There used to be a time when, you could just say a rhyme and
Wouldn't have to worry about one of your people dying
But now it's elevated, cause

from Eminem – Like Toy Soldiers Lyrics on Rap Genius

Meaning

RIP Pac and BIG

Battling in hip-hop goes way back to its origins, when emcees would claim that the DJ they represented was better than other DJs. This turned into emcees “showing and proving” that they were better than other emcees by battling. This further evolved into the “8 Mile” style of battles that Eminem grew up with and that are still popular today

However, it wasn’t until Biggie and 2Pac were murdered that shit got serious. Rappers generally understood that it was just competition, not personal, whereas now they have to worry about words turning into real violence

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