What's beef? Is it when your mom ain't safe up in the street? Or is it actually the fifth element of hip-hop? Dating all of the way back to when Big Bank Hank of the Sugar Hill Gang borrowed Grandmaster Caz's rhyme book and used his lyrics without credit on "Rapper's Delight," MCs have been feuding on and off wax for years.
Hip-hop is a culture built around machismo and bravado, so backing down or losing a battle could be detrimental to an artist's career. One slip-up and you could find yourself with a one-way ticket to obscurity. Certain MCs have built entire careers around beefing with other artists, while others have had their careers destroyed with just a couple lines. But what once began as two rappers simply battling over skill has turned into big business, with parody music videos, elaborate stage shows, and entire albums dedicated to the coveted battle.
The ante is constantly being upped to keep the fans entertained, so lines will be crossed while artists strive to find unique and creative ways to slander their opponents. Mothers, women, and children have all been involved, and in the YouTube era, a rapper just might show up to your house with a camera crew looking for a brawl. So with beef always in season, Complex has compiled the 50 Best Hip-Hop Diss Songs for your consumption. Vegetarians beware.
Andrew Barber is a writer living in Chicago. Follow him @FAKESHOREDRIVE.
Cormega f/ Mike Delorean "F*ck Nas & Nature" (2000)
Target: Nas, Nature, The Firm
Best Line: "That nigga Nature talking about he taking my spot/He took one punch to the face and just dropped" (Cormega)
After receiving a pink slip from Nas and The Firm click, first generation Firm-member Cormega attacked his former boss and replacement on the aptly titled "Fuck Nas & Nature." Although Mega threw a few jabs at Nasir, he spent most of his time insulting Nature, who he claimed to have beaten up after Nature was allegedly relieved of his chain by a Montana associate. Now that's firm biz.
Kurupt "Callin' Out Names" (1999)
Target: Ja Rule, Belly, The Firm, Foxy Brown, Irv Gotti, Murder Inc., DMX
Producer: Fred Wreck
Album: Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha
Best Line: "Mothafuck D, Mothafuck M, Only X I know is Xzibit or RBX/Extraordinary, trynna snatch my bitch/You can have the bitch, two bitches gettin' rich"
After catching wind of an alleged affair between DMX and his ex-fiance, Foxy Brown, Kurupt said fuck a subliminal and truly called out names. Anyone within an earshot of DMX and Foxy were called into question, with the likes of Murder Inc., Ruff Ryders (but he gave the Lox and Eve a pass—so who was he dissing? Drag-On? Parle'?), and The Firm feeling the brunt of it. This track played out more like a drunken tirade and could be best remembered as the first time a rapper dissed a movie cast ("Fuck Belly").
Young Jeezy "Stay Strapped" (2005)
Target: Gucci Mane
Producer: Sanchez Holmes
Best Line: "King of Decatur/I thought you was from Birmingham"
You've seen this movie before: famous rapper records a song with unknown rapper, song becomes hit, famous rapper cuffs song for himself. Typically the lesser-known act obliges, but in this instance, the unknown rapper decided to keep it for himself. Enter "Icy," a 2005 hit from a then-unknown Gucci Mane, featuring the hottest new artist in the South, Young Jeezy. When Gucci blocked Jeezy from putting "Icy" on his debut album, Jeezy fired back with "Stay Strapped," a scathing diss that set out to ruin Gooch's credibility and career.
Proclaiming "Radric Davis a bitch," and questioning the authenticity of his jewelry (among other things), Jizzle ranted for over three minutes before putting a 10K bounty on Gucci's "So Icy" chain. What ensued in the aftermath was a dead Jeezy associate and Gucci Mane in jail on murder charges. The charges against Gucci were eventually dropped, but this is further proof that rap beef can become very real, very quickly.
Compton's Most Wanted "Who's Fucking Who" (1992)
Target: Tim Dog
Producer: DJ Slip
Album: Music to Driveby
Label: Orpheus/Epic Records
Best Line: "Fuck Tim Dog/Fuck you, bitch/Fuck Tim Dog in the biker shorts"
After Ultramagnetic MC-affiliate Tim Dog dissed the entire city of Compton, California, on his not-so-subtly titled "Fuck Compton," the floodgates opened with Tim Dog slander from Compton-based rappers. One of the first to strike back were Compton's Most Wanted (who beat Dr. Dre to the punch by three months), who threatened to burn Tim's "Fuck Compton" hat (prominently featured on the "Fuck Compton" artwork), advised him never to travel to their hometown.
Noreaga "Halfway Thugs Pt. 2" (1998)
Target: Tragedy Khadafi
Best Line: "He don't wanna be a Muslim no more/He used to be black and proud now he wanna be hardcore"
After signing Capone-N-Noreaga, then helping craft and complete their debut album, The War Report, Tragedy Khadafi found himself on the outs with his protege Noreaga, who wasn't happy with how he was compensated for the project. Nore accused Trag of stiffing the duo on album proceeds, and felt he and (the then-incarcerated) Capone deserved more than they were awarded (despite the fact that Tragedy produced or was featured on almost half of the tracks).
On "Halfway Thugs Pt. 2," the always entertaining Noreaga took the gloves off and spewed hilarious lines like "You just mad 'cause you wasn't in the Juice Crew," and accused Trag of being a 37-year-old ham-eating Muslim and a crackhead who bit Nas' style. The track also questioned Tragedy for abandoning his roots as a pro-black/revolutionary MC (under the Intelligent Hoodlum moniker) to become a street-oriented rapper.
Three 6 Mafia "Live by Yo Rep (Bone Dis)" (1995)
Target: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
Producer: DJ Paul and Juicy J
Album: Mystic Stylez
Label: Prophet Entertainment
Best Line: "Through the ribs, spines, charcoal the muscle tissue, and send what's left back to your Mama/Because that bitch might miss you" (Lord Infamous)
In 1995, very few people outside the state of Tennessee had heard of Three 6 Mafia, the demonic six-person collective hailing from Memphis. Their anonymity didn't last long, however, as the group was thrust into the national spotlight after unleashing their "Live by Yo Rep (Bone Dis)," a vicious attack on the hottest new group in hip-hop.
Three 6 accused Bone of stealing their occult-influenced and tongue-twisting style after discovering it via underground tapes that made their way from Memphis to Cleveland. Whether the beef was just was never determined, but this was a prime example of a lesser-known group gaining notoriety by dissing a bigger artist—a tactic used numerous times in the years to come.
Snoop Dogg "Pimp Slapp'd" (2002)
Target: Kurupt, Death Row Records, Suge Knight
Producer: Josef Laimberg
Album: Paid tha Cost to Be da Boss
Best Line: "This nigga's a bitch like his wife/Suge Knight's a bitch and that's on my life"
After years of remaining relatively silent in the current Death Row vs. former Death Row inmate battle, Snoop stepped up from subliminal shots, to full on assault with "Pimp Slapp'd," a dedication to Death Row and their biggest star at the time, Suge Knight. After years of prodding by Simon (from in and outside of his jail cell), Snoop finally vocalized what many had been scared to say for years: "Suge Knight's a bitch."
Taunting Death Row's then-roster (including DPG cast-off Kurupt) and questioning Suge's manhood in prison, "Pimp Slapp'd" was a major blow to Suge, who at the time was struggling to hold on to his menacing reputation and keep his once-legendary label relevant. This track opened the floodgates for Suge Knight dissing (partly because, well, Snoop didn't die after it was released), and turned Suge into more of a punchline than a feared executive goon.
Luke f/ Poison Clan and Bustdown "P*ssy A** Kid and Hoe A** Play" (1992)
Target: Kid N Play
Producer: Mike "Fresh" McCray
Album: I Got Shit on My Mind
Label: Luke Records/Atlantic
Best Line: "I saw your second House Party and figured/Two House Parties for two house ass niggas" (Bustdown)
The beef between Miami-pioneer Luther Campbell and milquetoast rapping/acting duo Kid N Play kicked into full gear after Kid N Play dissed Luke on "Next Question," criticizing Luke for poisoning the youth and using shock tactics to sell records. Luke and the Poison Clan easily dismantled Kid N Play, focusing on their lack of street cred, goofy dance moves, and PG-13 movies. Believe it or not, not everyone enjoyed the cute, family-friendly antics of Kid N Play, and Luke and the Clan used that in their favor.
50 Cent "Piggy Bank" (2005)
Target: Nas, Jadakiss, Mobb Deep, Ja Rule, Kelis, Shyne, Fat Joe, Lil Kim
Album: The Massacre
Best Line: "Jada, don't fuck with me if you wanna eat/'Cause I'll do yo little ass like Jay did Mobb Deep"
No stranger to beef, 50 Cent kicked off the promo campaign for his sophomore album, The Massacre, by creating a massacre of his own: attacking every rapper in NYC. Well, almost. Feeling a certain way about Fat Joe and Jadakiss appearing on arch-nemesis Ja Rule's "New York," 50 viciously attacked all parties involved. He accused Jadakiss of only popping locally and called Fat Joe on releasing a dud of an album after dropping the massive hit "Lean Back." Heck, even Mobb Deep (who 50 would sign months later), taking a shot for Havoc showing up to Ja's video shoot. The video was an animated mess but does score points for depicting Nas as "Captain Save Em" chasing down the Kelis "Milkshake" truck.
U.N.L.V. "Drag Em 'N the River" (1996)
Target: Big Boy Records, Mystikal
Producer: Mannie Fresh
Album: Uptown 4 Life
Label: Cash Money
Best Line: "You fake cheerleadin, bitch" (Yella Boy)
Feeling slighted by some stray shots Mystikal fired off on his single "Beware," crosstown rivals UNLV struck back with "Drag Em 'N the River," a scorching N.O. anthem that poked fun at Mystikal's braids and his past as a high school cheerleader. At the time, Cash Money (where UNLV was signed) and Big Boy Records (home to Mystikal) were battling for top indie label status in New Orleans, and "Drag Em" quickly escalated the tension between the two factions. Mystikal eventually responded via a few bars on "Let's Get Em" from Master P's Ghetto D album, but at that point Mystikal was riding with the Tank and was far too big to concern himself with lowly regional artists.
Pusha T f/ The-Dream "Exodus 23:1" (2012)
Target: Lil Wayne
Label: G.O.O.D. Music/ Def Jam
Best Line: "Contract all fucked up/I guess that means you all fucked up/You signed to one nigga that signed to another nigga/That's signed to three niggas, now that's bad luck"
Pusha T and Lil Wayne have been at odds for over a decade. It’s rumored that their disdain for each other started all the way back at Baby’s “What Happened to That Boy” video shoot, where Wayne was allegedly so enthralled by the Clipse’s style, he began dressing like the Brothers Thornton—switching from his New Orleans style of dress (tees, ’Bauds, and Rees) to the more refined BAPE look. The Clipse’s 2006 single “Mr. Me Too” was reportedly in reference to Lil Wayne, and the two have been at odds ever since. But the issue finally hit a boiling point in 2012, when Push released “Exodus 23:1,” a scathing track littered with not-so subtle jabs at Weezy F Baby. “Exodus” claimed Wayne was getting screwed by his recording contract with Cash Money (which we now know to be true), and that the people around him really weren’t down to ride. In hindsight, Pusha’s diss was pretty damn accurate. The truth hurts.
It did, however, prompt Wayne to take the bait and respond to Push, which was a v rare occurrence (he hadn’t jumped in a beef since he dropped 500 Degreez in 2002, which was aimed at his former labelmate Juvenile) Wayne countered with the lackluster “Goulish,” which was met with a collective trash emoji from the public at large. It did include the hilarious opening line: “Fuck Pusha T and anybody that love him,” which was the only saving grace.
The beef remained quiet for the next few years until Lil Wayne began to publicly diss Cash Money Records on Twitter. Pusha then trolled Wayne with the classic: “if u wanna drop albums and don't want your CEO's rubbing they hands all in your videos, COME TO G.O.O.D. MUSIC!! (Suge Knight voice)”
MC Eiht "Def Wish" (1991-1996)
Target: DJ Quik (I-IV)
Producer: DJ Slip
Album: Straight Check'n Em, Music to Driveby, We Come Strapped, Death Threatz
Best Line: "And you don't wanna see me/DJ Quik in a khaki bikini"
As DJ Quik was rising to prominence in Compton's hip-hop scene in the late '80s, he gave a shout out to the already-accomplished MC Eiht from Compton's Most Wanted on a local mixtape, letting Eiht know that Quik was on the rise. Taking the mention as a slight, MC Eiht began a series of hilarious diss songs toward Quik that would stretch over half a decade under the "Def Wish" title. The best known of the series is 1993's "Def Wish III," from Eiht's We Come Strapped album, that paints Quik as a goofy, perm-wearing, clucker in a Khaki bikini. The series finally ended in 1996 with Eiht's fourth and final installment, that went to the well one too many times with the Khaki bikini reference.
Jadakiss "Checkmate" (2005)
Target: 50 Cent
Best Line: "Yeah, you got a felony, but you ain't a predicate/Never the King of New York, you live in Connecticut"
After 50 viciously attacked Jadakiss on "Piggy Bank" (and portraying him as a Ninja Turtle in the video), J to the Muah fired back with "Checkmate," a strategic response record, focusing on 50's public shortcomings. The track was filled with quotables, with Kiss alluding to 50 being a snitch, having the weakest flow in G-Unit, and asks what's so cool about being shot nine times and not shooting back.
Eazy-E f/ Gangsta Dresta and B.G. Knoccout "Real Muthaphuckkin' G's" (1993)
Target: Death Row Records, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg
Producer: Rhythum D and Eazy-E
Album: It's On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa
Best Line: "All of the sudden Dr. Dre is the G thang/But on his old album covers, he was the she-thang" (Eazy-E)
When Dr. Dre left Ruthless Records under suspect terms (and means) to start Death Row Records with Suge Knight, the feud between the two labels kicked off almost immediately. Dr. Dre led off his solo debut, The Chronic, with "Fuck Wit Dre Day (And Everybody's Celebratin')," which attacked his former friend and record label for their suspect business practices. The accompanying video featured comedian A.J. Johnson portraying the goofy "Sleazy-E," who was seen holding a "Will Rap for Food" sign on a freeway exit.
Obviously the Godfather of gangster rap didn't take this lightly, and quickly responded with an entire EP dedicated to the beef: It's On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa (the EP's inserts included the infamous sequins suit-wearing picture of Dr. Dre in makeup, from his World Class Wreckin' Cru days).
The best of Eazy's disses, however, was "Real Muthaphuckkin G's," which slighted Dre for being a studio gangster, dubbed Snoop Dogg as the "anorexic rapper," and claimed Suge Knight ruled Death Row with an iron fist. But perhaps the most noteworthy revelation was that Eazy was still making money on Dr. Dre's publishing, so "Dre Day" was actually good for business.
Mobb Deep f/ Ty Nitty "In the Long Run" (1996)
Target: Def Squad, L.O.D., Keith Murray
Best Line: "Motherfuck Keith Murray and his whole click/Yeah you snuffed me in front of the cops, that bullshit" (Prodigy)
After taking offense to remarks Prodigy made on Mobb Deep's "The Infamous Prelude" from The Infamous album, Keith Murray wanted clarity on the comments regarding rappers who talk that "crazy space shit" and about "how much weed you smoke" (two subjects prominently featured on Murray"s debut, The Most Beautifullest Thing in This World).
P's comments led to various subliminal shots on records, and eventually an altercation in front of the infamous Tunnel nightclub, where Keith Murray allegedly snuffed P in the face in front of police. Rumors swirled about what actually happened between the two, and Prodigy menacingly addressed the brawl here, claiming Keith would've been clapped had he turned the corner into an alley on that fateful night.
Royce da 5'9" "Malcolm X" (2003)
Best Line: "Paul better call me like he called Benzino/Matter fact I might even do a song with Ray/Sign to Murder Inc. and hit you with a song a day"
Fellow Rock City natives, Royce Da 5'9" and Eminem's crew D12, had been engaged in a long drawn-out battle, but it wasn't until D12 allegedly jumped one of Royce's associates in front of a Detroit nightclub that Royce upped the ante with "Malcolm X." This hilarious yet vicious track poked fun at each and every member of the Dirty Dozen, picking apart Bizarre for being fat and stuttering and predicting members would be raking 50 Cent's leaves in the near future.
Roxanne Shante "Have a Nice Day" (1987)
Producer: Marley Marl
Label: Cold Chillin'
Best Line: "Now KRS-One you should go on vacation/With that name soundin' like a wack radio station"
After KRS-One claimed "Roxanne Shante is only good for steady fuckin" on "The Bridge Is Over," it was only right for Roxanne to join the BDP vs. Juice Crew battle. After proving she could hold her own against male opponents (she took on UTFO years earlier), Roxanne and Marley Marl crafted "Have a Nice Day," filled with hilarious jabs aimed at the KRS-One and Scott La Rock. Despite rumors that her rhymes were written by Kool G Rap and Big Daddy Kane, Roxanne proved that a female could step in the ring in a male-dominated genre and keep the battle entertaining.
T.I. "99 Problems (Lil Flip Ain't One)" (2004)
Target: Lil Flip
Producer: Rick Rubin
Best Line: "Lyrically I'll murk you/Physically I'll hurt you/You ain't never ran the streets you had a curfew"
Nick Fury, the producer of Lil Flip's 2004 hit "Game Over," invited T.I. to appear on the star-studded remix of the record, but Flip wasn't with it, and T.I. was left snubbed. Lil Flip went on to allegedly diss T.I. during a concert in his hometown of Atlanta, while the self-proclaimed King of the South was incarcerated.
Once free, T.I. went on a Lil Flip slander campaign, claiming it was game over for Flip, who was nothing but a studio gangster who lived in the suburbs and wore Leprechaun outfits (which Flip famously donned on the cover of his The Leprechaun album). The beef was eventually squashed, but not before the two came to fisticuffs in Flip's Houston neighborhood of Cloverland, where T.I. was visiting with a camera crew to expose Flip as a fraud.
Eminem "Girls" (2001)
Target: Dilated Peoples, Everlast, Limp Bizkit
Album: Devil's Night
Best Line: "You fuckin' sissy, up on stage, screamin how people hate you/They don't hate you/They just think you're corny since Christina played you"
In the early 2000s, when Eminem was still a TRL darling, he was engaged in a war of words with rapper ternt (blues) sanga Everlast. The pair traded a few solid diss songs, when Eminem invited the then-relevant rap/rock hybrid Limp Bizkit to join in on the fun. One problem: Limp Bizkit's DJ, Lethal, was once in the rap group House of Pain with Everlast.
Limp Bizkit quickly reneged on the collaboration, but not before DJ Lethal went on MTV and proclaimed that Everlast would beat up Eminem if they came to blows in real life. This did not sit well with Marshall, who closed out D12's Devil's Night album with "Girls," an attack on not only Limp Bizkit, but Dilated Peoples and Everlast as well.
Cam'ron f/ Jim Jones "Hate Me Now" (2002)
Producer: D-Moet, Pretty Boy, Trackmasters
Best Line: "Take your daughter, R. Kelly/Have my way with her face" (Cam'ron)
After Hot 97 canceled Nas' 2002 Summer Jam performance, God's Son went on New York's Power 105.1 and spazzed on the industry. One of the recipients of Nas' blackout was Cam'ron, who Nas claimed was a "good" lyricist, but dropped a "wack" album. Never one to turn the other cheek, Cam jumped on Nas' "Hate Me Now" instrumental and went straight for his jugular. Lines were crossed, low-blows were thrown, and Jim Jones introduced the amazing term "Kufi Slapper." Killa!
Mobb Deep "Drop a Gem on Em" (1996)
Producer: Havoc and Prodigy
Album: Hell on Earth
Label: Loud Records/RCA/BMG
Best Line: "Got raped on the Island you officially got/Kick that thug shit, Vibe magazine on some love shit" (Havoc)
While incarcerated in 1995, 2Pac caught wind that NYC-duo Mobb Deep shouted "Thug Life we still living it" in the chorus of their hit single "Survival of the Fittest" (it probably didn"t help that Puff Daddy was featured in the video). As the face and frontman of the group Thug Life, 2Pac saw this as a direct shot, and upon his release from prison in late-1995, waged a war against Mobb Deep. Although Biggie Smalls was Pac's public enemy No. 1, he was sure to slam the duo at any given opportunity, and they became mainstays in each of Pac's diss tracks.
While most of Pac's adversaries remained mum and refused to respond to the disses, Mobb Deep chomped at the bit with "Drop a Gem on Em," a joint featuring thinly veiled barbs relating to Pac's NYC robbery and shooting and even accusations that he was raped on Rikers Island. Although it's reported that "Drop a Gem on Em" was recorded before Pac passed away, the track didn't see an official release until two months after he died, which was seen by some as a tasteless move on the part of Mobb Deep and Loud Records.
Company Flow "Linda Tripp" (1999)
Best Line: "From now on you're immortalized playin' yourself on my record/Congratu-fuckin-lations isn't that what you wanted, idiot" (El-P)
After Anticon member Sole dissed Company Flow frontman El-P on "Dear Elpee," El-P used art of war tactics and slyly recorded a phone conversation between the eager-to-apologize Sole and himself. Sole turned out to be more stan than enemy, professing "I love Company Flow" and "I wanna be down," self-ether at its finest. This "Linda Tripp" tactic (named after the Pentagon employee who secretly recorded her phone conversations with Monica Lewinsky, which led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton) would be used many times over the course of hip-hop history. I believe the kids now call it being "Young Buck'd."
Jay Z "Super Ugly" (2001)
Target: Carmen, Nas
Producer: Megahertz/Dr. Dre
Best Line: "I came in your Bentley backseat/Skeeted in your Jeep/Left condoms in your baby seat"
After feeling the effects of Nasir's potent "Ether," a visibly dazed Jigga started to hit below the belt with "Super Ugly," the third and final act of the Jay Z vs. Nas saga. "Super Ugly" was commonly seen as a rushed fail on Jay's part and left most believing Nas was true victor in the battle. However, a closer inspection reveals a ruthless and remorseless diss, in which Jay brags about sexing Nas' baby-mother, Carmen Bryan, and leaving condoms on his daughter Destiny's car seat, that even had Hov's mom insisted he issue a public apology to Nas and family, to which Jay obliged.
Rick Ross f/ Drake and French Montana “Stay Schemin” (2012)
Producer: The Beat Bully
Album: Rich Forever
Label: Maybach Music Group/Def Jam
Best Line: "It bothers me when the gods get to acting like the broads"
One beef that may not make the beef hall of fame, other than for being remembered as possibly the weirdest beef ever, will have to be the great Common and Drake battle of 2012. It was a love triangle starring Drake, Common Sense, and Serena Williams. Drake, who is the real life Mr. Steal Your Girl, apparently got a little too friendly with Com’s recent ex Serena Williams, and it caused Com to react on “Sweet”—a joint praised by critics for bringing Common back to his rugged MC roots. Common claimed he wasn’t taking shots at anyone in particular, but real heads (read: everyone) knew he was talking about Drake. You didn’t even really have to read between the lines.
Rappers are constantly taking subliminal shots at Drake, even MCs he’s allegedly “friends” with for that matter. But Drake is no innocent man—his subliminal game is on par with Jigga’s. It’s mean and vicious. And Drake came back swinging at the Oscar-winning rapper on his guest shot on Rick Ross’ “Stay Schemin” record, chastising the Chicago rapper from going from broad to God, and throwing stones and hiding hands. It was as aggressive as we’d ever heard from Drake.
The response was so potent that it sent Common back into the lab to record ANOTHER response that included his best diss line since “The Bitch in Yoo,” claiming that Drake was “Canada Dry.” Lulz.
Lauryn Hill "Lost Ones" (1998)
Target: The Fugees, Wyclef
Producer: Lauryn Hill, Che Guevara, Vada Nobles
Album: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Best Line: "It's funny how money change a situation/Miscommunication leads to complication/My emancipation don't fit your equation"
When The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill dropped, most had no knowledge of the love affair gone wrong between Lauryn and her Refugee partner Wyclef Jean; they just noticed Jean's lack of involvement in her project. In scorched earth mode, Lauryn addressed the situation and aired out her former bandmate, citing money and hunger for fame as the reason for the split. Things were never the same, and years later we still haven't seen another Fugees album. Or another listenable Lauryn project, for that matter.
Nas "Destroy and Rebuild" (2001)
Target: Prodigy, Nature, Cormega
Producer: Baby Paul and Mike Risko
Label: Ill Will/Columbia
Best Line: "Asking a Braveheart to help get back your jewelry/You ain't from my hood, don't even rep QB"
Jay Z wasn't Nas' only adversary during the Stillmatic era, and at this stage in his career it was Nas against the world. Building off BDP's classic diss track "The Bridge Is Over," Nas set out to "Destroy and Rebuild" the Queensbridge hip-hop scene, by weeding out former friends and collaborators: Cormega, Prodigy, and Nature.
Both Cormega and Nature were once members of Nas' famed supergroup, The Firm, but his relationships with both dissolved over bad business, street beef, and record industry politics. Nas' issues with Prodigy (who was also beefing with Jay Z at the time) stemmed from the subliminal shots he felt P sent his way (which Prodigy later denied). Surely Prodigy hopping on Cormeg's vicious "Thun and Kicko" Nas diss couldn't have helped matters.
MC Lyte "10% Dis" (1988)
Target: MC Antoinette
Producer: Audio Two
Album: Lyte As a Rock
Label: First Priority/Atlantic Records
Best Line: "You're a beat biter/A dope style taker/I'll tell you to your face you ain't nothin' but a faker"
After MC Antoinette blatantly jacked the beat from Audio Two's "Top Billin" for her single "I Got an Attitude," MC Lyte, the younger sibling of Audio Two's Giz and Milk, took it upon herself to diss her fellow femcee. The track featured a multitude of now-classic lines such as "hot damn hoe, here we go again" and "you're a beat biter, a dope style taker." Ironically, the beat for "10% Dis" sounded more like "Top Billin" than "I Got an Attitude" did.
2Pac f/ E.D.I. Mean and Young Noble "Bomb First" (1996)
Target: Bad Boy, The Notorious B.I.G., Mobb Deep, Jay Z, Nas, Xzibit
Producer: Big D and Makaveli
Album: The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory
Label: Death Row/Interscope
Best Line: "I'm a Bad Boy killa/Jay Z die too/Looking out for Mobb Deep/Nigga, when I find you" (2Pac)
If you thought Pac had gotten everything off his chest and cleared his head with "Hit Em Up," then you were sadly mistaken. Just weeks before 2Pac was tragically murdered in Las Vegas, he cut "Bomb First," the intro track to his final (living) album and released under the Makaveli moniker. While "Hit Em Up" primarily focused on slandering Biggie, Bad Boy Records, and Junior Mafia, "Bomb First" took aim at the rest of the East Coast, with Nas (the alleged ring leader), Mobb Sleep, and Jay Z (of Hawaiian Sophie fame) in his crosshairs. Complete with a fake Kevin Powell news clip at the beginning, Pac rode on his enemies for over two minutes before letting his Outlaw comrades, E.D.I Mean and Young Noble, get in some words.
MC Shan "Kill That Noise" (1987)
Target: South Bronx, BDP
Producer: Marley Marl
Album: Down by Law
Label: Cold Chillin'/Warner
Best Line: "Should've stayed in school learned comprehension/Stating facts that I did not mention"
After BDP shook up the Juice Crew with "South Bronx," MC Shan and Marley Marl had to come back strong, as the Juice Crew's reputation was on the line. KRS-One accused MC Shan of claiming hip-hop started in Queensbridge (on Shan's "The Bridge"), however Shan quickly refuted the claim, stating KRS lacked comprehension and didn't properly digest "The Bridge"'s lyrics. Although Shan agreed hip-hop started in the BX, he was steadfast that Queens MCs were the better breed, and he intended to kill the rest of the noise with this response record.
Eminem f/ D12 "Quitter/Hit 'Em Up Freestyle" (2001)
Target: Dilated Peoples, Limp Bizkit, Everlast
Best Line: "Figured you could diss me to jumpstart your career/I'll punch you in your fucking chest until your heart kicks in gear" (Eminem)
The feud between Eminem and Everlast began after Em supposedly snubbed Everlast backstage at a concert in 1999. The two traded a few disses back and forth, but it wasn't until Everlast brought Em's daughter, Hailie Jade Mathers, into the mix on "Whitey Ford's Revenge" when the beef got serious.
Mocking Everlast's flop of an album that was Eat at Whitey's, Em went on to clown Everlast's career as a singer and leaned heavily on his poor heart condition. On the second half of the track, Eminem remade 2Pac's "Hit Em Up," using Pac's rhyme pattern and cadence to continue the attack on Everlast, before letting D12 get in on the action.
LL Cool J "Jack the Ripper" (1987)
Target: Kool Moe Dee
Producer: Rick Rubin
Album: Going Back to Cali [Single]
Label: Def Jam
Best Line: "How ya like me now I'm gettin' busier/I'm double platinum, I'm watching you get dizzier"
The cover of Kool Moe Dee's 1987 album, How Ya Like Me Now, featured a grinning Moe Dee standing in front of a Jeep, with the front tire crushing a red Kangol hat. Obviously, this did not sit well with LL Cool J, whose calling card was the red Kangol. How Ya Like Me Now was littered with Cool James disses and accusations that LL was over-hyped and stole Kool Moe Dee's style. LL jumped in the ring with "Jack the Ripper," attacking Moe Dee for being a washed-up and unpopular rapper, who was desperately latching onto the more-successful Cool J for attention.
Tim Dog "F*ck Compton" (1991)
Target: Gangster rap, N.W.A, Compton
Producer: Ced Gee
Album: Penicillin on Wax
Best Line: "Dre beatin' on Dee from Pump It Up/Step to the Dog and get fucked up"
Frustrated that artists from the West Coast, in particular the city of Compton, were receiving more attention than their counterparts on the East Coast, South Bronx MC Tim Dog took the entire city of Compton—namely N.W.A—to war. Claiming their beats, lyrics, and style of dress were inferior to those popular on the East, Tim threatened to "crush Ice Cube" and "chew Eazy like tobacco and spit him in shit." The accompanying video featured N.W.A lookalikes being assaulted while donning jheri curls and Raiders caps. The track is also noteworthy as it's an obvious precursor to the East Coast vs. West Coast battle that plagued hip-hop years later.
DJ Quik "Dollaz + Sense" (1994)
Target: MC Eiht
Producer: DJ Quik
Album: Murder Was the Case Soundtrack
Label: Death Row/Interscope
Best Line: "E-I-H-T, now should I continue/Yeah you left out the G, 'cause the G ain't in you"
The battle between Compton, Calif.'s DJ Quik and MC Eiht began in 1991, with each rapper dropping (at least) one diss song toward the other per album. Quik, a Tree Top Piru, and Eiht, a Tragniew Park Crip, weren't set-tripping but rather vying for the top spot in Compton. The wittiest and most cleverly crafted of the saga, was DJ Quik's "Dollaz + Sense," which had a high-profile slot on Death Row's Murder Was the Case Soundtrack.
Quik dismantled Eiht, claiming Eiht was "shaking like a crap game" when the two crossed paths in an airport, and poking fun at his below-average acting skills in Menace II Society. The beef eventually left wax for the streets years later, when an altercation broke out at L.A.'s El Ray Theatre between Quik and Eiht's entourages, during a Quik concert. Although DJ Quik denied involvement in the incident, he discussed the altercation on his popular record, "You'z A Ganxsta," where he also offered an olive branch to Eiht.
Gucci Mane “Truth” (2012)
Album: Trap God
Label: 1017 Brick Squad Records/Asylum/Warner Bros./Tommy Boy Entertainment
Best Line: “Go dig your partner up nigga, bet he can't say shit”
On “Truth,” the beef between Gucci and Jeezy that began with "Icy" and led to the shooting death of CTE rapper Henry “Pookie Loc” Clark III in 2005, got too real. Guwop evaded murder charges by claiming self-defense, yet he brought up Jeezy’s friend and affiliate on this song: “Go dig your partner up, nigga, bet he can't say shit.” That’s worthy of a fade on sight. —John Kennedy
Cam'ron "Dear Stan" (2000)
Target: Stan Spit
Producer: DJ Mark the 45 King
Best Line: "Hung out with you on Mother's Day because your mother's dead"
Probably best known for his appearance in the movie Belly, and his guest verse on Big L's posthumous single, "Puttin' It Down," Harlemite Stan Spit became embattled with his one-time mentor, Cam'ron, after dissing him on an obscure freestyle. In response, Cam recreated Eminem's smash "Stan" and flipped it into a cleverly crafted diss track poking fun at the opponent's actual government name. The lopsided battle found Killa taking shots at "Stan'Ron" for being unable to score a deal in an era when all you needed was a pulse to get signed, and even brought up Stan's dead mother. In the aftermath, Stan's career went the way of his character in Belly and was subsequently never heard from again.
Boogie Down Productions "South Bronx" (1986)
Target: Juice Crew, MC Shan, Marley Marl, Queensbridge
Producer: Ced Gee, Scott La Rock, KRS-One
Album: Criminal Minded
Label: B-Boy Records
Best Line: "So you think that hip-hop had its start out in Queensbridge/If you pop that junk up in the Bronx you might not live"
When Queens-based rapper MC Shan dropped his hometown anthem, "The Bridge," it struck a nerve with South Bronx-outfit Boogie Down Productions, who felt the track made claim that hip-hop originated in the borough of Queens. Not one to turn the other cheek, the always outspoken KRS-One crafted "South Bronx," a little story of where they (BDP) comes from. KRS clowned Shan for being dropped from MCA Records, and made sure the world knew the actual birthplace of hip-hop: the South Bronx. This was the first shot in what would become known as "The Bridge Wars," the blueprint for all hip-hop battles.
Remy Ma "ShETHER"
Target: Nicki Minaj
Producer: Ron Browz
Best Line: “And I got a few words for the moms of the young Barbz/Guess who supports a child molester? Nicki Minaj”
“ShETHER” defecates on Nicki Minaj’s entire existence. The audio assault nods to Nas’ devastating 2001 song “Ether,” flipping the scathing Jay Z diss’ title while sharing the song’s Ron Browz beat. And Remy Ma is ruthless in her critique of Nicki, portraying her as both an opportunistic clique bopper who’s slept with Trey Songz and Hot 97’s Ebro Darden—both have denied the claims—and a bedroom prude whose rumored butt implants interfered with her sex life with ex-boyfriend Meek Mill. Rem also accuses Minaj of spitting ghostwritten rhymes and claims to have footage of powdering her nose without MAC or Sephora.
But Remy reaches Super Saiyan savage when she addresses Nicki’s older brother Jelani Maraj, who is facing life in prison after being charged with raping a 12-year-old girl. (He's currently awaiting trial.) Her lines slice deeper than any cosmetic surgeon’s knife. —John Kennedy
2Pac "Against All Odds" (1996)
Target: The Notorious B.I.G., Mobb Deep, De La Soul, Puff Daddy, Nas, Jay Z, Jimmy Henchmen, Haitian Jack, Stretch, King Tut
Producer: Hurt-M-Badd and Makaveli
Album: The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory
Label: Death Row/Interscope
Best Line: "This little nigga named Nas think he live like me/Talkin' 'bout he left the hospital, took five like me"
If "Bomb First" was the crazed, manic introduction to Pac's Makaveli persona, "Against All Odds" is the mature, collected farewell. The final song on Pac's The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory album, featured Pac attacking the usual suspects: Biggie, Mobb Deep, Puffy, Nas, and randomly De La Soul. But this was the first time Pac addressed his former NYC associates Stretch (Randy Walker), King Tut (Walter Johnson), Haitian Jack (Jacques Agnant), and music industry vet Jimmy "Henchmen" Rosemond.
Unknown to the general public, Pac labeled the latter two as snitches, accusing them of setting him up during his sexual assault trial, and leaving him to take the fall alone. This added a whole new street element to the 2Pac saga, which ended tragically just weeks later. If any of this was correlated to Pac's demise, the world may never know.
Eminem "The Sauce/Nail in the Coffin" (2002)
Target: Dave Mays, The Source, Benzino
Best Line: "What you know about being bullied over half your life/Oh that's right/You should know what that's like/You're half white"
No stranger to beef with hip-hop magazines, Eminem began feuding with former Source co-owner Raymond "Benzino" Scott when Benzino publicly attacked Eminem's whiteness, claiming he had an unfair advantage over rappers of color and was bad for the culture. After threats of an Eminem boycott from The Source, and a slew of diss songs from Benzino, Em unleashed the ether-filled "The Sauce" and "Nail in the Coffin" on a Shady mixtape.
Equally venomous, both tracks picked apart Benzino's failed rap career, age, and the exploiting of Zino's son for his own financial gain. The Source and Benzino would never be the same, despite spending many years and dollars attempting to kill Marshall's career.
50 Cent "Back Down" (2003)
Target: Entire Murder Inc. Roster, Ja Rule
Producer: Dr. Dre
Album: Get Rich or Die Tryin'
Best Line: "I'm back in the game, shorty, to rule and conquer/You sing for hoes and sound like the Cookie Monster"
By the time 50 Cent's debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin', hit stores in early 2003, most hip-hop fans had already turned their backs on the once insanely popular Ja Rule and switched sides to align with the new kid on the block: Curtis Jackson.
Although 50 had been on a Ja Rule slander campaign for years (as far back as "Life's on the Line" in 2000), including hilarious skits and mixtape diss tracks, it wasn't until "Back Down" when 50 landed the true knockout blow. 50's attacks left Ja's career in shambles and created a new verb for hip-hop beef: being "Ja Rule'd."
LL Cool J "To Da Break of Dawn" (1990)
Target: Ice T, MC Hammer, Kool Moe Dee
Producer: Marley Marl
Album: Mama Said Knock You Out
Label: Def Jam
Best Line: "But I'm a drink you down over the rocks/While the freak on your album cover jocks"
During LL Cool J's long and successful career, many rappers have tried and failed to defeat James Todd Smith in the ring. On "To Da Break of Dawn," LL took aim at his detractors (Kool Moe Dee and Ice-T), and one seemingly innocent bystander (MC Hammer), and wiped them out in one fell swoop. Dedicating one verse to each foe, LL mocked Kool Moe Dee for wearing "Star Trek shades," called MC Hammer a gym teacher, and clowned Ice-T for being a parking-lot employee with a perm. In the end, LL was victorious against all opponents, effectively crushing Moe Dee, Hammer, and Ice T's girl.
Common "The B*tch in Yoo" (1996)
Target: Ice Cube
Producer: Pete Rock
Album: Relativity Urban Assault
Label: Relativity Records
Best Line: "Hyprocrite, I'm filling out your death certificate/Slanging bean pies and St. Ides in the same sentence"
Taking offense to Common's analogy on "I Used to Love H.E.R.," which included the line, "I wasn't salty she was with them Boyz N the Hood," Ice Cube dissed the Chicago MC on Mack 10's "Westside Slaughterhouse," saying, "All you suckas wanna diss the Pacific, but you busta niggas never get specific/Used to love H.E.R., mad 'cause we fucked her/Pussy-whipped bitch, with no Common Sense."
Common quickly retaliated with "The Bitch in Yoo," which reminded Cube that there was no "busta" in Com, and that he'd "backed into a Four Corner Hustler." Com went at Cube, labeling the Don Mega as a washed-up gangsta rapper who hadn't made a good album since Amerikkka's Most Wanted and taking shots at the Westside Connection. The beef was eventually squashed when Minister Louis Farrakhan intervened and had a sitdown with the two.
Canibus "2nd Round K.O." (1998)
Target: LL Cool J
Producer: Wyclef Jean
Best Line: "Mad at me 'cause I kick that shit real niggas feel/While 99 percent of your fans wear high heels"
In 1997, elder statesman LL Cool J invited the hottest young guns in hip-hop to contribute to his track "4,3,2,1" from his Phenomenon album. After hearing newcomer Canibus' initial verse, LL caught feelings over Canibus' "L, is that a mic on your arm, let me borrow that" line (referencing the microphone LL had tattooed on his arm) and insisted he rewrite the verse.
Canibus agreed and revised, but when the song eventually dropped, Canibus' verse was removed (he was only featured on the remix) and LL Cool's verse included a shot at 'Bis for having the audacity to ask for his mic.
Canibus thoroughly studied his opponent and responded with "2nd Round K.O.," one of the best-written battle raps of all time, with guest vocals from Mike Tyson. Canibus attacked LL for only appealing to females, lying about being a drug-free role model, and being an inferior MC for changing his "4,3,2,1" verse after hearing what Canibus wrote.
Drake "Back to Back" (2015)
Target: Meek Mill
Label: Cash Money
Best Line: "Yeah, trigger fingers turn to twitter fingers/Yeah, you gettin bodied by a singin nigga/I'm not the type of nigga that'll type to niggas/And shout out to all my boss bitches wifin niggas"
How fitting that Drake's response to a beef ignited by accusations of ghostwriting led to some of his best songwriting to date. “Back to Back” builds to raucous moments that serve as death blows to Meek Mill and also creates club-ready bellow-along-with-your-boys moments—it’s genius. This is Michael Myers music, as Drake stalks his prey calmly and assuredly—"I'm not sure what it was that really made y'all mad"—before quickening pace—"trigger fingers turn to Twitter fingers—and going in for the kill—"Shout to all my boss bitches wifin'niggas!" Drake recorded one of the most laser-sharp, precisely crafted songs while inebriated. If he never goes to another Grammy ceremony again, the Recording Academy deserve it for not giving this the statue. —Frazier Tharpe
Dr. Dre f/ Snoop Doggy Dogg "(F*ckin Wit) Dre Day" (1992)
Target: Luke, Tim Dog, Ruthless Records, Eazy-E
Producer: Dr. Dre
Album: The Chronic
Label: Death Row/Interscope
Best Line: "Used to be my homie/Used to be my ace/Now I wanna slap the taste out your mouth" (Dr. Dre)
A label built around controversy and beef, Death Row Records revolutionized the way diss songs were recorded and presented to the public with "Dre Day." Sure, rappers had been parodying other rappers in music videos prior to "Dre Day," but Death Row brought big-budget beef to mainstream America, raising the bar in the art of battling. The clip was a mainstay on MTV and BET, and had a slew of goofy actors and comedians portraying their list of enemies.
It was no longer just about the song—the visual was now equally important. Dr. Dre and his protégé, Snoop Doggy Dogg, responded to disses from Luke ("Fakin Like Gangsters") and Tim Dog ("Fuck Compton"), but it was Dre's former accomplice Eazy-E who was the focal point of the "Dre Day" song and video, which was built around a character named Sleazy-E. "Dre Day" changed hip-hop beef forever, pelted Tim Dog into obscurity, and introduced the world to the term "Frisco Dyke."
Ice Cube "No Vaseline" (1991)
Target: Jerry Heller, Ruthless Records, N.W.A
Producer: Ice Cube, Sir Jinx
Album: Death Certificate
Label: Priority/EMI Records
Best Line: I saw it coming, that's why I went solo/And kept on stomping/While y'all mothafuckers moved straight outta Compton/Living with the whites/One big house and not another nigga in sight
After Ice Cube left N.W.A over a financial dispute, his former group attacked him on their 100 Miles & Runnin and Efil4zaggin albums, likening Cube to American history's most infamous traitor, Benedict Arnold. Cube responded with the extremely graphic "No Vaseline," an exposé on Eazy E and Jerry Heller's (N.W.A's manager) shady business tactics, littered with gay and racial slurs.
Possibly more offended than the actual members of N.W.A were civil-rights activists and critics, who lined up to paint Cube as homophobic and anti-Semitic. N.W.A never responded to the diss, and Dr. Dre left the group and Ruthless Records shortly thereafter, also citing compensation issues.
BDP "The Bridge Is Over" (1987)
Target: Juice Crew, MC Shan, Queens, Marley Marl, Roxanne Shante
Producer: Scott La Rock and KRS-One
Album: Criminal Minded
Label: B-Boy Records
Best Line: "Manhattan keeps on makin' it/Brooklyn keeps on takin' it/Bronx keeps creatin' it/And Queens keeps on fakin' it"
BDP began the beef with MC Shan and the Juice Crew on "South Bronx" and effectively ended it on "The Bridge Is Over," the final crushing blow in what would become known as "The Bridge Wars." Filled with classic quotables, "The Bridge Is Over" was released in response to MC Shan's "Kill That Noise" and featured a reggae-tinged flow from KRS, who reiterated proudly that hip-hop was born in the BX. In the aftermath, the Bridge wasn't over, but MC Shan's career was.
Nas "Ether" (2001)
Target: Jay Z
Producer: Ron Browz
Label: Ill Will/Columbia
Best Line: "Eminem murdered you on your own shit"
After Jay Z dropped "Takeover," a sleeping giant was awoken in Nas, giving God's Son the kick in the ass he needed to get his career back on track. Where "Takeover" was prepared like a finely written essay, "Ether" was more like a lunchroom taunt.
After the classic "Fuck Jay-Z" vocal sample, a far more vile Nas went in, calling Jay Z a camel, accusing "Gay Z" of being a Nas stan, and questioning Hov on his overuse of recycled B.I.G. lyrics. So vicious was the attack that "ether" has now become a verb in the hip-hop lexicon, and the song was arguably the launching pad Nas used to revive his at-the-time waning influence.
2Pac "Hit Em Up" (1996)
Target: Mobb Deep, Puffy, Junior M.A.F.I.A., Lil Kim, The Notorious B.I.G., Chino XL
Producer: Johnny J
Album: How Do U Want It [Single]
Label: Death Row/Interscope
Best Line: "That's why I fucked your bitch, you fat motherfucker"
Reworking the beat of the opponent's popular song? Check. Claiming relations with the opponent's baby-mama? Check. Poking fun at the opponent's physique and labeling him a biter? Check. Video parody? Check. Letting your little homies get in on the action? Check. On paper, 2Pac perfected and personified the diss song formula on "Hit Em Up," incorporating all of the elements those before him used to become victorious against their adversaries.
However, Pac kicked his up a few notches, taking this from a war of words to a war of coasts that eventually divided an entire hip-hop nation. What began as a beef between two rappers (Biggie and 2Pac) eventually turned into a battle between the West Coast-based Death Row Records and the East's Bad Boy Records, who were the top two labels in hip-hop at the time. This sent the media into a frenzy, who dubbed it the East Coast vs. West Coast war, which quickly became the most publicized and sensationalized hip-hop beef of all time.
In the wake of "Hit Em Up," two of hip-hop's greatest talents (B.I.G. and 2Pac) would be killed (both murders remain unsolved), changing the face of hip-hop—and beef—forever. This battle will forever be a reminder that, unless kept on wax, rap beef can quickly become real beef with dire consequences.
Jay Z "Takeover" (2001)
Target: Prodigy, Nas
Producer: Kanye West
Album: The Blueprint
Label: Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam
Best Line: "Four albums in 10 years nigga? I could divide/That's one every, let's say, two/Two of them shits was doo/One was naahhh, the other was Illmatic/That's a one-hot-album-every-10-year average"
Jay Z and Nas had a longstanding rivalry and were engaged in a silent power struggle for years, but the shots remained (somewhat) subliminal until Jay Z called out Nas on stage at Hot 97's Summer Jam in 2001: "Ask Nas he don't want it with Hov." Nas subsequently took the bait and dissed Jay on his "Stillmatic" freestyle, prompting Jay to unleash the classic "Takeover."
Jay's response was crafted more like an essay than an actual battle rap, with Hov introducing the argument, analyzing the data, raising counter-arguments, and then concluding. Prodigy of Mobb Deep was dissed on the second verse, but this was dramatically overshadowed by Jay's beef with Nas. Hov's shots at P focused on his small stature, smaller record sales, and the infamous "ballerina" pic he flashed on the screen at Summer Jam 2001.
The Nas portion was far more brutal, attacking Nas' descent from hip-hop's top MC list to a guy who was now being out-rapped on posse cuts by his bodyguard. Jay went on to clown Nas' catalog, and on the final line alluded to sexing Nas' baby-mother, Carmen Bryan. Many speculated Nas' career would be finished after "Takeover," and some believe Prodigy was never able to recover.
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