Story By Rob Hansen & Corey Colvin
In 1994, Chi-town MC Common released his critically acclaimed album Resurrection. The collection featured the timeless cut, "I Used to Lover H.E.R.," which personified hip-hop as a female protagonist, urging fans to change the way they looked at both women and the culture. The song is arguably the greatest ode to the culture and most definitely a well-regarded composition. That’s not to say it didn’t have its haters who questioned Common's sense.
Enter Ice Cube, then member of N.W.A with a catalog of critically-praised solo albums, as well as a rising film career. He caught wind of Com's lyrics that he interpreted as taking aim at his style of music and the West Coast.
"Talking about popping Glocks serving rocks and hitting switches/ Now she's a gangsta rolling with gangsta bitches/ Always smoking blunts and getting drunk/ Telling me sad stories, now she only fucks with the funk."
Those seemingly innocent lines pushed Cube's buttons enough for him to offer his own response.
On the track "Westside Slaughterhouse," a cut from Mack 10’s 1995 self-titled debut album, also featuring WC, the trio each took a turn defending their respective California hoods. But it was Ice Cube who doubled down, stewing with feelings of disrespect he felt from "I Used to Love H.E.R." In his opening verse he spit, "All you suckas want to dis the Pacific, but you buster niggas never get specific/ Used to love her mad cause we fucked her/ Pussy whipped bitch with no common sense."
The contrast between the two MCs was evident: Common, the up-and-coming Midwest rhymer with an East Coast flow and Ice Cube, the aggressor role with a history of beef.
The stakes were raised in September of 1996 when Common replied with a no-holds-barred dis record, the Pete Rock-produced "The Bitch in Yoo." You could argue this number held the standard for dis records before Nas released "Ether" in 2001. An already impressively skilled MC, Common only showcased what he could do on the mic when matched against another rapper. Com attacked Cube, calling the Cali rapper "Hosea" (Cube's real name being O'Shea), criticized his choice of samples and made puns out of the titles of films Cube had starred in.
Recalling the beef between the pair of rappers in a 2011 interview with Complex, Pete Rock said, "[Common] was charged up. I felt, as a man, if you feel disrespected, and you feel that in your heart, you fire back. That's what it is. That's how real men are supposed to get down."
In 1997 at the Hip Hop Summit, following the shooting deaths of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan called on Ice Cube and Common to bury the hatchet. As men, the pair were able to reach mutual terms and put aside their differences that began innocent enough. On his song "Hungry," Common would refer to the feud with the line "verbal vegetarian, squashed beef with Ice Cube."
In a 2010 in an interview with allhiphop, Common, a then budding film star with credits including "American Gangster" and "Terminator Salvation," expressed interest in working with his former nemesis on the visual tip. In a separate interview with the same website, Cube accepted the offer stating, "I'd be down to do a movie anytime. Him in Hollywood, me in Hollywood, we both leading men, we could do this."
As fate would have it, the two former rivals would go on to co-star on the silver screen.
"Barbershop: The Next Cut" is the third installment of the popular comedy series that centers on Calvin Palmer Jr. and his crazy crew of employees at a barbershop in the South Side of Chicago. As a new addition to the franchise, Common stars as one of the film's barbers, a character named Rashad. The film's initial trailer even featured a friendly scene between him and Cube as their respective characters—the imagery means were much more than a simple pickup shot for a movie. For heads, seeing these two legends in a family-friendly flick is a reflection of what the culture of hip-hop is capable of providing, unity and advancement for all.
In the weeks leading to the April 15 release, Common and Cube united on the audio front, with their soundtrack cut, "Real People." The song has even received a video as well as the pair performing it when they stopped by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
Though the beef between Ice Cube and Common may seem like a blip in rap's extensive history, and the two men have settled their differences gracefully, it offers a what-could've-been for the likes of Biggie, Pac and others who went to war. Their unity makes for a much greater achievement than having a beef extend beyond wax and into a place where all parties lose and you're no more than a memory of a dope MC. Thank you to Cube and Com for still loving H.E.R.