Last night, after a week of silence, Meek Mill finally released a response to the beef he had started with Drake, which ends with a mention of T.I.’s friend urinating on the Toronto rapper-crooner. The Maybach Music Group artist was upset that his supposed friend Drake had perhaps used a ghostwriter for some verses, including “R.I.C.O.” from Meek’s latest album, Dreams Worth More Than Money. (Perhaps more importantly, Drake hadn’t tweeted in support of said album.)
This “beef” hasn’t exactly ignited hip-hop fans. Drake did put out a couple of pretty good responses, including “Back to Back” where he mockingly asks, “Is that a world tour or your girl’s tour?” in reference to Meek’s opening slot on fiancé Nicki Minaj’s current run of dates. But the feud has existed mostly on Twitter, unfolding too slowly for today’s need-it-now appetite, so it probably won’t end up as one of the greatest rap beefs of all time. Still, it got us thinking about the topic. Here’s our definitive countdown, ranging from the deeply silly to the all-too-serious:
Great rule of thumb: don’t do business with a crazy person! In 2005, Jeezy was prepping his debut album, Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101, which included “”Icy,” a dripped-out team-up with Gucci. Two friends, one track, except — ah, right — Gucci took the track and put it on his own project…which meant Jeezy couldn’t use it. And Jeezy never got paid. Things happen, right? Jeezy’s calm response was to offer to “cremate that motherfucker” on “Stay Strapped.” In 2005, Pookie Loc, a Jeezy associate, was murdered. Gucci was blamed, then acquitted, having acted in self-defense. After years of volleys and a splinter beef involving DJ Drama, the two MCs settled up, supposedly recording a couple of songs together. But Gucci went rogue, as he does, and recorded a song called “Worst Enemy.” By 2010, their respective camps were fighting at Walter’s Clothing in Atlanta. Later, Jeezy would describe the whole thing as a “misunderstanding” but would also refer to Gucci as “retarded.”
9. Eminem vs. The Source
The Source was the Bible; the magazine’s five-mic review of Illmatic is just as important to Nas’ story as the actual music. Its unquestioned authority received a serious blow in 2002, when Benzino (a middling rapper, editor and conflict of interest) used his influence inside the office to launch an all-out attack on the world’s biggest artist at the time, Eminem. Zino questioned Em’s place in the culture and tried to pull up tapes of the teenage rapper saying the N-word. Eminem responded with some of the greatest one-sided diss tracks ever recorded: “Nail in the Coffin” remains endlessly quotable and hilarious. Long story short: The Source lost all credibility and investors. All these years later, the brand is still smarting from the episode. Eminem manages to sell millions of copies of even his most mediocre records; Benzino, meanwhile, has been on a couple of seasons of Love & Hip-Hop.
8. The Real Roxanne vs. Roxanne Shante
In 1984, the Queens-based group UTFO blows up off their song, “Roxanne, Roxanne,” dissing a fictional girl who’s not answering phone calls. (Kids, imagine if someone ignores your DMs.) The group — who is set to perform the song at Mr. Magic’s radio event — misses the show. (Kids, imagine if your DVR didn’t record.) Then 14-year-old Lolita Shanté Gooden hears about this and approaches Mr. Magic and producer Marley Marl to create “Roxanne’s Revenge,” where she assumes the identity of “Roxanne” to get back at UTFO. It comes out months later and immediately sells 250,000 copies, from Queens outward. (Kids, imagine caring about anything for months.) This leads to a messy back-and-forth-and-forth-and-forth: UTFO got another girl — and another one after her — to play the role of “The Real Roxanne” and take shots back at Shanté. Anywhere from 30 to 100 responses were ultimately recorded, the majority by people who weren’t originally involved.
7. Lil Kim vs. Foxy Brown
Kim and Foxy started out getting a lot of the same comparisons: both are from Brooklyn, both rap confidently about sex, one was signed by Biggie and the other by Jay Z. They shared a cover of The Source in 1997 in matching white tank tops, both smiling. But some slumber parties end in hair-pulling and gut punches: Then the two biggest female rappers, they found themselves competing for stylists on top of sound. Tensions arose. Foxy might’ve leaked the Notorious B.I.G.’s version of “Big Momma Thang,” showing that Kim wasn’t writing her own verses. When Lyor Cohen, Def Jam’s CEO at the time, tried to throw a million dollars their way to record a joint album called Thelma & Louise, the two never showed up to sign the paperwork; Jay Z and Un Rivera just stood in the studio and waited. So when, in 1999, Puffy got on a song that features Lil Kim and said, “Stop trying to sound like her, bitches!” the message was clear: Kim was coming for Fox. (The Don Diva would respond soon after, on Capone N Noreaga’s “Bang Bang,” saying, “You and Diddy, y’all kill me with that subliminal shit” and telling her to “Let [Biggie] rest in peace/Hop off his dick.” This war of words continues. The closest it’s come to resolution was when, in 2013, Fabolous tried and failed to get them both to appear during his Summer Jam spot.
6. Boogie Down Productions vs. Juice Crew
It was 1985. Times were simpler then; hip-hop was still a “movement,” and small claims had big consequences. So it was no small thing when Queens-based Juice Crew released “The Bridge,” “You love to hear the story, again and again, of how it all got started way back when/The monument is right in your face/Sit and listen for a while to the name of the place:/The Bridge, Queensbridge.” Years later, MC Shan would say he was talking about the creation of Juice Crew, but KRS-One and his Bronx-born crew, Boogie Down Productions, understood the song to mean that hip-hop started there. Unacceptable! Thus began a rat-a-tat assault over the Throggs Neck: “South Bronx” from BDP, “Kill That Noise” from Shan, and on and on. Finally came Boogie Down’s “The Bridge Is Over,” largely acknowledged as one of the best career-enders ever. (Another great career-ender: when, in 1993, KRS-One literally shoved PM Dawn off the stage at Manhattan’s Sound Factory for being “too soft.” He then took the microphone and performed “The Bridge Is Over.”)
N.W.A exploded onto MTV in Raiders hats and Jheri curls, flashing guns and an attitude. They became a phenomenon, accruing a huge and unexpected suburban audience. And yet, somehow, the money just didn’t add up. They’d signed an incredibly bad deal, with de facto leader Eazy E and manager Jerry Heller taking much of the cut (even though Ice Cube had written over half of the lyrics from their debut, Straight Outta Compton). Cube walked, immediately finding success on his own. The remaining members threw darts and Cube finally returned fire with the brutal four-minute dis track “No Vaseline”: “Yella Boy’s on your team, so you’re losing/Ay yo, Dre, stick to producing/Calling me Arnold, but you Benedict/Eazy-E saw your ass and went in it quick/You got jealous when I got my own company/But I’m a man, and ain’t nobody humping me.” And that’s just before the first chorus hits. It gets worse, which is to say, it gets better. Straight Outta Compton — the movie — will be in theaters August 15th, supported by all living members of N.W.A, Ice Cube included.
Most beefs were personal; this was sport. In 2001, Beanie Sigel released his first single, “Mack (Bitch),” which included the line, “You got the 430, small wheels.” Jada, who indeed had the coupe, thought the line might’ve been directed at him and sent a couple of shots back, ending in a well-regarded feud that would pull in their respective crews (Kiss’ D-Block and Ruff Ryders; Beanie’s State Property and Roc-a-fella) for a slew of classic records: Beanie’s “Kiss the Game Goodbye,” Beanie and Freeway’s takeovers of “Special Delivery” and “.357,” as well as Jadakiss’ “Fuck Beanie” freestyle. Maybe the best moment was when Jadakiss, onstage at Philadelphia’s PowerHouse concert, said to Beanie’s hometown crowd: “Send Sigel a wire, I’m riding again.” Hours later, Beanie stood on the same stage and said: “I make his mouth piece obese like Della Reese/When I release, he lose Sheek and little P” and “I’m a Made Man/You couldn’t bake a Bean in Boston.” The super-subtle digs were all apparent to Jada and hip-hop obsessives. The beef got heated — a lot of gun talk — and yet, it ended with the two on good terms. Still, Styles did say in 2013 that “someone could’ve died.”
For a time, 50 Cent’s marketing plan was simple: go at [enter name here]; go at them hard. In 2004, with “Piggy Bank,” he simultaneously sprayed at Jadakiss, Nas and Fat Joe (along with little darts at Lil Kim, Mobb Deep, Shyne, Kelis and others). In 2007, he sent black roses to Cam’ron’s label, around the same time he’d promised to retire if Kanye outsold him. It wasn’t always so inorganic. No, he actually hated Ja Rule and was intent on taking him and Murder Inc. down. As lore goes, the trouble started when an associate of 50’s tried to steal Ja’s jewelry, which in turn led to 50 getting stabbed at New York’s club Hit Factory. Not one to let hospital bills go unpaid, 50 set to dismantling Ja’s career, starting with mixtape tracks (“Life’s on the Line,” “I Smell Pussy”) and skits (“Ja Rule Duets,” where he mimics Ja’s gravel-voice singing over pop songs) and videos (“Wanksta”). Ja tried responding in kind, with “Blood in My Eye,” though it wasn’t nearly as effective. In desperation, his team left bullet holes in the Violator management offices, where 50’s reps worked. Later, Murder Inc. was run out of the 106 & Park studios. Minister Louis Farrakhan tried to get involved, but ha-ha-ha, they weren’t having it. By 2005, Ja Rule’s career had ground to a halt; in just two years, he’d gone from Number One to an afterthought. But there’s no bad blood…maybe: Ja acknowledged his loss and in 2013, the two were on the same plane and got to their destination without any problem.
2. 2Pac vs. Biggie
The most notable rap beef is also the saddest. It’s the one that went too far, and that means there’s no way it could be considered “the best.” Biggie and 2Pac started out as friends, but in-clique rumors and media frenzy ruined a good thing. In 1994, 2Pac got shot while leaving New York’s Quad Studios. B.I.G.’s “Who Shot Ya?” came out soon after, and Pac — paranoid already — put the pieces together in his head. So he rode on his enemies, recording “Hit Em Up,” which opens with “I ain’t got no motherfucking friends/That’s why I fucked your bitch, you fat motherfucker.” So, he was pretty certain of what was going on. At the Source Awards in 1995, Death Row’s Suge Knight stood onstage and berated Puffy as a dancing, camera-hogging wannabe pop star. Things escalated quickly: Magazines called it an “East Coast vs. West Coast” war, without thought of the possible consequences. Tupac was gunned down in 1996, and Biggie, six months later. Both murders remain unsolved.
1. Jay Z vs. Nas
To think, Memphis Bleek was a central player in the greatest rap beef ever! Not that it was his fault — tensions existed before him — but on 2000’s “My Mind Right,” the Jay Z protégé raps, “Your life’s a lie, but here’s the truth/You ain’t hype to die, but you hype to shoot.” The insult seemed directed at Nas, who responded to both Bleek and Jay Z in subliminals on mixtape tracks. Jay escalated the conflict on 2001’s “The Takeover,” calling Nas “la-a-a-a-me” and dissecting his entire catalog, piece by piece. Nas responded with “Ether,” which opens pretty bluntly: “Fuck Jay Z.” This prompted Jay to respond with “Supa Ugly,” where he gleefully admitted to have been sleeping with Nas’ baby’s mother. (Right then, in a Hot 97 on-air segment, listeners voted “Ether” as the winning track, and Jay apologized for having gone too far.) Now, the two rap kings are friends, having recorded together a bunch of times after squashing their beef in 2005 at the “I Declare War” concert in Philadelphia. The biggest loss from all of this is that neither “The Takeover” nor “Ether” can be performed live anymore. So, friendship wins, the fans lose.