When I was in high school, I became really obsessed with what I’ll call “diss-hop”. It was the very late nineties. Biggy and Tupac had been dead for several years, Suge Knight was in jail and the whole West Coast/East Coast hip-hop rivalry was spluttering to an embarrassing halt. By embarrassing, I mean even a white schoolgirl growing up in Orange could see that the homies didn’t really want to front. And by Orange, I’m not even talking about Orange County, Cali-for-ni-a. I mean Orange, New South Wales.
Population approximately 31,000.
You should be wearing your shame face right now hip-hop, that’s right.
I was an atheist Catholic school girl, whose celebrity crushes were a thing of legend. People used to cut out pictures of my favourite celebrities for me, and bring them to me as we waited in canteen line. I was like the Godfather of suspended disbelief in celebrity/pleb romances. I also really liked hip-hop. I wore Adidas shelltoes, baggy jeans, a wallet on a chain. I was basically Fred Durst with boobs and a brain [and better taste in music].
The Internet was very slow back in the late-’90s in Orange, and so I used to download one hip-hop song a week and obsessively listen to it, and when I had eight or so songs, I would give a list of songs to my friend Phil, who had faster Internet and a CD burner, and about five CDs, because in those days, four out of every five CDs would corrupt. A few days later, he would bring me The Precious.
Because I didn’t really know what I was looking for, I don’t think any newsagents in Orange stocked The Source or High Times, I downloaded anything and everything, including a lot of diss-hop. While I’m sure it has a very colourful history, by the time I got to it, it was in a shameful state. The disses were all about how one rapper was gay and another rapper wasn’t and how NWA used to be cool and now wasn’t. On that they actually had a point. Please see the atrocious, yet ridiculously catchy NWA song ‘Chin Check’. Someone needs to impound Snoop Dogg. Yeah, you heard me. Sadly, I can’t find the Next Friday version that has the really scary intro, so you just get the 100 per cent yeesh version.
We had this rule in my household growing up, we were a musical democracy, so when we went on road trips the mixed tapes would be loving created by me, but the music had to be sourced from every family member. Usually this worked really well. I liked my mum’s choice of Free and Led Zep, she fell pretty hard for Mr Bungle and both my sisters liked pretty much the same stuff I did. Sure there was that one time I threw a tape out the window [sorry environment!] when my mum suggested that Babes in Toyland or Yeah Yeah Yeahs were slightly too repetitive for her taste, but generally anything went. Except for the dreaded “k-word”. The k-word is exactly what you probably think it is and the term came about when a kid came up to my mum in the playground to tell on another kid for using the “k-word” and my mum only realised what the kid meant after she asked them, ‘K-word? What’s the k-word?’.
Anyway, my mum flippantly brought up the “no k-word” rule about 30 seconds before my next song was due on the mix we were listening to at the time, and as I agreed with her that it might be a bit weird to sing the k-word together as a family, I realised that the next song did indeed actually contain the k-word. Several times. A k-bomb was set to explode in the family car. And that, kids, is why you don’t listen to post-West Coast/East Coast rivalry rap in the car with your parents.
All this comes back to me because the other day I re-discovered my favourite example of bad diss-hop, a lovely ditty by Cypress Hill called ‘Ice Cube Killa’. Please, enjoy. Unless you are my mum, in which case, you don’t want to hear these lyrics. Or maybe you do. I don’t know.