In Rap Beef, Bars Matter
Rap music has changed over the years. From the purist days of boom-bap ‘hippity-hop’ to the modern-day sub-genres that occupy every corner of the world, if you love music then there’s a lane in rap for you to settle in and explore.
One of the most volatile of those lanes is easily the diss-record. When rival artists, crews, or even friends, feel the slightest bit of disrespect, one of their options is to hit the studio and drop some fire bars. We’ve seen it countless times over the years. From 50 Cent and Ja Rule to Jay-Z and Nas – and everything in between – here are 12 (of the) best rap disses since 2001.
1. Nas – ‘Ether’ Jay-Z diss, 2001
Best Bar: “From Sean Carter to Jay-Z? Damn you on Jaz d*ck”
While the Gen Z crowd likely has no idea who Jaz-O is, Nas did have a point.
No need to mess around, the pinnacle of the diss-record (since 2001) is undoubtedly Nas’ Ether. At the time Jay-Z was the undisputed king of rap. While Nas was not only vying for respect in NY, he put the rap world on notice by viciously attacking the most untouchable man in music.
2. Drake – ‘Back to Back’ Meek Mill diss, 2015
Best Bar: “Trigger fingas turn to Twitter fingas / You gettin bodied by a singing n*gga”
Drake’s beef with Meek Mill may have been short-lived, but it was certainly volatile and commanded the front page of hip-hop at its peak. Drake may have had all the quotables, but Meek Mill certainly spilled some of the 6 God’s blood by confirming the ghostwriting allegations.
3. Pusha T – ‘The Story of Adidon’ Drake diss, 2018
Best Bar: “A baby’s involved, it’s deeper than rap / We talking character, let me keep it with the facts / You are hiding a child, let that boy come home / deadbeat m*thaf*fucka playing border patrol”
Vicious bars from Push in response to Drake’s ‘Duppy Freestyle’, which was a response to Pusha’s ‘Infrared’, that… you know what, these dudes been beefing for years and there’s a lot of ‘responses’ in this back and forth. This record was the most sinister from either emcee in this exchange, and if there’s any rapper that has damaged Drake’s character, it’s the president of GOOD Music, Pusha T.
4. Eminem – ‘Killshot’ MGK diss, 2018
Best Bar: “I’m really sorry you want me to have a heart attack, was watching 8 Mile on my Nordictrack / I realized I forgot to call you back, here’s an autograph for ya daughter, I wrote it on a Starter cap”
This rap beef between Eminem and Machine Gun Kelly had been brewing for a while. Back in 2012 MGK tweeted about how he thought Em’s daughter was hot af “in the most respectful way possible bc Em is king”. Needless to say, Eminem didn’t like it, and never forgot it, and the back and forth subliminals have been traded ever since.
5. Jay-Z – ‘Takeover’ Nas diss, 2001
Best Bar: “So yeah, I sampled ya voice, you was using it wrong / You made it a hot line, I made it a hot song”
At the turn of the century, New York City was the wild, wild west of rap music, and the beef been Brooklyn’s Jay-Z and just about every rapper in Queens had bubbled over. The late Prodigy of Mobb Deep was the target in the first half of the record, and then Jigga turned his attention to Nas, perhaps the only person who’s truly ever challenged him for King of NY.
Since Biggie, of course.
6. 50 Cent – ‘Back Down’ Ja Rule diss, 2003
Best Bar: “Jay put you on, X made you hot / now you running round like you some big shot, ha!”
If you’re not from this era then it’s hard to explain how bad 50 Cent bullied Ja Rule and all of Murda Inc when he came in the game. There were a few choices we could’ve included from this beef, but with ‘Back Down’ debuting on the classic album ‘Get Rich or Die Trying’ we felt this one deserved the most mention.
7. Gucci Mane – ‘Truth’ Young Jeezy diss, 2005
Best Bar: “Go dig ya partner up n*gga, bet he can’t say sh*t / and if you looking for the kid I’ll be in Zone 6”
Rap beefs are left better on wax, but unfortunately, sometimes they do spill into the streets. After Jeezy put a bounty on Guwop’s chain in ‘Stay Strapped’, Gucci shot and killed a man, Pookie Loc, who was in his house trying to rob him. Nevertheless, the two sides appeared to publicly reconcile at the end of their Verzuz showdown in 2020.
8. Machine Gun Kelly – ‘Rap Devil’ Eminem diss, 2018
Best Bar: “We know you get nervous Rabbit, I see mama’s spaghetti all over ya sweater / I wish you would Lose Yourself in the records that you made a decade ago, they were better”
MGK’s nearly five-minute dissed aimed at Eminem had some good bars and it definitely got the attention of the Detroit emcee. However, calling the guy your rapping at ‘the GOAT’ isn’t necessarily the best way to win a war. Just saying.
9. Remy Ma – ‘Shether’ Nicki Minaj diss, 2017
Best Bar: “To be the queen of rap you can’t have a ghostwriter / and that’s why this is My House, Flo Rida”
Remy Ma and Nicki Minaj have thrown shots at each other since 2007, when Minaj may have thrown some shade (Nicki never confirmed) Ma’s way on a mixtape track titled ‘Dirty Money’. Shether, if nothing else, was a social media success. It spawned countless viral memes, though Minaj may have gotten the last laugh when Universal didn’t clear the production, and the song was pulled from just about everywhere except YouTube.
10. Drake – ‘Duppy Freestyle’ Pusha T/Kanye West diss, 2018
Best Bar: “Man you might have sold to college kids for Nike and Mercedes / but you act like you sold drugs for Escobar in the 80s”
Right before Pusha T showed Drake what gloves off was really about, Drizzy portrayed Push’s drug-selling persona as fraudulent. It’s safe to say that this track got the attention of the higher-ups, as we’ve already listened to back on Pusha’s ‘Story of Adidon’.
11. Jeezy – ‘Stay Strapped’ Gucci Mane diss,
Best Bar: “Even his own mama know Radric Davis a b*tch”
Depending on who you ask – this placement could be flipped with Gucci’s ‘Truth’, though we tend to side with the notion that Gucci’s response was a bit more cutthroat.
12. Jadakiss – ‘Son of a Kiss’ Beanie Sigel diss,
Best Bar: “And yo rap fans need me / I don’t know why this n*gga talking all greasy when Mac’s jam easy”
Often called ‘the other great battle’ of 2001, the feud between Jadakiss and Beanie Sigel is legendary. The diss’s went back and forth at the beginning of the 2000s, and it’s nice to know that Kiss and Sigel have mended their beef, and are even planning on working on some professional projects together in the future.