I been listening to rap music for a very long time. I was introduced to it by one of my older brothers in the mid 80's. I can't exactly remember the song that initially roped me in. However, I can remember the one song that completely gained my full attention. It was Eric B. and Rakim's Paid in Full. From there, I pretty much loved the art and began exploring deeper. I enjoyed the jazz samples, boom bap beats, and poetic use of words. As my collection began to grow, I also began to love the synthesizer heavy production coming out of the West Coast.
Hip Hop music was the soundtrack for my life at one point and I mainly preferred the more conscious artists. I enjoyed the party and gangster jams as well, but the one type of song that immediately grabbed me by the neck was the diss song. For those who may not know, the diss song is when an artist verbally disrespects either another artist or an entire group. I have met many non rap fans who slammed the genre because of this claiming it to be pointless, silly, and most importantly, the only music genre where that ever existed (yeah, people really believe that). For those individuals I have news for you.
Diss records are more prominent in rap, but they have been around longer than rap because they do exist in other music genres. Diss records are as old as music itself, for example, Sweet Home Alabama performed by Lynyrd Skynyrdsees the group attacking Neil Young for his song Southern Man in which he bad mouths the south. And on his 1971 album Imagine, John Lennon recorded a harsh diss called How Do You Sleep? against his former band mate Paul McCartney after the Beatles broke up, and they would go on to feud for a few years. So yeah, it has happened outside of rap.
Diss records do exist more in hip hop, and these brutal verbal attacks can be perfectly understood. Hip hop originated from the streets, and the streets aren't exactly kind to you. It's in your face and aggressive, the same way a street cat will address you if there's some type of beef. Above all else, diss records occur mainly to see whose skills are the best, and who can rock the mic the best. You can't have two guys claiming to be the best, eventually they're going to have to battle. Now sometimes these diss records occur for other reasons, such as friends parting ways on bad terms, or in some cases theft can be at the heart of the matter. The good thing about these types of records though, more often than not they result in some very good music; songs that can and will be remembered for many years to come, a great example would be the Bridge Wars, which took place between The Juice Crew and Boogie Down Productions during the mid 80's.
The diss song in hip hop originated when the local DJ's would see who can rock the party, and the one with the best sound equipment usually won. These battles later became lyrical, when Kool Moe Dee ripped apart Busy Bee, and since then, many rappers would begin to use this as their form of attack. Although these battles can be very entertaining, it's very nice to see artist make up and move on as friends, but these battles have ended up coming off wax and going into the street resulting in lives lost.
As music fans, we always hope these things end in a peaceful manner, because in the end it's just music, and there's no real reason why dudes should be pulling out guns or throwing punches. Anyway, here goes the beginning portion of my 30 favorite diss tracks ever recorded. But since I titled this piece as the foreword, you're going to see the songs that didn't make the cut first. They're labeled as either Cast-Off's or Honorable Mentions. For the record, cast-offs are not necessarily wack. They just didn't come off as proper disses to me despite them being very popular to the masses. Honorable mentions are hot tracks, but they may be lacking in some way. I'll go into my criteria on what I consider a great diss.
The Way I look At The Diss Record
Call me ol' school or whatever. I think a great diss combines superb lyricism, witty punchlines, and factual information. Now a bad ass beat or making me laugh only adds more browny points. The latter must be considered, because it's double the ass-kicking when the artist starts snapping on them on top of lyrically roasting them. Historical impact and the damage done will rank the diss very high on my list. Also, how often these songs get spins out of me play a role. Whether the diss is subliminal or not isn't ALWAYS a factor, but there are occasions when I think it's necessary that the listener knows who's being bagged. A lackluster or poor diss, is when an artist results to petty personal attacks, little to no creativity in their lyricism, and if they have their homies, they better do a helluva lot more then sound redundant by reiterating the same points over and over.
I won't only list the songs, but I'll also provide a reason for how I feel and whatever bit of back ground on the beef/battle I know of. I will add noteworthy lyrics to the main list and title them as lyrical beat-down. As a final note, this is just my personal opinion as a hip hop fan. None of this is written in stone, it's all on how one sees it.
50 Cent - How to Rob (Dissing Big Pun, Jay-Z, Missy Elliot, Rae & Ghost Face Killah, and others)
When 50 came on to the rap scene he wanted to grab everyone's attention, and he did it by dissing as many well known artist as possible. Despite the track being very damn funny, with lines like, I'll rob Pun without a gun snatch his piece then run / This nigga weigh 400 pounds, how he gon catch me son?... Run up on Timberland and Missy w/the pound / Like you gimme the cash and u put the hot dog down. It just doesn't qualify as a diss. It's a comedy track and nothing more.
Westside Connection (Ice Cube & Mack-10) – King of the Hill (Dissing Cypress Hill)
I'm in the minority here. But seriously it's the beat everyone is crazy about with this, and I'll admit that the production is off the hook. But the lyrics for the most part are trash though. This is not the same Ice Cube who dismantled a crew. The diss is limited to lots of personal attacks, weak lyrics, and one shitty feature being Mack-10 who didn't bring anything worthwhile. Despite a bit of funny shit here, this was not a good answer back at all." Listen to "No Vaseline" Before you flex again." That's what Ice Cube should of done before putting this out.
Another very weak diss that still has me scratching my head. This was LL's answer back to Canibus who served him up well done. LL starts out very good giving the young buck a lesson, then he simply loses himself to self-praise and the diss goes to hell from there. Ignore Kay-Slay throwing out there LL was too much for Canibus because it's not true. And the Canibus-man would return later to rip Mr. Smith to one of his own classics, dealing LL one big L.
Now, this song isn't the least bit wack. In fact, this track is fiyah and it's a ruthless lyrical smashing. The problem? Not at all that the song is a subliminal diss, but the song was recorded AFTER 2Pac was killed. When you listen to the adlibs, and B.I.G. mentioning that his enemy is already dead, you have no choice but to believe it was 2Pac he was talking about. To make it worse, B.I.G. denied it was a diss, Puffy denied it for years it was diss, and it wasn't until 2003 I believe, when Lil' Cease, a former Junior Mafia affiliate mentioned in XXL that it was in fact a 2Pac diss. B.I.G. is among my favorite emcees ever, but that was a punk move.
2Pac - Hit'em Up (Dissing Notorious B.I.G., Lil' Kim, Junior Mafia, Puff Daddy, and Mobb Deep)
Definitely in the minority here, in fact, 2Pac fans will say I have no credibility. Like I would actually care. Yeah, Pac slept with B.I.G's wife and tossed their own hook back at them. However, the problem with this song is definitely Pac's homies the Outlawz, they aren't just wack here, but they make the song so redundant by going back to points Pac already made. It's also said that Pac comes off like a kid with a tantrum here, when compared to his later diss Against All Odds, yeah, I can agree with that.
This occurred early in the 80's when 14 year old Shante Gooden took on the character of Roxanne Shante, and played the girl in the song Roxanne, Roxanne by U.T.F.O., thus stealing the song from them, and eating off of it herself. The initial song featured a girl named Roxanne that didn't respond to U.T.F.O.'s advances. Roxanne Shante's version of the song explained why Roxanne didn't respond, and at the same time diss the group, which resulted in them responding to her scathing song. This song would play as the precursor to the Roxanne Wars, which saw dissing on record reaching new heights. The song is definitely worth noting as a vital piece to hip hop history because you may never see anything like that again, personally, I always found Shante's younger voice to be pretty annoying. It's a good song, but definitely not a favorite.
Here's a beef that pretty much feels meaningless now. MC Lyte, one of the best females to ever pick up the mic went after MC Antoinette for apparently biting the beat to Audio Two's song Top Billing, for one of her own songs. Audio Two happens to be Lyte's brothers, and that alone was enough to smash her, and smash her she did creating memorable lines along the way, which will be bitten, "Beat biter! Dope style taker! Tell you to your face you ain't nuttin but a faker!" . Dope song, but since biting occurs so damn much in this day and age, it's hard to justify this battle now.
50 Cent - Back Down (Dissing Ja Rule & Murda Inc.)
People will quickly tell you 50 ended Ja Rule's career but I don't see that. It was the trend hopping fans who did it; they decided to jump on the next hot thing and that's it. In any case, 50 decided to attack Ja Rule and his whole camp as fake gangsters, since Ja had begun to do many duets and pretty much behaving like a pop star, putting out a Grease video of all things. There are definitely some vicious bars here, with 50 even going after Ja's kids. The reason this isn't a favorite is because everything 50 criticized Ja for can also be said about him.
Not sure how this beef occurred, I can only assume that this is just a retaliation for the many jabs 50 had taken at the Wu Tang Clan years before. The production sounds pretty tired, and even GZA sounds as if he shouldn't even be bothered with 50. But he gets on him anyway by attacking his gangster image and pointing out he's over-rated.
Kurupt was no stranger to attacking the East Coast, and since this diss occurred shortly after the East Coast/West Coast beef, Kurupt clearly didn't get over the battle rah-rah. He uses a lot of these dudes for target practice with some witty disses: "Mothafuck D...Mothafuck M / Only X I know is Xzibit or RBX... Def Squad and Def Jam but fuck Ja Rule / Irv Gotti I can't wait for Raekwon to break fool / Tryin' to sign Daz nigga, Daz will sign you!" Unfortunately he doesn't finish as strong as he started by concluding with typical tough guy talk.
This is one beef I been pretty upset about because it doesn't get any coverage, in fact, the Beef DVD's never mentioned anything about it even though it could have gotten violent. Anyway, this started when MC Eiht began to diss Quik over and over again, with another entry to his Def Wish series, because Quik released a tape and didn't give any props to Eiht, while he mentioned other West Coast artist. Eventually Quik buried Eiht 7 feet deep with this song, using these damaging bars against him, "Tell me why you act so scary? / Giving 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!" Battle over.
I'm not a fan of Cam'Ron and never have been, but I will say that he's one of my favorite battle rappers because he can be hilarious. Case in point, rapping over Eminem's Stan instrumental, he takes on another Harlem-ite named Stan Spit, and he completely erases him from the rap game destroying what little credibility he had, by playing on his name Stan likening him to Eminem's fictional Stan character, plus going off about his girl cheating on him. To my knowledge, Stan Spit has been M.I.A. since like 2002 or so. Some people claim that a rapper cannot end another rapper's career, well, as far as I know it happened right here.
This shit is hard right here. This is what King of the Hill should of sound like; banging G-Funk production with the lyrical finesse to match it. Kam is one of Cube's cousin's and he was a member of Cube's protege group Da Lench Mob. They apparently had a fall out and Kam got at him with this track here. It doesn't match anything Cypress Hill dropped, but it's head bobbin' and only solidifies some of the points made about Cube before. At some point prior to this, Kam and Cube got into a fight during a traffic dispute, and Kam knocked him out and took his chain. He gave it to B-Real of Cypress Hill during their beef, and they took pictures with it.
Yep, Cam makes another return here with another tight diss, this time, to his former boss Jay-Z. When Rocafella split up Dame and Jay went their seperate ways and Cam went with Dame. One thing about Cam, he almost always delivers with bangin' production, and over a very catchy beat and chorus; he snaps on Jay-Z's looks, goes after Beyonce, and goes into him stealing Rocafella records: Who can fuck with me? / No mammal, but we tote handles / Atcha open toe sandals, and you look like Joe Camel. I'm seriously thinking about adding this to my main list because this track has comedy gold in it.
This is a track I would have loved to add as a favorite. Unfortunately, as tight as it is production and lyric wise, it's too subliminal to add. Now, this may seem like a contradiction because my final list will have subliminal disses, but when looking at how vocal 2Pac was in his initial diss, Mobb Deep really should have said his name. I mean after all, this was 2Pac, he called everyone by name. There were too many things they mentioned that only the most hardcore hip hopper at that time would have known about; such as the rumor about Pac being beaten up and raped on the Island. There are many fans today who refuse to believe this is even a Pac diss, and it's hard to blame them.
OK, this wraps up the diss songs that could have made it, and the small batch that had no chance in making it. My final list will be broken up into 3 more parts and some of the battles you will recognize, while others will probably be new to you. Those who know me well may already know what most of the disses may be, but go ahead and guess my top 5, see how close you are.
Hope those who actually read this enjoyed it, and I think it's going to get a little better after this.