Out of every musical genre that exists, Hip-Hop is the only one that embraces beefs. Because beefs are almost always resolved with a rap battle. Whether on wax or live freestyle, rap battles are a lyrical sparring between two parties that showcases their talent, prowess, courage, and strength in the heat of the moment.
One can compare the hip-hop world to the Game of Thrones. With all of the anger, backstabbing, and taking sides, it makes you wonder who will survive this week? But no matter how vicious, and scathing the rhymes are, many of our favorite emcees survived and became better artists after a battle. Here is what you can learn from Hip-Hop’s Top Five Beefs.
#5 - KRS-One vs MC Shan – The Bridge Wars
In the mid-80s, the golden era of Hip-Hop, KRS-One’s Boogie Down Productions and MC Shan’s Juice Crew had a bitter disagreement about where the origins of hip-hop began. Shan and Juice Crew claimed Queens while KRS and BDP touted Bronx. The conflict resulted to The Bridge Wars where definitive diss tracks were born such as Shan’s “The Bridge” and KRS-One’s’ “South Bronx” and “The Bridge Is Over”.
30 years later the two emcees are still battling. Though KRS-One retired from the beef, Shan revived it due to the emotional trauma he suffered after the Wars. During a phone interview in 2016, Shan voiced that the bridge wars never happened and dissed KRS-One in a 3-minute freestyle rap. Of course KRS-One retaliated with “Still Huggin’ a Nut”.
LESSON: Though the origins of Hip-Hop was never resolved, The Bridge Wars rap battles pushed the hip hop culture into new boundaries, giving it a voice, a face, and even a name.
#4 - Common vs Westside Connection - Conscious Rap vs Gangsta Perspective
In 1994, frustrated about the state of hip-hop, specifically gangsta rap, Common released "I Used to Love H.E.R." This upset Ice Cube and West Side Connection so they released "Westside Slaughterhouse." Common came back with the classic "The Bitch in Yoo."
Both lyricists ended their feud when they released the collaboration “Real People.” Common even starred in Barbershop: The Next Cut.
LESSON: this beef allowed hip-hop fans to make distinctions between “conscious rap” and “gangsta rap.” Without a Common or an Ice Cube, we probably wouldn’t have the Kendrick Lamars and J Coles making their mark in the world.
#3 – Eazy-E vs DR DRE – Former Bandmate Rivalry
Not to long after Ice Cube left NWA, and sliced up his former crew members up with No Vaseline, NWA split. Major tension between Dr. Dre and Eazy-E led to Dre’s special little ode to Eazy E with "Dre Day”! Eazy-E tussled back with "Real Mutha-Fuckin' Gs." where he insulted both Dre and Snoop, and tried to revoke their hood passes.
The beef took place for several years, and ended when Eazy-E died due to complications from HIV.
LESSON: This beef gave hip-hop fans a shoe in on the fragility of working and personal relationships and the impact that it can have on a musician’s career.
#2 - Jay Z vs Nas – Title for King of New York
It is unclear why the Jay-Z and Nas beef began in the first place. The lyrical spar happened at a time when people questioned Nas and his place as leading hip-hop artist. After the two exchanged subliminal disses on mixtapes and freestyles, they made their battle public with songs like ‘Takeover’ and ‘Ether.’ But it was an unlikely person who ended the beef: Jay-Z’s mom. After the release of “Supa Ugly” where the revealed that he was sleeping with Nas’s ex, Carmen Bryan and left “condoms on the baby seat”, his mother scolded him. Jay publicly apologized on national radio.
The two emcees reconciled their differences and have collaborated on projects and deals since then.
LESSON: This proves that if one succeeds, a rap battle can pump life back into a stagnant career.
#1 - Tupac vs Biggie – East Coat –West Coast Rivalry
The battle between Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. sparked East Coast vs West Coast rivalry that made its mark as one of most historical rap beefs of all time.
After the release of Biggie’s "Who Shot Ya?” Shakur believed it to be a diss track that made light of him being robbed and shot 5 times in New York. He then released tracks such as "Against All Odds", "Bomb First (My Second Reply)" and "Hit 'Em Up" to express his outrage towards Biggie and the entire Bad Boy record label. Though Biggie, never outright retaliated, it was said that only he fought back with subliminal disses.
Unfortunately, what is known as THE historic rap beef of all time led to the violent deaths of both rappers; ironically, both in drive by shootings. Until this day both cases are being investigated to confirm know if both deaths are in relation to the costal rap rivalry or gang related activity.
LESSON: This bicoastal beef foreshadowed the potential outcome of a rap beef gone too far. The hip hop community has since made more efforts to keep their rap beefs on wax even though their punchlines might throw some pretty vicious blows.