Kool Moe Dee vs. Busy Bee (1981)
The beef that started it all. Less a genuine rivalry and more a spontaneous rap battle, it started when rapper Busy Bee Starski shot a diss at fellow rapper Kool Moe Dee during a live set at the Harlem World club. Dee, one of the all-time rap legends, responded with an ice cold freestyle, including such dismissals as “You’re not number one, you’re not even the best / And you can’t win no real emcee contest.” There’s a reason you’ve never heard of Busy Bee before now.
UTFO vs. Roxanne Shanté (1984)
One of the weirdest rap beefs in history, it all started when rap group UTFO released a song called “Roxanne, Roxanne,” about a fictional girl who rejected their sexual advances. Up-and-coming MC Lolita Shanté Gooden decided to hit back with “Roxanne’s Revenge,” adopting the titular moniker. Then UTFO responded with a song featuring rapper Elease Jack, who also took on the name Roxanne. This eventually spawned a series of tracks from multiple rappers all about “Roxanne,” and the beef lasted from 1984 all the way to 1992.
Ice Cube vs. NWA (1990)
If anyone needed proof that Ice Cube was cold as ice, look no further. The rapper left the famous Straight Outta Compton group in 1990, citing poor management and bad finances. On their 1990 EP, NWA dissed the former member, saying that Ice Cube “couldn’t take” being in the group. Cube shot back in 1991 with “No Vaseline,” with lyrics so hardcore I can’t even mention them here. Cube’s solo career was ultimately successful, while NWA split soon after. Eventually they buried the hatchet, if the success of last year’s biopic is any indication.
2Pac vs. The Notorious B.I.G. (1991)
The rap beef everyone thinks of first, Tupac and Biggie’s beef extended to a broader beef between East Coast and West Coast rappers in general. Both sides exchanged more than just disses, with tensions leading to robberies, shootings, and the eventual murder of both Tupac and Biggie. What most don’t know is that the two actually started as friends, before a series of missteps led them to become bitter rivals. While both ended up being remembered as rap legends in their own right, fights still rage over which one was the better MC.
50 Cent vs. Ja Rule (2000)
Before 50 Cent became one of the most famous rappers in the world with “In Da Club,” he was known as one of the hardest MCs in the game, having been an actual drug dealer in his teens. Before signing to Interscope, 50 became embroiled in a conflict with rapper Ja Rule. Apparently one of his associates stole Ja Rule’s jewelry, which led to a fight at a nightclub where 50 was stabbed by one of Ja Rule’s labelmates. The two came to blows several times afterwards — both lyrically and literally — and the beef never really subsided, with a series of tweets last year reigniting the fire between them.
Kendrick Lamar vs. everyone (2013)
I’m not going to argue here that Kendrick is the king — you should already know that. True to his status as royalty, Lamar used his guest verse on Big Sean single “Control” to call out all of his rivals at once, including Drake, Pusha T, Mac Miller, A$AP Rocky, and Big Sean himself, on his own song. Meanwhile, Lamar ranked himself along with the all-time greats, including Jay Z, Nas, and Andre 3000. While it was only a guest verse on another rapper’s single, Lamar’s call-out was arguably the biggest rap story of 2013, and became the most critically acclaimed verse since Nicki Minaj’s “Monster” verse in 2010.
Drake vs. Meek Mill (2015)
The best-known beef of the modern era, Drake’s rivalry with Meek Mill began last year when Meek accused Drake of using a ghostwriter for his raps. Several factors complicated the beef from the start, including Meek’s fiancée Nicki Minaj, who’s long been rumoured to be in a romantic relationship with Drake. For his part, Drake jumped on the beef right away, releasing diss track “Back to Back” which he later performed live behind a livestream of fanmade Meek Mill memes. In case there were any lingering doubts that Drake won, “Back to Back” was nominated for a Grammy, the first diss song to gain the honour. Can you imagine being the subject of a Grammy-nominated diss?
Don’t forget to check out our story on Drake vs. Kid Cudi to see where that beef stacks up against these legendary ones.