As the latest flurry of shots ring out, we take a look at the decades long feud between Shady and Nick Cannon.
When it comes to hip-hop beef, the catalyst can come in many forms. For the most part, it’s due to a slight on one rapper’s character, wealth or artistic acumen that will set things ablaze. In its most acidic form, threats of violence can breed a whole host of chaos and in the worst-case scenario, ends in bloodshed. Sometimes, though, the beef isn’t sought out by one party but rather, inherited.
A hip-hop cold war that has its roots in an entirely different decade, this feud lay dormant for many years, before suddenly erupting in a fresh plume of provocations. In the time since the battle lines were drawn, Nick Cannon enjoyed 8 years of marriage to Mariah and has since been divorced for a further three.
On Em’s side, he’s released five studio albums, relaunched his label as Shady 2.0, parted ways with both Slaughterhouse and Yelawolf and then rebuilt a new stable featuring Boogie and Griselda. Yet, the wounds between the two continue to fester, eventually resulting in #Nickcannonisdead trending for much of Tuesday after his second diss track/guerrilla Wild ‘N’ Out promotional video “Pray For Him” was met with widespread revulsion.
First brought back to the terrain of bars during Eminem’s guest verse from Fat Joe and Dre’s "Lord Above," the Terror Squad leader’s pre-release disclaimer that Shady was primed to deliver “the most disrespectful song” may have been vague, but Em would waste little time in dispensing with formalities:
“I know me and Mariah didn't end on a high note, but that other dude's whipped, that pussy got him neutered. Tried to tell him this chick's a nutjob 'fore he got his jewels clipped, almost got my caboose kicked.”
That cumbersome thing we call pride soon coaxed Cannon into the booth to extend “The Invitation” Em’s way with the assistance of Suge Knight and from there, all bets were off. Now reaching a boiling point once more, it seems only right that we take a trip down memory lane to not only look at the roots of this admittedly lopsided beef, but what it took for it to resurface.
Mariah Carey, 2002 - Mark Mainz/Getty Images
To fully comprehend what’s at play here, we need to head back to a simpler time where a 22-year-old Cannon was readying his self-titled debut on Jive and starring alongside Zoe Saldana in marching-band coming-of-age movie Drumline.
First alluded to way back on The Eminem Show’s 2002 slow jam pastiche “Superman,” Shady set the rumour mill abuzz as he jibed "What, you tryin' to be my new wife? What, you Mariah? Fly through twice."
Em clarified things during a Rolling Stone interview that July:
"There’s truth to that," Shady affirmed. "I don’t want to say anything disrespectful because I respect her as a singer, but on the whole personal level, I’m not really feeling it. I just don’t like her as a person. I gotta be honest; I learned a lesson from it: Don’t believe the hype. I have respect for her, but she doesn’t really have it all together. I’ll just say that and that she’s a beautiful woman."
Delivered in Shady’s uniquely cutting style, he and his team must’ve anticipated a response. Sure enough, her side of the story came during a December 2002 visit to Larry King, in which she stated:
"I hung out with him, I spoke to him on the phone. I think I was probably with him a total of four times," she told the CNN host. "And I don’t consider that dating somebody."
Distinctly diplomatic, things would take a turn for the spiteful on Mariah’s end as her Charmbracelet tour pulled into LA. During a segment dubbed “The Marionette Show,” a puppet with a Detroit Pistons jersey and blonde hair could be seen making advances towards the R&B starlet during “Clown,” only for them to be spurned every time.
Nursing his own penchant for dramatic stage craft, Em would take things from implied to overt when he shared what were alleged to be private voicemails from her during his 2005 “Anger Management” tour: "I heard you were getting back with your ex-wife. Why won’t you see me? Why won’t you call me? You’re not calling me." Unsurprisingly, Mariah was said to be a bit perturbed by Em’s decision to air private correspondence to arena-sized audience. Then, save for a few bars on "Jimmy Crack Corn," things subsided, allowing both artists to get on with their respective lives and career.
Or at least until 2009 came around. Situated on Em’s most opinion-dividing, accent-laden record, Relapse, the news of Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon’s nuptials had Shady feeling some type of way and resulted in the following diatribe on “Bagpipes From Baghdad.”
“I ain't playin' no fuckin' more. Nick Cannon, you prick, I wish you luck with the fuckin' whore. Every minute there's a sucker born, snuck up on Malachai, made the motherfucker suck on a shuck of corn."
Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey in Paris, 2008 - Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images
Most artists would’ve backed down in fear of further confrontation. Unfazed, Mariah; in her own unique way, opted to go for the jugular, laying down the first and only “diss track” of her career and bolstering it with a surreal video.
Hinging on the concept of Marshall Mathers as “Obsessed” with her, Mariah did her utmost to paint Eminem as a “delusional” stalker that was irrationally fixated on the singer, claiming “last man on the earth, still couldn't get this.” Its video showed a man in a goatee and sweat pants, relentlessly pursuing Mariah at every turn and took the puppet concept from years earlier to new, more derogatory heights.
For a brief moment, it seemed as though the fearsome Shady had been bested at his own game by a pop star. However, those that knew his vitriolic capabilities knew that vengeance would be swift and, most likely, intensify matters.
Directly enquiring if “that’s supposed to be me with the goatee?”, July 2009’s “The Warning” saw Em dispense with humour in favour of an authoritative tone, inferring there’d be serious, and widely publicized, repercussions if they didn’t back down. Based around the winning combination of a venomous Shady and a Dr. Dre beat, Em recounted their past liaisons in explicit detail before threatening to pull out the receipts:
"Wow Mariah, didn't expect you to go balls out. Bitch, shut the fuck up 'fore I put all them phone calls out, you made to my house when you was wildin' out before Nick, When you was on my dick and give you something to smile about. How many times you fly to my house, still tryin to count better shut your lyin' mouth if you don't want Nick findin' out."
Bristling with the fury that only Shady can bring, this official caution was heeded in the short term. Then, not content to let his wife handle it, Nick Cannon mounted up and officially placed himself in the firing line. Interpolating “Teach Me How To Dougie” for good measure, Cannon would return in his typically whimsical fashion on 2010’s “I’m A Slick Rick.” Aping the style and delivery of the eyepatch-sporting, transatlantic storyteller, he fired off some preamble on the first verse before getting to the crux of the matter in less family friendly fashion than we’re used to:
"Dunno if I should hit him cuz he’s feminine, Slick. Excuse me, Eminem, but why you lyin' on your dick? Erectile dysfunction, you want to get a lump, then… I see your mouth moving, but you're soft, Teddy Ruxpin. I tried to holla at you at the B.E.T show, but you was scared out of trouble. More security than the pope, while you was in your bubble I was rolling dolo."
Willing to concede to HipHopDX that he was one of Em’s biggest fans, Nick’s logic ultimately came down to “when another man crosses a line of disrespect, you just gotta deal with it. However you want to deal with it, we gon’ deal with it.”
In the wake of the middling response to Nick’s attack, Em seemed to call a halt to all the tension during a 2010 Vibe Magazine interview. When asked about the ongoing beef, Em declared that his comments on Recovery’s “Cold Wind Blows”—“take a look at Mariah next time I inspire you to write a song”-- would be his final word on the matter.
"I don’t want to keep beating a dead horse. I’m not even going to comment about it. I’m done with that whole situation. I said what I had to say. I’m done."
True to his word, it was all one-way traffic from there, with Cannon occasionally popping up to offer Em airtime on “Wild N Out” before he’d offer Em $100,000 to battle him at The BET Awards during a 2016 interview with Tim Westwood. Told in no uncertain terms that it’d be “horrible” for him by the British DJ, Cannon claimed that he’d “do it like Mortal Kombat. I’ll battle all of Slaughterhouse to get to the boss.”
After that, civility reigned as the newly single Cannon went about his life and Eminem carried on unimpeded. Until one fateful day in September 2019 were the floodgates were re-opened.
As the backlash to Revivalhas taught us, Eminem has more of a cognizance of internet chatter than we’d once presumed. So, naturally, after Nick discussed the issue on T.I.’s Expeditiously Podcast, word got back to Em’s camp. A decade removed from first marrying Mariah; Nick explained that it was his husbandly mechanism that brought him into the fight.
"I think we was flying back on a jet from Africa or somewhere and this motherfucker drops a song, like, talking shit. Calling her all kinds of bitches and hoes," detailed Cannon. "I'm like, this is my wife. This is my new wife. I wrote a letter first; I don't even know if Twitter had come out yet. So, I wrote this long-ass letter pretty much saying, look, I respect you as an artist. I'm actually a fan and I think you're one of the best to ever do it. But from man to man, you talking out of pocket to my wife. You gotta be held accountable for that so I need to see you face-to-face."
Going on to declare that Em is "not the sort of person that look like he really want smoke," Cannon then went as far to claim that he "went looking for him. If I need to get on the phone, if I need to come to Detroit. Because you done disrespected my wife, and I need to show her I’m a man." Concluding with, "I know that I’m not going to be able to out-rap you, but I will whoop your ass," this rehashing of the beef was enough for Em to take it out of cold storage and utter Nick’s name on a track once more.
Between social media and YouTube downvotes already declaring Shady the victor and everyone from 50 to Joyner Lucas discussing their willingness to go to bat for Em, it’ll be very intriguing to see whether Cannon backs down, or continues to milk this moment for all its visible worth and media attention.