There’s always so much controversy surrounding the controversy. The fact is hip hop battles are at its best when all the attacks are done verbally and tastefully. Use the microphones and words as weapons and really shell out all of your ammunition. With this list, I present you some of the best semi-automatic tracks that have been released in the hip hop genre. There is in my opinion very little debate as to what the top 5 are, and I will even put mention as to some that didn’t make it in (but I know I’ll get the: “What about this song Deez”, “What about that song Deez”. Regardless, I’ve done this list a few times, have had many people co-sign it and even use it as their own. I’d love to see the responses. This is about as genuine as a list you’ll get as so many factors are taken into consideration such as: time period, style of attack, types of jabs, subject, content, flow, lyrics, etc. Many diss tracks are just seen to be constant “your mama” jokes and really, that’s not what makes a great diss joint. The factual jabs tied in with precise lyricism and flow all account for a great track in general, let alone a diss track. Without further ado…
10. Mobb Deep: Drop A Gem on ‘Em
Who Got Dissed: 2Pac
Short History: While Pac was one of the biggest names in hip hop at the time, Mobb Deep was no slouch. They had the entire underground hip hop scene on lock and had just released an undeniable classic in “The Infamous.” 2Pac on “Hit Em Up” and “Against All Odds” just went all out and threw the Mobb’s name in there. Hav and P decided to fire back.
Why It’s So Good: It was subtle, very subtle. To this day, many people don’t even realize that this was a diss to 2Pac. If you want to make the assumption that it takes balls to go all out and be blunt and name call and stuff, then go for it, I disagree and think that something like what P and Hav did takes so much more skill and execution. Moreover, P delivers probably his best post-Infamous verse. It seems as if only 2Pac would know that this track was to him, I think that makes it even more beautiful. The beat is dope too, kind of chilling and haunting, it adds to the atmosphere.
Lyrics: it’s warfare in the arena; you turn arenas into house of horrors / its terror dome, when you see my click you need to run behind shit/ you got a gat? you better find it and use that shit/ think fast and get reminded / of robberies in Manhattan you knew what happened / 60 g’s and one for gun clappin / Who Shot Ya? You’d probably scream louder than an opera / New York gotcha / now you wanna use my mob as a crutch
9. Roxanne Shante: Have A Nice Day
Who Got Dissed: Boogie Down Productions
Short History: She was like, 13 or 14 at this time. Enough said. Marley Marl saw potential in her, and even though Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap wrote a bunch of stuff for her, she came out on her own and dissed one of the most revered MC’s then and now, KRS-One and his DJ Scott La Rock. The whole Juice Crew and BDP wars will go down in history as the greatest rap battle of all time, but Shante’s diss tracks got lost in all of this. In the middle of this she also had “Roxanne’s Revenge” (a diss to UTFO) and “Bite This” (a diss to just about everyone in the industry at that time). Shante had a lot of anger to let out especially after KRS said she was only good for “steady fu*king.”
Why It’s So Good: She was 13. I mean, we really haven’t established Shante at the level that Lyte or Jean or Lauryn were established probably because she was surrounded by so much talent, but I mean, she’s 13 going at a much older legend and pioneer. And really, no one to this day has dissed BDP better than Shante has, not even MC Shan. It was direct, catchy, well written, well flowed, and just an all out good track. This is coming from a huge KRS-One fan, and I think KRS would admit so (today) too. To pick this out of her many diss joints was tough though, I’ll admit that.
Lyrics: Now KRS-ONE you should go on vacation / With that name soundin’ like a wack radio station / And as for Scott La Rock, you should be ashamed / When T La Rock said “It’s Yours”, he didn’t mean his name / So step back peasants, poppin’ all that junk / Or else BDP will stand for Broken Down Punks / Cos I’m an All-Star just like Julius Erving / And Roxanne Shante is only good for steady servin’
8. Notorious B.I.G: Kick In The Door
Who Got Dissed: Nas, Jeru The Damaja, Ghostface, Raekwon
Short History: There was so much beef going on. To cut it short, there was a little hostility with Biggie against Nas, Ghost and Rae. There was a skit on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx that claimed Biggie as a biter; a biter of Nas’ album cover and Raekwon’s King of New York Title (The Purple Tape and Ready to Die were both prominent albums at the time). Not only that, Jeru took shots at Bad Boy Records on his track “One Day” and Biggie responded to that on this joint. One could even say that he took a slight jab at DJ Premier as well, because DJ Premier rolled really tight with both Nas and Jeru. A lot of this can be recalled by Nas on “Last Real N*gga Alive.” Some believe that the ‘This goes out to you (10x)’ line is calling out all the members of the Wu-Tang Clan.
Why It’s So Good: It was vicious. Even as an extremely biased Premier fan, the way this “I Put a Spell on You” sample was flipped was sheer genius. It provided this comedic type of atmosphere, but B.I.G was there to assure us that nothing was funny about this. It left you guessing: “Was that line about Nas?” “Was that line about Rae?” He even flipped the whole bleach threat line around and fired back. Shortly after this, he died, but with a track like this, it certainly lives on forever. Another great thing was that this beef never got escalated even with a ferocious track like this. People took notice and moved on.
Lyrics: Your reign on the top was short like leprechauns/ As I crush so-called willies, thugs, and rapper-dons/ Get in that ass, quick fast, like Ramadan… Lyrically, Im worser, don’t front the word sick/ You cursed it, but rehearsed it/ I drop unexpectedly like bird shit/ You herbs get, stuck quickly for royalties and show money
Don’t forget the publishin, I punish em, Im done with them/ Son, I’m surprised you run with them/ I think they got cum in them, cause they, nothin but dicks/ Tryin to blow up like nitro and dynamite sticks/ Mad I smoke hydro rock diamonds, thats sick/ Got pay off my flow, rhyme with my own click/ Take trips to Cairo, layin with yo bitch
7. LL Cool J: To Da Break of Dawn
Who Got Dissed: Kool Moe Dee, Ice-T, MC Hammer
Short History: If you talk to any old school hip hop head, they’ll tell you about how dope LL was back in the day, but arguably how even doper Kool Moe Dee was. LL was on the come up and Kool Moe Dee dissed LL on a track called “How Ya Like Me Now”, and from there LL dropped a now classic “Jack The Ripper”. The battle boiled on and on, and LL stepped out of the game for a moment. He came back with what could be the best comeback album of all time: Mama Said Knock You Out and on it, “To Da Break of Dawn” showed LL taking shots at the very popular MC Hammer and Ice-T. He further went on to diss Kool Moe Dee in the same track, totaling up three top notch emcee dissed by one artist. LL was walking like a panther, chewing up whoever was in his way to his goal.
Why It’s So Good: Kool Moe Dee really was a great MC. He’s forgotten by most newcomer listeners now, but if “Jack The Ripper” didn’t finish him, then this did. While this track didn’t completely dismay Ice-T or MC Hammer, the complete shock value alone of LL going at three huge artist was a really big deal. He also single-handedly held his own and provided one of his best performances on the mic. Also, on an album filled with tremendous songs, this one certainly sticks out with the title track.
Lyrics: Homeboy, hold on, my rhymes are so strong/ Nothing could go wrong, so why do you prolong/ Songs that ain’t strong, brother, you’re dead wrong/ And got the nerve to have them Star Trek shades on/ Ha, you can’t handle the whole weight/ Skin needs lotion, teeth need Colgate
I’ma show you the real meaning of the danger zone/ Stop dancin, get to walkin/ Shut your old mouth when young folks is talkin/ you little snake in the grass/ You swing a hammer, but you couldn’t break a glass
How dare you stand beside me/ I’m Cool, I freeze I-c-e/ On your trail and I’ma cut that bull tail
In the immortal words of L.L., ‘hard as hell’/ Your broad wears it well She’s the reason that your record sold a few copies
I’m not Scarface, but I want more beef/ Before you rapped you was a downtown car thief/ Workin in a parking lot/
A brother with a perm deserves to get burned
6. Nas: Ether
Who Got Dissed: Jay-Z
Short History: You should know the story by now, but in brief: Jay-Z made fun of Prodigy and called out Nas at Summer Jam. Nas drops response freestyle. Jay-Z drops “Takeover”. Nas drops “Ether”. Jay-Z drops “Super Ugly”. End. That’s the short version. Technically, the beef could go all the way back to when Jay-Z did “Dead Presidents” in which Jay-Z used Nas’ vocals from “The World is Yours”. Then the whole Memphis Bleek incident biting Nas with “Memphis Bleek is…” and then even “Got My Mind Right”. Nevermind Memphis Bleek though, these were two very well respected artist taking some shots at each other until it eventually became too much.
Why It’s So Good: I could get a lot of hate for choosing this over the other (I can tell you “Takeover” isn’t on this list) but I’ve stayed by this ever since day one. This is the type of song Pac’s “Hit em Up” wanted to be because it was so personal, and while it had childish touches (Gay-Z, Cock-A-Fella) it still remained adult in content. Nas took jabs at Jigga’s numerous biting habits of Biggie and Jaz-O and even the album title of his then (Blueprint, already used by KRS-One). Moreover, took jabs at Jay-Z turning his back on hip hop, even calling him Judas with “Hawaiian Sophie” fame and questions his business ethic as he traded his soul for money and fame. The third verse really kicks things up a notch and it’s just a slaughter fest of uppercuts. After that, it was without a doubt something that was epic by nature and stunning after the delivery.
Lyrics: First, Biggie’s ya man, then you got the nerve to say that you better than Big/ Dick sucking lips, why won’t you let the late, great veteran live
In ’88 you was getting chased through your building/ Calling my crib and I ain’t even give you my numbers/ All I did was gave you a style for you to run with
And, Eminem murdered you on your own shit/ You a dick-riding faggot, you love the attention/ Queens niggas run you niggas, ask Russell Simmons
5. Eminem: The Sauce
Who Got Dissed: Benzino
Short History: Benzino, was pretty much hating all the success and fame Eminem was getting and probably hating that Eminem was one hundred times the rapper that he would ever be. He claimed that Eminem was simply all commercial and corporate success set to further isolate the Latin American rap community in the industry. Benzino fired first, then Eminem dropped the very tame “Bully”. Benzino fired back with some terrible diss tracks then Eminam put the nail in the coffin. The beef went further for legal disputes because Benzino, so desperate to win a battle that he already lost, dug up some tapes of Eminem spitting racial slurs.
Why It’s So Good: “Nail in the Coffin” is the other, more popular one, but “The Sauce” is just three and a half minutes of brutal, continuous stab wounds right to the ribs. Hearing Eminem rap with so much passion, emotion, and disgust is something every rap fan should experience. This was somewhat laughable because Benzino is a terrible artist, but to attack one of the most vicious emcees of our time was another thing. Eminem seemingly had fun pointing out Benzino’s street cred, age, even his braided hair! Also, Eminem attacks the credibility of the once very credible source that was once littered with Made Men advertisements (Benzino’s group) and questionable reviews given. So many quotables and as a once avid reader of the Source, the truth hits extremely hard. It is almost perfect in nature, even with a fitting beat; it was just such a silly beef (because we all knew Eminem would prevail) that most don’t even need to mention this.
Lyrics: No more Source for street cred, them days is dead/ Ray’s got AK’s to Dave Mays’ head/ Every issue there’s an eight page Made Men spread/ Will somebody please tell whoever braids his head
Bitch this is war now, and you’ll never beat me/ All you do is cheat me out of Quotables
But you know that you’ll always see me/ On your TV, cuz you’ve got to stay up ’til/ Three in the morning to see your video played once on BET
It’s extortion, and Ray owns a portion/ So half of the staff up there is fresh out of jail from Boston/ Bullyin and bossin Dave like a slave/ They completely brainwashed him and forced him to stay/ Locked in his own office Afraid of the softest, fakest, wannabe gangsta in New York
4. Canibus: 2nd Round KO
Who Got Dissed: LL Cool J
Short History: It all started with a tattoo. No, not really, but sort of. “4,3,2,1″ , a song by LL Cool J featured Canibus along with fellow Def Jam-ers Redman, Method Man, and DMX. Canibus made a reference to the mic tattoo on LL’s arm and LL took offense. LL fired back at Canibus on the same track and there was an obvious beef between the two just after listening to the song. There was another whole ordeal that had LL wanting Bis to change the lyrics and such (this can be heard on a telephone conversation somewhere on Youtube). Canibus dropped this gem on his debut album, and it remains to be one of the best diss tracks of all time. LL replied with an impressive (but rumoured to be ghostwritten) “Ripper Strikes Back”, but LL’s successful career continues while Canibus only has his loyal fan base that probably isn’t as large in numbers as LL’s.
Why It’s So Good: A new up and comer like Canibus coming after a wildly successful and legit MC in LL Cool J was enough for people to pay attention. Bis was seriously contending as opposed to being a punching bag for LL. So many lines were directed at LL’s image because it had been so long since he had made anything but a track for ladies. Canibus was also a fairly big LL fan, he even states that he did all the background checks, so he had plenty of ammo to hit his drug-free image and his plasticized body-type. Moreover, he attacks LL’s bogus terms to being the greatest of all time and attributes that right to Notorious B.I.G. The jabs at the majority female fan base, the sitcom lifestyle, and the declining skills and wasted potential of LL were set ups for a knockout blow in the last quarter of the 2nd verse. To this day, people claim unanimously that Canibus slapped a legend with a heavy dose of reality.
Lyrics: You walk around showin off your body cause it sells/ Plus to avoid the fact that you ain’t got skills/ Mad at me cause I kick that shit real niggaz feel/ While 99% of your fans wear high heels
And if you really want to show off, we can get it on/ Live in front of the cameras on your own sitcom/ I’ll let you kick a verse, fuck it, I’ll let you kick em all/ I’ll even wait for the studio audience to applaud
Fuck that, cause like Common and Cube I see The Bitch In Yoo/ and I’ma make the world see it too, motherfucker
3. Ice Cube: No Vaseline
Who Got Dissed: N.W.A.
Short History: Ice Cube was no doubt the smartest, most talented member of N.W.A. They were quick to take deals and Ice Cube really wanted to wait out and see if there were better things out there. He also wanted to pursue a more thorough solo career but N.W.A wasn’t too cool with that. They even referred to Cube as ‘Benedict Arnold’ on “Message to B.A.”, which was the first track to diss Ice Cube after his departure. “Real Niggaz” was another diss track to Cube. Cube felt that Eazy was stealing money from the group along with the manager, Jerry Heller. Cube was right; they were, and the group dismantled and never really got a chance to respond to “No Vaseline.” Really though, as one of the greatest diss tracks ever, there really wasn’t much to say. It was a huge issue that just turned everyone against Eazy-E and Heller.
Why It’s So Good: Cube holds nothing back. He says what’s probably on everybody’s mind, but does it with such anger and rage. The hits come from all places: telling Dre to stick to producing, homosexual jabs about Eazy, relating Ren to Kunta Kinte, calling Heller the Devil, calling Yella a lost cause, and so much more. It’s a front to back debauchery as Cube just unleashes every bit of ammo that he has. He brings question to the credibility of their ‘attitudes’ and also distances himself from any affiliation with the group. The punch lines are so powerful because of how true they probably were. Cube in three verses single-handedly aired out one of the most powerful groups of the late 80′s and early 90′s, because after this every thing fell apart for Eazy and the crew.
Lyrics: Yella Boy’s on your team, so you’re losin’/ Ay yo Dre, stick to producin./ Callin’ me Arnold, but you been a dick/ Eazy-E saw your ass and went in it quick.
You’re gettin’ fucked real quick / and Eazy’s dick, is smellin’ like MC Ren’s shit/ It’s a case of divide-and-conquer/ cuz you let a Jew break up my crew./House nigga gotta run and hide/ yellin’ Compton, but you moved to Riverside.
Now I think you a snitch/ throw a house nigga in a ditch/ Half-pint bitch, fuckin’ your homeboys/ You little maggot; Eazy-E turned faggot/ With your manager, fella/ fuckin’ MC Ren, Dr. Dre, and Yella/ But if they were smart as me/ Eazy-E would be hangin’ from a tree/ With no vaseline, just a match and a little bit of gasoline/ Light ‘em up, burn ‘em up, flame on/ till that Jheri curl is gone.
2. Common: The Bitch In Yoo
Who Got Dissed: Ice Cube
Short History: It started with a misinterpretation. I thought I was one to juxtapose, Ice Cube took a line in “I Used to Love H.E.R.” as a shot because he felt Common was saying the West is where hip hop turns commercial, flashy, and turns away from the spiritual aspect. Anybody could see that Common didn’t mean anything offensive by it, but apparently Cube didn’t. Cube and his boys of the Westside Connection released “Westside Slaughterhouse”, which was mediocre at best. It was an interesting situation because Common had established himself in ’94 with Resurrection and Cube was already a powerhouse, but no one expected Common to reply. Well, he did. The beef eventually ended with Minister Farrakhan stepping in to settle it. Both are at peace and respect each other heavily.
Why It’s So Good: What started as a complete misunderstanding ended up with a credible hip hop career of one of hip hop’s best going down the drain. No one really expected Common to fire back because he really wasn’t that type of rapper, but he proved everyone wrong. Backed by an outstanding (and I mean outstanding) Pete Rock beat, Common wastes no time and calls Cube a ‘bitch nigga’ right off the bat. The shots are one after the other commenting on Cube’s beat selection, his whack crew, his dick riding of particular emcees, and constant blunt references to other people they’ve each had encounters with. Common is very persuasive and it hurts even more that Common uses tons of Ice Cube’s own titles (Boyz In The Hood, Higher Learning, Glass Shield) and spinning them around to offend Cube. It is two verses that really don’t give you time to reflect on the last lines you just heard and beyond that, you got a great beat to bounce to. It’s not only one of the best diss tracks, it’s one of Common’s best tracks. Beyond that, Cube really had nothing left in the tank. He went on to a very successful acting career, but his career as a rapper was sluggish and slowly came to a halt.
Lyrics: Now what the fuck I look like dissing a whole coast /You ain’t made shit dope since AmeriKKKa’s Most / Wanted to cease from the Midwest to the East / On the dick of the East for your 1st release
Shoulda repented, on the 16th of October /Get some beats besides George Clinton to rock over /Rap career is over, better off acting /What trouble I see, you’re managing WC and Wack 10
It’ll take the Nation of Millions to Hold Me Back / From giving you mouth shots or hit wit the pipe Ralph got / Chris Tucker ain’t around, it’s your Friday, it was good / I wasn’t salty, she was wit the Boyz N the Hood
There’s a thin line between the fake and the real /Grafted ass nigga, I see through your Glass Shield / Had skills once upon a time on this project, yo / I’m a have ta wreck a Ho’shea /I heard a ho say you her favorite rapper/ so I had to slap her/ And violate you, a Muslim drinking brew/ Your nigga ain’t no Mack 10, he’s a 22
1. Boogie Down Productions: The Bridge is Over
Who Got Dissed: Juice Crew
Short History: MC Shan of the Juice Crew (sort of) laid claim to Queensbridge being the birth place of hip hop. The song was called “The Bridge”, and after Shan performed it at a concert one year, KRS and Boogie Down Productions came on stage afterward and performed the first response, “South Bronx”. It was essentially the same song, just praising the Bronx as opposed to Queens. Shan wasn’t the only one involved; Marley Marl was also heavily involved because he backed up Shan, who then replied with “Kill That Noise” which was more or less a set up for KRS-One’s huge breakthrough, and undeniably, the greatest diss track of all time, “The Bridge Is Over”. While the beef is listed between the Juice Crew and BDP, rappers like Masta Ace, Big Daddy Kane, and Kool G Rap more or less distanced themselves from the entire battle and from Shan.
Why It’s So Good: I really hope this needs minimal explanation, but this is the blueprint for diss tracks all over hip hop. This is the epitome of ending beef and ending careers with one fatal blow. While Marley’s career, and the rest of the Juice Crew’s, remained relevant and active, Shan was the pond that was sacrificed. Kris jumped all over him like a wolf on a lone sheep. It is kind of funny listening to Shan’s diss tracks, then KRS’ because of how easy KRS made it seem. The Scott La Rock piano loop is perfect and while it adds that playfulness, KRS is all business as he takes shots at Mr. Magic, Marley Marl, and even claims that Roxanne Shante is only good for steady fu*king! It was raw, gritty, and offensive. So offensive that no one ever mentioned any place but the Bronx being the birthplace of hip hop. Another reason why it is so good is because of the legacy it left and the relevance it still has. It is irreplaceable and timeless and is recognized by your boy, Deez, as the greatest diss track ever.
Lyrics: Pick any dick for the flavor that you savor/ Mr. Magic might wish to come and try to save ya/ But instead of helpin ya out he wants the same thing I gave ya/ I finally figured it out, magic mouth is used for suckin/ Roxanne Shante is only good for steady fuckin/ MC Shan and Marley Marl is really only bluffin/ Like Doug E. Fresh said I tell you now, you ain’t nuthin/ Compared to red alert on kiss and Boogie Down Productions
What’s the matter with your MC, Marley Marl? / Don’t know you know that hes out of touch/ What’s the matter with your DJ, MC Shan? / On the wheels of steel Marlon sucks
You’d better change what comes out your speaker/ You’re better off talkin bout your whack puma sneaker
DJ Quik: Dollarz and Sense
- Quik unleashed a diss track during a very lengthy and heated rivalry with MC Eiht. It’s most famous bit comes from the line: “Tell me why you act so scary/ Givin your set a bad /name wit your misspelled name/ E-I-H-T, now should I continue/ Yeah you left out the G cause the G ain’t in you
MC Lyte: 10% Dis
- Lyte torched her rival MC Antoinette because Ant somewhat jacked a beat that was similar to her brother’s Audio Two “Top Billin” beat. She kind of ate her up; Lyte was really mean back then, and really proved that she should be on everyone’s top five Femcee’s of all time list.
Boogie Down Productions: South Bronx
- The first response to Shan and Marley Marl. The track is really dope; it is usually just over shadowed by the track that came after it. It’s catchy and it hits hard, enough said.
Roxanne Shante: Bite This
- Shante was a dissing machine back in the day. This track went after just about everyone, people who she wasn’t even affiliated with. It was just unreal to see someone so young go after the elders with such attitude and validity.
LL Cool J: Jack The Ripper
- Really, this or “To Da Break of Dawn” could’ve been in that top 10 list. They were both great diss tracks that took huge blows to Kool Moe Dee.
Masta Ace: Acknowledge
- It was a diss to High and Mighty, probably for a misunderstanding. It’s actually a great track when all is said and done. The track isn’t as hard hitting as some, but it is very Masta Ace like; very laid back, but very piercing.
Kool Moe Dee: Let’s Go
- During the whole LL beef, Moe Dee unleashed some fury. The best of the bulk was “Let’s Go”. The third verse includes all of the definitions for LL, and boy, this was a heavy track. If one of the Honorable Mentions should be in that top ten, this is it.
Tim Dog: Fuck Compton
- Tim, a Bronx native, was really upset with the exposure of the West Coast scene of gangster rap, so he decided to do something about it. It dissed members of N.W.A amongst others, but it was filled with animosity. The track was a huge hit, it was just upsetting that Tim Dog didn’t get more exposure passed this song
*Why “Hit Em Up” isn’t on this list*
It really isn’t that great of a diss track. One writer said it best, in that 2Pac sounded like a kid throwing a temper tantrum. Throw in the fact that he had his entire whack crew on the track as well, who have half the passion, half the emotion, and probably half the skill that 2Pac had and it was an all out mess. The real diss was probably the flip of the beat, or even the allegations that he slept with Faith Evans. But beyond that, it was a bunch of “fuck you’s” and “you’z a bitch ass nigga’s” throughout the entire 3-4 minutes. The energy in it is great, for the first minute, and then it drowns out. It actually frustrates me that this song is always included on these types of lists, because it is in fact a terrible diss track that didn’t effect Biggie’s career. It was almost TOO blunt, and as mentioned in this article, it takes so much more skill to be subtle and hidden when laying out a diss track to a certain extent, but this, everyone saw coming.
So yeah, bring on the hate, but as far as I know, this is how any Top 10 + Honorable Mention lists should be. Enjoy the read.
*Extensive research was conducted to make sure I made the best Top 10 list possible. I would appreciate e-mail, feedback and any comments regarding this piece. I don’t plan on doing top ten lists like this (thorough) for the next long while because this took so much out of me. So much second thinking, so much maneuvering, so much thinking…*