"It's not like I got a rap beef with this nigga," 50 Cent says of his feud with Ja Rule in the new hip-hop documentary Beef, the first in a series of five films. "I just don't like him . . . He's a fruit-pot. Nigga doing duets . . . he's a pop artist."
Produced by Quincy D. Jones III [a.k.a. QD3], Beef looks at the history of rap battles and feuds -- from Kool Moe Dee to 50 -- and will be released on DVD/VHS by QD3 Entertainment on September 30th. With actor Ving Rhames narrating, the film opens in Harlem nearly twenty years ago with what most claim to be the first hip-hop battle, between Busy Bee and Kool Moe Dee.
It's hard not to laugh at the cartoonish old-school style of Busy Bee, or when KRS-One cracks up at the notion of a freestyle battle between himself and Nelly, but the film shows how the beef, originally a match-up of lyrical wits, has advanced to, in the cases of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G., murder.
"The idea and motivation for making Beef came from being close with Tupac," says Jones. "[We] did a lot of music together, and when we lost him, I was impacted heavily. That loss inspired me to analyze other beefs in hip-hop to show the very real effect these beefs have on the lives of the artists as well as their families."
To tell the tales, Jones dug up archival footage of some of the earliest MC battles in New York and conducted dozens of interviews with artists involved in notorious feuds past and present -- 50 and Ja, Ice Cube and N.W.A., Jay-Z and Nas, Common and Westside Connection, Ice-T and LL Cool J, and others.
"It was important to us that the artists featured in the film all felt as if we let both parties fully express their side of the stories," Jones said. "All the stories are told by the artists themselves, to end any speculation surrounding some of these situations."
There are also cooler moments of clarity. Rapper True Life admits to regretting the infamous day when his crew paid Mobb Deep a visit to their studio with guns, pistol whipping one man and making the Mobb Deep crew take their clothes off. "I look ignorant; that ain't me," he says after he's shown old footage of himself bragging about the incident. "I slipped and made a mistake."
And the film ends with the solemn words of Tupac Shakur's mother, Alfeni Shakur: "I miss my son."