The ten best dis tracks of all time
Since hip-hop's genesis, beef has been as integral a driving force to the art as bravado. There've been some titanic tangles over the years, from Canibus facing off with LL Cool J to Jay-Z and Nas locking horns with one another, all of them resulting in some relentless and incendiary rhymes being spit on record. Keep reading for a rundown of the ten best dis tracks of all time.
10. Common - "The Bitch in Yoo" The feud between Ice Cube and Common began with Common's "I Used to Love H.E.R.," which wasn't meant as a dis but nevertheless drew "Westside Slaughterhouse" as a response. Stepping away from his usually easygoing demeanor, Common pointed out the many inconsistencies of Ice Cube's identities as both a Muslim and a gangster. You might expect a sensitive soul like Common to be out of his element battling the likes of Ice Cube, but he gave no ground until the two eventually talked it out with the help of Louis Farrakhan.
9. Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg - "(Fuck Wit) Dre Day" In "(Fuck Wit) Dre Day," Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre proved that you don't need previously uncovered personal insults to make an effective dis track. All you need is a beat that people will ride to and enough quotables to keep your words in the mouths of your fans for years to come. Touching a slew of rappers whose careers had stalled -- Eazy-E, Tim Dog and Luke of 2 Live Crew -- "Dre Day" added insult to injury, and it was immediately clear that there would be no sizable retaliation.
8. Canibus - "2nd Round K.O." Canibus's beef with LL Cool J began with what he thought was an affectionate homage. When he was invited to record a guest verse on LL's "1,2,3,4," one of his lines was a request to borrow the iconic microphone tattooed on LL's arm. LL took exception to this and responded with the line "The symbol on my arm is off limits to challengers/You hold the rusty swords; I swing the Excalibur" on the same track, though Canibus had agreed to rewrite the line that LL took offense to. After a period of high tension, Canibus wanted to resolve the issue, but LL insisted on a resolution of his own design, and Canibus released "2nd Round K.O.," which mocked, among other things, LL's proclivity for catering to the female audience with his body and soft tracks.
7. Eminem - "Nail in the Coffin" Eminem's beef with the Source's then-co-owner Benzino began after the Source refused to give Eminem the ratings he felt his albums deserved. It was soon revealed that the Source believed that Eminem was the hip-hop equivalent of Elvis for stealing the culture and gaining an unfair advantage due to his skin color. Eminem's lyrical superiority is clear in his back-and-forth with the very average Benzino. "Nail in the Coffin," along with "The Sauce," showed that Benzino's claim that Eminem was more successful than he was because of his skin color couldn't be true, because even face-to-face, Eminem was clearly better.
6. Ice Cube - "No Vaseline" After Ice Cube left N.W.A because of money he thought was owed to him by Ruthless Records, a label founded by Eazy-E and N.W.A's manager Jerry Heller, tensions between him and his former group grew. At first, only a few words were exchanged in the media and on tracks, but on N.W.A's Elif4zaggin, the group went all-out railing on Ice Cube for abandoning the crew. "No Vaseline" was Ice Cube's hard-hitting response that called out N.W.A for abandoning their roots by allying with a suit like Heller and allowing themselves to be duped by Eazy.
5. B.D.P. - "The Bridge Is Over" The Bridge Wars began with a track by Marley Marl and MC Shan of the Juice Crew, "The Bridge," which contained a line that seemed to suggest that hip-hop began in Queensbridge. KRS-One, an unknown MC at the time, South Bronx resident and hip-hop historian, took offense to this, wrote a response track, "South Bronx." After MC Shan's response, "Kill That Noise," B.D.P. released "The Bridge Is Over," a track so hot it could even be heard playing in the Bridge. In the aftermath of the Bridge Wars, KRS and B.D.P. had made a name for themselves, and MC Shan's career sputtered. "MC Shan coulda won the battle simply by ignoring me," said KRS-One later. "I'd be nowhere."
4. 50 Cent - "How to Rob" Talk about bombing the industry. In his earliest years, 50 Cent was so hungry he was willing to eat off any and everybody's plate: Slick Rick, Jay-Z, Wu-Tang. Nobody was sacred. This track was audacious enough to effectively piss off and earn responses from Big Pun, Kurupt, Wyclef Jean and others, but by that point, 50 Cent had already won. He had gone from nowhere to the tip of every tongue.
3. Jay-Z - "Takeover" Jay and Nas had been going back and forth, somewhat inconspicuously vying for the New York crown for some time. In late 2001, Jay got all his ducks in a line and released the salvo that was "Takeover," aimed at Nas but also at Mobb Deep as a lyrical claim to New York supremacy. With his first two verses, he ragged on Mobb Deep's short stature, plus revealed Prodigy's past as a ballerina. In the third verse, Jay identified Nas as a one-album wonder and a fake gangster and explained his sample of Nas's famous "dead presidents" lines from "The World Is Yours": You made it a hot line. I made it a hot song."
2. Nas - "Ether" Where Jay-Z attacked Nas with an almost meditative precision, Nas went back at Jay with reckless abandon -- years of pent-up latent hunger released in four and a half minutes of hot "Ether." While the song isn't especially focused in it's attacks, consisting mostly of homophobic tirades that could be directed at anybody, what makes "Ether" biting is the visceral, palpable anger that Nas delivers his lines with, plus a few target-specific disses mentioning Jay's inexplicable love of Hawaiian shirts, casting doubt on his criminal record and pointing out his resemblance to a camel. The power of this track led to the coining of a phrase: One who is "ethered" is demolished lyrically.
1. 2Pac - "Hit 'Em Up" "Hit 'Em Up" will forever be known as the dis track that went way over the line. From the very beginning, when 2Pac says, "That's why I fucked your bitch, you fat motherfucker," referring to Biggie's wife, Faith Evans, it was clear that 2Pac was not going to pull any punches. Indeed, 2Pac goes into detail that only a former friend could know, which allowed the track to cut even deeper.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.