Is there anything better than beef of the diss track, #shotsfired variety? I’m talking about a good old, knockdown, drag-out musical fight among some our fave artists. If nothing else, it allows musicians to flex their creative chops a little bit while providing fodder for endless fan analysis.
Traditionally, hip-hop has taken the lead in the lyrical beatdowns but don’t sleep on the pop stars. They know how to snatch a few wigs too. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just some of the most memorable diss tracks that deserve multiple flame emojis. We’re still trying to recover. Hey, not everyone can be BFFs.
15. “Cry Me A River” — Justin Timberlake
In the late ’90s and early 2000s, Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears were the original #couplegoals. The *NSYNC-er and pop princess were arguably the hottest couple in music. I mean how can we forget those iconic matching denim outfits? So it was quite the OMG-moment when the former Mouseketeers said bye, bye, bye in 2002. Rumor had it that Spears had cheated with her choreographer Wade Robson. Say it ain’t so Brit!
The plot thickened when JT released “Cry Me a River” from his debut solo album, along with a video featuring a Spears lookalike. The track told a tawdry tale of infidelity seemingly confirming the affair and ruining any chance of a reunion.
Shots Fired: You don’t have to say, what you did / I already know, I found out from him /Now there’s just no chance / With you and me /There’ll never be / Don’t it make you sad about it?
14. “The Warning” — Eminem
What do you get when you mix the queen of shade with Slim Shady? One of the most unexpected beefs of all time. Pop diva Mariah Carey loves a hip-hop collab so it was no surprise when she tapped Eminem to drop a verse on her album Charmbracelet. While the track never materialized, the two reportedly engaged in a short-lived relationship. Em confirmed as much in a 2002 Rolling Stone interview saying, “There’s truth to that. But on the whole personal level, I’m not really feeling it. I just don’t like her as a person.” Ouch.
Mimi dismissed it as a sweet, sweet fantasy before changing her tune. After trading a few barbs over the years, Carey went for the jugular in 2009’s “Obsessed,” painting the rapper as a stalker. The slight prompted “The Warning,” a scathing diss track from Eminem providing a graphic account of their alleged tryst along with threats of photo and audio proof. The songbird has been silent ever since.
Shots Fired: But if I’m embarrassing me I’m embarrassing you / And don’t you dare say it isn’t true / As long as that song’s gettin’ airplay I’m dissin’ you / I’m a hair away from getting carried away and getting sued
13. “Back To Back” — Drake
It was the tweet read round the world: “Stop comparing Drake to me too… He don’t write his own raps!” Philly rapper Meek Mill took aim at Canada, and October’s, very own Drake, accusing him of using a ghostwriter after Champagne Papi failed to promote Mill’s Dreams Worth More Than Money album. Not only was Drake besties with Meek’s then-girlfriend Nicki Minaj, the artist formerly known as Wheelchair Jimmy had publicly supported Mill during one of his prison stints. Awkward. Drizzy responded with the 1-2 punch of “Charged Up” and the banger “Back to Back.” We’re guessing he penned them both.
Shots Fired: Is that a world tour or your girl’s tour? / I know that you gotta be a thug for her / This ain’t what she meant when she told you to open up more
12. “Lost Ones” — Lauryn Hill
The Fugees set the music world on fire when they dropped their debut album The Score in 1996. Another album later they disbanded. Members Wyclef Jean, Pras Michel, and Lauryn Hill all went on to release solo projects, with the latter’s Miseducation of Lauryn Hill gaining classic status. We didn’t know of Hill’s affair with the then-married Jean at the time and the subsequent fall-out, but now that the cat’s out of the bag it’s given new meaning to “Lost Ones.”
Shots Fired: It’s funny how money change a situation/Miscommunication leads to complication/My emancipation don’t fit your equation
11. “Shether” — Remy Ma
After a decade of trading jabs, the feud between MC’s Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma hit boiling point when Remy unleashed “ShETHER.” Using the audio from Nas’ JAY-Z diss and a clever play on the original’s title, Remy absolutely savages Minaj. The track references a supposed dalliance with the self-proclaimed Mr-steal-yo’-girl Trey Songz, an inability to succeed without the ghostwriting of ex Safaree, and the implants which have long made Minaj the butt of jokes. Pun totally intended. In a more sobering moment, Remy also touches on the troubles of Minaj’s brother, who has since been convicted of child molestation.
Shots Fired: And I got a few words for the moms of the young Barbz / Guess who supports a child molester? Nicki Minaj
10. “The Sauce”/”Nail In The Coffin” — Eminem
You know how we talk about people being canceled? Well back in the day, Eminem did just that to former media executive Raymond “Benzino” Scott. His publication, The Source, used to be the authority on all things hip-hop but seemed to have it in for the Detroit MC when they grossly underrated his magnum opus The Marshall Mathers LP and Benzino himself hurled a slew of racially charged personal attacks. Fed up, the legendary lyricist did what he does best: roasted him and the mag on the mic via “Nail in the Coffin” and “The Sauce.” The Source lost credibility and its co-owners fell into financial ruin. Benzino is now barely a Love and Hip-Hop footnote, having been bumped for ‘Stebbie’ and Jocelyn. Life comes at you fast.
Shots Fired: What you know about being bullied over half your life / Oh that’s right / You should know what that’s like / You’re half white
9. “Idfwu”/”No More Interviews” — Big Sean
Detroit rapper Big Sean and former Glee star Naya Rivera met in the Twitter streets and got engaged a mere six months later. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Not only did Rivera repurpose their original wedding date to marry longtime friend Ryan Dorsey, she accused him of cheating on her with Ariana Grande. Sean fired back at his ex in not just one but two diss tracks: “I Don’t F**k with You” and “No More Interviews.” To be fair, Sean did go on to date Grande, so there’s that. Rivera should have seen it coming since she once helped the rapper go in on all his exes in 2013’s “Sorry.” You know what they say about karma.
Shots Fired: I learned when people lie on you not to return the favor so / I won’t get you embarrassed / I won’t tell them all the other parts about you that’s plastic
8. “I Don’T Give A” — Madonna
Madonna is pop royalty. So it was only fitting that she married producer Guy Richie in 2000 at Scotland’s Skibo Castle. The fairytale ended when the queen of reinvention filed for divorce in 2008. The British tabloids, not exactly known for their restraint, speculated wildly about what might have gone wrong. Madge herself opened the floodgates, with an assist from Nicki Minaj, on 2012’s “I Don’t Give A” from her album MDNA, sharing her regret over not signing a prenup and lamenting custody issues.
Shots Fired: I tried to be a good girl / I tried to be your wife / diminished myself & I swallowed my light
7. “Hollaback Girl” — Gwen Stefani
It’s rare that anyone has anything negative to say about pop rocker Gwen Stefani. Enter Courtney Love. In an interview with Seventeen magazine, the former Hole frontwoman said, “I’m not interested in being Gwen Stefani. She’s the cheerleader, and I’m out in the smoker shed.” This jab is said to have inspired 2005’s “Hollaback Girl,” which went on to become a smash hit and remains the No Doubt singer’s most recognizable solo single. The song even garnered a Record of the Year nom at the 2006 Grammys. Looks like Gwen bested C. Love in this battle.
Shots Fired: Both of us wanna be the winner, but there can only be one / So I’m gonna fight, gonna give it my all / Gonna make you fall, gonna sock it to ya / That’s right, I’m the last one standing, and another one bites the dust
6. “Roman’S Revenge” — Nicki Minaj
Lil Kim is widely considered the Queen of Rap. I guess no one told Nicki Minaj, who came for the Queen Bee in 2010’s “Roman’s Revenge.” At the root of this shade-fest are comments Lil Kim made claiming that Minaj had been jacking her style and not paid homage to the legends who paved the way for her. Aided by rap legend Eminem, who knows a thing or two about a good diss track, Minaj went off on Kim using manic alter-ego Roman Zolanski as her mouthpiece. If nothing else, at least it got us talking about female MC’s. That has to count for something, right?
Shots Fired: Yeah, I said it, has-been, hang it up, flat screen
5. “Back Down” — 50 Cent
Queens rappers 50 Cent and Ja Rule have a long, complicated history of dragging each other over the years. We’re not even certain what the fallout originated from. The stories range from misplaced blame for stolen jewelry to a supposed fight. At some point, the beef turned to literal blows in a violent encounter in Atlanta. But it was Fiddy who delivered the ultimate knockout punch on 2003’s “Back Down,” effectively ending what had once been a thriving career as a bonafide hitmaker. We miss you Ja.
Shots Fired: You’s a Pop Tart, sweetheart, you soft in the middle / I eat ya for breakfast
4. “Takeover” — Jay-Z
There was no love lost between JAY-Z and Nas as the two battled it out for New York MC supremacy. But what had remained a mostly underground power struggle finally bubbled up to the surface in 2001 when JAY-Z publicly called out “God’s Son” at Hot 97’s Summer Jam saying, “Ask Nas he don’t want it with HOV.” That was only the precursor to Hov’s pièce de résistance “The Takeover.” The track also took shots at Mobb Deep’s Prodigy (RIP) but Nas was clearly the primary target.
Shots Fired: 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
3. “Ether” — Nas
I want to thank JAY-Z for firing the first salvo in his beef with Nas because without it we may not have been blessed with the instant classic “Ether.” You know that whole haters are just closet fans thing? Yup. Nas went there. And other places NSFW. How powerful and savage was this response? Ether is now a part of everyday lexicon as a verb. So if you’re ever the focal point of a vicious verbal attack, you’ve officially been ethered. Doesn’t get any more baller than that.
Shots Fired: You ass, went from Jaz to hangin’ with Kane / To Irv, to B.I.G. – and Eminem murdered you on your own sh*t
2. “Bad Blood” — Taylor Swift
Country-crooner-turned-pop-princess Taylor Swift has long been known to put her former boyfriends on blast, but this time she turned her ire towards longtime frenemy Katy Perry. Where do I begin with this one? The dramz reportedly started when some of the back-up dancers from Swift’s Red tour left to join Perry’s Prism. There’s also the fact that Perry went on to date Swift’s ex John Mayer, for which “Dear John” was penned. To escalate matters, Perry essentially called Swift a mean girl when she subtweeted her saying, “Regina George in sheep’s clothing.” “Bad blood” indeed.
Shots Fired: Did you think we’d be fine? Still got scars on my back from your knife / So don’t think it’s in the past, these kind of wounds they last and they last
1. “Hit ‘Em Up” — Tupac
The bad blood between East and West coast rap was at its peak when LA representative Tupac launched “Hit ‘Em Up” in 1996 at his former friend, New York’s the Notorious B.I.G. Let’s just say the tune did nothing to help bi-coastal relations. Tupac left no stone unturned in this verbal warfare, picking on Notorious B.I.G’s physique, crew, and alluding to sexual relations with his wife all against the backdrop of Biggie’s own flow. SAVAGE. Unfortunately, when the dust settled, two of the greatest hip hop artists of all time would wind up murdered months apart. It was a sober reminder that sometimes it’s not all fun and games.
Shots Fired: The whole song tbh