Common gave hip hop a gift with the 1st single from his sophomore album “I Used To Love H.E.R”. Even to this day, its heralded as one of the best hip hop songs ever recorded. In case you live under a rock, and are not familiar with this track, Common uses a female character to personify hip hop. Beginning with the first time he met “her”, at the age of 10 all the way to the 90s era of ‘gangsta rap’. While no names were mentioned, Common would find himself on the wrong side of venom spewed by a battle tested hip hop veteran.
By the mid 90s, Ice Cube was one of the few rappers whose career started in the 80s, and still had a large fan base. Already 4 solo albums into his career, and building quite the acting resume thanks to his roles in the John Singleton directed, ‘Boyz N The Hood’ and ‘Higher Learning’. With a battle tested pedigree, he had single handedly taken on the ‘worlds most dangerous rap group’, in their prime, and came out victorious with the classic “No Vaseline”. Now he was taking aim at the relatively new, and on a larger scale unknown Common.
In 1995, Ice Cube was promoting the self titled debut album of his protégé Mack 10. On the albums 3rd single, “Westside Slaughterhouse”, Cube not only introduced his new supergroup, Westside Connection he also took out time to spew venom in the direction of Common. Mind you this is in the middle of the ‘East vs. West’ beef, so any feud at the time had the potential to turn physical.
1st Blood – “Westside Slaughterhouse”
Cube came out swinging for the fences, and while the entire song itself is more geared toward taking aim mainly at critics on the East coast, he begins his verse by first insulting Common, then claiming that “Hip hop started in the west”. Cube would later explain on a episode of BETs ‘Rap City’, that he felt Common was dissing the west coast, and he claimed to not be the only one who felt that way, he was just the first to respond on record. Verdict: 8/10
The diss itself is about 4 bars, and Common is addressed by name. The content of the song itself is not centered around this particular feud, if it had been solely aimed at Common it may have been enough to put a screeching halt to his career. While it may not be a popular opinion, Common may have dodged a bullet due to the fact that he was not from New York, and his diss while venomous, was not the point of the record.
The Rebuttal – ‘The Bitch In You”
After waiting a few months, contemplating whether or not he would respond via record, he finally broke his silence. In ways Common was at a disadvantage, he was new, and on a national level fairly unknown. This actually serves a precursor for LL vs. Canibus, a legend verse a relatively unknown MC. Common had almost 8 years of Cube’s career to draw inspiration from, and he simply held a magnifying glass to all of Cube’s character inconsistencies with is ‘gangsta’ persona, and the multiple styles he had experimented with. Taking shots at his acting career, his knack for drinking 40oz, meanwhile still claiming to be a Muslim. Verdict: 9.5/10
The fact that no one expected Common to go this hard makes this one of the best diss records in the history of hip hop. This is along the lines of Cube’s infamous “No Vaseline”. He makes it clear immediately that he has no intention in being a part of ‘East vs. West’, but has all intentions to lyrically thrash the Westside Connection by himself. Making sure to point out the fact that Ice Cube had a tremendous amount of help from the East coast while creating his solo debut, ‘AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted’. Mentioning an encounter with Mack 10 where there was no animosity from Mack even after the diss was released, Common more or less paints them as ‘studio gangstas”. Ending the track, promising to diss Cube any chance he gets.
This is all before the ‘information age’ in most cases, you had to wait for an artist to be dropping an album to hear a real response. Unfortunately between the time of Common dropping “The Bitch In You”, and what might have been a response from Cube, the untimely deaths of Notorious BIG and 2Pac occurred, changing the energy of the ‘East vs. West’ feud, and in ways serving as the catalyst to a hip hop peace treaty of sorts. The Honorable Minister Luis Farrakhan organized a sit down with artists from both coasts, along with artist from other regions who were embroiled in feuds. This meeting would result in Cube and Common agreeing to put their differences on record aside, and stop dissing one another for the greater good of hip hop and the black community.
The ‘beef’ itself didn’t necessarily last too long, Cube never made an entire song dedicated to dissing Common the way he did with NWA 5 years before, and in reality he probably didn’t know or care enough about Common to actually do the research. This fact plays a major part in why Common came out victorious in the end from a lyrical stand point. Its more or less Cube’s 4 bars, vs a 4 minute song by Common. Regardless of who you are its pretty hard to defeat an MC of Common’s caliber with simply spitting 4 aggressive bars.
It’s been documented and dissected as a part of the ‘Beef DVD’ (directed by QDIII), where Common himself admits to being a huge fan of Cube while he was with NWA, and when he would go on a pursue his solo career. He shares the fact that he wasn’t even going to answer back, but the spirit of competition was too strong, and him not responding as such a tension filled time in hip hop could have meant the end of his career. As venomous as Common’s response was, it didn’t really do much to hurt the careers of Ice Cube or Mack 10 and W.C. who for the most part have been regional artists, mainly catering to the west coast with the majority of their music both then and now.