Once upon a time in what seems like an alternate universe, people were actually impressed when you told them that you were an MC. I admit, its not exactly curing cancer or having the ability to put an entire string of beads up your ass or anything, but people respected you if you were a rapper, famous or not, because they knew that it took a skillful mastery of wordplay and a quick mind to endure all of the freestyle battles you had been and were going to be a part of. Try walking up to some woman in a bar nowadays and in the midst of the conversation mention that you're an MC, what once provoked child-like wonderment in the eyes of whoever you told that to, now provokes glares of pity like you had just told her that you were a stunt hole in gay porn or Chamillionaire's ghostwriter. I think that's because being an MC doesn't seem like an incredibly difficult task any more, as a kid growing up listening to Kane and Rakim I seriously felt that I would never be able to create that level of lyricism if I lived 3 lifetimes. Now if I was a kid growing up today, listening to the products of inbreeding that try to pass themselves off as true lyricists, what once seemed like an unattainable endeavor would immediately seem rather do-able.
It's my humble opinion that famous rappers not getting randomly challenged to battle anymore is an accomplice in the murder of Hip Hop. See, what was so great about Hip Hop and what set it apart from any genre you can name, was that no matter how big the star was there was always a chance that he/she would get publicly called out and forced to battle. I'd bet you dollars to donuts that there aren't fans of Mariah Carey willing to challenge her to see who has the better vocal range, Mary J Blige doesn't have to deal with people wanting to battle her, see who gives the more depressing interview, and see who looks the worst without their makeup on, no one is showing up to Eric Clapton concerts with a guitar in hand, actively trying to take a piss on the Englishman's legacy and take him down in a rein of guitar licks. Hip Hop was always that art-form where you had to be on guard, akin to stories that Bruce Lee used to tell about going out in public and people constantly challenging him to fist fights, no matter where you were there was a good chance someone wanted a piece of you lyrically. Whether it be the market, inside a club, on the train, at a wake, during a fucking colonoscopy for Christs sake, the magic of Hip Hop was the chance of someone trying to dethrone you regardless of the circumstance.
Unfortunately, based on the landscape of sub par artists and what passes for lyrics nowadays, I get the sneaking suspicion that people don't take the same pride in their job like those who came before them.