Hip-Hop thrives off rap beefs. The most respected lyricists are well aware of this and have gone into the trenches knowing they’d come out with gems that would be discussed for decades, but Illegal’s vendetta towards their counterparts — which was made clear their 1993 single “We Getz Busy"— makes you wonder, was it worth it for them? Jamal Phillips and Malik Edwards were only thirteen at the time and looked like choir boys in oversized clothing, but their music, crass and down-right cold and destitute approach to life made Harmony Korine’s cult film Kids look like My Little Pony in comparison. According to Illegal, this was real life.
“Where I’m from, you gotta have your guards up because if you slip you ripped,” said the Philly-born Phillips in an interview. “You gotta go for yours. Do what you gotta do. Hustlin, and all of that.” Added Edwards who came out of Holly Hill, South Carolina, which he referred to as ‘Holly Hell.’ “Kids these days are growing up fast because of their environment that we’re around all the time. And the things we are exposed to, like drugs and guns.”
That same reckless mentality sparked their monumental rap track, “We Getz Busy," produced by EPMD’s Erik Sermon. Illegal had approached the song with reckless abandon. The song was the second single off their only album, The Untold Truth, released in ’93. Bar after bar, the boys went after their more mainstream counterparts, mainly Kris Kross ("can’t write your own rhymes, sellin’ Jermaine’s life stories"), Da Youngstas and, of all groups, the playground-loving, Another Bad Creation, all of whom had made their marks in pop culture thanks to their hit singles.
“We Getz Busy” was the group’s second attempt at dissing those same groups: their debut single “Head or Gut” came a few months before, garnering some buzz on the underground circuit. Sharp jabs aside, “We Getz Busy” was the group’s only song to secure the No. 1 spot on the Hot Rap Singles, and the duo would go their separate ways two years later. Phillips went on to release a solo album, and Edwards went on to work with a slew of mainstream artists, including Monica, Snoop Dogg, and Warren G, trading in his hard image for a softer more commercial one before releasing his solo album in 2005. Go figure. Maybe they started the beefs because deep down, their rivals were everything they wanted to be.