DAR Hip Hop: Rating 6 Legendary Hip Hop Beefs

By @TrueGodImmortal

In hip hop, beef is second nature. It happens so often, so quick, and so frequent, that at times, you don't even know what to expect. When two rappers manage to go at one another for lyrical supremacy, for the most part, it turns out well for the fans. While that hasn't been the case so much in recent years, in the past, hip hop beef was something to look forward to and enjoy on wax. With that being said, today, I wanted to look back at a few legendary hip hop beefs and rate them. Now, when I say rate them, it is impossible to truly rank beefs from best to worst, but I will rate them in terms of quality, from a lyrical standpoint, intensity standpoint, importance standpoint, and the power of the diss tracks themselves. With all of that combined, they will get a final rating from 1 to 10. So, which legendary beefs are an actual 10? Which beef falls short in retrospect? Let's take a look.

*50 Cent vs Ja Rule

-With Ja Rule and 50 Cent both being from Queens, it seemed as if their beef could spill over beyond the normal style of how artists handled issues between each other. Since the death of Biggie and Pac, rappers had mostly just took a few shots on wax, made ideal threats and left it at that. In the case of Ja Rule vs 50 Cent, that would be partially how it went, but there was a different element to it that makes it such an iconic, though mostly one sided beef. The story goes, Ja was robbed by someone that 50 was cool with and from there, a domino effect occurred. Ja would act differently towards 50, 50 would respond accordingly, and the beef was on. I think, and I could be wrong, that Ja was beginning to feel himself a little too much, and for some reason, that never sits well with someone that is under you in terms of stature and status. So, maybe, 50 wanted to humble Ja, or in reality, maybe Ja just let his feelings get the best of him and started his own demise? The truth is, both are probably accurate. 50 and Ja would have several encounters in person with the rumor being that 50 punched Ja a few times and Ja responded with a baseball bat, and then of course, there is the Hit Factory situation, which actually didn't feature Ja. 50 and Ja took shots at each other, most notably with 50 hitting him with the classic diss "Your Life's On The Line", and basically calling out Ja for being a fraud. Their beef would die down a little due to 50 being shot and forced to recover, but when it comes to a beef like this one, some things don't ever die. 50 and Ja would rekindle their beef mostly due to the belief that as 50 was rising up in stature with the G-Unit mixtapes that he would become an issue. There are reports that 50 was being blackballed in the industry and as soon as he was getting meetings with labels with interest, Irv Gotti and company were going around telling people not to sign him or deal with him. Of course, 50 would overcome that, sign with Eminem and Dr. Dre, and the rest is history. 50 would rise through the ranks and hit Ja and his crew with a number of disses, each one stronger than the last. Ja would get some shots in, but his best work came against Eminem and not 50. Regardless, there are countless classic disses but perhaps the most notable is "Back Down", which was almost like the nail in the coffin in this beef. 50 won by a wide margin, Ja was never the same, and a perfect storm that was brewing arrived and changed the game.  This is easily one of the greatest beefs for what it meant and delivered. Notice we didn't mean "Clap Back" here as a highlight. You shouldn't either. That is all.
Rating: 9/10

*Dr. Dre vs Eazy E

-I remember this beef playing out as a very young child. I didn't know much about it, I would just hear my uncles discussing it, as they were huge N.W.A fans. While the beef itself sent waves through the hip hop community, the diss tracks themselves definitely could have been a little better, but that's strictly from a lyrical perspective. Hip hop at that time was mostly disses fueled by insults against your sexuality, manhood, and life, but in the most immature way possible. I'm not saying that it is a bad thing, because I'm all for it, I'm just saying the disses here were pretty much an extended version of "hey, fuck you, you fruity bitch nigga, if I see you I'm slapping the shit out of you", and at the time, that energy was exactly what hip hop needed. Aggression is the key to beef in music and both Dre and Eazy came with it, even if it wasn't always believable. Regardless, despite that tidbit, the breakup of N.W.A. was one that really rocked hip hop, mostly because how could you have a N.W.A. without Dr. Dre the producer and Ice Cube, the lead writer? Well, MC Ren could pick up the pieces writing wise, but Dre was a pivotal part. Add to the fact that Eazy chose Jerry Heller over Dre, who was the producer and a longtime friend, and this beef was more personal than just business. After the lawsuit and the ensuing nonsense followed, Dre and Eazy sent shots to each other with two of their most infamous disses "Fuck With Dre Day" and "Real Muthaphuckkin Gs", both of which are regarded as important and impactful disses. It is hard to say who had the better diss and honestly, there is no real winner to this beef because Eazy would end up going on to sell records, sign Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, before his sad passing, but the beef between Death Row and Ruthless seemed to wage on for years after the initial battle between Eazy and Dre. Rumors say Eazy and Dre squashed their issues before Eazy passed, but that didn't stop the artists they were associated with from throwing shots. While the disses left a lot to be desired musically, there is no denying that this was a monumental beef that we felt the effects of for years to come. RIP Eazy.
Rating: 8/10

*Jay-Z vs Nas

-I mean, obviously right? This was obvious as a choice for the legendary beefs because there is quite possibly no beef more legendary than this one. It wasn't always the most direct beef, as shots persisted for years before they actually got into the back and forth, but how could anyone deny the coming of age within this beef for both men. Jay was taking shots left and right from lesser MCs, but had never matched up with someone who could really go toe to toe with him. Nas, who wasn't known much for his beefing in hip hop, was virtually quiet during this time in hip hop. After a small shot from Nas towards Memphis Bleek following Bleek throwing a dart his way, Jay would up the ante at Summer Jam by dissing Prodigy and Nas at the same time. From that moment, the actual beef was born. While most of what consists of the beef is rooted in the Takeover and Ether, the truth is, the best part of this entire beef musically came before and after those two iconic records. For Nas, it was the "Stillmatic Freestyle" that stands as his most scathing diss, as he takes shots at Memphis Bleek, Freeway, and Beanie Sigel while dismantling Jay in a near three minute lyrical fest over a classic instrumental. For Jay, his best moment came on the Blueprint 2 title track, which wasn't entirely about Nas, but does feature some solid shots at him and also belittled his brother Jungle. So, throughout this beef, we got "Stillmatic Freestyle", "Takeover", "Ether", "Super Ugly", "U Wanna Be Me", "Blueprint 2", and "Last Real Nigga Alive", and I'm probably missing a few tracks here as well. The point is, Jay vs Nas was the most productive and probably the most well known beef of the genre besides Pac vs Big, and at least these two actually went back and forth lyrically sparring to outdo the other. While a large number of Jay fans will want you to believe Jay won this because of what the fallout was, from a diss record and lyrical standpoint, Nas edged this one. Ether was criticized for not being accurate entirely, but neither was Takeover, so that argument is always pointless. Nas won this beef, but it was such a great moment for both Jay and Nas in terms of legacy that it is widely remembered as a win for both parties.... even if it shouldn't be.
Rating: 10/10

*Jadakiss vs Beanie Sigel

-I think this is the greatest hip hop beef of all time from a lyrical standpoint and that's over Nas and Jay. For one, the anger and issues felt real. Two rappers who seemingly had respect for each other would soon develop a disdain and the cause is really unknown. That disdain would result in a few small shots thrown back and forth between the two, with DMX getting involved and basically egging Jay-Z to get involved as well. After a diss track with Jada and DMX came out, the beef was officially on and things got heated. Beans would drop freestyles on stage dissing Jada, Jada would respond back, but the main diss tracks that are remembered came during a pivotal time in hip hop. With Jada dropping his diss and having it premiered by DJ Kay Slay, he would take shots at Beans for essentially walking in his footsteps and trying to be in his lane. I'll be honest, I never saw the similarities in Beans and Jada, especially style wise, because Kiss is a very punchline orientated rapper, while Beans at his best was giving poems of pain and raw lyricism. They were two artists that the streets loved, but I never saw or felt like Beans was taking his style. Regardless, while Jada had a great diss, I always thought Beans came with a better, more concise diss that attacked Jada from multiple angles. Still, this beef made the streets go crazy, and even some of the mainstream got into the beef as well. Simply put, Jada vs Beans was the beef that I always put ahead of the others, and while it didn't last nearly as long as some of the others on this list, to me, quality wise, it is the best beef of all time.
Rating: 10/10

*LL Cool J vs Canibus

-I really was not a fan of this beef honestly. I always think LL is a bit catty in his beef and this one was no different. The ego can be a blinding thing, and sometimes I think LL and his ego is the only reason why this exists. Canibus and LL started their beef after they appeared on the same song together and Canibus seemingly showed love and paid homage to LL by asking to borrow the mic tattoo on his arm, which apparently LL took offense to. While I can see how this might have been an issue, hip hop is competitive and that shouldn't have been as big of a deal as it turned out to be, but regardless, it happened and as a result, a beef was set off. I actually think this was the most corny beef to start and I always felt LL was a clown during this beef. However, I was never a fan of Canibus so I had no bias in this one, but I still think the fight was fixed in many ways. There was no way for Canibus to win and his career was shut down before it really began due to politics and likely LL working behind the scenes to help blackball him in some aspects. I have no evidence of this being the case, but I'm merely speculating. Regardless, after the incident that caused the beef, LL took a shot at Canibus on a version of the song and Canibus was demanded to change his verse or be taken off the track. Corny move, but LL was worried about challengers apparently, and his possible insecurity of his status being called out was too much. Then, on the other side, there was Canibus, with the charisma of a vacuum and the skills of a poet who couldn't rap perfectly on beat ready to strike back at any time. The two diss tracks, "The Ripper Strikes Back" and "Second Round K.O." were heavily debated by hip hop enthusiasts, and if you ask me, Canibus had the better track, but clearly LL won the overall beef. Still, this was a beef that should have never happened, but ego is a very dangerous thing. Very dangerous. This was not an impressive beef at all or one that truly shifted the culture like the others listed, yet it is still a legendary beef.
Rating: 7/10

*N.W.A. vs Ice Cube 

-I struggle to call this a beef, but more so a family misunderstanding. The group N.W.A. started out as a force to be reckoned with, but the only thing that could slow them up was themselves. Of course, that would be the case, as Ice Cube found himself in the middle of a strange situation, asking to be paid while still in the midst of creating what they were building up. The story goes, Jerry Heller seemed to be robbing the group blind, and as a result, his close relationship with Eazy E led to some friction amongst the group. It makes perfect sense. The white executive with the checks comes in, takes this group of close knit friends, helped them start a record label, then as the star power rises, seeds get planted for the demise. Every successful rap group has experienced their own ups and downs, but for N.W.A., their separation would prove to be long standing and vicious. After Cube departed the group in 1989, he seemed to be mostly quiet on his feelings towards the group and the situation, at least in terms of making diss records. The group however took his departure differently. They would take shots at Cube with their well known "100 Miles And Runnin" song, and even more on their Niggaz4Life album where they directed shots at Cube on multiple songs, including "Real Niggaz". However, Cube wasn't one to just sit down and deal with multiple disses and as a result, we got perhaps the greatest diss song ever from this beef/misunderstanding. Cube would release the scathing diss record "No Vaseline", which was exactly what hip hop needed at the time. Cube hit Eazy E the hardest, and I've always felt that there was a little bit of friction between two even before Cube left the group. I mean, think about it. Eazy was positioned as the face of the group and the star, but Cube wrote him his first hit, Cube was putting the pen to the pad for a lot of those N.W.A. songs, yet he couldn't get paid or the same type of notoriety as Eazy. Whether or not that was actually the case, the truth is, their beef was inevitable. 99% of the time when a group breaks up or someone leaves, disses and remarks are sure to follow. While "No Vaseline" is etched in hip hop history, the disses from N.W.A. don't have the same legacy or lineage, and that is a clear indication that Cube was the clear winner. A beef that was mostly one sided, with the person who was provoked kicking the ass of the group who provoked him is definitely legendary, but musically, this is probably in the secondary tier of classic beefs, and the same could probably be said for a number of beefs.
Rating: 8/10

There were many other beefs I could discussed here, but the ones selected were vital and important to hip hop as we know it, and while I left out the legendary KRS-One, among others, there will definitely come a time where we discuss those beefs. For now, reflect on these 6 legendary beefs and remember a time of hip hop we will never see the likes of again.



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