant Johnson was killed.

OK, so it wasn’t that exciting, but it was enough to remind us of a time when wars between celebrity, and not-so-celebrity, rappers were the highlight of entertainment news. We’ve all seen the “E! True Hollywood Story” episode about Jennifer Lopez and the scenes of her and Diddy ducking out of Club New York after gun shots were fired in 1999. The death of Tupac, arguably one of the most popular celebrity murders, was instigated by rap drama.

All this reminiscing about the good ‘ol days when being a rapper was a serious threat to one’s life brings us to this week’s featured review of the upcoming release of 50 Cent’s Curtis and Kanye West’s Graduation.

In comparison to tales of yore, the catfight these two have been waging is nothing more than petty. It all started when 50 claimed last month that he would stop making records if West’s new album sold more than his when they are released.

“Its not possible for Kanye to beat me,” 50 told a San Diego DJ. “I don’t know why I said that. Its like the teddy bear versus the gorilla. Kanye sucks, I’m going to be honest, he sounds like a robot, he has a robot record.”

I don’t know. To me, dem’s fightin’ words.

Then again, last time I checked, Graduation was number five on the list of iTunes top albums. Curtis was a few scrolls down the page at 52.

Contact assistant all editor Adam Griffiths at [email protected].