10 Craziest Beefs in MTV VMA History - Rolling Stone
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10 Craziest Beefs in MTV VMA History

In the wake of the Nicki-Miley smackdown, we look back at the wildest dust-ups from years past

Sitting through award shows often feels like a sad marathon; at least when running 26 miles, you can brag on Facebook. Every so often, though, someone at MTV's Video Music Awards pierces through the artifice of thank-you speeches and politicking to show what happens when people stop being polite and start being real. And that, friends, is when things finally start getting interesting!

At the 2015 VMAs in Los Angeles, Nicki Minaj squashed one "beef" with Taylor Swift and, not long after, took another to a new level, coming after host Miley Cyrus with the quickness and then tweeting "Lmfaoooooooooo." Minaj wasn't the first to use the award-show podium as a bully pulpit. To see where she ranks, here's our list of the 10 craziest beefs in VMA history.

Milton Berle and Rupaul

Transvestite entertainer RuPaul towers over the legendary Milton Berle as they prepare to present the Viewers Choice Video Award category during the MTV Music Video Awards at the Universal Amphitheatre at Universal City. Calif., Thursday, Sept. 2, 1993. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

Kevork Djansezian/AP

Milton Berle vs. RuPaul (1993)

This started off as normal as "Milton Berle walked out on RuPaul's arm" can but quickly turned when Ru snapped at Uncle Miltie, calling him a "queen" and accusing the old man of going from dresses to diapers. Milton Berle, who made his name on Texaco Star Theatre in the 1940s, closed out the segment by groping RuPaul's breasts and saying, "Shut up! Let him, her read [the winner's name]. She-he. Go ahead." He smiled broadly, attempting to grab the elbow of his co-presenter, though RuPaul swiped it away. A total low point.

Fiona Apple and a VMA

Bob Berg/Getty; Jamie McCarthy/WireImage/Getty

Fiona Apple vs. MTV (1997)

Well, this was different. Citing inspiration from Maya Angelou, Fiona Apple accepted her Moonman for Best New Artist by saying, "I'm going to use this opportunity the way that I want to use it." She then said, "This world is bullshit. You shouldn't . . . model your life about what we're wearing and what we're doing and what we're saying and everything. Go with yourself. Go with yourself." Hearing Fiona speak was like realizing the call was coming from inside the house; here was someone who was cutting through the manufactured cool the network had built itself on. In those 45 seconds, she basically invented Tumblr. MTV, in response, repackaged her words for Saturday afternoons, selling ads against countdown shows based around the craziest VMA moments.

Eminem and Triumph

Eminem has a confrontaion with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and Robert Smigel at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, August 29, 2002. Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect.

Scott Gries/Getty

Eminem vs. Moby and Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog (2002)

By 2002, Eminem had targeted everyone from Marilyn Manson to Christina Aguilera without real cause. So it's not surprising he went after Moby — crunchy, vegan Moby — who gave an interview calling Enimem "very clever, but he's also a misogynist, a homophobe, a racist, and an anti-Semite." So! At the VMAs, Eminem shoved his middle finger in Moby's face and called him a "pussy." The DJ later got roasted by Triumph, a puppet dog. When Triumph spun over to Em, he threw the "dog's" notes in the air and pushed the dog — once again, a puppet — aside. And that's before Eminem got onstage, looked directly at Moby, and said, "I will hit a man with glasses." (Within months, Moby would be beaten up outside Boston's Paradise Rock Club by a bunch of angry Eminem fans.) Triumph gave a "press conference" immediately following the VMAs, saying, "Everyone, please. Let's all try to be easy on Eminem. At the end of the day, he's just another white guy trying to make an honest living . . . stealing black people's music."

Brent Hinds and Shavo

Chiaki Nozu/Getty; Ralph Notaro/Getty

Mastodon’s Brent Hinds vs. Shavo Odadjian from System of a Down (2007)

It's 3 a.m. in Las Vegas, hours after the VMAs have ended — of course something terrible happened. The hard-rocking Mastodon had just finished maybe their highest-profile gig to date as a part of the awards show when Hinds — drunk and standing outside the Mandalay Bay — "took off his shirt and hit Odadjian with it, then punched [Odadjian's associate] Hudson in the face and chest," according to the police report. Nick John, Mastodon's manager, told MTV at the time, "Thankfully, it seems he's going to [make a full recovery]. All I know is he had a bad head injury, broken nose and blacked-out eyes. He doesn't recall much." In 2012, Troy Sanders — Mastodon's bassist — would tell Australia's Hysteria Magazine TV, "System of a Down was there, but they're our friends. It was a different individual that this altercation went down with."

Kid Rock and Tommy Lee

Mike Brooks/Getty; Shirlaine Forrest/Getty

Kid Rock vs. Tommy Lee (2007)

As the saying goes, "What happens in Vegas ends in a citation from the Las Vegas Police Department." As Alicia Keys piano-danced her way through "No One" and George Michael's "Freedom '90," Kid Rock returned from a bathroom trip to find Tommy Lee sitting in his seat. (They were, at separate times, married to Pamela Anderson.) Tommy Lee's account from the night is incredible — and includes the line "Here I am minding my own biz having a great time with my friend Criss Angel" — but it had nothing to do with Pam. Tommy had recently phoned Rock from Anderson's son's birthday party to call him a "piece of shit." Kid Rock took those fighting words as, well, fighting words. The next time they saw one another was at the VMAs, where Rock knocked Tommy's hat off and the two got a couple of punches in before tables were cleared and they were escorted out. Each of them finished the night filling out paperwork with the police. For his part, Tommy called Keys' performance "amazing."

Kanye and Taylor Swift

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 13: Kanye West (L) jumps onstage after Taylor Swift (C) won the "Best Female Video" award during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on September 13, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty

Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift (2009)

It doesn't need explanation, so tattooed is that quote, those faces, that lifetime of a moment. There stood Taylor, stunned into complete silence as if Kanye took her breath along with her microphone and spotlight. His shrug — an unapologetic eternity in picture form — really only took a split-second, but the transformation would be complete and immediate: He went into exile for months, made the villain by everyone from Snooki to Barack Obama (who called him a "jackass"). It's hard to say how she feels about it, six years later, knowing she probably owes as much to Kanye's Hennessy bottle as any song, video or ex-boyfriend controversy. 

P Diddy and J. Cole

Mike Pont/Getty; Gary Miller/Getty

P. Diddy vs. J. Cole (2013)

It's hard to know what happened at a VMA after party in New York, where Diddy apparently got aggressive with J. Cole of all people as Pharrell and Rihanna partied nearby. Something happened, that much is known: Cole told Combat Jack in 2015, "a quick moment of disagreement that turned into something. It's never been a beef." One theory is that Diddy felt the Roc Nation artist should've reacted stronger (or at all) to Kendrick Lamar's "Control" verse, where the L.A. rapper crowned himself the "King of New York," as Kurupt had done in 2010. Another guess is that Cole said something "disrespectful" to Cassie, Diddy's girlfriend, so drinks were thrown. Complex initially reported that Diddy tried to pour a drink on Kendrick, who was also at the party, but that Cole got in the way; the International Business Times painted a picture of "mayhem" with Jay Z supposedly yelling and pulling Beyoncé away from it all. Diddy would later tweet, "We are friends. We just yell in public sometimes LOL #Fam."

Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus

Lester Cohen/WireImage/Getty

Nicki Minaj vs. Miley Cyrus (2015)

Miley Cyrus hasn't exactly compiled a great highlight reel when discussing race in America, but that hasn't stopped her from acting like it. A week before hosting the VMAs, Miley told the Times that Nicki's comments on race and privilege as related to the awards show were "not too kind" and "very Nicki Minaj." A week later, Nicki accepted the award for Best Hip-Hop Video by thanking her pastor and — oh, right — giving Cyrus the screw face: "And now, back to this bitch that had a lot to say about me in the press. Miley what's good?" (The GIF will forever live in infamy; Rebel Wilson's face says it all.) Miley, taken by surprise on live TV, went stiff, saying her words were "manipulated" and offering light congratulations before reportedly "[storming] offstage and cursing in anger." Miley could've stayed out of it but, hey, that's just Miley being Miley!

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