Home Music Music Lists

Music’s 30 Fiercest Feuds and Beefs

From classic-rock squabbles to hip-hop diss tracks and social media wars, here are the ridiculous, rancorous conflicts that have held us rapt

Creative differences, financial disputes, drug abuse, love triangles – in the music industry, the opportunities to butt heads are basically limitless. The bigger the star, the bigger the ego, and when two tangle, you get a supernova of spite and bile that holds the world in rapture, turning mature adults into spit-flecked children chanting “Fight, fight, fight!” in a circle at recess.

Many clashes are over in a flash, while others drag out for years and even decades. Some feuds are undoubtedly hilarious, birthing otherworldly insults like Liam Gallagher’s “Potato” and Mariah Carey’s beyond catty “I don’t know her,” both of which will live on until the end of the Internet. Others are tragic and have no possible upside as friendships, bands, families and even lives are destroyed in the process. Others still have inspired an entire sub-category of song that crosses all genre boundaries: the diss track. (See: “Bad Blood,” “Swish Swish,” about 25 percent of all rap songs.)

Read on for 30 of the most explosive beefs in music history. Pick a side, or simply spectate. No judgment.

CHICAGO - JUNE 1988: Rapper Roxanne Shante performs at the Regal Theater in Chicago, Illinois in JUNE 1988. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images); CHICAGO - JANUARY 1989: Rapper Real Roxanne poses for photos on location in Chicago, Illinois in JANUARY 1989. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Roxanne Shante and Real Roxanne

Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

The “Roxanne” Wars

Lolita Shanté Gooden, a 14-year-old aspiring emcee, was walking through the Queensbridge housing project in 1984 when she overheard her neighbors, record producer Marley Marl and disc jockey Mr. Magic, complaining about the hip hop collective UTFO. The group had pulled out of an upcoming show they were promoting, leaving the two men in a lurch. Gooden offered to get back at the group by writing a diss track, and despite her tender age, the men agreed.

For a beat, they borrowed the instrumental track from UTFO’s “Roxanne, Roxanne,” the B side to their recent single “Hanging Out.” The original song told the tale of the band having their romantic advances cruelly rebuffed by a woman named Roxanne, so Gooden assumed the identity of the titular heartbreaker to record a less-than-flattering answer track. Dubbed “Roxanne’s Revenge,” the young rapper reportedly freestyled her obscenity-laden verse in just one take, done in Marl’s apartment. To complete the ruse, the song was released under the name Roxanne Shanté.

It caught fire immediately, becoming a sizable radio hit and selling 5,000 copies almost overnight. The chastised UTFO did the only thing they could do – they shot back with a song of their own. Enlisting Elease Jack (later replaced by Adelaida Martinez), they created the character of “the Real Roxanne,” and together recorded a song of the same name. It wasn’t exactly an all-out verbal assault on Shanté – presumably going in on a teenage girl was frowned upon – but the challenge to her authenticity was just as effective.

Given the chart success of the Roxanne songs, many rappers recognized an opportunity for some easy airplay and jumped into the fray. Over the coming year, more than 30 (and some say as many as 100) tracks were released, with MCs portraying all manner of Roxanne associates telling their sides of the story. Her relatives weighed in with tracks like “The Parents of Roxanne” by Gigolo Tony and Lacey Lace, “Yo, My Little Sister (Roxanne’s Brothers)” by Crush Groove, and “Rappin’ Roxy: Roxanne’s Sister” by D.W. and the Party Crew featuring Roxy. After exhausting her family tree, even her physician got some play on “Roxanne’s Doctor – The Real Man” by Dr. Freshh.

Roxanne fatigue eventually set in, as evidenced by the East Coast Crew’s trend-killing “The Final Word – No More Roxanne (Please),” but UTFO and Shanté had some unfinished business. The group swung first with “Roxanne, Roxanne, Pt. 2: Calling Her A Crab,” a downright dirty track, on which they called their rival an “ape” and offered her bananas to stop rapping. Shanté, meanwhile, asserted her status as rap feud royalty on “Queen of Rox.” From there, the inferno died away.  

BOSTON - DECEMBER 14: Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler with guitarist Joe Perry perform onstage at the Boston Garden on December 17, 1974 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Ron Pownall/Corbis via Getty Images)

Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler with guitarist Joe Perry perform onstage at the Boston Garden on December 17, 1974 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ron Pownall/Corbis via Getty

Steven Tyler vs. Joe Perry

The Toxic Twins’ run of Aerosmith was derailed during the recording of Night in the Ruts in 1979, when addiction and infighting resulted in massive production delays. The costly sessions forced their label to send Aerosmith on tour to generate income, but the stresses of the road made a brawl inevitable. Even so, few suspected that the bandmates’ wives would throw the first punch.

The rumble occurred on July 28th, 1979, before Aerosmith were due to perform in Cleveland. Terry Hamilton, wife of bassist Tom Hamilton, had some choice words for Perry’s wife Elyssa, and things quickly escalated. “Terri and I didn’t get along at all,” Elyssa said in the book Walk This Way. “I remember asking her something – sarcastic – and she might have thrown some ice at me. I had a glass of milk in my hand because I drank milk exclusively, and …” Milk was the thrown, and it got ugly.

Tyler entered the backstage chaos mid-scene. Helpless to intervene, he took his anger out on Perry. “I got into it with Joe,” he admitted in his memoir, Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? “Man, can’t you come over here and control your woman?'” This sparked an even bigger screaming match between Tyler and Perry that continued after show time. “I remember clearly being on the steps of the trailer, walking down and yelling at Joe, ‘You’re fucking fired!'” Tyler wrote.

It would be almost five years before Perry rejoined the fold. Trips to rehab strengthened the band, but by 2009 they started to falter. Tyler pulled out of a planned South American tour, telling Ultimate Classic Rock that he was “working on the brand of myself – Brand Tyler.” The move troubled Perry, who stoked press rumors that his longtime partner had left for good, and revealed he was holding vocal auditions for his replacement. Tyler responded by firing off a “cease and desist” letter.

Tyler returned, but tempers spiked again in August 2010, when it was announced that he would serve as a judge on American Idol. Perry railed against his bandmate’s new side gig to a Calgary newspaper. “It’s a reality show designed to get people to watch that station and sell advertising. It’s one step above Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. … It’s his business, but I don’t want Aerosmith’s name involved with it.”

In 2017 the band embarked on their Aero-Vederici Baby! global trek, which Tyler had at one point dubbed a “farewell tour.” Perry himself walked back those claims, saying they intended to play “till we drop.” At present, the fate of Aerosmith remains murky.

Slash and Axl Rose (Photo by Ke.Mazur/WireImage)

Slash and Axl Rose

Ke.Mazur/WireImage

Slash vs. Axl Rose

While the pair had already begun butting heads over the musical direction of Guns N’ Roses, the relationship was dealt a serious blow in 1991, when Slash contributed a guitar solo to Michael Jackson’s “Black or White.” According to former manager Doug Goldstein, Rose – who claims to have been molested by his father as a boy – believed the child-abuse accusations leveled against the King of Pop, and took his bandmate’s collaboration as a betrayal. The singer got revenge that year when GN’R recorded a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” for the Interview With a Vampire soundtrack, replacing Slash’s playing with that of Paul Huge.

The partnership was strained to the breaking point when Rose obtained legal ownership of the group’s name, effectively demoting his bandmates to the level of hired hands. By 1996, Slash decided to part ways with Guns for good. Of course, there was acrimony. As the news broke, Rose sent a fax to MTV saying that he had fired the guitarist because he had lost his “dive in and find the monkey’ attitude.”

The pair wouldn’t speak for decades, but they exchanged words in the press. Rose publically slammed Velvet Revolver, Slash’s new project with Scott Weiland and fellow GN’R vets Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum, and got even nastier in a 2009 interview with Spinner. “Personally I consider Slash a cancer and better removed, avoided – and the less anyone heard of him or his supporters, the better.” The fact that Slash’s mother had recently died after a breast-cancer battle gave the barb extra sting.

Over the years, Rose repeatedly made it clear that reconciliation with Slash was not in the realm of possibility, telling Billboard in 2009, “One of the two of us will die before a reunion and however sad, ugly or unfortunate anyone views it, it is how it is.” He pointedly refused to attend Guns N’ Roses’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2014. When asked why, Slash told Rolling Stone that the frontman “hates my guts.”

But one of the most unlikely truces in rock was declared in 2016, when it was announced that Slash would rejoin Guns N’ Roses to perform alongside Rose for a series of tour dates. “It was probably way overdue,” Slash told Sweden’s Aftonbladet television show as the news made headlines across the globe.

LONDON - 1995: Oasis lead singer Liam Gallagher and brother Noal Gallagher at the opening night of Steve Coogan's comedy show in the West End, London. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images); Blur group shot at photo studio in Tokyo, November 1994. (Photo by Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images)

Oasis and Blur

Dave Hogan/Getty, Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty

Oasis vs. Blur

Oasis and Blur started out sharing a healthy mutual respect, but the headstrong Gallagher brothers began to resent being lumped together with the figureheads of Britpop. The beef began when Blur’s Damon Albarn attended a gathering thrown in honor of Oasis’ first Number One single in the U.K., “Some Might Say” in the spring of 1995. “I went to their celebration party, y’know, just to say ‘Well done,'” he said at the time. “And Liam came over and, like he is, he goes, ‘Number fookin’ one!’ right in my face. So I thought, ‘OK we’ll see …'”

To ensure a charts showdown, Albarn conspired to schedule Blur’s next single, “Country House” the same day Oasis was due to release their latest song, “Roll With It.” The so-called “Battle of Britpop” became a cultural event, with Blur taking on the role of elitist, middle-class Londoners, while Oasis personified rough-necked working class northern Englanders.

Blur emerged victorious when “Country House” sold 274,000 copies to 216,000 for Oasis’ “Roll With It,” charting at Number One and Two respectively. They proved courteous winners. “The thing that most people don’t understand when they read the papers is that this rivalry is all made up,” Alex James insisted when the dust settled. “There’s few people I’d rather drink with than Oasis.”

But the Gallaghers weren’t ready to play nice. “I cared, ’cause I want number ones,” Liam told NME at the time. “I met Alex in the pub and said, ‘Congratulations on number one – it’s about fucking time, mate,’ and he goes, ‘Oh yeah. But both our songs were shit anyway.’ And I went, ‘No, this is where you’re wrong. And this is why I fuckin’ hate your band, and you. I thought our song was top.'” Noel was even more direct. “I hate that Alex and Damon,” he spat to The Observer. “I hope they catch AIDS and die.” Six months later, Oasis performed a brief cover of Blur’s “Parklife” at the Brit Awards under a new title: “Shitelife.”

Relations between Noel and Albarn improved in 2011, mediated by booze. “I literally haven’t seen the guy for 15 fucking years and I bump into him in some club,” he revealed during an interview with Shortlist. “We both went, ‘Hey! Fucking hell!’ and then he said, ‘Come on, let’s go for a beer.’ So, we’re sitting there, having a beer, just going, ‘What the fuck was all that about 15 years ago? That was mental.’ … Like I said to him, you can say that you respect someone as an artist a thousand times and it will never get reported. But you call someone a cunt once … you know?”

MILWAUKEE - 1994: Rapper and actor 2 Pac performs at the Mecca Arena in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1994. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images); UNITED STATES - JUNE 29: Photo of NOTORIOUS BIG; Notorious B.I.G. performing at Meadowlands, New Jersey on 6-29-1995 (Photo by David Corio/Redferns)

Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls

Raymond Boyd/Getty; David Corio/Redferns

Tupac Shakur vs. The Notorious B.I.G.

The two New York City-born MCs were initially close after they met on the set of John Singleton’s film Poetic Justice in 1993. “I always thought it to be like a Gemini thing,” Biggie later told Vibe. “We just clicked off the top and were cool ever since.” But that would change on November 30th, 1994, when Tupac was robbed at gunpoint outside of New York’s Quad Recording Studios and shot five times.

Badly injured, he harbored suspicions that his supposed friend had advance knowledge of the attack. The fears were reinforced months later when Biggie released “Who Shot Ya?” which appeared to mock the incident. Despite Biggie’s assertion that he “wrote that muthafuckin’ song way before Tupac got shot,” ‘Pac took the track as an admission of guilt. While in prison for an unrelated sexual assault charge, he gave an interview with Vibe in which he publicly pointed the finger at Biggie and his Bad Boy Records label chief, Sean “Puffy” Combs. “Even if that song ain’t about me, you should be, like, ‘I’m not putting it out, ’cause he might think it’s about him.'”

In October 1995, Tupac signed with Suge Knight’s Death Row Records in exchange for payment of his $1.4 million bail. The move put him on a collision course with Knight’s rivals at Bad Boy Records – especially Puffy and Biggie – and stoked the flames of an East Coast–West Coast hip-hop war. Tupac brought out the big guns with “Hit ‘Em Up,” a blazing response to “Who Shot Ya?” that opened with the inflammatory cry, “I ain’t got no motherfucking friends/That’s why I fucked your bitch, you fat motherfucker.”

Tupac continued to take aim at his former friend in interviews and on tracks like “Against All Odds” and “Bomb First (My Second Reply),” but Biggie didn’t release an official response on record. In fact, he seemed genuinely hurt in a 1996 interview with Vibe: “This shit’s just got to be talk, that’s all I kept saying to myself. I can’t believe he would think that I would shit on him like that.”

The men failed to repair their relationship before Tupac was gunned down in Las Vegas in September 1996. Suspicions immediately fell on Biggie, but he strenuously denied any involvement. “Even though we were going through our drama, I’d never wish death on nobody,” he said soon after. “Ain’t no coming back from that.”

Biggie himself would be the victim of a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles the following March. Both murders remain unsolved.

Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock during 2003 CMT Flameworthy Awards - Arrivals at The Gaylord Center in Nashville, Tennessee, United States. (Photo by KMazur/WireImage); Tommy Lee of Motley Crue poses for a studio portrait session backstage at the Download Festival, Donington Park, Leicestershire on June 12th, 2009. (Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns)

Pamela Anderson, Kid Rock and Tommy Lee

KMazur/WireImage; Mick Hutson/Redferns

Kid Rock vs. Tommy Lee

The saga of Rock and the rocker is a Southern-fried fairy tale with no happy ending. The role of the princess is played by Baywatch siren Pamela Anderson, swept off her feet by the Mötley Crüe drummer in 1995. They quickly married, despite only knowing each other for 96 hours, and eventually had two children. The marriage was over by 1998, and soon after she began a hot-and-cold relationship with “American Bad Ass” Kid Rock. The couple endured a broken engagement in 2003 – during which time she reportedly had brief liaisons with Lee – before they patched things up and wed on a yacht near Saint-Tropez, France, in July 2006. But the pair was unable to make it work, and Anderson filed for divorce that November, citing irreconcilable differences.

While Anderson and Lee were reasonably friendly exes, Rock later claimed that Lee was openly hostile to him. “We had just gotten divorced, and [Lee] was at a birthday with their oldest son,” he explained while testifying in connection with an unrelated brawl at a Georgia Waffle House in 2010. “He took Pam’s cell phone, called me, and started harassing me, saying, ‘You’re a piece of this, you’re a piece of that.’ I texted him back on that phone and said, ‘When I see you, I’m messing you up.'” The animosity bubbled over into an all-out battle royale during the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards. In Rock’s version of events, he returned from the bathroom to find Lee sitting in his seat. The fuse thus lit, things got physical during the broadcast.

“This was unavoidable,” Rock explained during an appearance on a L.A. radio program at the time. “I had to do what I had to do because this was a long time coming.”

Lee shared his side of the story on his website, TommyLee.tv, calling him “Kid Pebble” and a “jealous no career havin country bumpkin” with an “ugly ass mug.”

Anderson was not exactly won over by the brawl. “As soon as I left … meow!” she later said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

INGLEWOOD - FEBRUARY 19: Prince performs live at the Fabulous Forum on February 19, 1985 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images); AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 10: Michael Jackson performs on stage during is "HIStory" world tour concert at Ericsson Stadium November 10, 1996 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Prince and Michael Jackson

Michael Ochs Archives, Phil Walter/Getty

Prince vs. Michael Jackson

Prince emerged onto the music scene with For You in 1978, one year before Jackson came into his own as a solo artist with Off the Wall, and for the next decade their musical paths would run on parallel tracks – never to intersect. The battle began when MJ upstaged 1999, Prince’s bestseller to date, with the industry-defining mega-smash Thriller in December 1982. Prince countered with Purple Rain, a triumph of sales and substance that caught even Jackson’s attention. When the Purple One came through Los Angeles with his Purple Rain tour, Jackson reportedly attended multiple nights, studying his competition.

Even friendly games could turn heated. When both men shared a studio, the competition bubbled over onto the Ping-Pong table. Prince ultimately emerged victorious when Jackson fumbled his paddle trying to ward off a spiked ball. “Did you see that?” Prince supposedly crowed as Jackson slunk away. “He played like Helen Keller!” Longtime Revolution drummer Bobby Z maintained that the athletic challenges continued for quite some time. “They’d shoot hoops at Paisley Park,” he recalled in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Prince had a deep-seated competitive nature, so it’s easy to see where he would measure himself against Jackson’s success.”

Accustomed to his regal role in the pop pecking order, Jackson was reportedly miffed with Prince declined to participate in his all-star charity recording “We Are the World” in 1985. Prince also turned down the chance to duet with Jackson on the title track to 1987’s Bad, the follow-up to Thriller, and even to appear alongside him in the song’s video. “That Wesley Snipes character? That would have been me,” Prince admitted in a 1997 interview with Chris Rock on MTV.

Mutual friend Will.i.am attempted to broker peace in 2006 when he invited Jackson to watch him perform with Prince in Las Vegas. Things were going great until Prince decided to venture into the audience and play an aggressive slap-bass solo right in Jackson’s face. The hostile low end did not go over well, and Jackson made a point of mentioning it to Will.i.am the next morning. “I go to his house for breakfast, knock on the door, first words he says: ‘Why was Prince playing the bass in my face? Prince, he’s always been a meanie.'”

ARCHIVES : ROCK 'N' ROLL HEROES (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images); Members of rock group Nirvana (L-R) Dave Grohl, Kurt Cobain, & Krist Novoselic. (Photo by Charles J. Peterson/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Guns n Roses; Nirvana

Sunset Boulevard/Corbis, Charles J. Peterson/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty

Guns N’ Roses vs. Nirvana

Rose was initially a big fan of Seattle’s most famous export, even wearing a Nirvana hat in the video for “Don’t Cry,” but Cobain repeatedly badmouthed GNR in the press. Undeterred, Rose invited Nirvana to be their opening act on a co-headlining tour with Metallica. “One day we’re walking through an airport and Kurt says, ‘Fuck. Axl Rose won’t stop calling me,'” Dave Grohl later recalled in a 2006 interview with Esquire. “I think it represented something bigger. Nirvana didn’t want to turn into Guns N’ Roses. So Kurt started talking shit in interviews, and then Axl started talking back.”

Rose lobbed his first volley of insults onstage during a lengthy mid-concert tirade about Cobain and his wife Courtney Love, calling them “a fuckin’ junkie with a junkie wife,” and even touched on hurtful rumors that their daughter, Frances Bean, had been born with drug-related birth defects.

When both bands were both booked to perform at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, things exploded backstage when Rose and model-girlfriend Stephanie Seymour walked past Cobain and Love, who were holding baby Frances. “When Courtney saw Axl, she said: ‘Axl, Axl, do you wanna be the godfather to our child?’ She was taunting him,” recalled MTV executive Amy Finnerty, who witnessed the tense exchange.

Rose then hissed a warning Cobain never forgot. “These were his words: ‘You shut your bitch up, or I’m taking you down to the pavement.’ [laughs] So I turned to Courtney and said: ‘Shut up, bitch!'” Cobain later recalled. The mood turned even uglier when Seymour asked Love if she was a model. “No,” came the reply, “Are you a brain surgeon?”

Before Nirvana took the stage, an irate Duff McKagan intercepted Krist Novoselic and they exchanged words. After concluding a historic performance of “Lithium,” Grohl couldn’t resist tweaking the easily tweak-able Rose by repeatedly whining into the mic, “Axl! Axl! Where’s Axl? Hi, Axl!”

The feud dissipated after Cobain’s suicide in April 1994. “After Kurt died, one of the first phone calls I got was from Matt Sorum,” Grohl told Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. “He left a message and said, ‘Man, I’m really sorry, and I hope you’re doing well.’ I thought that was really cool.” In 2010, McKagan apologized for the “terse words” exchanged with Novoselic, now a friend, in an open letter. Most recently, when Rose injured his foot during Guns N’ Roses’ 2016 reunion tour, Grohl sent over the oversized guitar throne he had used with the Foo Fighters.