The internet has been ablaze with the recent beef between Drake and Meek Mill, but hip-hop feuds haven’t always been so concerned with internet trolling. Looking back over hip-hop history, we picked 10 of the best and biggest feuds to have occurred, and had a quick recap over how they played out.
Over the last couple of weeks the internet has been ablaze with squabbles from some of hip-hop’s biggest stars. You couldn’t move for news of the latest back and forth between Meek Mill and Drake, after Meek Mill publicly accused Drake of employing a ghostwriter. Then there was Taylor Swift, who jumped on Nicki Minaj after she tweeted her dismay that the video for “Anaconda” was given no recognition in the VMA nominations. Why can’t we all just get along?
Whether you love them or hate them, feuds and rivalry help the hip-hop world go ’round. And it’s easy for things to quickly escalate when so many artists are eager to identify themselves through machismo and braggadocio. We took a look back over hip-hop history to compile an overview of some of the best and biggest feuds of all time, check them out below.
Nicki Minaj vs Lil Kim
With Nicki Minaj and Lil Kim both sharing a penchant for outlandish outfits and controversy, it didn’t take long for the narrow-sighted music industry to begin drawing parallels between the two women. Once Lil Kim’s attention was drawn to Nicki Minaj she accused the Trinadadian-born musician of stealing her style. The two then became embroiled in a relay of diss tracks, no doubt encouraged by their respective record labels. All publicity is good publicity after all.
Meek Mill vs Drake
If you’re not up to date on the recent beef between Meek Mill and Drake, you need to sort out your priorities. Thankfully, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a quick recap: Meek Mill accused Drake of using a a ghostwriter via Twitter, Drake didn’t respond directly but battle rapper Hitman Holla posted a screenshot of an alleged DM conversation between them where Drake said, “I signed up for greatness. This comes with it.” Meek Mill then named Quentin Miller as the supposed ghostwriter, who spoke out in defense of Drake, denying any ghostwriting claims. Meek took the opportunity during Nicki Minaj’s Pinkprint tour to throw some more shade at Drake, who finally hit back in the track, “Charged Up.” Meek called it out as “baby lotion soft” so Drake dropped a fire freestyle, “Back to Back,” which put Meek Mill firmly back in his place. Meek Mill then responded with the incoherent track “Wanna Know” which Drake simply laughed off.
50 Cent vs Rick Ross
In a story that’s too unbelievable to be made up, Rick Ross and 50 Cent are embroiled in a legal battle in which 50 Cent may have to fork out $5 million. The two go way back to the 2009 BET Awards where allegedly 50 Cent looked at Rick Ross the wrong way, and they’ve been squabbling ever since. The clash came to a head when Fiddy uploaded a video of Ross’ baby mama Lastonia Leviston having sex with her former boyfriend Maurice Murray in 2010.
In some bizarre and misogynistic form of revenge against Ross, 50 Cent doctored the video by inserting himself into the footage and then posted it online. Laviston filed an emotional distress suit in 2010 which has finally come to trial and 50 Cent has been ordered to pay Laviston $5 million. In a case of damage limitation, 50 Cent then filed for bankruptcy, which you can find out more about in The Legal Reasons 50 Cent Filed for Bankruptcy.
Tupac vs Biggie
The most well-known feud, taking between Tupac and Biggie, was also the most tragic. The two were both shot by unknown assailants within six months of one another, and to this day neither case has been resolved. The troubles began with the East Coast vs West Coast rivalry which pitted the two hip-hop scenes against each other. Biggie dropped the track, “Who Shot Ya?”, which Tupac took as a diss song mocking his shooting, and thus a slew of antagonistic musical back-and-forth began. The media quickly became heavily involved in their spat, dubbing it a coastal rap war and reporting on it continuously, which in turn caused fans to take sides. Gangs quickly became involved and according to Chuck Philips’ article “Who Killed Tupac Shakur?”, Compton’s Southside Crips carried out Tupac’s murder which further filled the rumor mill, exacerbating an already tense gang culture.
On September 19, 1996, Tupac Shakur died after being shot multiple times six days earlier in a drive by shooting in Las Vegas. Six months later on March 9 1997 Biggie Smalls was killed in the same way. Whoever was responsible, it marked a change in the hip-hop industry where from then on the focus was often on the violent aspects of its culture.
Azealia Banks vs Everyone
Azealia Banks is so hot-headed we write this with caution for fear the Harlem rapper picks us as her next target. Over the course of her career, Banks has publicly sparred with – wait for it – Kreayshawn, Iggy Azalea, T.I., Dominique Young Unique, Lil Kim, her own management, Nicki Minaj, Angel Haze, Baauer, Diplo, The Stone Roses, Disclosure, Rita Ora, A$AP Rocky, Lily Allen, Lady Gaga and Pharrell, and no doubt countless other non-celebrities, on and off record, too. Some of her spats are indeed justified, it’s just the speed and ferocity at which she executes them that’s a little overbearing.
Eminem vs Insane Clown Posse
One of our personal favorites from the feud list is this one between Eminem and Insane Clown Posse. It began in 1997 when Eminem was throwing a party to promote his debut EP, The Slim Shady EP. He handed ICP member Violent J a flyer which read, “Featuring appearances from Esham, Kid Rock, and ICP (maybe).” When asked why it says Insane Clown Posse would be making an appearance, Mathers responded, “It says ‘maybe.’ Maybe you will be there, I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you right now. You guys coming to my release party, or what?” To which Violent J was unsurprisingly a little displeased, and so declined Eminem’s invitation. Eminem took this very personally and subsequently dissed them at any and every opportunity, which the Insane Clown Pussies – as Eminem called them – were happy to retort to.
N.W.A vs Ice Cube
The dissolution of N.W.A was peppered with bitterness and resentment, triggered by Ice Cube’s departure in early 1990 over royalty disputes. Although he had the diplomacy to avoid bashing the crew in his debut solo record, his peers did not. Their next release five months later, 100 Miles and Runnin’, trash talked Ice Cube with the line, “We started out with too much cargo / So I’m glad we got rid of Benedict Arnold.” Ice Cube then snubbed his former group on “I Gotta Say What Up!!!” off Kill at Will, where at the end of the song in what sounds like a phone interview he’s asked, “since you went solo, whatever happened to your solo crew?” and the interviewer is hung up on.
The shade-throwing kept escalating until it got completely out of hand. Dr. Dre physically assaulted Dee Barnes, presenter of hip-hop show Pump It Up, over its coverage of the feud, attempting to throw her down a flight of stairs, and chasing her into the toilet and punching her in the back of the head. It would seem Ice Cube had the right idea in distancing himself from Dre and the crew.
Jay Z vs Nas
It was a clash of the titans in a feud that was the biggest and most thoroughly documented since the East Coast – West Coast rivalry. What was so engrossing about the vendetta between Jay Z and Nas was that it was two of the greatest rappers of the time slaying each other with lyricism. This was pure unadulterated rap battling at its very best. Things first took a turn for the worse between the two when allegedly Nas never showed up to record a verse on Jay Z’s “Bring It On” off Reasonable Doubt. In his absence Jay Z sampled a line from Nas’ “The World Is Yours” on “Dead Presidents II,” which later on caused issues with payment and credit.
Jay Z launched his first calculated attack on Nas during Hot 97 FM’s Summer Jam in 2001, with the line “ask Nas, he don’t want it with Hov / NO,” and Nas took the bait, retaliating with a freestyle over Eric B & Rakim’s “Paid In Full,” in which he accused Jay of being a fake hustler, a liar, a phony, homosexual, and dubbed him the “fake King of New York,” before taking things one step further on the track “Ether” off of Stillmatic, considered to be the most influential diss track of all time.
As the lyrical shots at one another increased in quantity, they increased in quality too, until 2005 when Jay Z headlined a comeback concert, I Declare War. Instead he decided to declare peace and among the rappers he invited was Nas. The two quashed their beef and performed “Dead Presidents” and “The World Is Yours,” proving themselves to be even greater when they work together.
DMX vs Ja Rule
DMX and Ja Rule were label mates on the Island/Def Jam record label group, and were friends before business stood in the way of pleasure. In another case of the fragile rapper ego, beef began once again with accusations of imitation, as X began to feel that Ja Rule was treading on his toes. In “Do You,” DMX barks “Can’t do you, then what you flow for?/ You ain’t gon’ get there tryin’ to be me, dog.” Although he never mentioned Ja’s name, fans lived up to their name and fanned the flames of the fight by assuming it was a direct diss to Ja Rule. With plenty more slander shot through X’s tracks, Ja Rule finally spoke publicly about the situation, and told MTV News it “was a challenge to make everybody believe Ja Rule’s not fucking trying to be like DMX… I’m my own man.”
Despite his lyrical blows, DMX insisted the two were still friends, until Ja Rule let the fame get to his head. And these attitudes restricted the two from entering into what could have been rap’s greatest supergroup. Along with Jay Z, Murder Inc. was a three-piece crew that never kicked off due to – once again – the fragile rap ego. “We tried to deliver that album.” said Ja. “It was a situation where egos all just played a part in its demise. We couldn’t get X and Jay in the same room, from long ago, their storied battle on the pool table, guns out [and] all of that. That carried over into our careers and we were all trying to do our thing separately and it carried over. It was hard to get all of us into a room to do what we needed to do.” And so both X and Ja missed out on a chance to elevate their careers to dizzy hip-hop heights.
LL Cool J vs Kool Moe Dee
Two more New York City rappers that went head to head are LL Cool J and Kool Moe Dee. The latter was a member of one of the first hip-hop crews, the Treacherous Three, and so felt his seniority gave him the right to call out LL Cool J. He accused him of stealing his style and disrespecting his predecessors by not showing any appreciation for them, instead claiming he was the best too early in the game. Moe Dee took an immediate dislike to the newcomer and was eager to make it known.
For the cover of his 1987 album, How Ya Like Me Now, Kool Moe Dee featured LL Cool J’s trademark, a red Kangol hat, being crushed under the wheel of a Jeep. He then went on to call out an MC for “talking about battles, and never had a battle yet.” LL Cool J retorted with some predictable slurs about a “washed up rapper” and an “old school sucker punch” in the track “Jack the Ripper.” Things took a turn for the worse when Kool Moe Dee decided to employ some real playground tactics, firing back with a track that almost exclusively features an alliteration of pejoratives beginning with “L”, including “Lazy Lemon, Little Logic / Lucky Leech, Liver Lipped.”
Thankfully, after a torrent of pungent insults things began to die down. Although Kool was unquestionably a bonafide rap star, LL Cool J’s record sales not only proved his bankable success, but was also an indicator of a shift in hip-hop towards the mainstream.
For more hip hop fodder, check out 10 of the Most Notorious Hip-Hop Alter Egos Explained.