Although it is often seen as an easy way to generate sales or cultivate attention, there is still real animosity in hip-hop. There have always been rap beefs and there will always be rap beefs. It’s one of the byproducts of a genre that is so dependent upon competition and ego. Many are the result of friends turned enemies, such as 2Pac vs. The Notorious B.I.G., Eazy-E vs. Dr. Dre, and Drake vs. Meek Mill, but there have been a few times when things went the other way and two artists went from diss records to collaborations. Here are four of the most memorable.
Ice Cube vs. Common
In 1994, Common released “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” an ode to what he saw as pure hip-hop, before G-Funk and gangsta rap overtook conscious rap in popularity and influence, including the line, “I wasn’t salty she was with the Boyz n The Hood.” Ice Cube took offense to this line and fired back at Common on several songs, including Mack 10’s “Westside Slaughterhouse”: “Used to love her, mad ‘cause we fucked her/Pussy-whipped bitch with no Common Sense.” Common then came back with “The Bitch in Yoo,” a top ten diss song in rap history that eviscerated Cube. Before it could go any further, a surprising individual stepped in.
Now, it’s nearly twenty years later and both Cube and Common are established actors and are finally teaming up. In the trailer for Barbershop: The Next Cut, Cube and Common are playing childhood friends and even shouting out Comm’s home of South Side, Chicago.
T.I. vs. Ludacris
In the video for a song by I-20, an artist on Ludacris’s Disturbing tha Peace record label, there is a man wearing a shirt that said “Trap House” getting beaten up. When T.I. saw the video, he thought it said “Trap Muzik,” the name of his breakthrough second album. Later, both were asked to appear on Young Buck’s “Stomp” on the then-G-Unit’s member debut album, Tip took the opportunity to address the situation by saying, “Me gettin’ beat down? That’s ludicrous.” In retaliation, Luda’s entire verse can be seen as a veiled shot at T.I. until the end when he even uses T.I.’s slang and references his name: “So pimpin’, be easy, quit catchin’ feelings/’Cause you worth a couple hundred grand and I’m worth millions/Nobody thinkin’ bout you, plus your beef ain’t legit/So please stay off the T-I-P of my dick.” The two eventually worked it out and collaborated twice in 2008, on “Wish You Would” on Ludacris’s Theater of the Mind and “On Top of the World” off T.I.’s Paper Trail.
KRS-One vs. Marley Marl
The Bridge Wars, as they would eventually be called, began in the mid-’80s with MC Shan’s “The Bridge,” produced by Marley Marl, on which Shan said, “You love to hear the story, again and again/Of how it all got started way back when/The monument is right in your face/Sit and listen for a while to the name of the place – The Bridge, Queensbridge.” Hip-Hop was born in the Bronx and natives KRS-One and his Boogie Down Productions crew believed Shan was claiming that the music began in QB, although he insists he was only speaking about his crew. BDP fired back with “South Bronx” and proclaimed, “So you think that hip-hop had its start out in Queensbridge/If you popped that junk up in the Bronx you might not live.” The beef would continue on multiple songs over the next few years and even led to outside artists jumping into the fray. There was never an official truce until twenty years later when KRS and Marley Marl worked together on not just a song, but an entire album, Hip Hop Lives, which included two tracks dedicated to the feud and its legacy.
Jay-Z vs. Nas
Where to begin? The greatest (non-violent) feud in hip-hop history became public in 2001, but the beef between Jay-Z and Nas had been bubbling under the surface for years. The two knew each other for years and there are multiple rumors on where it started, but Jay-Z admitted to always being a Nas fan, even sampling him on his first two albums (“Dead Presidents II” and “Rap Game/Crack Game”) and mentioning him on the classic line, “I’m from where n––s pull your card/And argue all day about who’s the best MC: Biggie, Jay-Z or Nas.” Originally, Reasonable Doubt was going to be titled Heir to the Throne, then Jay was going to use it again before changing it to In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. For his part, Nas wasn’t a fan of Jay’s ambition, announcing on “We Will Survive,” an open letter to B.I.G. and ‘Pac, “These n––s is wrong, using your name in vain/And they claim to be New York’s king? It ain’t about that.”
The competition grew from there. Nas released “Come Get Me” in 1999 and Jay responded with “Come and Get Me” later that same year. Memphis Bleek goes at Nas on “Mind Right,” Nas responds on “Nastradamus.” Jay mentions Illmatic on The Dynasty: Roc La Familia and when asked to respond, Nas said, “Dynasty? Die nasty.” And so it goes.
At Summer Jam, 2001, Jay unleashed the first two verses of his new song “The Takeover,” which were directed at Prodigy but ended with the line, “You guys don’t want it with Hov/Ask Nas, he don’t want it with Hov/NOOOO!” Nas finally took the bait and responded with the “Stillmatic” freestyle, an ill track, but one that was quickly overshadowed when Jay’s album The Blueprint dropped and included “The Takeover,” this time with two additional verses, one of which deconstructed Nas’s career in incredible detail. Nas was left for dead, but responded with “Ether,” a vicious assault that not only won the battle but also became part of the culture’s lexicon. Jay’s response, “Super Ugly,” was hard, but also showed his desperation and ultimately backfired. How many hip-hop artists have been forced to apologize for their diss tracks?
The two would mention one another over the next few years – Jay’s “Blueprint2,” Nas’s “Last Real N––a Alive” – but the feud fizzled until 2005 when Jay brought out Nas at his I Declare War show and the two performed “Dead Presidents” and “The World is Yours” together. Jay was the president of Def Jam at the time and managed to sign Nas to the label, leading to the two to collaborate several times – “Black Republican,” “Success,” “BBC” – and even become subjects of memes while the question of who ultimately won remains a fierce topic of debate.
The biggest takeaway is that if all of these guys can get beyond their issues and work together, maybe the rest of us really can have Peace on Earth. Happy holidays!
Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. In addition to his own site, his work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, and many more, including his own website. He has been quoted on Buzzfeed and Deadspin. Subscribe to his monthly reading review newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.