Calling fellow musicians out on record is a long-standing tradition in nearly every genre of modern music, but in no other is it best exemplified than in hip-hop. The entire foundation of the culture -- from grafitti, to b-boying, to DJing, to the music -- is practically based upon upstaging one's peers. Usually, through all the bravado and the insults, it remains good-natured (if vitriolic) competition; but sometimes shit turns ugly. The separate shooting deaths of Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace (aka Biggie Smalls, aka Notorious B.I.G.), are the most glaring testement to this, but they are, sadly, not exclusive. And while 'Pac and Biggie's murders are still unsolved and most likely not directly related to their war on wax, I don't think you'd find many who would argue that, had their beef never escalated, they would have BOTH still been killed.
The aftermath of those tragedies still affects hip-hop music to this day. No true fan of the music wants to revisit the coastal wars -- perhaps propogated by the media, but still embraced by most artists at the time -- of the mid-nineties. And no true fan wants to hear the painful news that another of the music's great talents (those few which remain) has been taken away from us.
This of course doesn't mean that MCs should stop making dis records. Never that. All it means is that they should focus on why dis records were made in the first place: to show and prove that artist A had more skills than artists B-through-Z.
It should be about the music.
With that out of the way, let's get into my list of the greatest dis records in hip-hop. I usually don't rate these songs, but I had to make an exception in this case. The situation sort of demanded it.
First, the short-list of songs omitted: Ether by Nas (I know denz is going to hate me for this, but I just don't think the beat or the impact is worthy of the Top 10); Jack the Ripper by LL Cool J; Roxanne's Revenge by Roxanne Shante, 10% Dis by MC Lyte, and any other female MC vs. female MC song (I've always felt that female MC dis records are a novelty, like when two goalies get into it during a bench-clearing brawl in hockey); Who Shot Ya? by Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie doesn't get specific enough); Wanksta by 50 Cent (for the same reason as Who Shot Ya?); and Fuck Compton by Tim Dog (which was shamefully only made so that Tim could make a name for himself).
By the way, each song is divided into 4 categories: Genesis, Beef, Execution, and Aftermath. The first briefly explains how the song came to be. The second rates, on a scale of ground chuck to filet mignon, the animosity between the artist and the party (or parties) at which the song is directed. The third gives a description of the song, and the last explains where things stand today.
Good. Let's get ready to rumble.
10) Linda Trip by Company Flow
Genesis: When underground MC Sole took offense to a line from Co-Flo's single, End to End Burners (Diss me on the internet like picket line crossin Teamsters), he shot back with the song Dear El-P, then went on to claim that New York City's independent vinyl Mecca, Fat Beats, at El-P's behest, wouldn't sell his records.
Beef: Ground chuck. C'mon, they're white MCs. Sole's from Maine! Throwing eggs, soaping windows, and toilet papering each other's property is probably the worst that could have happened.
Execution: El-P and Mr. Len, Co-Flo's DJ, called Sole, who was secretly recorded (hence the song's title). On the track, Sole can be heard saying -- among other things -- "I love Company Flow," "I don't wanna be against you guys," and "I wanna be down."
Aftermath: El-P is probably the most respected independent hip-hop artist working today. Sole works at Burger King for all I know.
9) Second Round K.O. by Canibus
Genesis: Up-and-coming battle rhymer Canibus was at the time making a name for himself and his ferocious delivery by guest-starring on various artists' songs, and LL Cool J recruited him for the track 4,3,2,1. But the legendary MC, himself no slouch when it came to throwing barbed disses, took offense when Canibus referenced the microphone tattoo on LL's arm (L, is that a Mic on your arm? Let me borrow that). LL went on to rewrite his final verse as a dis towards Canibus, who had previously agreed to edit his own misunderstood line from the song. Pissed off that LL went back on his word to summarily change his own verse, 'Bis shot back with Second Round K.O.
Beef: T-bone. The two MCs would go at one another for a while, though people stopped caring not long after Second Round K.O. was released.
Execution: Give the young lyrical pugilist his props: the track is scathing, targeting LL's short-lived sitcom, his family, and preemptorily stating that not even Minister Louis Farrakhan -- who at the time was mediating a lot of standing beefs in hip-hop -- could make them see eye-to-eye.
Aftermath: Canibus's debut album flopped, which was probably a godsend for Mr. Smith, because most fans agreed at the time that 'Bis was the victor. He later joined the marines, and released a handful of albums that were similarly as disappointing as his first. Meanwhile, LL continued to tarnish his legacy with poorly-received albums of his own, and had numerous roles in Hollywood movies.
Shitty Hollywood movies.
8) Girls by Eminem
Genesis: Eminem, no stranger to beef throughout his career, was in the midst of a feud with former House of Pain MC Eric "Everlast" Schrody (maybe it's the white MCs who are the real "goalies fighting each other during hockey brawls"). Em thought former HoP/current Limp Bizkit member DJ Lethal had his back in the dispute, but when Lethal appeared on MTV News stating that he thought Everlast would kick Eminem's ass, Slim Shady got heated and realized that, in popular rap music, one can never have too many foes. He therefore stretched his beef with Lethal to include Limp Bizkit singer, and genuine douchebag, Fred Durst. Well played, sir.
Beef: Ground chuck. I'm sure no one really cares these days.
Execution: Em released Girls independently, although it was later included on the debut release of his group, D12. It's in Em's delivery and detailed account of how the situation unfolded that the song is most noteworthy.
Aftermath: Eminem is taking time off until his inevitable comeback. DJ Lethal and Limp Bizkit still suck. And based on the contents of their last 2 albums, Dilated Peoples, who were briefly mentioned in the song (Pupils, Peoples, whatever your backpackin' cypherin' name is), will probably sing Boyz II Men covers to pay the rent these days.
7) To Da Break Of Dawn by LL Cool J
Genesis: Kool Moe Dee, he of the Treacherous 3 (how's that? Better ask somebody) took numerous shots at the young upstart Cool James, culminating in the track How Ya Like Me Now? LL shot back with Jack the Ripper, which basically crippled Moe Dee, although he managed to hang on for one last jab with Let's Go. The final nail in the coffin would come when LL dropped To Da Break Of Dawn, which also took aim at Ice-T and MC Hammer.
Beef: Sirloin. This ongoing battle was to hip-hop what the Bird/'Nique shootout was to hoops: a beautiful slug-fest.
Execution: Marley Marl synthesized it, LL memorized it. The Ice-T and Hammer disses are great (the line directed at Hammer, You couldn't bust a grape in a fruit fight, deserves particular mention), but the opening verse, reserved for Kool Moe, is the best part, and an absolute K.O.
Aftermath: Kool Moe Dee subsists on a diet of nothing but Cool J cookies.
6) Hit'em Up by 2pac
Genesis: Once the best of friends, Tupac and Biggie Smalls would become the bitterest of rivals. It's almost Shakespearian.
Beef: Filet mignon wrapped in bacon and smothered in gravy.
Execution: Oh, man. Seriously, oh, man. Let's allow the song's intro to speak for itself:
I ain't got no motherfuckin friends
That's why I fucked yo' bitch, you fat motherfucker
He wasn't lying, either.
And then there's
Fuck Mobb Deep
Fuck Bad Boy as a staff record label
and as a motherfuckin crew
And if you wanna be down with Bad Boy
Then fuck you too
Chino XL, fuck you too
All you motherfuckers, fuck you too
Chino XL!!?? Jesus.
Aftermath: Do I really have to tell you?
5) No Vaseline by Ice Cube
Genesis: Ice cube left NWA due to what he perceived to be financial wrongdoings on the part of their manager, Jerry Heller. Though NWA would nickname Cube "Benedict Arnold" and dis him sparsely on a few songs, everyone was waiting for Cube's response.
Beef: T-bone. It was all about money, after all.
Execution: 4 against 1? Those aren't some good odds, but Cube took out his former comrades in glorious fashion, saving the most venomous lyrics for Eazy-E and Heller. His castigation would prove true when, amidst further financial disputes, NWA disbanded shortly thereafter.
Aftermath: Cube and Dre were once rumored to be working together on an album, but that's never going to happen: Cube is busy tarnishing his career by making god-awful movies and crappy albums (he and LL should hook up), and Dre is busy being rich and powerful. Eazy-E died of an AIDS-related illness. DJ Yella produced porno flicks. MC Ren, to quote Mike Tyson, faded into Bolivian. And who knows what became of Heller.
[/American Grafitti epilogue]
4) The Bitch In Yoo by Common Sense
Genesis: After Common's poignant and thought-provoking single, I Used to Love H.E.R., Ice Cube and cohorts WC and Mack-10 (*cough* wife beater) took umbrage with what they perceived as Com's criticism of West Coast gangster rap. They shot back (figuratively) on the Westside Connection song Westside Slaughterhouse.
Beef: Sirloin. This occurred during the highly-publicized East/West feud, and none other than the Honorable Marriage Counsellor Louis Farrakhan took it upon himself to call the men together in order that they reconcile their differences.
Execution: This Pete Rock-produced track is singlehandedly the most witty and biting dis record ever recorded. But history, and the following 3 beats, prevent it from being number 1.
Aftermath: After the uber-awful Electric Circus (props to Monica Deol), Common somewhat salvaged his career with the Kanye West-produced Be. You already know what became of Cube.
3) Fuck Wit Dre Day (And Everybody's Celebratin') by Dr. Dre (feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg)
Genesis: Tim Dog and Luther Campbell (aka Luke Skywalker, aka Uncle Luke) each took shots at Dre. Why they garnered mention I still can't fathom, but Eazy-E also gets his comeuppance here.
Beef: T-bone. I'm sure a lot of listeners were scratching their heads and saying Who? when Snoop lambasted Tim Dog.
Execution: While not the best dis song by any means, it's the opening track on one of the most influential hip-hop albums ever recorded, and it's the first time many people heard Snoop Dogg. So it's certainly one of the most memorable.
Aftermath: Dre's already been covered. Snoop has perplexingly gained celebrity status despite not doing anything notable for almost a decade. As for their "adversaries," that's what http://www.weht.net/is for.
2) The Takeover by Jay-Z
Genesis: After Biggie's death, Jay was anointed King of New York. And like Frank White, everyone kept gunning for his crown.
Beef: Filet mignon. I mean, dude revealed at Summer Jam a photo of Prodigy wearing ballet tights, and almost singlehandedly destroyed Nas's career.
Execution: Jay had performed a version of the song in concert, but his biggest target went purposefully unmentioned. After giving Mobb Deep's Prodigy a thorough lashing, Jay finished his verse with "You guys don't want it with Hov'/Ask Nas, he don't want it with Hov', nooooo!" The bait was set, and Nas all too quickly snapped at it, providing Jay exactly what he needed in order to take the simmering beef to a boil. The then largely-unknown Kanye West hooked up the beat, a maelstrom of rock samples which included The Doors' Five to One and David Bowie's Fame, and the result was the best dis record anyone had heard in over 15 years.
Aftermath: Nas shot back with Ether, a response that was equally scathing, but lacking the triumphant (word to Bill and Ted) sound of Takeover. Jay's final, cryptic warning (Don't be the next contestant on that Summer Jam screen/
Because you know who/did you know what/with you know who...but just keep that between me and you for now) would turn out to be that he had slept with Nas's woman (word to Tupac), and he would later claim that he had left used condoms on the estranged couple's daughter's car seat.
The two have since squashed their beef, apparently. Now Jay is the president of Def Jam. He signed Nas to the label late last year. So, essentially, Jay is now Nas's boss.
1) The Bridge Is Over by Boogie Down Productions
Genesis:After MC Shan dropped The Bridge, which claimed that
(the sun revolves around the earth)
hip-hop started out in Queens, Kris and Scott La Rock responded with a history lesson titled South Bronx. But the final blow would be dealt when, instead of fighting a battle already won, KRS would direct his attention toward Shan and the Juice Crew.
Beef: T-bone. Because it was all about the music.
Execution: Possibly the illest sample in hip-hop history was given to Scott La Rock by none other than the Ultramagnetic MCs' Ced-Gee. He would not fail to utilize it effectively, creating not only the best dis record ever, but arguably the best hip-hop record ever. KRS showed a flair hitherto unheard in hip-hop, switching from ragga-influenced chat to playful taunting to downright nasty (Roxanne shante is only good for steady fuckin'), finally ending the song with an interpolation of Billy Joel's It's Still Rock & Roll To Me. I'm telling you, mention The Bridge Is Over to any hardcore hip-hop fan, and if their face doesn't instantly light up, don't ever trust a word they say.
Aftermath: Scott La Rock was hit and killed by a stray bullet. The Stop the Violence movement in hip-hop was begun in his memory. KRS continues to get crazier as the years pass. Marly Marl would form a new, improved Juice Crew. But Shan I don't think will ever escape the stigma of being KRS ONE's whipping boy. He did rap on Snow's Informer, though, so he's got that going for him.
-- MC 900 ft. Sparkles_*_