Did these classic diss records slide under your radar?
Everyone knows the classic rap disses and favorite beef throughout the years. There are endless documentaries, YouTube aficionados, website lists, even books dedicated to hip-hop's legendary feuds. But sometimes you get bored of hearing about the same handful of overanalyzed records. Songs like “Ether,” “South Bronx,” “Hit Em Up,” “No Vaseline” and the like are old news at this point. Lt’s talk about some of the forgotten classics, unsung but no less infamous.
We’ve compiled twenty records from the 80s to this year where rappers brought their A-Game against a variety of foes, ranging from the obscure, the iconic, and in some cases entire communities. Whether it's the golden age of New York, the West Coast or the Dirty South, we’ve compiled a starter kit of the forgotten, but endlessly entertaining diss records of all time.
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Poet ft Noel Rockwell - Beat You Down (KRS-One Diss)
KRS-One’s tracks against The Juice Crew and MC Shan are probably close to, if not the, most foundational diss records in rap history. However, dozens of unsung records were released in response. Poet, later to be known as Blaq Poet, dropped one of those very records. A Queensbridge native who was never formally connected to the Juice Crew, Poet opted to take a stand and defend his borough from KRS-One's attacks.
Though only 17 at the time, Poet’s response was notably violent compared to the more lyrically-focused exchanges going on between KRS and Shan. After his follow-up shots at KRS only yielded brief subliminal responses in return, Poet eventually abandoned the battle to continue his aspiring career. Now, at the age of 50 with stints in the groups PHD and Screwball in his repertoire, Poet’s hard-nosed style sounds like he’s still ready to battle anyone, anytime.
Mobbstyle - Gangsta Shit (N.W.A Diss)
The Harlem group Mobbstyle is best known for featuring Azie Faison, a former member of the Paid In Full Posse criminal enterprise. Rumor has it they were also involved in multiple incidents threatening Ice Cube and N.W.A, who were attempting to perform at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem. While these allegations remain an urban legend, their credibility was certainly assisted by the number of diss records that emerged from Mobstyle via Azie and Pretty Tone Capone, which in turn earned a response from Eazy on “Real N*ggaz”.
There’s a number of records to select (including the many cartoonishly vulgar 91-92 era Capone joints that clearly pave the way for his "sons" Ghostface Killah and Cam’ron) but it’s best to start with the first and most direct salvo. “Gangsta Shit” is one of the earliest examples of East Coast gangster rap, and perhaps the first taste of the infamous East/West Beef that would eventually sweep the nation five years later.
Willie D - Fuck The KKK (Ku Klux Klan Diss)
While many rappers can claim to have invoked the ire of law enforcement, government agencies, and even the occasional Presidents, few have deliberately made themselves targets of one of the most insidious white supremacist organizations in America. Enter none other than Mr. “Controversy” himself, Willie D of the Geto Boys.
An easy highlight of his solo debut, Willie D decided to take on the entire Ku Klux Klan in addition to pretty much any racist he might one day face, with the aptly titled "Fuck The KKK." As political as it is boisterous, only someone like Willie D could take such a noble stance and make it sound like another of his numerous flexes. Still, it's not often you get to hear diss records aimed not only at such a vile, and unanimously dislikeable source.
Luke w/ Poison Clan & Bustdown - Pussy Ass Kid and Hoe Ass Play (Kid & Play Diss)
Kid & Play are best known for their signature dance and the movie House Party. Luke Skyywalker is best known for being a member of the 2 Live Crew. These two were obviously meant to be kept far away from one another but for some reason, beef emerged between the squeaky clean teens and the man considered too smutty for the mainstream.
Assisted by his proteges JT Money from Poison Clan and Bustdown, Luke and his cohorts ridiculed the pop rappers for trying to cozy up to them privately while simultaneously dissing their lewd behavior in interviewers. It’s a straightforward swipe and didn’t result in a longstanding feud, but it’s ultimately an amusing conflict between two acts that have been abandoned by the passage of time.
Tim Dog - Fuck Compton (N.W.A. & The Entire City Of Compton)
An affiliate of the group Ultramagnetic MCs, the late Timothy “Tim Dog” Blair was a fan favorite known for his goony, muscular delivery. In many ways the B-Legit to Kool Keith’s E-40, Tim would eventually get his own solo release by capitalizing on the growing animosity in NYC over N.W.A.’s "beloved" status in the rap game. Over a classic Ced Gee beat, Tim mocks Dr. Dre’s girlfriend Michel’le’s high-pitched speaking voice, derides Dre for an incident where he assaulted a female journalist, acting as belligerent as possible.
This ultimately led to him being referenced on Dr. Dre’s “Dre Day” by Snoop Dogg alongside Luke from 2 Live Crew and (ironically enough) Eazy E. While little else from Tim earned much notoriety, he still remained a beloved member of the Kool Keith troupe, appearing on several records and live engagements until his mysterious death in 2013. And despite being a relatively obscure rapper in the long run, “Fuck Compton” remains his biggest record, a relatively well-regarded footnote in the history of rap.
Kokane - Don’t Bite The Phunk (ft. Cold 187um) (Dr. Dre Diss)
There were many reasons for the remaining artists on Ruthless Records to feel some kind of way about Dr. Dre. The Doc's debut album being dedicated to sonning their label head was one thing, but for the members of Above the Law, it was particularly personal. The reason being that they felt slighted after Dre was credited with "inventing G-Funk," when they’d already been exploring the sound on tracks such as “Black Superman."
While plenty of diss record aficionados love Eazy E's retaliatory shot at Dre, Kokane and 187um's “Don’t Bite The Phunk” avoids the weird hypermasculinity of “Real Muthaphukkin Gz” in favor of constantly pulling Dre’s card. Between 187’s rough flow and Kokane’s elastic slippery style, the duo delivers a diss record that’s as nice as a groove as it is a shot between former labelmates and collaborators. It should be noted that Kokane and Cold 187um would later collaborate with Dre once again, on 2001 and Compton respectively.
Lil Troy - Dem N***as (ft. Ardis) (Mike D of S.U.C. Diss)
Best known for his hit single “Wanna Be A Baller,” Texas rap veteran Lil’ Troy’s debut album rarely comes up as one of the stronger records in the early Houston Rap scene. Perhaps it's because Troy used most of his album to take shots at Rap-A-Lot CEO and current-day rap bogeyman J Prince, among other people. But the most amusing track on the album might be “Dem N***as,” where he mocks Mike D of the Screwed Up Click.
Alongside fellow Texas rapper Ardis, Lil Troy recounts a time where he allegedly kidnapped Mike and locked him in the trunk of his car. It’s hard to determine if the rumors are true. Still, audio exists of the commander in chief of the Click, Screw himself, taunting the hell out of an audibly irritated Mike D while fellow member Lil Keke busts out laughing in the background. It's but one gem on a record full of subliminal shots, a forgotten classic of early southern rap.
UNLV - Drag Em "N" The River (Mystikal Diss)
Long before the likes of Lil Wayne, Juvenile and the many others who made Cash Money one of the most prestigious rap labels in America came along, there was a small New Orleans indie label trying to serve both the local rap scene and the "bounce" genre. At that time, one of the biggest rising stars out of Louisiana was a pre-No Limit Mystikal, who irked the ire of the "Bounce" camp after he loudly declared he was "Never Gonna Bounce" on singles like “Y’all Ain’t Ready.”
Bounce mainstays UNLV decided to retaliate with “Drag Em To The River,” a song that straddled the line between party record and lyrical diss. Mystikal didn’t respond until his No Limit phase, and by that point UNLV were falling by the wayside with Cash Money obtaining Juvenile and plotting out their world takeover with the Hot Boyz. Still it’s a minor classic for the city itself, an example of how sometimes the best way to make sure a diss record has the biggest impact is to make it the kind of record people will engage with regardless of its brutal nature.
Kam & DJ Pooh - Whoop Whoop (Ice Cube Diss)
Arguably one of the masters of the diss record, Ice Cube made no shortage of enemies during his rise. One such foe was his cousin Kam, a leaner and sterner version of Cube with a deep baritone voice and a militant edge thanks to his background in the Nation of Islam. Kam would introduce and convert Cube to N.O.I and even helped with writing for Cube before the duo eventually fell out for a period. And of course, during that period, Kam would air out his grievances with the gangster rap pioneer on the single “Whoop Whoop," produced by fellow Cube affiliate DJ Pooh.
Perhaps one of the most danceable diss records of all time, Kam snarls about Cube playing a persona and provides a shopping list of personal anecdotes in order to expose the rapper. Later, Kam would also briefly be involved in the dispute between Ice Cube’s Westside Connection and fellow L.A. Group Cypress Hill, but the relatives would finally come to terms and squash their beef years down the road.
E-40 - Record Haters (AZ & Rasheed Wallace Diss)
Rappers get dissed on wax all the time, but the number of star athletes is few and far between. Rarer still is the occasion where both are targets, but that’s how Mr. Flamboyant decided to open his third studio album Tha Hall of Game. E-40’s unorthodox style had already been given a few dismissive remarks from the likes of Biggie (which almost led to violence) and others, but for some reason, it was a recently drafted Rasheed Wallace and Nas affiliate AZ mocking him that really stuck in the rapper’s craw.
Opening with a skit mocking Wallace, Earl ridiculed his detractors while running down his credentials as a national underground icon. It’s one of the more bizarre diss records, less obsessed its targets and more invested in E-40 getting himself over at the expense of both a player and a rapper who ultimately never did as much for their respective crafts as him. Also, it features perhaps the most bizarre Kool Keith shout out ever recorded by anyone other than Princess Superstar.
Playa Fly - Triple Bitch Mafia (Three Six Mafia Diss)
One of the mainstays of classic Memphis Rap, Playa Fly is unfortunately one of many who fell out with DJ Paul and Juicy J and would subsequently get kicked out of Three Six Mafia, despite appearing on many of their pre-debut underground recordings. And like plenty of Memphis’ rap scene, he aired out his many grievances on wax against his former comrades.
A murky proto-crunk banger, “Triple Bitch Mafia” features Fly's laconic drawl and sidewinder flows tearing down each member of his ex-group with menacing threats. Even now, Fly remains one of the legends of Memphis and the South in general, with the likes of Gucci Mane and Yelawolf still paying tribute to him. Still, it feels like a shame that given Three Six’s incredibly fraught history, they never could make peace with one of the greatest rappers to ever be counted among their ranks.
Nore - Halfway Thugs Pt. 2 (Tragedy Khadafi Diss)
In recent interviews, N.O.R.E. has been fairly open about initially feeling resistance from his mentor Tragedy Khadafi. The former Juice Crew member helped bring him and Capone to the forefront of the Queensbridge Rap scene, but according to N.O.R.E, many of his individual decisions and choices would often get undermined by Khadafi. Perhaps it was because he was from Lefrak, unlike the rest of the scene. Perhaps it was due to his unorthodox flow that bore little resemblance to Tragedy and his many disciples. In any case, it was years before we finally heard N.O.R.E. lash out at Tragedy on wax, one of the rare cases of the student ethering the master.
A rarely cerebral performance from N.O.R.E, the rapper picked apart every aspect of Tragedy from his age, his "de-volution" from a conscious rapper who preached pro-black and Islamic themed messages to making gangster raps, his diet, you name it. The duo have since buried the hatchet, leaving behind the worrisome evidence of what happens when you push a generally congenial but nonetheless crafty rapper like N.O.R.E. over the line.
Queen Latifah - Name Callin Pt. 2 (Foxy Brown Diss)
Despite being one of the pioneers for women in the rap game, Queen Latifah might not garner the respect she deserves. Admittedly, after her first few albums, Latifah opted to focus her career more in the direction of acting and entrepreneurship; her resume includes a number of iconic movies and TV performances, managing Outkast early in their career, and many other highlights. However, anyone who might’ve thought Latifah’s rap skills were collecting dust probably got a rude wake up call when she unleashed the freestyle “Name Callin Pt. 2” on the younger Foxy Brown.
On the original “Name Callin,” Foxy was rumored to be among one of the targets addressed on the record, leading to them exchanging words frequently on and off wax. After Foxy insinuated Latifah was both jealous and secretly attracted to her, “Name Callin Pt. 2” was unleashed, with the “Ladies First” rapper sounding less like a movie star and more like a battle rapper’s worst nightmare.
Cam’ron - Hate Me Now (Nas Diss)
Following his intense feud with Jay-Z, which led to him getting barred from the Hot 97 Summer Jam stage, Nas was arguably at his most "extreme." Case in point, he decided to call out almost half the rap game during a radio interview, including then Roc-A-Fella affiliate Cam’ron. Of course, little did Nas realize that Cam’ron was only beginning to ascend to his full potential as the head honcho of the Diplomats, and the infamously erratic Nas would make a perfect target for Cam’s vicious humor and even more vicious wordplay.
On the now-classic Diplomats Vol. 2 mixtape, Cam dedicated a number of tracks to bullying Nas, a star-making moment for friend Jim Jones who constantly bellowed threats at the Queens rapper threatening to "smack the kufi" off him and labeling him a hermaphrodite. Cam’s “Hate Me Now” remix, where he took Nas’ single and dedicated it to assailing his character, might be the peak of the vulgarity as Cam threatens to "R Kelly" his daughter among other measures of disrespect. Though it didn’t have the impact of a “Takeover” or even a “Supa Ugly," it’s most certainly a reminder never to mess with one of Harlem’s greatest.
Pastor Troy - No More Play in GA (Master P Diss)
Plenty rappers have actually begun their careers with a diss record, though few could claim to have started entire sub-genres with their actions. One of those rare few is Pastor Troy, arguably the godfather of the Crunk movement in Atlanta. Long before his star ascended nationally on records with Lil Jon, Pastor Troy first gained attention with “No More Play in GA," a terse and tense record aimed at Master P and his then-declining No Limit Records.
Admittedly more of a way to attract attention than truly settle any dispute, Troy offered a brief declaration of war to a P impersonator before offering all the lyrical fire and brimstone one could ask for. Eventually Troy would continue to get involved in industry beef, and while “No Mo Play In GA” would boost him and the Atlanta branch of the crunk movement onto the national level, it wasn't enough to keep his career afloat in the long term.
50 Cent - Not Rich, Still Lying (Game Diss)
Not naming 50 Cent in a list of rappers making diss records would feel like a slight. Of course, the trick is to avoid going after the obvious ones and dig out one of the deep cuts. Specifically “Not Rich, Still Lying,” one of the stranger disses to emerge from a man who once harassed someone during their own press conference and made a whole cartoon series to defame another rapper’s character.
Produced by 50’s then-partner Sha Money XL, “Not Rich, Still Lying” sounds like a full-fledged game show where Game comes up the loser. 50 alternates between a cartoonish impression of the L.A. rapper making himself sound pathetic with admissions to all sorts of allusions to failures both personal and musical. It’s absurdly unhinged, but perhaps one of the funniest diss records of all time courtesy of the most self-satisfied bully the rap game has ever known.
Gucci Mane - 7:45 (Jeezy & Jay-Z Diss)
One could argue that the feud between Jeezy and Gucci Mane is what made the latter become a star outside of Atlanta in the first place. When the conflict over ownership for the single “Icy” turned violent, it became grounds for a blackballing that stonewalled Gucci’s career for years. And while Gucci’s grind didn’t stop he didn’t exactly deal with the situation with stoicism.
A number of Gucci and Jeezy back and forths persisted over the years, with a few even making Jeezy’s old boss Jay-Z into a target. “7:45” was an essential cut off Gucci’s now-classic Chicken Talk mixtape, where Guwop threatened to get very reckless with the former head of Def Jam Records. Recently Jay and Gucci have met and even posed for photos together, so clearly any hostility is long gone - though it's doubtful that Gucci and Jeezy will ever reach a civil state.
Too Short - Where You At (Messy Marv Diss)
If you’re relatively familiar with Bay Area history, there’s a good chance you know about Messy Marv. This is a man who, while a veteran in the game, has never met a bridge he couldn’t or wouldn’t burn. Insinuating that at least half the rap game in that section of California has had some sort of beef with him at one time isn’t slander as much as it might be an underestimation. Perhaps one of the funniest moments is when he decided to go after the more respected and storied Too Short, and Mr. Todd Shaw saw fit to blast back and effortlessly devastate "The Girl Girl Young Mess."
Given the relatively unstable nature of the Bay Area Veteran, calling out his inconsistencies is practically a cakewalk, and Short fired off his salvo with his usual effortless air. For those curious, Marv himself is also implicated in causing the friction between fellow Bay rappers Mozzy and Philthy Rich, which makes perfect sense if you know even half the sort of drama this man gets into. But more on that later.
Lil B - T-Shirt and Buddens (Joe Budden Diss)
Would it surprise anyone that two of the biggest controversy magnets in the rap game's last decade, Joe Budden and Lil B The Based God, got into a beef over social media? Still in the early stages of his lightning rod status, Lil B was rambling about a future post-racial humankind known as the "Greys" which somehow caught the eye of the cynical Budden, who swiftly descended upon B’s utopian fantasies. The exchange grew undeniably catty, but lead to one of the cult classics of the Lil B discography as he hurriedly prepared a diss record to retaliate against the formidable budden Budden.
“T-Shirt And Buddens,” sounding like a deep-fried Nahright record, is basically a whirlwind of ridicule and punchlines showing B at his most "real hip-hop." Once the situation calmed with time, Brandon retracted the diss so the battle remained relatively one-sided. But Budden himself complimented the rapper having clearly underestimated his capabilities, and it became one of the routine "go-tos" for fans converting skeptics to Lil B's hip-hop capabilities.
Philthy Rich - Troublesome 59 (Mozzy Diss)
Easily the most recent battle covered in this list, watching Philthy Rich and his former comrade Mozzy fall out has been equally fascinating and disappointing. When the duo of Livewire affiliates began rising, it was refreshing to know Bay Area street rap was not only alive and well after the loss of The Jacka, but was actually managing to break across the US. Unfortunately, thanks to growing egos and the illogical decision to give the aforementioned trouble magnet Messy Marv a deal (whom Philthy had already had issues with in the past), Mozzy and his former partner soon found themselves at odds.
Over the year, the duo has exchanged a number of disses with no clear winner. Perhaps the nastiest of them, “Troublesome 59," features Philthy going extra hard on exposing his former running buddy. Given the tendency for danger to befall Philthy’s rivals in the past, one hopes that both of them keep this one on wax. But more importantly, we hope that these two can peace their situation out and maybe even reunite in the future, simply for the benefit of the Bay and hip-hop in general.