In most other genres, you don’t typically hear a song aimed at another artist as part of a feud that can sometimes turn violent. In hip-hop, though, there’s seemingly a new diss track released every day, especially in the YouTube/SoundCloud era of rap. Though most of these diss tracks have been between rappers you may have never heard of or end up being weak, there are some that have become legendary.
To truly establish yourself as one of the best names in rap history, you have to come out on top in a diss track back-and-forth. Let’s take a look at the five greatest diss tracks in rap history, all of which come from rappers who are routinely in the top five of all time for a lot of people.
“Killshot” by Eminem
Eminem is one of those rappers that you really don’t want to come after, and that dates back to his underground days in Detroit. Colson “Machine Gun Kelly” Baker knows that all too well, and his beef with Slim Shady goes back for years. After making a comment about his daughter Hailie, Eminem shunned MGK for years, and MGK’s response was to create a diss track with Tech N9ne called “No Reason”, which was followed up by “Rap Devil”.
Eminem had had enough and decided to release “Killshot” less than two weeks after “Rap Devil” was released. The track immediately went viral and almost everyone agreed that Eminem won the war. This included remarking on the exposure that MGK received because of their feud. “It’s your moment, this is it, as big as you’re gonna get, so enjoy it,” Eminem said. “Had to give you a career to destroy it.”
“Takeover” by Jay-Z
Jay-Z and Nas are two titans of the hip-hop genre, but there have been many instances of the two being at odds with each other. Jay-Z recorded “Takeover” as part of his 2001 album “The Blueprint”. Jay-Z wrote the song with Kanye West, with West also producing. “Takeover” not only takes aim at Nas, but also Mobb Deep rapper Prodigy, but it’s Nas that gets the most focus.
Jay-Z says that Nas only has a hit album every decade and that he hasn’t been able to recapture the magic of his debut album “Illmatic”. Jay-Z also says that Nas exaggerated his background to gain more street cred. “Takeover” ended up being a huge hit and was immediately considered an all-time Jay-Z classic while sparking one of the most-talked-about rap feuds.
“Ether” by Nas
Of course, Nas wasn’t going to listen to “Takeover” without forming a response of his own. Less than three months after “Takeover” was released, “Ether” was released as part of Nas’s “Stillmatic” album. “I was told a long time ago, ghosts and spirits don’t like the fumes from ether,” Nas said of the track’s name. “And I just wanted to affect him with my weapon and get to his soul.”
Just like Jay-Z did to him, Nas comes after Jay-Z’s background, saying that he runs and hides from his issues while asking for help. “What’s sad is I love you ’cause you’re my brother,” Nas said. “You traded your soul for riches.” Perhaps the worst diss was that he called out Jay-Z’s appearance and the only reason he was able to attract women like Beyonce or Foxy Brown was because of his money.
“No Vaseline” by Ice Cube
There’s no denying the impact that N.W.A. had on the hip-hop genre as the group kicked off the era of gangsta rap in the late 1980s and into the early 1990s. Ice Cube left the group because he felt that he wasn’t getting the proper cut for his work, and that includes producer Jerry Heller as one of the targets. With that, “No Vaseline” was released in 1991 from Ice Cube’s “Death Certificate” album.
Nobody was safe from Ice Cube’s ire, and it perhaps led to the full disbandment of N.W.A. Dr. Dre left shortly thereafter and embarked on a successful solo career, including his own diss track of former N.W.A. member Eazy-E.
“Hit ‘Em Up” by Tupac Shakur
The most notable hip-hop feud of all time has to be between the late rappers Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. The West Coast-East Coast battle had been intense by the mid 1990s, and Tupac had the best diss track from the era with the release of “Hit ‘Em Up”, a single that was released in June 1996.
Tupac has a different kind of fire under his feet when performing this song and really went in on Biggie from the very first line. The diss track was prompted by Biggie’s release of “Who Shot Ya?” and it felt more personal than almost any other rap song.