Beef and diss tracks are once again making headlines thanks to Pusha-T and Drake’s feud. Pusha’s “The Story of Adidon” alone offered enough material to keep the blogs buzzing for a week. There is enough heat in this current back and forth between the two rappers that this drama could someday be destined for the big screen. This got us thinking about what great beefs have already been immortalized on film.
Over the years, Hollywood has offered us some amazing diss tracks. From high stakes rap battles to sidewalk freestyles, we’ve compiled some of the most savage bars ever committed to cellulite.
Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2005)
Lyrics: On the block, knocking down, taking shit getting real/In the block takin streets, Spin head for the hills/Now you talk that shit, but is you bout it dog/Respect the full rank, you ain’t know lil dog.
In Get Rich or Die Tryin’ Marcus Greer a.k.a. Young Caesar (50 Cent) is stuck in that age old cycle; as Michael Corleone once said, he’s trying to get out but they keep pulling him back in. In this case, the “they” is embodied by ambitious drug lord Majestic (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). As Marcus tries to leave the streets behind for a rap career, Majestic is there to try and thwart him at every turn. Majestic is determined to keep Marcus on the streets and under his thumb. Marcus won’t back down. He delivers tenacious verses attacking the man who is trying to sabotage his life though it puts him at risk of serious danger.
8 Mile (2002)
Lyrics: This guy’s starvin’ to death, someone get him a biscuit! I don’t know what they told you, Mike/ You must had them cornrows rolled too tight. This job, you wanna quit, but you can’t/You’ve worked at this plant so long, you’re a plant! Look at your goddamn boots/For Christ sakes, They’re starting to grow roots!
The struggles of Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith, Jr. (Eminem) in the semi-autobiographical film 8 Mile produced some of the greatest disses ever committed to film. Because we know the film is loosely based on Eminem’s life, we know that it will end with his triumph over adversity. Of course, before Jimmy has his redemptive moment, we have to see that struggle. For Jimmy, this means long hours at a car plant as Jimmy’s dreams grow more distant.
In this scene, Jimmy witnesses a coworker picking on his openly gay friend Paul during an impromptu lunch time rap battle. After the rapper (Xzibit in a cameo) drags Paul into his freestyle, Jimmy expertly dismantles the homophobic coworker (though he still says some homophobic things himself in the process). In this scene, we see the kind of potential Jimmy has and the better life that may lie ahead of him.
Straight Outta Compton (2015)
Lyrics: Ay yo Dre, stick to producin’. Callin’ me Arnold, but you Been-a-dick/Eazy E saw your ass and went in it quick. You got jealous when I got my own company/But I’m a man, and ain’t nobody helpin’ me. Tryin’ to sound like Amerikkka’s Most/You could yell all day but you don’t come close. ‘Cause you know I’m the one that flown/Ya done run 100 miles, but you still got one to go. With the L-E-N-C-H M-O-B, and y’all disgrace the see-P-T/ ‘Cause you’re gettin’ fucked out your green by a white boy with no Vaseline.
The sequence covering the legendary diss track “No Vaseline” in Straight Outta Compton is directed to emphasize the savagery of Ice Cube’s bars. First, we see Cube listening to the remaining N.W.A. members’ attempt at starting a beef, then we immediately cut to him in the studio, recording his response. Next, we get a painfully awkward two-minute scene in which his former bandmates listen to the final version of “No Vaseline” and realize they have been bested.
“No Vaseline” would go on to be a historic diss track. Controversial upon its release, the track helped establish Ice Cube as a singular and powerful force in hip-hop outside of N.W.A. Shortly after the track was released, N.W.A disbanded. While various members of the group released disses of various other members in ensuing years (most notably on “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang”), “No Vaseline” remains the most significant.
Lyrics: Who shot ya? Separate the weak from the ob-solete/Hard to creep them Brooklyn streets. It’s on n*gga, fuck all that bickering beef/ I can hear sweat trickling down your cheek. Your heartbeat sound like Sasquatch feet/Thundering, shaking the concrete. Finish it, stop, when I foil the plot/Neighbors call the cops said they heard mad shots.
“Who Shot Ya” is one of the most famous and most controversial diss tracks of all time. As such, it had to be an integral part of the Notorious B.I.G. biopic Notorious. It’s clear that the filmmakers felt the song was an important one: the camera never once cuts away from B.I.G. (Jamal Woodard) while he raps.
Released in 1995, “Who Shot Ya” has had an enduring impact on the rap world. Some cite the song as a key inciting incident on the road to the tragic deaths of B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. Regardless of how true this is, it’s undeniable that the song’s release represented an escalation in the beef between the two artists, increasing both their fame and their infamy.
Lyrics: Undercover, word to mother, I’m above ya. And I love ya, cause you’re a sweet bitch/A crazy crab, the type to make my dick itch. I flow looser than Luther, words ya get used ta/B.I.G. is a born trooper/Like ice cream I scoop ya.
A film about Biggie would never have just one diss track. Notorious is careful to include nods to B.I.G.’s emergence as a freestyle master in Brooklyn. While the work Jamal Woolard puts in here is impressive, it is actually pretty faithful to what Biggie did in real life.
As this video demonstrates, those who knew B.I.G. attribute much of his early success to his persistent, aggressive freestyling which helped him hone his craft and build his reputation.
Let It Shine (2012)
Lyrics: You know what? You don’t have a stack of cash/ You’re a flashy pad/I saw you last week driving the taxi cab. Your secret’s out, and now they know sport/We’ll call you if we need a ride to an airport. In fact, you can drop me off at home after this/ Then you can take your couple bucks back, but as a tip. You’re playing yourself like solitaire/Telling everyone that’s here that you’re a millionaire.
Your first instinct probably woudn’t be to look to the Disney Channel for one of the most savage disses in film history, but Let It Shine shows that beef can emerge in the strangest places. The film offers some of the most savage disses ever caught on film.
Let it Shine follows the exploits of choir director and the pastor’s son Cyrus (Tyler James Williams) as he pursues his dreams of a rap career, and in terms of cinema, it doesn’t offer much that makes it worth revisiting. Unless you’re a big time Courtney B. Vance fan after his work in American Crime Story, the YouTube video above will likely suffice.
Drillbit Taylor (2008)
Lyrics: Hold on, I know you didn’t just go there/I got more skills than you in my one and only nut hair.So You better step off before you insult me and mine/‘Cuz if you decide to step on, see I’m like a landmine Boom! Boom!
While the Owen Wilson vehicle has largely been forgotten, the YouTube clip of Ryan a.k.a. T-Dog (Troy Gentile) winning a rap battle still lives on.
8 Mile (2002)
Lyrics: But I know something about you/You went to Cranbrook, that’s a private school. What’s the matter, dawg, you embarrassed?/This guy’s a gangster? His real name’s Clarence. And Clarence lives at home with both parents/And Clarence parents have a real good marriage. This guy don’t want to battle, he’s shook/‘Cause ain’t no such things as halfway crooks. He’s scared to death, he’s scared to look/At his fucking yearbook; fuck Cranbrook!
8 Mile is inarguably the greatest diss movie in hip-hop film history, and the series of rap battles that appear in the film’s climax mark its greatest diss moment. After weathering a series of creative, professional, and emotional setbacks, B-Rabbit returns to The Shelter – the local rap venue where he is embarrassed early in the film – and defeats a series of enemies before emerging victorious.
The sequence is the perfect ending to a film about triumph over adversity, because B-Rabbit not only has to defeat the various enemies he has made in the course of the film, but he also has to come to terms with some of the most vulnerable aspects of himself.
This rap battle sequence has become famous in its own right, setting the gold standard for disses on film. It was even parodied in Scary Movie 3.