Top 15 of best diss-tracks

Top 15 of best diss-tracks

Beefs, also called feuds, have always been an integral part of Hip Hop. As early as the middle of the 80’s, the first disputes between rappers or groups appeared, and these quarrels were in most cases materialized by diss tracks. Some beefs have marked the history of rap by their violence and their popularity, often very mediatized. Among the biggest beefs in history, we can mention the East Coast / West Coast rivalry in the mid-90’s with 2pac and Notorious B.I.G. as the main protagonists, who were both tragically murdered in 1996 and 1997 respectively. Other notable feuds such as The Bridge Wars with Boogie Down Productions and the Juice Crew, Nas and Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Ja Rule or DJ Quik versus MC Eiht are also among the most violent and famous in history. The best beefs will soon be the subject of a dedicated article, here we will rather focus on the best diss tracks in history.

Although very popular in Hip Hop, the first diss tracks go back before the creation of the latter with examples like You Keep Her by Joe Tex in 1962 attacking James Brown who took his wife, or the exchanges between members of the Beatles, John Lennon and Paul McCartney with respectively How Do You Sleep? and Too Many People in 1971. However, it is in Hip Hop that diss tracks took another dimension and became more popular, more direct and more violent. In other genres, diss tracks were more subtle and ambiguous with insinuations that could leave room for interpretation, which is much less the case in Hip Hop.

Long before the recording of diss tracks in the studio, Hip Hop also had live battles where the objective is to ridicule your opponent in front of a furious audience. Eminem is known to have started his career in these underground battles where he crushed his opponents with his uncompromising rhymes. 

Hip Hop is known for its rough side, the lack of response to an attack can be seen as an admission of weakness. As the attacks/answers went on, the diss tracks could become more and more violent and vicious with sometimes more and more personal attacks. Very followed by the public and very mediatized, these rivalries could become a marketing means to get known or to improve its visibility with artists who became known to attack a great number of other artists, 50 Cent or Canibus are good examples. Nevertheless, some feuds were born from a dispute between two rappers, either following an event as for 2pac and Notorious BIG, or by simple hateful rivalry as for DJ Quik and MC Eiht, or for a difference of opinion as for Ice Cube and Common.

Some of the diss tracks have become immensely famous and are anchored in the history of Hip Hop. Below, we look back at the 15 most iconic diss tracks in history, either for their aggressiveness, fame or simply for their musical quality.

15. The Sauce/Nail in the Coffin, Eminem (2002)

Target: The Source/Benzino

Context: Benzino, at the time editorial director of The Source Magazine, grants 2 microphones out of 5 to Eminem’s Marshal Mathers LP, yet the latter does not react but refuses an interview to the magazine. A little later Benzino attacks directly Eminem on I Don’t Wanna and Pull Your Skirt Up, Eminem answers with two violent disstracks, The Sauce and Nail In The Coffin. A few disstracks later, Benzino gets fired from The Source and leaves the rap game. 

Best lines :

Fuckin punk pussy fuck you chump
Gimme a one-on-one see if I don’t fuck you up
Tryin to jump the Ruff Ryders and they cut you up
And you put Jada on a track that’s how much you suck
Dick in the industry, swear that you in the streets hustlin
You sit behind a fuckin desk at The Source butt-kissin

14. Takeover, Jay-Z (2001)

Target: Nas

Context: Jay-Z invited Nas to pose on Reasonable Doubt in 1996. However, despite accepting, Nas never showed up. At the time things will remain there. After a few indirect hints for a few years, Jay-Z directly attacks Nas on Takeover in 2001, claiming that he is a finished rapper.

Best lines :

I know you miss it, Nas, the (fame!)
But along with celebrity comes ’bout seventy shots to your frame, homie You’s a (lame!)
I Know you’s the fag model for Karl Kani, Esco ads
Went from Nasty Nas to Esco’s trash
Had a spark when you started but now you’re just garbage

13. Lost Ones, Lauryn Hill (1998)

Target: Wyclef Jean

Context: While Wyclef is married, Lauryn Hill and Wyclef, both members of Fugees, are in a relationship. At the same time, Lauryn began dating Rohan Marley, Bob Marley’s son. She becomes pregnant and makes Wyclef believe, by revenge, that the child is his, which breaks their relationship permanently, inevitably causing the breakup of the Fugees. Out of resentment, she will make several allusions to Wyclef on Miseducation, and especially Lost Ones.

Best lines :

A groupie call, you fall from temptation
Now you want to ball over separation
Tarnish my image in your conversation
Who you gon’ scrimmage, like you the champion
You might win some but you just lost one

12. Life On The Line, 50 Cent (1999)

Target: Murder Inc / Ja Rule

Context: The beef between 50 Cent and Ja Rule is more of a celebrity jealousy between local gangsters, both of whom grew up in Queens. In reality, it goes a little deeper as there are several physical altercations between the two rappers. After a few exchanges of disstracks and the support of Dr Dre and Eminem, 50 Cent is the big winner of the beef because after 2003-2004, Ja Rule falls into oblivion, with a ruined career.

Best lines :

Scream murder! (I don’t believe you!)
Murder! (Fuck around and leave you!)
Murder! (I don’t believe you!)
Murder, murder! (Your life’s on the line!)

11.  The Bitch In Yoo, Common (1996)

Target: Ice Cube

Context: In his song I Used To Love H.E.R. released in 1994, Common subtly attacks gangsta rap, claiming that he doesn’t recognize Hip Hop in this sub-genre. There is notably a line that refers to Boyz In The Hood. Ice Cube, starring in the film, feels directly attacked and answers with Westside Slaugtherhouse accompanied by Mack 10 and WC. The Bitch In Yoo will be the Jazz-rap answer of Common.

Best lines :

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

10.  Dollaz + Sense, DJ Quik (1994)

Target: MC Eiht

Context: The rivalry between Quik and Eiht is one of the longest in Hip Hop and also one of the most violent with a lot of diss tracks in the first half of the 90s. One being Crip, Eiht, and the other Blood, Quik, the feud eventually grew out of a simple rivalry and an attack by DJ Quik on his mixtape, The Red Tape.

Best lines :

You can’t even look me in my eye, let alone go toe to toe
And callin’ me skinny, youse a clown
I’ma call you Theo, ’cause you weigh ninety-two point three pounds
Wack ass actor, movie script killer

9.  L.A., L.A., Capone N Noreaga ft. Mobb Deep & Tragedy Khadafi (1996)

Target: Snoop Dogg / Tha Dogg Pound / Death Row

Context: The East Coast / West Coast beef was at its peak in 1996, and when Snoop Dogg and Tha Dogg Pound came to shoot the video for N.Y., N.Y. in New York, the East Coast took it as a provocation and the shoot ended in a shootout. In reality, N.Y., N.Y. did not have any bellicose will, however Capone N Noerega, accompanied by Mobb Deep and Tragedy Khadafi will make a response by covering the refrain of N.Y., N.Y. on L.A., L.A.

Best lines :

L.A. L.A. big city of dreams
But everything in L.A. ain’t always what it seems
You might get fooled if you come from outta town
Cos we coming from Queens it gets down

8.  Drop A Gem On Em, Mobb Deep (1996)

Target: 2pac

Context: After 2pac got robbed in New York on his way to Biggie and Puff Daddy’s studio, the East Coast / West Coast beef reached unprecedented proportions. 2pac released the song Hit Em Up, Mobb Deep responded with Drop A Gem On Em, which made direct reference to this incident with death threats towards 2pac. However, 2pac was murdered 19 days after the song. Out of respect, Mobb Deep decided to remove the song from the radio and not to shoot the promotional video initially planned.

Best lines :

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

7.  Def Wish III, MC Eiht (1994)

Target: DJ Quik

Context: The number of diss tracks in the beef between DJ Quik and MC Eiht is huge. It is difficult to choose so much they are all as violent and merciless. Between the Duck Sick and Def Wish series, the hatred between the two Compton rappers was real.

Best lines :

Lock your doors, run and hide
Can’t nothin save you when the W hoo-rides
Peep – I’m puttin suckers to sleep
Ready to make a motherfuckin hit, geah we rollin too deep

6.  Ether, Nas (2001)

Target: Jay-Z

Context: After Jay-Z’s attack on Takeover, the battle of the King of New York had started. Nas will answer with Ether, a bloody and vicious diss track aimed at Jay-Z. Following this track, Nas’s career was revived and the fans declared Nas the winner of the beef. 

Best lines :

First, Biggie’s ya man, then you got the nerve to say that you better than Big
Dick sucking lips, whyn’t you let the late, great veteran live

5.  Hit Em Up, 2pac (1996)

Target: Mobb Deep / Bad Boys / East Coast

Context: One of the starting points of the East Coast / West Coast beef is 2pac’s robbery in New York where he was shot several times. Although Biggie and Puff Daddy deny any responsibility for the shooting, 2pac remains convinced that they were informed and even premeditated. Biggie’s 1995 song “Who Shot Ya?” convinced 2pac that Bad Boys were involved, although they claimed that the song was not intended for him. 2pac will spit all his hatred towards Bad Boys and more generally the East Coast on Hit Em Up.

Best lines :

First off, fuck your bitch and the click you claim
Westside when we ride come equipped with game
You claim to be a player but I fucked your wife
We bust on Bad Boy niggaz fucked for life

4.  Real Muthaphuckkin’ G’s, Eazy-E ft. Gangsta Dresta and B.G. Knoccout (1993)

Target: Death Row / Dr. Dre / Snoop Dogg

Context: Dr. Dre’s departure from Ruthless was not done in optimal conditions, like Ice Cube’s departure two years before. In fact, the artists of N.W.A. did not receive much of the success of the group, leading them to leave the house one by one. Dr. Dre will diss Eazy-E on Dre Day with Snoop Dogg. The Eazy-E answer will be an EP dedicated to Death Row and more particularly to Dr. Dre, and one of the most famous diss track of the rap Real Muthaphuckkin’ G’s.

Best lines :

Motherfuck Dre, motherfuck Snoop, motherfuck Death Row
Yo, and here comes my left blow
Cause I’m the E-A-Z-Y-E and this is the season
To let the real motherfuckin’ G’s in
You’re like a kid you found a pup and now you’re dapper
But tell me where the fuck you found an anorexic rapper

3.  The Bridge is Over, Boogie Down Productions (1987)

Target: Juice Crew / MC Shan / Queensbridge

Context: The Bridge War is one of the most emblematic beef of Hip Hop. KRS-One is under the misapprehension that the Juice Crew claims Queens is the birthplace of Hip Hop. Being from the South Bronx, the true birthplace of Hip Hop, Boogie Down Productions takes this as a disrespect and uses this as an excuse to start the hostilities with South Bronx in 1986. MC Shan responds with Kill That Noise before KRS-One retaliates once again on The Bridge Is Over, in reference to the bridge that separates Queens and the Bronx.

Best lines :

Ya can’t sound like Shan or the one Marley
Because Shan and Marley Marl dem-a-rhymin like they gay
Pickin’ up the mic, mon, dem don’t know what to say
Sayin’ hip-hop started out in Queensbridge
Sayin’ lies like that, mon, you know dem can’t live

2.  No Vaseline, Ice Cube (1991)

Target: N.W.A. / Jerry Heller / Ruthless 

Context: Ice Cube not being paid for his work in the group N.W.A., he leaves Ruthless and N.W.A. to sign with Priority where he releases his first solo album Amerikkaz Most Wanted. However Ice Cube doesn’t seem to have any remorse since he doesn’t attack his former record company on Amerikkaz Most Wanted. After Eazy-E and MC Ren attacked Ice Cube on 100 Miles and Runnin’ and Niggaz4Life, Ice Cube answered with No Vaseline by attacking N.W.A. and Jerry Heller.

Best lines :

The bigger the cap, the bigger the peelin’
Who gives a fuck about a punk-ass villain?
You’re gettin’ fucked real quick
And Eazy’s dick, is smellin’ like MC Ren’s shit

1.  (F*ckin Wit) Dre Day, Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Doggy Dogg (1992)

Target: Eazy-E / Ruthless / Luke / Tim Dog

Context: Dre Day is known for attacking Eazy-E and Ruthless following the departure of Dr. Dre from Ruthless. However, he also attacks Luke from The 2 Live Crew for his Gangsta Rap parody and Tim Dog for his song Fuck Compton. 

Best lines :

So what that let you know?
That if you fuck with Dre, nigga you’re fuckin’ wit Death Row
And I ain’t even swangin’ them thangs
I’m hollerin’, “187” with my dick in yo’ mouth, biatch (biatch)

Special mentions: Fuck Compton, Tim Dog ; Bomb First, 2pac ; Pimp Slapp’d, Snoop Dogg ; Calling Out Names, Kurupt ; It’s On, Eazy-E ; Acknowloedge, Masta Ace ; 2nd Round KO, Canibus ; Jack the Ripper, LL Cool J ; Back Down, 50 Cent ; South Bronx, Boogie Down Productions

See you in the comment section for your favorite Hip Hop diss-tracks!

By Grégoire Zasa

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