Iconic Moments in Hip Hop Beef
Rivalries have been a staple of hip-hop since it’s birth. Some of the most famous songs in history have been diss tracks, normalizing the jarring jargon and paving the way for modern hip-hop artists to put themselves on a platform. In a sense, beef is a way of separating yourself from others as an artist. It's a way of saying: my lyricism is better than yours, my crew is better than yours, my money is better than yours. If everyone cooperated, it would confound the genre as a whole. Hip-hop is about being different and rising from the ashes of struggle to success. When it comes to music, money and fame, people are quick to turn their back or stab you in yours, which provides endless musical muse.
2Pac vs. Biggie
Obviously, you can’t talk about beef without mentioning the famous East Coast/West Coast rivalry that took form in Tupac vs. Biggie. Like most rivals, they began as friends, collaborating on music before things turned south. It’s generally unknown what sparked bad blood between the two, though it’s been argued that Tupac started the hate with support from Suge Knight in order to boost record sales.
Suge undoubtedly played a major role as a catalyst in this historic conflict, many believe he put out the hit on Biggie in March of 1997 when he was fatally shot. He also stoked the fire in 2012 when he stated that he wasn’t convinced Tupac was dead, despite him being pronounced dead after being shot in Sept. 1996. Before both of their untimely deaths they swapped endless shade via Billboard-topping tracks.
“First off, fuck your bitch and the clique you claim
Westside when we ride, come equipped with game
You claim to be a player but I fucked your wife“
- "Hit ‘Em Up," Tupac
These harsh lyrics reference the rumor that Tupac bedded Biggie’s fiancé Faith Evans after the two collaborated on a song.
Young Jeezy vs. Gucci Mane
In terms of Atlanta hip-hop, this is the rivalry. After the two collaborated on “So Icy” in 2005 (cue that hook stuck in my head for the next 10 days) they had a major falling off. After Jeezy dropped his infamous diss track Stay Strapped, their beef famously peaked when Gucci Mane was attacked in his home by several men who attempted to steal his chain. He shot and killed one in self-defense. Though those charges were dropped, he’s still been in and out of jail for a number of erratic, illegal decisions since then. However, it’s rumored that he’ll be released in Sept. 2016 and plans to go on tour immediately after, as he announced via Instagram.
"Radric Davis is a bitch
To be honest n*gga there’s nothin’ Gucci about cha
You a p*ssy n*gga everythings coochie about cha
See straight thru ya n*gga, yous a plastic rapper"
- "Stay Strapped," Young Jeezy
Jeezy definitely wasn’t subtle with this one.
Kendrick Lamar vs. Everyone
Kendrick is the undeniable King of the West Coast. He’s been officially passed the torch by Snoop Dogg and handed the key to Compton, leading many to dub him the Tupac of this generation. For lack of better phrasing, he fucking slayed everyone in his 2014 feature on "Control" with Big Sean. He took no prisoners and reminded the world what hip-hop is truly about. Regardless of collaborations, mutual respect, or politeness for the press, hip-hop is about speaking the truth and being a reflection of the people. The lyrics speak for themselves.
“I’m usually homeboys with the same n*ggas I’m rhyming with
But this is hip-hop, and them n*ggas should know what time it is
And that goes for Jermaine Cole, Big K.R.I.T, Wale
Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake
Big Sean, Jay Electron’, Tyler, Mac Miller,
I got love for you but I’m tryna murder you n*ggas”
- "Control," Big Sean ft. Kendrick Lamar
He destroyed Big Sean ON HIS OWN SONG. Kendrick will forever be the realest.
Lil Wayne vs. Birdman
This beef saddened me deeply on a personal level. Young Money/Cash Money, the joint musical dynasty founded by the two, was the pinnacle of success over the last decade. Of course, all good things must come to an end, and the two engaged in a widely publicized legal dispute in which Wayne claimed Birdman had been limiting him as an artist and forcing him to continue to push back his highly anticipated album, Tha Carter V. He also claims Birdman has withheld hefty sums of money from him. These kinds of legal and financial troubles aren’t uncommon in mentor/mentee relationships especially when a label is involved, but I’d love to see Wayne and Birdman work this out. Based off of recent social media posts it looks like things may be dying down, but Wayne’s lawsuit against Birdman is still very much alive.
Wayne kept it classy by not necessarily openly dissing Birdman on any tracks, though in “CoCo Freestyle” off his 2015 mixtape Sorry For the Wait 2, he stated, “I don’t want no problems, I just want my money.”
Me too, Wayne.
Ice Cube vs. N.W.A
This beef was brought back in to the limelight with the 2015 film "Straight Outta Compton," which documented the evolution of the supergroup N.W.A. Their conflict came to head in an epic legal dispute between Cube and the group’s manager, Jerry Heller, due to disputes regarding proper compensation and recognition for songwriting. Ice Cube broke off from the group and pioneered a solo career, and showed no hesitation in detailing his issues with his former groupmates.
“The N*ggas With Attitudes (who ya foolin’)
Y’all n*ggas just phony
Put that on my mama and my dead homies
Yella Boy’s on your team, so you’re losing
Ay yo Dre, stick to producing
Calling me Arnold, but you bent- a- dick
Eazy- E saw your ass and went in it it quick”
- "No Vaseline," Ice Cube
Kanye vs. T-Swift
This beef was an international phenomenon in 2009 after Kanye famously interrupted Taylor on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards. We all remember the millions of “I’mma let you finish” memes. Gone but not forgotten, this beef died down and was relegated to the occasional laugh. However, Kanye couldn’t resist rekindling the flame and throwing shots at Taylor in a new song off of his highly anticipated new album The Life of Pablo.
“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex.
Why? I made that bitch famous.”
- "Famous," Kanye West
Honestly, fuck Kanye for this. This crossed the line of typical ignorant, misogynistic lyrics and was a total low blow to the core. Fortunately Taylor got the chance to throw some subliminal shade after receiving her Grammy award in 2016 for Album of the Year. “There are going to be people along the way who are going to try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame," Swift said. "But if you just focus on the work and you don’t let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get where you’re going, you’ll look around and realize it was you.”
Tell em, Tay.
Although this barely scratches the surface of beef in the history of hip-hop, these are certainly worth noting. Hope you enjoyed the quick roundup. Thanks for reading.
You can find all of these diss tracks below, except "Famous" (damn you, Tidal).