What's beef? In 2015, it could mean anything from a Twitter tiff to a Grammy-nominated single to an endless stream of Instagram memes … and that was all just for Meek Mill's disastrous sally against Drake. Poor guy. Join us as we review that one and 10 more of this year's biggest, baddest, beefiest celebrity feuds.
Philly's loudest and proudest son and the suave whisperer from Toronto used to be pals. They even brought their styles together in harmony on 2012's hit "Amen." Can it be that it was all so simple then? The two MCs collaborated again this year on "R.I.C.O.," a song from Meek's second studio album – and that's where things fell apart. For reasons that remain unclear to this day, Meek hopped onto Twitter late one July night to charge Drake with using a ghostwriter on the song, punctuating his accusation with a poignant gritted-teeth emoji. Drake clapped back three days later with his defiant diss track "Charged Up," but the decisive blow came a few days after that, when Drake unleashed his ultimate equalizer: "Back to Back," a ridiculously fun song piling on Meek with hip-hop quotables ("Trigger fingers turn to Twitter fingers") and ruthlessly petty questions about the balance of power in Meek's relationship with Nicki Minaj ("Is that a world tour, or your girl's tour?"). Meek's only response at the time was another enigmatic tweet bearing only the single letter "Z." By the time he finally released a diss track of his own on July 30th, dragging in some of the ghostwritten reference tracks Drake allegedly used to make his hit If You're Reading This It's Too Late mixtape, it was, well, way too late. The final insult? In December, after months of heavy radio play, "Back to Back" was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Performance. That's gotta hurt.
Directioners had their world turned upside down in March when Zayn Malik abruptly left 1D's latest world tour – and it only got worse when he went on to straight-up quit the boy band he'd been part of for five years. The split seemed amicable at first, with Malik writing that he wanted to "be a normal 22-year-old" in his exit statement, but it wasn't long before the signs of a budding solo career created some tension between the free agent and his old squad. When Malik was briefly best buds with producer Naughty Boy, Louis Tomlinson poked fun at them on Twitter until Malik poked back. By July, he had announced a solo deal with RCA; a couple days later, One Direction debuted their first post-Zayn single, "Drag Me Down." Since then, Malik and the band have returned to warmer relations, with Malik even congratulating them on "Drag Me Down." But a glimpse of his true feelings peeked through when Malik spoke to Fader in November: "That's not music that I would listen to," he said of his ex-mates. "Would you listen to One Direction, sat at a party with your girl? I wouldn't. To me, that's not an insult, that's me as a 22-year-old man … If I was sat at a dinner date with a girl, I would play some cool shit, you know what I mean?"
Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj's VMA beef stemmed from a misunderstanding and ended with a collaborative performance at the awards show they were arguing over in the first place. (Isn't that how all of history's great beefs have been resolved?) Following the announcement of the 2015 MTV VMA nominations, Minaj tweeted about the snub that her and Beyoncé's "Feeling Myself" video received. She then pointed out that her record-breaking clip for "Anaconda" had also been snubbed for Video of the Year, and singled out the show's celebration of thinner women. Minaj never named names, but Swift took it upon herself to respond ("I've done nothing but love & support you. It's unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot.") before Minaj retaliated ("Huh? U must not be reading my tweets. Didn't say a word about u.") – although, in Swift's defense, her "Bad Blood" clip was the only nominee that qualified for Minaj's critiques. Other artists from Katy Perry to Ed Sheeran also commented on the feud before Swift apologized publicly to a forgiving Minaj a couple days later. By the time of the ceremony, the two were BFFs once more, as seen when they opened the show together.
Before Swift and Minaj could fully squash their beef with one another, it spawned a surprising sub-beef between Minaj and VMA host Miley Cyrus. While other stars took to Twitter to joke about Minaj vs. Swift, Cyrus spoke with The New York Times just before the ceremony and blasted Minaj for her comments. "If you want to make it about race, there's a way you could do that," Cyrus said. "But don't make it just about yourself." The host also referred to the rapper as "not too kind" and "not very polite." Initially quiet about the comments, Minaj took to the VMA stage to respond, ending her acceptance speech for Best Hip-Hop Video by throwing it back to the host with the "Miley, What's good?" heard 'round the world. Cyrus, in blonde dreadlocks, looked shocked in the aftermath and claimed that the press had "manipulated" her words. The feud ended — for now — in October when Minaj had the last word during her own New York Times interview. "You're in videos with black men, and you're bringing out black women on your stages, but you don't want to know how black women feel abut something that's so important? Come on, you can't want the good without the bad."
In October, Hateful Eight director Quentin Tarantino appeared at an anti-police-brutality rally in New York to protest several recent killings of African-Americans by officers. "When I see murders, I do not stand by," he said from a stage. "I have to call a murder a murder, and I have to call the murderers the murderers." Police unions across the country were quick to respond, issuing boycotts and, in the case of the NYPD's Benevolent Association, calling Tarantino a "purveyor of degeneracy." (Harsh words for the creator of Jackie Brown!) The Fraternal Order of Police, the country's largest police union, would ominously say later that the director had a "surprise" coming. Tarantino elaborated on his stance in November, standing by his criticism of unlawful killings by police, but telling MSNBC, "I'm not a cop-hater. Just because I went to an anti-police-brutality protest doesn't mean I'm anti-police. We want justice – but stop shooting unarmed people."
Here's what everyone agrees on: Eight years ago, Smashing Pumpkins invited Deerhunter to open for them on tour. After that it gets a little murky. At a show this month, Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox shared a gossippy tale from that 2007 jaunt, claiming that he had once innocently picked up a bottle of water from a backstage supply, only to be roughhoused by a Smashing Pumpkins employee who allegedly said, "What the fuck are you doing? This is Mr. Corgan's water." He further claimed that this unsettling incident was followed by a summons to meet with Corgan, who then called Deerhunter "a shitty little insignificant fucking indie rock band" and had his crew throw Deerhunter's drummer's kit down a flight of stairs. Back in the present day, Smashing Pumpkins' manager called Cox's story "a complete fabrication" and threatened legal action. Cox apologized, saying, "I would like to avoid any further drama by just categorically retracting my statements out of respect … I don't know Billy Corgan other than a 5 minute interaction that left a definite impression on me. I have no doubt there are many sides to his character." We may never know the truth of what happened that day in 2007.
Birdman was Lil Wayne's childhood mentor, the man who recognized the New Orleans MC's talent at a very young age and made him a hip-hop superstar. They were once so close that Wayne regularly dubbed himself "Birdman Jr."; they even recorded a joint album called Like Father, Like Son. But like fathers and sons in a Greek tragedy, the two rap stars turned on each other this year. In January, Lil Wayne sued Birdman's label, Cash Money, for $51 million, citing alleged accounting discrepancies and accusing the label of refusing to release his long-delayed Tha Carter V album. Wayne told RS he and his former father figure were no longer on speaking terms: "I have no words. I'm super-numb to it, to tell you the truth." The story took a scary turn when an assailant shot up Wayne's tour bus in April; a few months later, a Georgia prosecutor indicted an associate of Birdman for the shooting. However, in July, Birdman forcefully denied any involvement in the incident, calling the prosecutor's version of events "the craziest shit I ever heard in my life." He added: "Any nigga gonna bust a gun at Lil Wayne, I got a problem with that … I'd rather a nigga pop at me than pop at my child … That's my son, no matter what."
Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters has never been shy about criticizing Israeli policies toward the Palestinian people. After the singer boycotted any performance in the country, Howard Stern went on a seven-minute rant against Waters in October, saying, "Why does Roger Waters live in America, a country that was founded on white people coming in and obliterating the native population? How does he stand it? The Jews are getting killed all over the world. Israel has a tiny little country and it bugs the shit out of Roger Waters." The next month, Stern doubled down, saying Waters "comes off like an anti-Semite." Waters seemed unconcerned with the criticism. "I wouldn't waste a single one of my precious breaths on that asshole, and I just did," Waters told Rolling Stone. "That was a waste of breath. Let's move on."
Where rap and pop artists take their beefs to awards shows and social media, headbangers do it a little differently: On a September installment of Eddie Trunk's show, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider went into full "We're Not Gonna Take It" mode when he lit into Kiss for allowing non-original members to wear makeup that the kabuki-painted rockers' ex-bandmates pioneered. "It's insulting," he said. "Not only did [guitarist Tommy Thayer] play in a tribute band of Kiss, he's imitating Ace [Frehley] in his entire act."
In response, Kiss' Paul Stanley did not mince words in shredding Snider. "This guy is a wannabe, has always been a wannabe and desperately wants attention and to be taken seriously," he said on wrestler Chris Jericho's podcast, "and that will never happen because he's obviously clueless that he and his whole band are a bunch of buffoons."
Snider later wrote an open letter to Stanley, saying the Kiss singer must be "oddly threatened" by him. He also called Kiss "King of the Buffoons" and challenged them to a battle of the bands, taunting, "I will bury you, son." In another radio interview, Snider laughed about the attention the feud got, saying it's "not bad for a 'wannabe' or a 'buffoon.'" He then ended it by taking the high road … sort of. "Paul, I love your band, I love your music," Snider said. "Why do you have to be such a dick?"
Say it isn't so. In March, pop-soul veterans Hall and Oates sued Brooklyn granola company Early Bird over its use of the name "Haulin' Oats" for one of its products. In the lawsuit, the group claimed that the name was an "obvious play" on the duo and that the company was trying to "trade off of the fame and notoriety" of the band's trademark. While artisanal Brooklyn granola purveyors might seem like a prime demographic for the group, Early Bird owner Nekesia Davis recently told Rolling Stone, "We have happily wrapped up our lawsuit with the duo. Our previous naughty name has been changed to Kiss My Oats, so hopefully everyone is happy!!"
We'd be remiss if this list didn't include 2015's biggest blowhard, bar none. Diss tracks and sarcastic interviews are small potatoes compared to the Donald's endless sluice of outrageous and offensive statements this year – implying that all Mexican immigrants are rapists, recirculating neo-Nazi statistics to back up his anti-black bigotry, proposing a wide range of hateful and unconstitutional anti-Muslim policies, openly spewing sexist rhetoric against Megyn Kelly and more. Keeping up with his steady march toward outright fascism is a full-time job, and it's getting exhausting. Here's hoping we don't have to endure another year of Trump's toxic rhetoric before Americans come to their senses and force this loser out of the race. Some celebrity beefs are fun to watch, but this one's just depressing.