Built on the foundation of corner block freestyles and battle rap performances, rap diss tracks are ingrained in hip hop culture.
Ever since Kool Moe Dee took to the stage at Harlem World in 1983 and called out Busy Bee, rappers have been going back and forth on wax since the start of rap music. While some of resulting beefs from these diss tracks have ended up with us losing rappers, most notably Biggie and 2Pac, fortunately most of these situations have stayed purely on wax. So let’s get into it.
From Nas’ “Ether” to Hov’s “Takeover,” Gucci Mane’s “Truth” to Drake’s “Back to Back,” here are the 50 best rap diss tracks of all time.
50. Machine Gun Kelly – “Rap Devil”
Released: September 3, 2018
Going at: Eminem
Producer: Nils & Ronny J
Hardest line: “Please say it ain’t so (No) / The big bad bully of the rap game can’t take a fuckin’ joke”
In response to Eminem name-checking him on “Not Alike,” off Kamikaze, Machine Gun Kelly drops “Rap Devil” just a couple of days later aiming straight at the king’s head. Aside from the jokes about Em’s beard and age, MGK also gets into the details about the Detroit rapper’s attempts to blackball him from the industry. This diss track took some balls from the Cleveland MC, it had been some time since any rapper had gone right at Eminem like this.
49. Nicki Minaj ft. Eminem – “Roman’s Revenge”
Released: October 30, 2010
Going at: Lil’ Kim
Producer: Swizz Beatz
Hardest line: “Nicki, she’s just mad ’cause you took the spot / Word, that bitch mad ’cause I took the spot? / Well, bitch, if you ain’t shittin’, then get off the pot”
On her debut album, Nicki Minaj taps the rap beef God Eminem and channels Busta Rhymes on “Roman’s Revenge,” a track full of indirect and direct shots at the former queen of hip hop, Lil’ Kim. In between takes on the Queen Bee’s relatively quiet rap career and being a has-been, Nicki also mentions having people in Brooklyn “that’ll off your top.” Savage.
48. Royce da 5’9″ – “Malcolm X”
Released: October 20, 2003
Going at: D12
Producer: The Alchemist
Hardest line: “Since Slim signed 50, I don’t see your teeth as much / That’s good, cause you got a grill like a fuckin truck”
During the darkest days of his rap career, Royce da 5’9″ turned down an Aftermath deal with Dr. Dre, was estranged from Eminem, and beefing with D12. All while his albums weren’t selling and it felt like his career was on hold. All the frustrations seemed to boil over on this track as Royce lets loose at everyone in D12, though he saves the harshest lines for Proof and Bizarre.
47. Tim Dog – “Fuck Compton”
Released: November 12, 1991
Going at: N.W.A.
Producer: Ced-Gee & Tim Dog
Hardest line: “Dre, beatin’ on Dee from Pump it Up!? / Step to the Dog and get fucked up”
Rap fans tend to forget that years before the 2Pac vs. Biggie beef boiled into an entire coastal war, there was already a ton of static in the air, courtesy of tracks like “Fuck Compton” by Bronx rapper Tim Dog. Frustrated by the rise of N.W.A. and subsequently the West Coast, Tim Dog would hurl disses at the Compton group, although he makes it clear that he’s “cool with Ice-T.” It may have gotten over the decades but “Fuck Compton” is absolutely one of the best rap diss tracks in rap history.
46. Jay-Z – “Supa Ugly”
Released: December 11, 2001
Going at: Nas
Producer: Dr. Dre & Megahertz
Hardest line: “Me and the boy A.I. got more in common / Than just balling and rhyming—get it? More in Carmen”
“Supa Ugly” might not have been Hov’s finest moment, but damn you gotta admit that shit was still kinda hard, and definitely ranks as one of the best rap diss tracks of all time. Still reeling from Nas’ ferocious assaults on “Ether,” Jay-Z quickly struck back, jumping on the instrumentals for “Got Ur Self A…” and “Bad Intentions” to get the gloves truly off. Hov’s disses were so out of line on “Supa Ugly” that his own mother made him go on Hot 97 to apologise.
45. Eminem – “The Warning”
Released: July 30, 2009
Going at: Mariah Carey, Nick Cannon
Producer: Dr. Dre
Hardest line: “And that goes for Nick too, faggot, you think I’m scurred of you? / You’re gonna ruin my career, you better get one”
Eminem’s situation with Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon isn’t going down in the rap beef hall of fame anytime soon, but it was fun while it lasted. After a few subtle back and forth shots from both sides, Em decides enough is enough and lets loose on “The Warning,” revealing intimate details about their alleged relationship and Mariah’s fondness for wine.
44. Young Dolph – “Play Wit Yo Bitch”
Released: February 1, 2017
Going at: Yo Gotti
Hardest line: “You went from my biggest fan to my biggest hater / Beggin’ me to sign with you, but I had too much paper”
The city of Memphis is full of talented hustlers-turned-rappers, but one of the things that tend to happen when there’s a lot of bosses is that egos clash. At the time that Young Dolph was coming up, Yo Gotti was the man in the city and he tried to sign his fellow Memphis rapper to Collective Music Group. Dolph turned Gotti down and the situation turned bad real quick. Dolph never shied away from directly dropping names and “Play Wit Yo Bitch” is just one of those examples.
43. Pusha T – “Infrared”
Released: May 25, 2018
Going at: Drake
Producer: Kanye West
Hardest line: “Salute Ross ’cause the message was pure / He see what I see when you see Wayne on tour / Flash without the fire / Another multi-platinum rapper trapped and can’t retire”
The whole Pusha T vs. Cash Money Young Money beef goes all the way back to the early 2000s during the Clipse days. You would need a whole article dedicated to that beef alone. Suffice to say, when Drake was signed to Young Money, he in part inherited the beef with Push. After years of trading shots, Pusha T stepped shit up with “Infrared,” calling out Drake’s ghostwriting and Wayne’s financial troubles with Birdman. This isn’t one of the best rap diss tracks because of what was said on it, but rather, because it was just the first jab to set up the knockout blow coming later.
42. Eminem – “Killshot”
Released: Eminem – “Killshot”
Going at: Machine Gun Kelly, Puff Daddy
Hardest line: “Was watchin’ 8 Mile on my NordicTrack / Realized I forgot to call you back / Here’s that autograph for your daughter, I wrote it on a Starter cap”
It didn’t take long for Em to reply to Machine Gun Kelly’s aforementioned “Rap Devil.” This is just vintage Eminem, taking pot shots at himself before letting loose with the disses at his opponent. While there are plenty of shots thrown MGK’s way, Puffy unexpectedly gets some as well, with Em (jokingly) alluding that he put out a hit on 2Pac.
41. MC Shan – “Kill That Noise”
Released: August 8, 1987
Going at: Boogie Down Productions
Producer: Marley Marl
Hardest line: “I don’t really mind bein’ criticized / But those who try to make fame on my name: die”
Coming up in Queensbridge during the early ’80s, MC Shan was the man around these streets. As one of the flagship artist of the legendary Juice Crew and as well as one of the first rappers to sign a major record deal with Warner Bros., Shan was sitting atop the hip hop world, when a couple of young upstarts decided to come for his spot. Long story short, Shan dropped “Kill That Noise” in response to KRS-One’s disses on “South Bronx,” dismissing the Boogie Down crew as clout chasing rappers trying to earn a rep off of his name.
40. Mobb Deep ft. Lil Kim – “Quiet Storm (Remix)”
Released: October 5, 1999
Going at: Foxy Brown, Charli Baltimore
Hardest line: “Bitches suck cock just to get to the top / I put a hundred percent in every line I drop”
One of Lil’ Kim’s most memorable guest verses of all time, the Queen Bee hopped on this remix of Mobb Deep’s “Quiet Storm” to hurl shots at a few female rap rivals. While it certainly sounded like the a majority of her verse was aimed at Foxy Brown, which escalated to a shooting outside Hot 97, Charli Baltimore was also a target.
39. N.W.A. – “100 Miles and Runnin'”
Released: May 29, 1990
Going at: Ice Cube
Producer: Cold 187um, DJ Yella & Dr. Dre
Hardest line: “Started with five and, yo, one couldn’t take it / So now there’s four ’cause the fifth couldn’t make it”
N.W.A.’s first album since dropping the game-changing Straight Outta Compton, the members made sure to make their feelings known on the departure of Ice Cube. While Cube himself never mentioned his former group members on his solo debut AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, Eazy, Dre and the rest of the group spent most of 100 Miles and Runnin’ throwing shots his way. The result was “No Vaseline,” which we’ll get to later, no doubt.
38. Young Jeezy – “Stay Strapped”
Released: May 9, 2005
Going at: Gucci Mane
Hardest line: “King of Decatur? I thought you was from Birmingham / Shouldn’t’ve asked for it, if you know you ain’t have it man”
As two of the hottest Atlanta rappers coming up during the early 2000s, Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane encountered static in their relationship real quick. Originating from the Zaytoven-produced “Icy”, which became a massive regional hit, the beef escalated to gun violence, after Jeezy placed a bounty of $10,000 for Gucci’s Icy chain on this track. “Stay Strapped” might not be at the very top of the list for best rap diss tracks, but it was certainly one of the most consequential.
37. Eminem ft. Obie Trice & DMX – “Go To Sleep”
Released: February 18, 2003
Going at: Benzino, Ja Rule
Hardest line: “Niggas tried to holla but couldn’t holla back / Now they got to swallow everything in the sack”
By this time Ja Rule and Murder Inc. were copping it from all angles. Not only did they have 50 Cent and G-Unit after them, they also had Eminem and the Shady crew on their ass. On “Go To Sleep,” DMX also stepped into the mix. While the Yonkers rapper and Ja Rule originally started out as friends in the industry, as time went on X felt that the Murder Inc. rapper was getting too big for his boots.
36. Drake – “Duppy Freestyle”
Released: May 25, 2018
Going at: Pusha T, Kanye West
Producer: Jahaan Sweet & Boi-1da
Hardest line: “I could never have a Virgil in my circle / And hold him back ’cause he makes me nervous”
Released on the same day as Pusha’s Daytona, in response to “Infrared,” Drake sent some shots Push’s way, but spent most of the “Duppy Freestyle” aiming his scope at Kanye. The Toronto rap king made sure to bring up Kanye using him as a ghostwriter as well as his jealously over the late Virgil Abloh being made the new Men’s Artistic Director at Louis Vuitton.
35. DJ Quik – “Dollaz & Sense”
Released: October 15, 1994
Going at: MC Eiht
Producer: DJ Quik
Hardest line: “Givin’ your set a bad name with your misspelled name / E-I-H-T, now should I continue? / Yeah, you left out the G ’cause the G ain’t in you”
Two of the greatest and most underappreciated West Coast rappers were heavy on the beef during the ’90s. Originating from a couple of shots Quik sent Compton’s Most Wanted on his mixtape, The Red Tape, the beef quickly escalated due to the both rapper’s gang affiliations – Quik was a Blood and Eiht was a Crip. The pair would later officially squash the beef in the early 2000s, but not before Quik dropped one of the most scathing rap diss tracks in history, along with one of the most memorable lines ever.
34. Westside Connection – “King of the Hill”
Released: October 22, 1996
Going at: Cypress Hill
Hardest line: “Sen Dog you can’t rap from the guts / And B-Real soundin’ like he got baby nuts”
Dropped at the height of East Coast vs. West Coast beef, Westside Connection’s debut Bow Down had smoke for everyone, and they weren’t just limited to New York either. Whether it was Cypress Hill, Q-Tip, Common or the Mecca of hip hop, everybody was getting it. After being accused by South Gate group of stealing their ideas and dissed on “No Rest For The Wicked,” Cube replied in full force with “King of the Hill.” One of the trio, WC, decided to opt out of the beef, citing his friendship with Cypress Hill.
33. Roxanne Shante – “Roxanne’s Revenge”
Going at: UTFO
Producer: Marley Marl
Hardest line: “Tryin’ to be cute, and you’re tryin’ to be fly / Don’t you know you wish you could be my guy?”
One of the first diss tracks in hip hop history, “Roxanne’s Revenge” was a response record to UTFO’s “Roxanne, Roxanne,” orchestrated by Tyrone Williams, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl and 14-year old Roxanne Shante herself after an apparent snub by the old-school hip hop group. The track spawned the most answer records ever and made Roxanne into a star overnight with “Roxanne’s Revenge” selling over 250,000 copies in the New York area alone.
32. Nas – “Stillmatic (Freestyle)”
Going at: Jay-Z, Roc-A-Fella Records
Producer: Eric B.
Hardest line: “Rip the Freeway, shoot through Memphis with Money Bags / Stop in Philly, order cheesesteaks and eat Beans fast / And bring it back up top, remove the fake king of New York”
By 2001 the Nas vs. Jay-Z was heating up real fast. After years of subliminal disses, baby mama dramas and recording session snubs, the gloves were finally off. In response to Memphis Bleek’s little jabs on “My Mind Right,” Nas jumped on this 2001 mixtape cut and clapped back at the whole Roc-A-Fella squad, but saving the best for their boss. This freestyle would later be answered by Jay-Z on “Takeover.” More on that coming later. This was where the battle for the King of New York crown would officially begin.
31. Eminem ft. 50 Cent & Busta Rhymes – “Hail Mary”
Released: April 15, 2003
Going at: Ja Rule
Hardest line: “Bitches wearin’ rags in photos, Ja’s words bein’ quoted / In The Source, stealin’ Pac’s shit like he just wrote it”
By this time, it seemed like the whole hip hop world was against Ja Rule. The Murder Inc. artist must have felt like 2Pac in 1995, except with the music to go along with it. Not only did he have G-Unit and Shady rappers coming after him, there was also DMX and Busta Rhymes joining their side. On “Hail Mary,” Em and 50 take Pac’s words and use them against Ja Rule perfectly. There was no coming back after this for him.
30. Freddie Gibbs – “Real”
Released: March 18, 2014
Going at: Young Jeezy
Hardest line: “Seen Gucci by himself while we was 30 deep at Magic / And you didn’t bust a grape, was shook from the gate / It make it seem to me the gangsta shit you kick be fake”
An acronym for “Remember, everybody ain’t loyal,” Freddie Gibbs didn’t hold anything back on his Young Jeezy diss track. With their acrimonious split still relatively fresh on his mind, you can hear Gibbs’ resentment and frustration spill over on this track as he exposes Jeezy’s (alleged) fear to respond to Rick Ross and step to Gucci Mane at Magic City. As always with rap diss tracks, it’s the facts that hurt the most.
29. 50 Cent – “How to Rob”
Released: August 10, 1999
Going at: Wu-tang, Puffy, Mase, Foxy Brown, Kurupt, Jay-Z, Big Pun, Master P, DMX, Treach, Heavy D, Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston, Juvenile, and more.
Hardest line: “What Jigga just sold, like four mil? He got something to live for (Uh-huh) / Don’t want a nigga putting four through that Bentley Coupe door”
50 Cent is at his best when he’s backed up against the wall with no other options left. “How to Rob” was born out of a failed label deal that threatened to force the Queens rapper to go to hustling on the streets. With no other way to generate buzz for his rap career, 50 decided to get at every hip hop (and R&B) artist living it large. The diss track generated responses from the likes of Jay-Z, Big Pun, Ghostface, Raekwon, Sticky Fingaz, Kurupt and plenty more, making 50 Cent a household name overnight.
28. LL Cool J – “The Ripper Strikes Back”
Released: April 28, 1998
Going at: Canibus
Hardest line: “Ask Canibus, he ain’t understanding this / Cause ninety-nine percent of his fans don’t exist”
One of the most battle-tested rappers of all time, LL Cool J had already been through the ringer with the likes of Kool Moe Dee, Ice-T and MC Hammer before Canibus came around. Suffice to say, LL was ready for whatever the up-and-coming, hungry MC had to throw at him.
27. Kool Moe Dee – “How Ya Like Me Now”
Released: November 3, 1987
Going at: LL Cool J
Producer: Teddy Riley & Kool Moe Dee
Hardest line: “I’m bigger and better, forget about deffer”
One of the pioneering old school rappers of the late ’70s and early ’80s, Kool Moe Dee was a legend long before LL Cool J storming on the scene with his radio. So you can understand why the OG rapper felt disrespected when this young MC came around acting like he was the king of the rap game. Featured on his 1987 sophomore album, “How Ya Like Me Now” proved that not only could Moe Dee hang with the new generation of rappers, skills-wise, he could also sell records to back it up.
26. The Notorious B.I.G. – “Long Kiss Goodnight”
Released: March 25, 1997
Going at: 2Pac
Hardest line: “When my men bust, you just move with such stamina / Slugs missed ya, I ain’t mad at cha (we ain’t mad at cha)”
Puffy can deny it all he wants, but there’s no chance in hell that Biggie wasn’t talking about 2Pac on “Long Kiss Goodnight.” Even Lil’ Cease confirmed it years later. Over a haunting RZA production, Biggie goes into demon mode with some of the darkest lines he’s ever spit in his rap career.
Lil’ Cease: That was a one-nighter. That was about ’Pac. He had some shit at the beginning of that though, nobody heard it, on the reel. We had to change it. It was a little too much. I can’t remember what Big said about him, but it was terrible. It couldn’t make it. He didn’t want to do it. He had some fire. But he didn’t want to make it too much. He just wanted to address it and to let nigga know, ‘I know what’s going on, and I could get wreck if I want to.’ Like, ‘If I really wanted to get on ya niggas, I could.’Check Out How Biggie’s ‘Life After Death’ Was Made | XXL
25. LL Cool J – “To Da Break of Dawn”
Released: June 17, 1990
Going at: Kool Moe Dee, MC Hammer and Ice-T
Producer: Marley Marl
Hardest line: “I took the cover right home to the bathroom / In the immortal words of LL, “Hard as hell” / Your broad wears it well”
Featured on LL’s comeback album, Mama Said Knock You Out, the Queens veteran had a lot of get off his chest and he did a lot of talking on “To Da Break of Dawn”, where he went at Moe Dee, Hammer and Ice-T simultaneously. Not only did LL throw some vicious shots their way, the song peaked at number 17 on the Rap Chart, which most likely meant the three dissed rappers spent most of 1990 hearing it being played in the clubs.
24. Lauryn Hill – “Lost Ones”
Released: August 25, 1998
Going at: Wyclef Jean
Producer: Lauryn Hill & Vada Nobles
Hardest line: “My emancipation don’t fit your equation / I was on the humble, you on every station”
Following the split of the Fugees and the end of Lauryn Hill and Wyclef Jean’s relationship, there was a lot of bad blood in the water. Lauryn Hill took the opportunity on the first track of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill to clear the air. Not only was “Lost Ones” a memorable and vicious diss track, it was also nominated for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 41st Grammy Awards. Talk about adding salt to the wound for Wyclef.
23. Capone-N-Noreaga ft. Mobb Deep & Tragedy Khadafi – “L.A., L.A.”
Going at: Tha Dogg Pound
Producer: Marley Marl
Hardest line: “Commercial thugs try to bust gats at the livest / This life of crime only will shine real survivors / Y’all half-way niggas, I advise you not to try this”
With Biggie and Nas staying relatively quiet during the East Coast vs. West Coast beef, it was up to their wilder contemporaries, Capone-N-Noreaga and Mobb Deep, to hit the frontlines and represent for New York. Side note: the original version of this track is cool, but the Kuwait remix is 100 times better.
22. Canibus – “2nd Round K.O.”
Released: March 24, 1998
Going at: LL Cool J
Producer: Jerry Duplessis & Wyclef Jean
Hardest line: “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 niggas feel / While 99% of your fans wear high heels”
“2nd Round K.O.” might be the very pinnacle of Canibus’ unfortunate rap career. Getting Mike Tyson to jump on the track with him (which is a flex itself), Canibus proceeds to call out LL for his predominantly female fanbase, forgetting how to be a hardcore artist, pretending to be a role model, using his body to sell records and plenty more. LL would get the better of this beef later on, but at this precise moment, Canibus was riding high.
21. Kurupt – “Callin’ Out Names”
Released: November 16, 1999
Going at: DMX, Ja Rule, Irv Gotti, Foxy Brown, 50 Cent
Hardest line: “Mothafuck D, Mothafuck M, only X I know is Xzibit or RBX Extraordinary”
At first on “Callin’ Out Names” it sounds like Kurupt was reviving the East Coast vs. West Coast beef, which had settled down by now, but the L.A. rapper made sure to acknowledge New York rappers that he was cool with. As for DMX, Ja Rule, Irv Gotti and Foxy Brown, they copped most of the disses, with a jab thrown 50’s way too.
20. Pusha T ft. The-Dream – “Exodus 23:1”
Released: May 24, 2012
Going at: Birdman, Lil Wayne, Drake
Producer: Rico Beats
Hardest line: “You signed to one nigga that signed to another nigga / That’s signed to three niggas, now that’s bad luck”
The YMCMB camp should have known that Pusha T was going to be a problem when he went at the biggest rap crew in the game on his lonesome. Sampling Biggie’s infamous “What’s Beef,” Pusha makes your standard rap beef feel very real life on this track. The accompanying music video felt like a declaration of war.
19. Rick Ross ft. Drake & French Montana – “Stay Schemin”
Released: April 17, 2012
Going at: Common
Producer: The Beat Bully
Hardest line: “It bothers me when the gods get to actin’ like the broads / Guess every team doesn’t come complete with niggas like ours”
After a few years in the game with a ton of success already, Drake was starting to look like a target for a lot of rappers out here, especially with his non-confrontational image. The mistake a lot of them made was thinking the Toronto rapper was soft, but we know now that Drizzy’s got those bars when he feels like it. Drake just didn’t prove the haters wrong with his verse “Stay Schemin’,” he also dropped some of his best bars ever.
18. The Game – “300 Bars & Runnin'”
Released: March 1, 2005
Going at: G-Unit
Producer: DJ Skee
Hardest line: “When it’s beef we eat, when we hear bologna, we pop / You sell records but a G-G-G-U-not”
After a short-lived truce organised by Interscope CEO Jimmy Iovine, which also featured both 50 and Game at a press conference, it wasn’t long before the disses started flying back and forth again. While 50 and his G-Unit crew certainly sent their fair share of shots the Compton rapper’s way, “300 Bars & Runnin'” is probably the best diss track out of the whole 50 vs. Game feud.
17. Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Doggy Dogg – “Fuck wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)”
Released: May 20, 1993
Going at: Eazy-E, Tim Dog, Luke Skyywalker
Producer: Dr. Dre
Hardest line: “Used to be my homie, used to be my ace / Now I wanna slap the taste out ya mouth”
After changing the rap landscape with “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang,” Dre followed it up with “Fuck wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)” where he took the opportunity to address a few names. While Tim Dog, who previously said “Fuck Compton” and Uncle Luke copped a few shots, it was Eazy-E who bore the brunt of this classic diss track.
16. Mobb Deep – “Drop a Gem on Em”
Released: August 25, 1996
Going at: 2Pac
Hardest line: “It’s Tu-Not, knocked out the box and got rocked / Got raped on the Island, you officially got / Kick that thug shit, Vibe magazine on some love shit / Keep it real, kid, ’cause you don’t know who you fuckin’ with”
While 2Pac’s incendiary “Hit ‘Em Up” mainly target the Bad Boy crew, he also fired a couple of jabs at Mobb Deep because he felt disrespected the duo rapped “Thug life, we still livin’ it” on their 1995 album. It didn’t take long for Mobb Deep to fire back with “Drop a Gem on Em,” a scathing diss track that alleges Pac was raped while his bid in Rikers Island. Released just a few weeks before Pac was murdered in Vegas, the duo decided to pull the single off the radio out of respect for the late rapper.
15. Drake – “Back to Back”
Released: July 29, 2015
Going at: Meek Mill
Producer: Drake, 40, NAV & Daxz
Hardest line: “Yeah, trigger fingers turn to Twitter fingers / Yeah, you gettin’ bodied by a singin’ nigga / I’m not the type of nigga that’ll type to niggas / And shout to all my boss bitches wifin’ niggas”
No-one thought this was how the Drake vs. Meek Mill rap beef was going down. Upon looking back at the situation, it turned out to be one of the most mismatched battles ever. On one hand you the OVO crew who were calculated and strategic with their every move, then on the other hand you had Meek who seemed to think talking trash on Twitter was enough to win. Even if Meek Mill goes on to do some extraordinary things with his rap career, there will always be a part of hip hop who just remembers him as being bodied by the Toronto singing rapper.
14. 50 Cent – “Back Down”
Released: February 6, 2003
Going at: Ja Rule
Producer: Dr. Dre
Hardest line: “Your mami, your papi, that bitch you chasin’ / Your little dirty ass kids, I’ll fucking erase ’em”
On a list of rappers that you don’t want to beef with, 50 Cent would be at the very top. It’s not that 50 will smash with bars (like Ice Cube), or reveal some unknown secret about you (like Pusha T), it’s just that when he gets into a beef with something, it’s an all-consuming war and he won’t stop until you’re buried. “Back Down” was just one of a million shots that 50 fired at Ja Rule, and by the time he was done, Ja was as good as dead in the rap game.
13. Jadakiss – “Checkmate”
Going at: 50 Cent
Producer: The Alchemist
Hardest line: Picture ‘Kiss not come out swingin’ / It’s like going to see 50 at a show / And he don’t come out singin’ (C’mon!)
50 Cent was steamrolling through all his rap beef rivals, that is until he ran into Jadakiss. The veteran MC who came up spitting alongside Big and DMX wasn’t going to be trampled over by 50 like Ja Rule was a couple years earlier. In fact, you could make the argument that Jada was one of the few rappers who got into it with the Queens rapper and walked away relatively unscathed. “Checkmate” is vintage Jada with memorable punchlines over a gritty Alchemist production, nothing more, nothing less.
12. Boogie Down Productions – “The Bridge Is Over”
Released: March 3, 1987
Going at: Juice Crew
Producer: Ced-Gee & Boogie Down Productions
Hardest line: “Manhattan keeps on making it, Brooklyn keeps on taking it / Bronx keeps creating it and Queens keeps on faking it”
In response to MC Shan’s “Kill That Noise,” KRS-One came back with “The Bridge Is Over” and effectively won the battle with the diss track. Doubling down on his earlier attacks from “South Bronx” over a funky reggae beat, the Boogie Down MC proved that he wasn’t going to let up anytime soon. This is an all-time classic rap diss track that will live on forever in history.
11. 2Pac – “Against All Odds”
Released: September 26, 1996
Going at: Nas, Dr. Dre, Mobb Deep, Bad Boy, Q-Tip, Haitian Jack, Jimmy Henchman, Stretch
Producer: 2Pac & Hurt-M-Badd
Hardest line: “This little nigga named Nas think he live like me / Talking ’bout he left the hospital, took five like me”
The final track off Pac’s last album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, “Against All Odds” is filled with paranoia and anger. Not only did Pac go at his rap rivals like Nas and Mobb Deep, he also delved into the deep street politics that got him shot at Quad Studios in the first place. Hurt-M-Badd, the track’s producer, later told XXL that Pac wanted this track to sound like a war song.
Hurt-M-Badd: The day we made that song Tupac said “I need a war song. I wanna go to war.” He gave me an hour then came back and heard the beat, and he wanted me to add that Cameo song bassline [from “Skin I’m In”]. Once it was in ‘Pac started snapping, “This is it!” He called the Outlawz in and started reciting the hook: “This be the realest shit I ever wrote.” While ‘Pac was doing his vocals he wasn’t just recording his vocals, he was also kicking over the music stand, hitting the microphone. There was a vibe in the room. We all knew what was goin’ on. As [‘Pac] started reciting his lyrics, we was just looking at each other like, “Uh-oh, here we go again.”The Making Of Makaveli – The 7 Day Theory | XXL
10. Eazy-E ft. Gangsta Dresta and B.G. Knoccout – “Real Muthaphuckkin’ G’s”
Released: August 26, 1993
Going at: Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg
Producer: Eazy-E & Rhythm D
Hardest line: “Damn, E, they tried to fade you on Dre Day / But Dre Day only meant Eazy’s payday”
“Fuck wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)” was dope as fuck, but in my opinion, Eazy-E got the better of the beef when he dropped “Real Muthaphuckkin’ G’s.” It’s just that The Chronic blew up so much and Death Row became the new monster on the West Coast that the song got muscled off the radar.
On the diss track, Eazy exposes Dre’s switch up when it came to smoking weed, getting bossed around by Suge Knight, the album cover of the The World Class Wreckin Cru’s World Class, and best of all, the fact that he was getting paid for every copy that The Chronic sold.
9. The Notorious B.I.G. – “Kick in the Door”
Released: March 25, 1997
Going at: Nas, Jeru the Damaja, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah
Producer: DJ Premier
Hardest line: “Your reign on the top was short like leprechauns / As I crush so-called willies, thugs and rapper-dons”
By 1997, The Notorious B.I.G. was the certified King of New York, there was just no disputing it. Nas, Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep all tried to make a claim for it during the previous years, but the Bad Boy MC was such a force that he was undeniable.
As the King, Biggie received a lot of shots at the throne, including Nas’ “The Message” which was the biggest one, so he took the opportunity on “Kick in the Door” to reply to every single one of them. Over a disgusting Premo beat, which samples “I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Big made it clear to the rap world who the big dog was.
8. Common – “The Bitch in Yoo”
Going at: Westside Connection
Producer: Pete Rock
Hardest line: “Hyprocrite, I’m filling out your death certificate / Slinging bean pies and St Ide’s in the same sentence”
Hip hop fans who thought that Common was soft just because he was a conscious rapper couldn’t have been proven more wrong when he dropped “The Bitch in Yoo.” Going up against the scariest MC in the game, Common more than held his own with scathing bars that exposed Cube’s hypocrisy for glorifying alcohol as well as his history of going to the East Coast to create his debut album AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. Fortunately Common and Cube reconciled at a peace summit organised by Louis Farrakhan in 1997, because this beef could have turned ugly.
7. Pusha-T – “The Story of Adidon”
Released: May 29, 2018
Going at: Drake
Producer: No I.D.
Hardest line: “You are hiding a child, let that boy come home / Deadbeat mothafucka playin’ border patrol”
Everything about “The Story of Adidon” is just nasty. So much so that some rap fans questioned whether Pusha crossed the line with it. For the record, I thought it was a perfect diss track. After setting Drake up with “Infrared,” Pusha went for the knockout blow with this one.
Just think about the impact it had: it revealed to the world that Drake was hiding a child with a former porn star, it exposed a photo of the Toronto rapper in blackface, it destroyed his Adidas deal, it made fun of 40 having multiple sclerosis, it used the OVO signature “6” tag, I mean goddamn. Pusha is a legit savage for this one.
6. Gucci Mane – “Truth”
Released: October 17, 2012
Going at: Young Jeezy
Hardest line: “Go dig your partner up, nigga, bet he can’t say shit / And if you looking for the kid, I’ll be in Zone 6”
Speaking of rap diss tracks that crossed the line, Gucci Mane’s “Truth” aimed at his former rival Young Jeezy would rank pretty highly on that list. Over a haunting beat courtesy of Zaytoven, Guwop lays into the Snowman with a long list of laundry, including him gatecrashing Jeezy’s birthday party, the death of Pookie Loc, Keyshia Cole, and their 2005 collaboration track “So Icy.” This diss track was ice cold.
5. 2Pac ft. Outlawz – “Hit Em Up”
Released: June 4, 1996
Going at: Bad Boy, Mobb Deep, Chino XL
Producer: Johnny “J”
Hardest line: “You claim to be a player, but I fucked your wife / We bust on Bad Boys, niggas fucked for life”
The most infamous rap diss track of all time, and probably the epitome of the East Coast vs. West Coast beef in one song. There were a lot of moments and turn of events that led to this moment, from the Quad Studios shooting to Biggie dropping “Who Shot Ya?” at an awkward time to Pac going to jail for sexual abuse allegations. But once “Hit Em Up” dropped, it was on. Things escalated quickly from this moment and as a result, we lost two of our greatest rappers of all time to gun violence.
4. Jay-Z – “Takeover”
Released: September 11, 2001
Going at: Nas, Mobb Deep
Producer: Kanye West
Hardest line: “Had a spark when you started, but now, you’re just garbage / Fell from top ten to not mentioned at all / To your bodyguard’s “Oochie Wally” verse better than yours”
This is what a real MC at the top of his game sounds like. By 2001, it was clear who the King of New York was, matter fact, scratch that, who the king of rap was. After four years of reigning over hip hop while getting sniped at by a number of disgruntled rappers, Hov took to “Takeover” and addressed the main culprits.
First up was Prodigy, who never really recovered from his ballerina photo being plastered on the Summer Jam screen. Then it was Nas, who came out the gate as the best rapper alive, and slowly descended to being outrapped by his bodyguard Horse on “Oochie Wally.” With Kanye producing the stomping Doors-sampling beat, this was fight music at its purest.
3. Boogie Down Productions – “South Bronx”
Released: March 3, 1987
Going at: MC Shan, Marley Marl
Producer: Boogie Down Productions & Ced-Gee
Hardest line: “Party people in the place to be, KRS-One attacks / You got dropped off MCA ’cause the rhymes you wrote was wack”
The truth is, MC Shan never claimed that hip hop started out in Queensbridge, he was just talking about the history of hip hop in Queensbridge. And KRS-One knew that. But like they say, never let facts get in the way of a good rap beef. With “South Bronx,” the Boogie Down crew kicked off the legendary Bridge Wars that would transform him into one of the greatest rappers to ever touch a mic, and MC Shan into a punchline, at least for a couple of years. Everything that KRS has done in his rap careers starts at this very moment.
2. Nas – “Ether”
Released: December 4, 2001
Going at: Jay-Z, Roc-A-Fella
Producer: Ron Browz
Hardest line: “You ass, went from Jaz to hangin’ with Kane, to Irv, to B.I.G / And Eminem murdered you on your own shit”
One of the reasons why I see people put “Takeover” above “Ether” is they claim Hov spit a bunch of facts while Nas resorted to just insults. I disagree with that theory, so let’s break down all the facts that Nas mentions on “Ether.”
- “who’s the best, Pac, Nas and B.I.G.” – fact
- “I got this locked since ’91, I am the truest / Name a rapper that I ain’t influenced” – fact, Illmatic changed the rap game and made a lot of rappers (including Jay-Z) switch up their flow
- “With Hawaiian Sophie fame” – fact, Jay-Z came up in the game as Jaz-O’s protege and “Hawaiian Sophie” was one of the first tracks he featured on
- “When KRS already made an album called Blueprint” – fact
- “First Biggie’s your man, then you got the nerve to say / That you better than B.I.G.” – fact, Jay-Z rapped those very words on “Hola Hovito”
- “You ass, went from Jaz to hangin’ with Kane, to Irv, to B.I.G” – fact
- “Eminem murdered you on your own shit” – murdered is a strong word but I get the point, fact
- “Queens niggas run you niggas, ask Russell Simmons” – fact, Russell Simmons co-founded Def Jam
- “How much of Biggie’s rhymes is gon’ come out your fat lips?” – Hov may say it’s a tribute to his late friend, but the fact remains that he’s said an awful lot of Biggie’s rhymes over the decades
- “You pop shit, apologize, nigga, just ask Kiss” – fact, also the most hilarious line on the whole song. Jadakiss used to tell Nas that Hov would subliminally diss him on a song then send him a message to apologise afterwards.
1. Ice Cube – “No Vaseline”
Released: October 31, 1991
Going at: N.W.A., Jerry Heller
Producer: Sir Jinx, Ice Cube
Hardest line: “I started off with too much cargo / Dropped four niggas, now I’m making all the dough”
And here we are at last, the greatest rap diss track of all time. Sure, there were a lot of contenders, from “Ether” to “Takeover,” “Kick in the Door” to “The Bitch in Yoo,” but there can only be one at the top of the list and no other diss track in history deserves the spot more than Ice Cube’s “No Vaseline.”
After splitting up with N.W.A. and going off on his own, Cube stayed quiet about his former group mates on his debut. It wasn’t until they started running their mouth that he decided to clap back. Then they used they hadn’t. “No Vaseline” is the perfect diss track. It’s factual, it’s hilarious, it’s memorable, it’s got a funky ass beat, and it proved once and for all, that Ice Cube was the wrong one to ever fuck with.