Jay Z/Nas, Tupac / Notorious B.I.G.: The Best Hip-Hop Diss Tracks Ever
The hottest story in hip-hop for the last week has been Meek Mill's allegations that Drake uses a ghostwriter, and the Toronto rapper turned up the heat by releasing "Charged Up," a perceived diss track aimed at his accuser. Responses to Drake's release have been fairly positive, at least from fans (Mill himself hasn't responded to the track yet) but Drizzy has a while to go in terms of both attitude and wordplay if he wants to land on the list of the greatest diss tracks ever. Here are five examples, from the Nas/Jay Z beef to the Tupac Shakur/Notorious B.I.G. beef that set a high bar for vitriol.
"The Bridge Is Over" by Boogie Down Productions (1987)
Regional beefs have always been part of the hip-hop game, and although the East Coast/West Coast might be the most famous, the districts beefing aren't always so far-removed. The battle that would set the bar for all geographical conflicts to come was "The Bridge War," a lyrical and sometimes physical altercation between rappers from the South Bronx and Queens. Boogie Down Productions was a Bronx-based outfit consisting of emcee KRS-One and DJ Scott LaRock, and they laid down the definitive shot in the battle on their debut album, Criminally Minded. KRS-One seems to call out every borough during "The Bridge Is Over"—"Manhattan keeps on making it, Brooklyn keeps on taking it, Bronx keeps creating it and Queens keeps on faking it"—as well as noted Queens emcees the Juice Crew and MC Shan and DJ Marley Marl. Indeed, the Bridge was soon over after the song was released. LaRock was murdered (unrelated to the feud) and KRS-One would continue Boogie Down Productions with a less confrontational attitude.
"No Vaseline" by Ice Cube (1991)
Thousands of moviegoers will be filling theaters in a few weeks to see Straight Outta Compton, a film that-based on trailers-seems to show a band of forward-thinking young men changing the rap world with their music. Many an interview has been given by Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, the two most influential members of the squad, in recent weeks, reminiscing about the good times. It sure lends a sentimental angle to the film, but we doubt the flick will touch on just how quickly N.W.A. fell apart, and how bitter the divorce was. Ice Cube was the first to leave the group and he didn't mince words about why on "No Vaseline," a track off of his second solo album, Death Certificate: "The N*ggas with Attitudes? Who ya fooling? / Y'all n*ggas just phony / I 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 Benedict / Eazy-E saw your ass and went in it quick." If you didn't catch that, Cube suggests Dre was violated by fellow N.W.A. member Eazy-E, and repeated the theme (now do you understand the title?). Anyway, it all seems to be cool now.
"Hit 'Em Up" by Tupac Shakur (1996)
Tupac Shakur was one of the fastest-living rappers in history, and perhaps it was because he didn't keep tab on just how many people he p*ssed off. His beef with the Notorious B.I.G. is notorious as the most well-known hip-hop feud in history, and this track is the best known release from that spat. Many don't grasp just how big this beef was, and that Shakur and Biggie were just the figureheads for both sides (hence why they ended up taking the respective falls for it). Shakur doesn't limit himself to just calling out his primary target however: Lil Kim, Puff Daddy, Mobb Deep and just about every act signed to Bad Boy Recordings is called out by Tupac (who gets some help from the Outlawz). There's no doubt that the most vicious lines are saved for Biggie, where Shakur claims to have slept with his wife, R&B star Faith Evans: "F*ck your wife and the clique you claim / westside when we ride, come equipped with game / You claim to be a player but I f*cked your wife / We bust on Bad Boys n*ggas, f*cked for life." When Jay Z made a reference to sleeping with Nas's wife during their infamous feud, Hov's mother made him apologize for it.
"Second Round K.O." by Canibus (1998)
This entry might be a tad more controversial, because anyone who knows anything about Canibus' long-going battle with LL Cool J knows that the Long Island emcee has enjoyed a far more rewarding career than his Queens rival, and has released far more quality records as well. That said, Canibus released the best track in the battle, which begs the question: Can you be considered for one of the best diss tracks of all time if you ultimately lost the war? We vote yes. Cool J started the battle with a line during "4,3,2,1" where he called out Canibus. That, to the latter emcee, was "round one" and he intended to finish the bout with a "Second Round K.O." Needless to say, it didn't work out, but he did land a few solid punches, such as "you walk around showing off your body because it sells / plus to avoid the fact that you ain't got skills / Mad at me because I kick the sh*t that real n*ggas feel / while 99 percent of your fans wear high heels." He also gets bonus points for having Mike Tyson read a a VERY long introduction to the song.
"Ether" by Nas (2001)
The second-most famous beef in hip-hop history has to be the aforementioned Jay Z / Nas rivalry, and few spats had as many back-and-forth battles as this one. If we had to choose one track that best summed the beef, it would be Nas' "Ether." Granted, this isn't necessarily because it's the most loquacious of tracks-especially by his standards-but it brought a level of aggression to the battle that Jay Z could never live up to (there's just something inherently laid back about Hov's voice): "I can handle this for solo and his manuscript just sound stupid / when KRS already made an album called Blueprint / First Biggie's your man then you got the nerve to say / that you're better than B.I.G.?" Many will take offense that we don't include Jay's "Takeover" on this list, as it's almost essential listening to go along with "Ether." It's solid but it doesn't live up to Nas' coup de grace in this battle.