Beef is back. A quarter-century after Compton’s finest N.W.A imploded, and close to twenty years after Biggie and Tupac’s feud engulfed entire coastal regions, this summer’s biggest story has undoubtedly been the ongoing spat between Drake and Meek Mill – described as the first rap beef of the social media age.
The two rappers had previously collaborated together, with Drake dropping a guest verse on Meek Mill’s “Amen” back in 2012 and, more recently, on “R.I.C.O.,” from Meek’s recent album Dreams Worth More Than Money. Presumably, the pair was tight. So when Meek took to Twitter to question Drizzy’s authenticity and accuse the Toronto native of not writing his own rhymes, the dispute quickly escalated, sparking a storm of
Internet memes from both stars’ fans and a couple of back-and-forth diss tracks.
Sure, battling and beefing has been part of Hip Hop’s fabric ever since Kool Moe Dee stepped to Busy Bee at Harlem World in ‘81. But when it involves former friends turning against each other, the disses – whether aired out on wax or, as is more common these days, on social media – often carry an extra edge.
So in light of the as-yet-unresolved Drake-Meek Mill spat, the ongoing love (or, rather, hate) triangle between Lil’ Wayne, Young Thug and Birdman, and the forthcoming release of Straight Outta Compton, the movie biopic of N.W.A, who acrimoniously split in 1991, here are several high-profile rap relationships that turned sour.
In the ‘80s, hip-hop feuds comprised largely of battle raps focused on accusations of biting (be it rhymes or beats), falling off, and whether someone’s girl was a skeezer or a ho. But N.W.A’s break-up – which began with Ice Cube’s departure and was sealed by Dr Dre’s exit – brought a harder, meaner edge to rap rivalries. The former friends fell out amid accusations that Ruthless Records boss and N.W.A founder Eazy-E and group manager Jerry Heller were short-changing both Cube and Dre – the crew’s standout talents – on royalties. Flashpoints included the altercation between N.W.A affiliates Above The Law and Cube’s crew Da Lench Mob at the 1990 New Music Seminar in New York; the scene in 1991’s Boyz N The Hood where Doughboy (played by Cube) serves a beatdown to a crackhead sporting a ‘We Want Eazy’ shirt; Suge Knight’s, er, ‘persuasive’ negotiating techniques which secured Dre’s release from Ruthless; and Eazy’s E’s It’s On (Dr Dre) 187um Killa EP, in which the pint-sized villain poked fun at some old photos of Dre in sequins and satin. When Eazy was diagnosed with an AIDS-related illness in 1995, the former foes buried the hatchet just before he passed away.
The rivalry brought a flurry of verbal buck shots from all directions. Choice cuts include N.W.A’s ‘Real Niggaz’, Ice Cube’s ‘No Vaseline’, Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg’s ‘Fuck Wit’ Dre Day’ and Eazy-E’s ‘Real Muthaphuckkin’ Gs’.
YOUTUBE: Eazy-E disses Dr Dre on Yo! MTV Raps
TUPAC AND THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.
A.K.A. The Most Infamous Feud In Hip Hop History. There’s not much to say about this beef that hasn’t been written, discussed and debated countless times before in numerous books, documentaries and movies. A bitter rivalry that drew in record label politics (who can forget Suge Knight’s barb at P. Diddy and Bad Boy at the 1995 Source Awards?), territorial conflict (the beef served as a proxy battle for the broader East Coast/West Coast divide engulfing rap at the time), old school accusations of rhyme biting (Tupac alleged BIG ripped off his rap style early on), and even adultery (Tupac claimed he’d slept with Faith Evan’s, Biggie’s then-wife). But the pair had started out on good terms: their now legendary live freestyle, performed at a Big Daddy Kane concert in 1993 along with Shyheim The Rugged Child, Scoob Lover and DJ Mister Cee, came about when Biggie brought Tupac to the event. Yet in light of their respective murders, which both remain unsolved, the feud remains a cautionary tale in the rap-dis canon.
Biggie Smalls may have had the more dynamic flow and intricate wordplay, but it’s ‘Pac’s 1996 single ‘Hit ‘Em Up’ – a venomous attack on a sprawling number of targets including B.I.G., P. Diddy, Lil’ Kim, Junior M.A.F.I.A. and Mobb Deep – that still hits hardest.
YOUTUBE: Biggie and 2Pac freestyling
LIL’ WAYNE, YOUNG THUG AND BIRDMAN
As with so many previous Hip Hop fallouts, the ongoing Lil’ Wayne-Birdman spat stems from a murky mix of record label drama and disputes over royalties, with street politics swiftly brought into the equation. After Cash Money boss Birdman put Lil’ Wayne’s The Carter V album on ice indefinitely, the latter took to Twitter to demand a release from the label. Tensions escalated further when Weezy filed a $51 million lawsuit against his former friend, and Birdman countered with his own action against Wayne and the Tidal music streaming servce. Meanwhile, with Lil’ Wayne remaining locked in label limbo, Young Thug seemingly thumbed his nose at Weezy with the release of Barter 6 earlier this year. Then, after Lil’ Wayne’s tour bus was shot up in Atlanta in April this year, an indictment issued last month sensationally named the alleged shooter Jimmy Winfrey as an associate of Young Thug and Birdman.
The most acrimonious beef of recent times has seen Lil’ Wayne take a series of swipes against both Thugger and Birdman on mixtape tracks, on social media and at his shows. Meanwhile, Young Thug unloaded at Lil’ Wayne on ‘Can’t Tell’, from his Barter 6 album.
YOUTUBE: Lil’ Wayne and Birdman club altercation
50 CENT AND THE GAME
Though never long-term friends, 50 Cent and The Game had at least been collaborators and label mates, and were seemingly on good terms when they first paired up for the latter’s The Documentary album in 2005. Backed by the production nous of Dr Dre and the major label clout of the Interscope/Aftermath behemoth, the partnership looked set to be formidable alliance. But when Fif’ very publicly revoked the Compton rapper’s G-Unit pass live on Hot 97, a shootout in front of the radio station’s studios between the two camps later that night began a near-decade long feud – outlasting even the infamous seven-year spat between west-siders MC Eiht and DJ Quik. Even as recently as May this year, drama addict 50 revisited the rivalry, reaffirming previous claims he was the real mastermind behind Game’s debut, and ensuring he remains firmly off the Compton rapper’s Christmas card list for the foreseeable future.
As well as those quite-literal shots at the now-notorious Hot 97 altercation, Game exploded with ‘300 Bars And Runnin’ and his G-Unot campaign, while 50 Cent dropped a handful of diss tracks, including the Game parody ‘Not Rich And Still Lyin’’.
YOUTUBE: The Game address the 50 Cent beef on Larry King Now
Despite dropping a string of strong albums and classic singles, relations between high school friends Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith had cooled by the time their fourth LP, 1992’s ‘Business Never Personal’ dropped. Accusations over financial impropriety had often loomed in the background, but when an armed intruder at Smith’s house alleged he’d been sent by Sermon, the duo was done. Though no charges were ever filed, EPMD’s split also ruptured its extended Hit Squad crew, as Das EFX sided with Parish, while E-Double and Redman formed the Def Squad with Keith Murray. EPMD later squashed the beef and reunited in 1997.
Parrish’s 1994 solo shot ‘Shade Business’ carries a couple of down-low barbs at his former partner-in-rhyme: “Can’t even sample, nigga, claimin’ to make trunks rump” is a caustic criticism of E-Double’s bass-heavy funk-fuelled production. Meanwhile, Books from Das EFX offers are more direct shot on ‘Here They Cum’: “Oh my God, it’s the Squad/Or should I say, what’s left/Just let me kick the shit and we will see who’s really Def…”
YOUTUBE: The Hit Squad in happier times on Yo! MTV Raps
NAS AND CORMEGA
“What up with Cormega?” went Nas’s now-famous shout-out to his Queensbridge comrade on lockdown in the 1994 single ‘One Love’. The pair, who had been pals since they were kids growing up in those infamous QB streets, later formed The Firm, alongside Brooklynites AZ and Foxy Brown. But when Nas and manager Steve Stoute expelled ‘Mega from the group in 1996, replacing him with Nature, it sparked a long and bitter feud that was the talk of Queensbridge – a district no stranger to beef ever since those heady days of the BDP conflict with MC Shan. Cormega – who first appeared as MC Cor on Hot Day’s It’s My Turn LP in 1989 – later squashed the beef with Nas in 2006.
After his split from The Firm, Cormega hit his former friend with a rapid-fire round of disses in the form of ‘Poetry’, ‘Fuck Nas & Nature’, ‘A Slick Response’ and ‘Realmatic’. Meanwhile, on ‘Destroy and Rebuild’, Nas had a pop at ‘Mega’s unsuccessful deal with Def Jam.
YOUTUBE: Nas and Cormega freestyle prior to falling out