This is an essay I did on Nas’ and Jay Z’ different conceptions of black masculinity and how it relates to wealth, heterosexual and homosexual relationships and other factors. It’s long, but oh well.
Emma Holten, Queer Theories and histories, Spring 2014
Kept my name in his music
Nas, JayZ and the beef
“Whether exaggerated or not, men speak about their sexual conquests: “me and my boy hit it,
me and my boy did her, me and my boy did this”. So there’s a lot of ‘me and my boy’ in there.
Not so much about the woman, but ‘me and my boy.’”
– Michael Eric Dyson, in the documentary Hip Hop Beyond beat and rhymes
In her 1985 book Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire Eve Kosofsky
Sedgwick introduced a more complex way to reflect on homosociality.
Homosociality, by her definition, is a close friendship/hatred/competition or other type of strong
affect between two people of the same sex. She emphasized that while these types of relations
between females tended to, in an organic, gradual way, go from nonsexual to sexual,
homosocial connections in males is “the radically disrupted continuum in our society…”
Thus, the point when a very close male relationship goes from being homosocial to homosexual
is a contested, political place.
Deeming her approach to be, in “generalized terms… achronic”, she encouraged scholars and
students to implement the method in their own analytical pursuits.
This type of “shift” becomes especially fraught in cultural spaces where homophobia is
rampant, as is the case in for example gangster rap and hip hop music: “… the cornerstones of
gangsta rap music – hypermasculinity, misogyny, and homophobia – pervade the genre.”
Conversely, rap music is also an environment that nurtures and encourages close relationships
with you friends or “homies”. This makes for an artistic and cultural sphere where the
homosocial continuum becomes somewhat of a balancing act of publicly showing respect and
love for your samesex collaborators, while outwardly never crossing the “line” into
In this essay I will attempt to illuminate how, in my interpretation, one rapper, JayZ in his song
“Takeover”, while praising his friends and insulting (dissing) a fellow rapper, was read as
having crossed this line in Nas’ response “Ether”. Further, I want to explore how the
structure of the homosocial continuum can be extended to other value assessments in male
relations like the meaning of money, status and race. Showing how the way we structure and
validate desire, sexuality and gender is a hugely political field, that cannot be excluded from
discussions of how we interact, even on the most basic levels.
The analysis will focus mainly on Nas’ contribution, seeing as it is an “answer” to JayZ’ attack,
and thus functions as an interpretation of this attack and its properties.
Homosociality – a ripped continuum
In her 1985 book Between Men, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick sheds light on the structures, dynamics
and ruptures in male friendships and rivalries. She especially focuses on the concept of male
homosocial desire, positing it as the shaping force in not only friendships, but also love and
hatred: affects that shape male relation. Homosociality is described as “the affective or social
force, the glue, even when its manifestation is hostility or hatred or something less emotively
charged, that shapes an important relationship”.
Sedgwick notes that in a male relation there tends to be a much more dichotomous relation
between a homosocial and a homosexual relation. In female friendships and relations, these two
groupings tend to be placed on a scale of degree where one for example can engage in physical
intimacy without being “fully” homosexual and vice versa.
The activity of women appreciating women and thus furthering the case for women, becomes
noticeable primarily because of its “strong contrast to the arrangement among males”.
Sedgwick notes that the activity of a man promoting other men and their work will have to, in a
homophobic society as ours, be set in a stark contrast to homosexuality. Furthering men’s
pursuits is seen as a vital part of maintaining a heterosexual patriarchy that dominates women:
“obligatory heterosexuality is built into maledominated kinship systems, … homophobia is a
necessary consequence of such patriarchal institutions as heterosexual marriage”. (Following
this, other patriarchal institutions that are not per definition sexual in nature can still be
dependent on a heterosexual frame work. Institutions like capitalism, universities and the like.)
Thus, while it might make sense to group together male friendships and male sexual relations as
similar activities this is not what happens. Rather, one must imply, while praising male
companions, that it is in fact not a homosexual relation.
This is done by blatantly or indirectly expressing a desire to have sex with women, and a disgust
at the thought of having sex with men, as a vital component of a patriarchal culture of
expression. Creating a stark asymmetry in our society, positing “the relatively continuous
relation of female homosocial and homosexual bonds, and on the other hand, the radically
discontinuous relation of male homosocial and homosexual bonds” opposite each other.
This radical shift stems from a homophobic culture that looks upon especially male
homosexuality as “weakening” and “feminizing”. In a heterosexist binary scheme people who
have sex with men are seen as dichotomous opposites of masculinity: “homophobia is
intimately related to sexism in that the denigration of the feminine is central to both…” Who
you have sex with is discursively closely related to your gender. This leads to homosexual men
being situated along with women as a secondary other in society.
Building on this, calling a person a homosexual is not only meant to degrade him in terms of
power and both physical and mental strength, but also to exclude the person from male social
relations and male friendship for not adhering to one of its foremost rules: that it is heterosexist.
But what is a homosexual and a heterosexual? Is there any specific thing you do that situates
you in one sphere or the other?
In Sedgwick’s view, it is a highly political and historically situated partition that cannot fully be
grasped, which is what makes the close male social relation so fraught: “… even the naming of
sexuality as such is always retroactive in relation to most of the sensations and emotions that
constitute it, is historically important. What counts as the sexual is as we shall see, variable and
in itself political”. This implies that defining whether a person is homosexual or not can
come from a standpoint removed from the original speech act. The intentions or self-
identification of the original speaker comes in second in the sexual determination, or, more
specifically, where the person places on the homosocial continuum.
This gives the theory of the homosocial continuum another strength, in that it primarily
functions in a discursive realm. It situates the position of “homosexual” as construction, a
nominal label that fluctuates with societal norms. Sexual labeling (where on the continuum are
you?!) as a reality becomes constituted by society, largely connected with commercial, political
and sociological movements.
The triangular structure
Sedgwick utilizes the shape of the triangle as a fruitful tool to interpret the way that men relate
to each other. The triangle illustrates two people (often male) who strive to achieve the same
thing (often wooing a woman). René Girard, in his book Deceit, Desire and the Novel,
explores this relationship and concludes something curious: that the relationship between the
two (same sex) people competing is far more defining for narrative than the nature of the
desired object/person. They propel the plot, and their actions are closely related to each other
and to their shared relation to the desired object. Thus, what constitutes the narrative is not the
object of desire, but rather the nature of the rivalry between the two antagonists. In Sedgwick’s
words: “in any erotic rivalry, the bond that links the two rivals is as intense and potent as the
bond that links either of the rivals to the beloved: that the bonds of rivalry and love, differently
as they are experienced, are equally powerful and in many senses equivalent”. The line is
thin, then, between being in a hypermasculine, intense, homosocial, heterosexual rivalry and
actually feeling so strongly toward each other that the relationship can be interpreted as being of
a homosexual nature.
Reiterating the previous point, the distinction between homosocial and homosexual is still
subject to retrospective analysis, and not related to the actual physical, subjective intentions of
the people in the relation. It follows that “the placement of the boundaries on a particular
society affects not merely the definitions of those terms themselves –sexual/nonsexual,
masculine/feminine – but also the apportionment of form of power that are not obviously sexual
… the hidden symmetries of that Girard’s triangle helps us discover will always in turn discover
hidden obliquities”. The use of the word “power” here, implies that other factors come into
play in the interpretation of the nature of the relation: factors like class and race for example.
The triangular model of desire and rivalry becomes useful in uncovering issues of
intersectionalities and power structures. In short, the homosocial continuum and how other
people situate you on it, is closely related to your other social contexts.
Takeover, break’s over
In 2001 JayZ released the album Blueprint, which featured the song “Takeover”. The track,
about which the acclaimed music review site Pitchfork.com said “there’s never been a better
diss song”, by name mentioned fellow rapper Nas in the last 32 bar verse (the standard is
16), taking shots at his faltering career and lyrically inconsistent quality. The album was
released at a time when JayZ was arguably the biggest rap star in the world (certainly the most
At no point in “Takeover” is there a homophobic slur. Rather, there is in abundance of the
tropes that Matthew Oware, Ph. D. at DePauw University, has coined “Friends as family” and
“Success by association”. These two, respectively, mean a “stance wherein [the rapper] fully
embraces the idea of demonstrating affection for another male, yet maintaining manliness” and
“exhibiting the principle that “what is mine is thine, wherein those who have the means share
their resources with those who do not”. The “family” here is R.O.C. (an acronym for the
roster of rappers at JayZ’ record label, RocAFella). During every chorus he mentions
different artists from the label as running “this rap shit”. He deems RocAFella an “army, or
better yet the navy” invoking the theology of ‘brothers in arms’, the most weathered of
homosocial dynamics: men who will go to war and die for each other if necessary in pursuit of
power and dominance.
Having created the vision of an alldestroying, invincible force of warfare, RocAFella, JayZ
goes on to say that they will “…kidnap your babies, spit at your lady”. Engendering a stance
where respecting or desiring all women becomes secondary to being a part of the brotherhood.
He hierarchises male homosociality as being more important than heterosexual relations with
women and even the importance of participating in a reproductive system producing children.
Homies in RocAFella reign supreme.
The last verse in the song, directed at Nas, surveys his output: “Four albums in ten years
nigga? I could divide/That’s one exactly every let’s say two, two of them shits was due/ One
was – Nahh, the other was Illmatic/That’s one hot album every ten year average”. These
particular bars are interesting, seeing as they grant respect for Nas’ earlier work (Illmatic, 1994)
but still end up on a note that puts to question if he is even able to ever top it. JayZ
straddles the line between rivalry and respect, and doesn’t seem willing to commit fully to
either, blurring the nature of the homosocial bond between the two. Having earlier stressed the
relation between men to be the central definition of character and achievement, it is interesting
to let it stay this ambivalent. Is it a rivalry or a praising?
In conclusion the song can be easily summed up in Sedgwick’s triangular scheme. JayZ incepts
a strong bond of rivalry/respect for Nas. The object of desire of the bond is not a woman,
however, but, instead, who is “running this rap shit”, i.e. who is ahead of the game in terms of
lyrics, flow, fan support and respect. But, aligning with Sedgwick and Girard’s triangle of
desire, what by far outshines the actual goal of the song is the hatred targeted at Nas. 32 bars,
which in the genre of gangster rap at this point was very uncommon, speaks volumes about
what this song is ultimately about: being better than Nas and, by that, running the rap game.
This sets up an interesting oxymoron that posits Nas as competition that must be conquered, and
thus a powerful and important person, while simultaneously professing that he and his current
career are worth next to nothing.
This makes the rap battle a perfect example of the complex male affect relationship containing
both love, hatred, rivalry, and respect. Spending 32 bars dissing someone is uncommon and
signals that the person you are dissing is a force to be reckoned with and worth your time.
In his attempt to push Nas into the ground, ridiculing his career, JayZ elevates it to being akin
to his own. If you have to destroy Nas to rule the rap game, the automatic implication of your
verse is that Nas is ruling the game as it currently stands. The line between obsession/respect
and obsession/hatred becomes blurry at best: or, essentially, nonexistent.
“God’s Son” across the belly, I prove you lost already
A few months after the release of Blueprint, Nas released Stillmatic. This album is widely
considered as being his comeback after lackluster efforts, especially Nastradamus and I am,
and is believed to have revived his career. The second song on the album is called “Ether” and
quickly announces it’s intention by opening with multiple gunshots and a sample of deceased
and iconic rapper Tupac Shakur saying “Fuck JayZ”.
After the opening sequence, Nas highlights the irony of JayZ’ seeming obsession with him,
joking: “You been on my dick nigga you love my style”, implying that the reason JayZ keeps
talking about him in fact stems from a deep respect and awe of his talent and not, as claimed by
JayZ, because he is an inferior rapper. Notice also the metaphor “been on my dick”, implying
that JayZ’ respect for Nas has sexual undertones.
Nas reiterates this point in the opening verse: “I am the truest, name a rapper that I ain’t
influenced/Gave ya’ll chapters but now I keep my eyes on the Judas/With Hawaiian Sophie
fame, kept my name in his music”. Describing himself as God’s son in earlier bars, albums and
verses, and here as a deliverer of chapters of Scripture, the meaning of the use of the metaphor
of Judas becomes apparent: a former disciple and follower (JayZ) abuses the name of his
mentor for riches and to elevate himself, yet simultaneously makes the mentor the centre of his
existence and narrative.
In the next verse, Nas concedes some of JayZ’ points by admitting that he has been in a rut and
put out sub par albums: “I’ve been fucked over, left for dead, dissed and forgotten/Luck ran out,
they hoped that I’d be gone, stiff and rotten/…./When these streets keep calling, heard it when I
was sleep/That this GayZ and Cockafella Records wanted beef”. While Nas admits to being in
an artistic state of hibernation/sleep, this only strengthens the point of proving JayZ’ obsession
with him. He started a fight (beef) when Nas wasn’t even at the height of his popularity, which
goes to show that the beef is indeed, as JayZ says in “Takeover” “between me and you for
now” and not about gaining respect or credit in the traditional sense: from your peers. Nas
notices quickly that his own nature, who he is, what he has produced in his entire career and
life, is the topic of the beef, and not to determine who is “running this rap shit”.
Following the logic of Girard’s triangle of desire, this proves that in the quest for a desired
object, the relation between the two people competing for it is by far the most central. In the
patriarchal structure of rap, this is to be expected: “… in any maledominated society, there is a
special relationship between male homosocial (including homosexual) desire and the structures
for maintaining and transmitting patriarchal power: a relationship founded on an inherent and
potentially active structural congruence” The close relations between men is necessary for
the upholding of power. This means power in any way, including monetary. Protecting
heterosexist patriarchy in its current form means retaining the power to define yourself as the
This “special relationship” also comes to define the value of the common desired object. JayZ,
situating himself and Nas as adversaries in the quest to become the rulers of rap, creates a
triangle where all three components are dependent on both the others to make sense. Gaining
respect in the community has no value if either of these two rappers doesn’t feel like he has
conquered the other. “Running this rap shit” is impossible if the other has not stepped back from
the throne, indicating that the fight is between these two – at the very top. Both must agree on
the desired object or position and what defines being powerful for the structure to sustain.
The third verse starts “Ya’ll niggas [referring to Rocafella records] deal with emotions like
bitches/what’s sad is I love you ‘cause you’re my brother/you traded your soul for riches”.
Accusing the RocAFella roster, and JayZ in particular, of dealing with emotions the way
women (femininely) do is in essence saying that they have failed in maintaining a meaningful
homosocial relationship with Nas. Aligning with our earlier definition of homophobia, calling a
person feminine (at one point Nas even ridicules JayZ for not being able to grow a mustache,
another stab at his masculinity) is not far removed from calling them a homosexual. And it is
most certainly an example of what Sedgwick calls “sexuality as a signifier of power
relations”. Being feminine, is, per definition, being less strong, less powerful, less deserving
of respect. Let’s keep in mind the relation made to nonsexual powers here, we will return to it.
While he admits to having a familial (albeit also patronizing) respect for his opponent, Nas
latches onto the view that JayZ’ attack on him is almost compulsive in its timing and shares, in
his interpretation, more features with a love obsession than with one of male respect and
friendship/mentorship/rivalry. This then clashes with his conception of the homosocial
continuum. JayZ has misstepped on the continuum, messing up the complicated practice of
establishing structures of male affect that do not cross into homosexuality: His way of handling
problems is feminine, his invocation of the army shows that male bonding is more important in
RocAFella than asserting one’s heterosexuality, even Nas’ allusion to the biblical
homoeroticism of the relationship between Jesus and Judas all underscore a lack of ability
to adhere to a masculine ideal.
Saying that a person is homosexual/feminine excludes them from the commonality of
trust, respect and rivalry, a scene that is supposed to be kept “pure” from sexual ambiguity.
“Ether” is positively littered with blatant homophobic slurs that can be explored further. From
calling JayZ a “Dick riding nigga” and “cocksucking lips” to ridiculing the fact that his record
label is named after a man who died from AIDS, a disease historically linked to especially male
homosexuality, to saying “I rock hoes, ya’ll rock fellas”, Nas’ message is clear: JayZ has
crossed a limit in his relations with men.
The doubts Nas casts on JayZ’ ability to navigate the homosocial sphere are not only derived
from his preoccupation with his work. In the next lines, he comments on JayZ’ line “spit on
your lady” with “You seem to be only concerned with dissing women/Were you abused as a
child, scared to smile, they called you ugly?”. According to Oware “one of the benchmarks of
current “real man” black masculinity includes control of black women”, and JayZ
definitely exhibits misogyny in this particular lyric. Nas attempts to dissect the dynamic of the
misogyny: where does this violent animosity towards women come from? The type of
misogyny that is an integral feature of the strong, hypermasculine rapper persona stems,
according to Oware, from treating women as objects for sexual gratification and exhibiting a
need and power to “control” them.
However, Nas’ verse indicates that JayZ’ “woman problem” actually comes from the fact that
he has let women “call him ugly”, has had too much respect for their opinion on whether he was
attractive or not, let them deny him the right to “smile”. Black masculine misogyny should,
according to Nas, stem from a wish to have sex with women and treat them like objects, not
from past histories of women not wanting to have sex with you.
JayZ’ misogyny comes from past rejections. He has lost “control” over how women view him
and his ability to use them for what he wants on his terms. This has led him to focus his social
desire on close relationships with men. Using the phrasing “spit at your lady” he clearly
indicates that a woman is nothing but a small extension of a man. A woman’s worth, then, is
defined by what man she is having sex with. Again, Nas notices that JayZ cares much more
about men than about women.
This is another transgression of the homosocial continuum where the two rapper’s relation to
women create an asymmetry that makes Nas unable or unwilling to relate to JayZ as if they
were on the same playing field sexually and socially. If their desire towards women are not
homologous, a symmetric triangle, Nas can dismiss JayZ wholly from any relevant sphere,
both of rivalry, friendship and respect.
This asymmetry also enables Nas to question the definition of the desired object, and thus the
structure of the feud. By situating their relation and desire for women as being non-
homogoneous, he can destabilize the foundation and the telos of the fight or “beef”. Why, he
wonders has JayZ started this fight? Does a fight between these two rappers even makes
sense, seeing as they do not want the same things? To Nas, it seems, it does not.
As explained earlier, having a shared heterosexuality is vital to the homosocial bond. As soon as
this common desire ceases to exist, the balancing act crashes.
Clothes, bank rolls and hoes
Nas’ main claim that JayZ has lost his ability to relate properly to his male peers, primarily
Nas himself – is also posited as signifying other relational dissonances.
A focal point in the song is “What’s sad is I love you ‘cause you’re my brother/you [Jay] traded
your soul for riches”. JayZ’ downfall and what Nas is critiquing in him is then not an essential
part of him (as one would often describe homosexuality) but rather a change that has happened
over time, along with JayZ’ increased commercial success.
This underscores Sedgwick’s claim that the homosocial continuum is an interpretative stance,
regulated by the position the interpreter finds himself in: “it is only when watched from one
fixed vantage point in society that sexuality, gender roles, and power domination can seem to
line up in the perfect chain of echoic meaning.” What we can deduct from this is that in the
shared reality of Nas and JayZ, the hyper masculine rap community, there is a relationship
between commerciality and femininity.
Looking closer at the term “soul” the sentence acquires a deeper meaning. Soul, as defined by
the rock and roll hall of fame: “[is] music that arose out of the black experience in America
through the transmutation of gospel and rhythm & blues into a form of funky, secular
testifying”. Nas establishes a clean cut dichotomy between financial success and staying
true to the original and heavily racially charged roots of rap, indicating that having the
staggering commercial success that JayZ has had cannot be achieved without catering to a
white audience and giving up the “soul” of it. See as an example of this logic a popular tshirt
from the company Hip Hop Laboratory that says: “I want my Hip Hop souled out, not sold
Keeping it real
We arrive at an intersectionality of race, sexuality and money. This echoes statements made by
Princeton Professor Imani Perry on “keeping it real”. She also uses the term “soul” to define the
act of staying true to the community from whence the rapper came, the same critique that Nas
levels at his opponent: “The “real” is also an authenticating device responding to the removal of
rap music from the organic relationship with the communities creating it … [I]t is an explicitly
ideological stand against selling one’s soul to the devils of capitalism or assimilation as one sells
the art form and lives life.” Commercialism does not correspond with authentic black
culture, and hence, living authentic black masculinity.
Nas’ accusations against JayZ as being both a homosexual and a “sellout” creates a limit
where heterosexuality, race and the masculine rapperpersona become so interdependent that
transgressing any of these constructed boundaries means crossing over into the normative white
ideal of a commercially palatable person invested and successful in capitalism; an ideal that in
its very essence is oppressive to the authentic black male.
These semantic dissonances also showed themselves in Kembrew McLeods empirical research
on values and words in the hip hop community. He included both lyrics, magazines and articles
to put together this scheme of the relationships to authenticity:
|Social-psychological||Staying true to yourself||Following mass trends|
|Socio-locational||The street||The suburbs|
|Cultural||The old school||The mainstream|
Source: Reproduced from McLeod (1999).
Quite simply, Nas states that the figure of a black, heterosexual rapper who is proud of his roots
in the black community, is less profitable (less legible) in the mainstream capitalist music
industry. This corresponds perfectly to the general notions in the rap community as illustrated
above, and with Sedgwick’s claims about sexuality’s role in constituting itself as relevant to other
conceptions of power. “Softness” in the sense of femininity, is, indeed, discursively correlated
with commercialism and “selling your soul for riches”.
As explained earlier, this does not mean that JayZ hasn’t exhibited misogyny or shown respect
towards fellow black men. He has done it in the wrong way, letting commercial success rule
supreme, targeting Nas, an artist who identifies very much with describing the black, authentic
experience, as being inferior to him, and by that betrayed the authentic, “real”, black
JayZ has, according to Nas, been commercially successful because he has played the capitalist
game at any cost, disregarding cultural (homosocial) code and his “soul”. In other words, he
has ignored the homosocial continuum that belongs in the discourses of black hip hop culture, in
order to tap into a different one, that of white consumer capitalism.
By letting himself be controlled by women through shame, being preoccupied with battling Nas
who is staying true, selling his soul for riches and obsessing over monetary gain, JayZ has
become a rapper white America can stomach. White America understands his motives and
actions. This, to Nas, is the greatest affront, and the one he laments the most.
Ridiculing JayZ’ capitalist measurements of success further, Nas ironically asks whether Jay
honestly believes that Foxy Brown, a successful female rapper who JayZ briefly dated, was
with him because of his looks? “Negro, please”. Even the things Jay has he only gets because he
has sold out and gotten rich. By using the word “Negro” to describe his opponent he also brings
front and center what he seems to think JayZ has forgotten: that he might be rich and
commercially successful, but that he should remember the derogatory words used by the very
group whose acceptance he is now calling success. Put bluntly by rapper Jadakiss in the
documentary Hip Hop beyond beats and rhymes: “everything above 700.000 [in sales] is white
Both JayZ and Nas are commercially tremendously successful rappers. Their fight was a
huge event in the hip hop community that touched upon almost all aspects of the culture:
money, sex, class, and race. Sedgwick’s conception of the homosocial continuum as a starting
point for unwrapping power structure has proved very useful. Nas’ countless allusions to JayZ’
alleged femininity and homosexuality are multilayered critiques of what he perceives to be a
skewed value system that betrays the cornerstones of black culture. This dichotomy,
femininity/commercialism vs. masculinity/authenticity was evidently still a reality in the
vantage point of beginning 2000’s rap music. This creates an immense paradox for the black
rapper. While existing in a capitalist society that values achievements by how much money they
generate, they must also assert and represent a value system of an oppressed class who have
limited buying power.
According to Michael P. Jeffries’ interviews with fans of rap music: “There was strong
anticommercial sentiment from respondents of all backgrounds—celebrating wealth and
mainstream success is considered inauthentic and harmful to hiphop”
This leads to a structure where a rapper must, in order to “stay real”, disown the culture that will
put food on the table, while it is still evident that “realness” sells.
It is in this intersection that Nas and JayZ collide. In a space of oppression and want of success,
where both of them are rich and long removed from the housing projects where they grew
Calling JayZ a homosexual is Nas’ way accusing him of having abandoned the shared
homosocial, heterosexist, “real” bond that used to exist between them before they were wrapped
up in big money, big labels and the inevitable lack of control that this leads to. It is a betrayal.
It is “sad”, because he used to love him like “a son, but you traded your soul for riches”, sad
because Nas knows that in the end, JayZ has only done what the American dream has told him
to do, pursue money, success and happiness.
Here, we see that Sedgwick was right when she said that we can look at “sex as an especially
charged leveragepoint, or point for the exchange of meanings, between gender and class (and in
many societies, race), the sets of categories by which we ordinarily try to describe the divisions
of human labor” This point shows itself in “Ether”: the sexually charged metaphors of the
lyrics are much more blatant than the one bar commenting on “riches”, and the one bar referring
to racial issues: “negro, please”.
There is a constant interpellation between sexual/gender hierarchies and powers in other arenas:
these struggles for recognition and to form an identity cannot be kept apart and are deeply
dependent on each other for semantic meaning. This rap beef is but one example of a discussion
of intersecting discourses of money, masculinity, sexuality, and artistic expression.
• Hurt, Byron: HipHop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes (2006)
• JayZ: “Takeover” from the album “Blueprint”, Rocafella Records, NYC, 2001
(see lyrics here: http://www.songlyrics.com/jayz/takeoverlyrics/)
• Jeffries, Michael P.: “Thug life: Race, gender and the meaning of hip hop”, University of
Chicago Press, 2011
• McLeod, Kembrew. 1999. “Authenticity within Hip Hop and Other Cultures Threatened
with Assimilation.”Journal of Communication 49
• Nas: “Ether” from the album “Stillmatic”, Columbia Records, NYC, 2001
(See lyrics here http://www.songlyrics.com/nas/etherlyrics/)
• Oware, Matthew: “Brotherly Love: Homosociality and Black Masculinity in Gangsta
Rap Music” DePauw University, 2010
• Perry, Imani: Prophets of the hood: Politics and poetics in hip hop, Duke University
Press Books, 2004 p. 87
• Sedgwick, E. K.: Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, New
York : Columbia University Press, 1985
 Sedgwick, E.K. “Between Men” p. 5, 1985
 Sedgwick p. 11
 Oware, Matthew: “Brotherly love: Homosociality and Black Masculinity in Gangsta rap
music”, p. 1, 2010
 Jay Z, “Takeover”, Blueprint, Rocafella Records, 2001
 Nas, “Ether”, Stillmatic, Columbia Records, 2001
 Sedgwick p. 3
 Ibid. p. 5
 Ibid. p. 7
O’Brien, Jodi: Encyclopedia of gender and society, Sage Publications, 2009, entry on
 Ibid. p. 15
 Girard, Rene: Deceit, Desire and the Novel, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1966
 Sedgwick p. 16
 Sedgwick p. 14
 Oware p. 29
Directing a “diss track” directly at a specific artist is rare. Often, rappers tend to enhance their
own achievements and refrain from naming others by name. As an example, see the recent
reactions to Kendrick Lamar’s diss verse on the song “Control” here:
 This criticism has been commonly leveled at Nas since the unprecedented success of Illmatic.
Sedgwick p. 25
Sedgwick p. 7
 Burkett, Delbert (Ed.): The Blackwell Companion to Jesus, John Wiley and Sons, 2011 p. 89
See for example Timothy F. Murphy and Suzanne Poirier, eds: Writing AIDS: Gay Literature.
Language, and Analysis, New York: Columbia UP, 1993
 Oware p. 24
 The origination of the feud in Hip Hop history has many different explanations, among them
money, a woman who had sex with both men and the like. For simplicity’s sake, I will stick to
Nas’ claim that Jay Z attacked him on wax first.
Sedgwick p. 9
Perry, Imani: Prophets of the hood: Politics and poetics in hip hop, Duke University Press
Books, 2004 p. 87
McLeod, Kembrew. 1999. “Authenticity within Hip Hop and Other Cultures Threatened with
Assimilation.”Journal of Communication 49: 134
This point has been said many times, an example here:
JayZ has sold around 75 million albums, while Nas has sold around 25 million (this number
is contested since Nas is a heavily bootlegged artist. http://www.xxlmag.com/news/2014/04/mc-
Jeffries, Michael P.: Thug Life: Race, Gender and the Meaning of HipHop, p. 33
JayZ from Marcy Street in Brooklyn, Nas for Queensbridge in Queens
Sedgwick, p. 11
Copyright: Emma Holten, 2014