People in music don’t always get along and as a result, don’t always play nice. Here’s some of the notorious takedowns in songs from the Beatles, Nick Cave, 2Pac and more…
2Pac vs Biggie – ‘Hit ‘Em Up’: It’s not intellectually complex, but it’s funny. Here’s an example of the beef between 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G, from ‘Hit ‘Em Up’. “That’s why I fucked your bitch, you fat motherfucker,” needled Pac.
Taylor Swift vs Katy Perry – ‘Bad Blood’: Taylor seems like such a nice young woman, doesn’t she? Well turns out she can write a diss track with the best of them, directing ‘Bad Blood’ at Katy Perry after she tried to recruit a number of her touring team from under her nose.
Queen vs their ex-manager – ‘Death On Two Legs’: Freddie Mercury’s caustic ‘Death On Two Legs’ takes no prisoners. It describes his hatred toward Queen’s ex-manager, Norman Sheffield. “You suck my blood like a leech/You break the law and you breach/Screw my brain till it hurts/You’ve taken all my money – and you want more/Misguided old mule/With your pigheaded rules.” Woah.
Radiohead vs Geri Halliwell – ‘Paranoid Android’: It’s been rumoured that the “ambition makes you look pretty ugly/kicking screaming Gucci little piggy” couplet is about The Spice Girls’ Geri Halliwell, ever since Thom Yorke dedicated the song to her at a gig in 2001. Seems harsh, but hey – that’s a diss track for you.
Carly Simon vs Mick Jagger – ‘You’re So Vain’: People have been trying to guess who the preening subject of this song is since 1972, with Mick Jagger and Warren Beatty the likely lads. In 2003 Carly Simon held an auction and the $50,000 top bidder had the real name whispered into his ear – sadly, he promised never to tell…
Angel Haze vs Azealia Banks – ‘On The Edge’ & ‘No Problems’: In the first line Haze compares Banks to a Fleshlight sex toy and then calls her the Easter bunny, referring to her teeth. Azealia responded in her own good time, calling her a “new whore”. The vitriol – and self-aggrandising then comes thick and fast: “Bad queen is my pedigree/Bad bitch is my legacy/You mad bitch, you average.”
Justin Timberlake vs Britney Spears – ‘Cry Me A River’: Ex-teen dream lovers proved they were never, ever getting back together when J-T raked over the ashes of their relationship. “Your bridges were burned, and now it’s your turn to cry,” spat Justin – smoothly, of course.
Kendrick Lamar vs everyone in rap – ‘Control’: In which Kendrick confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt to be hip-hop’s most exciting talent, slaying Jermaine Cole, Big KRIT, Wale, Pusha T, Meek Millz, A$AP Rocky, Drake, Jay Electronic, Tyler, Mac Miller and Big Sean in Sean’s own ‘Control’.
Jay-Z vs Nas – ‘Takeover’: In the beginning the rappers were pals, using each others vocals for samples and sharing mutual friend Biggie Smalls. The feud started in the late ’90s with Jay-Z hurling the first diss in 2001. The two eventually reconciled in 2006 (Nas signed to Def Jam), but before then Jay-Z accused him of a “one-hot-album-every-10-year average”.
Drake vs Meek Mill – ‘Back To Back’: Drake and Meek Mill have been embroiled in a very public beef since Meek accused Drake of using ghostwriters. Drake initially responded with ‘Charged Up’, which Mill called “baby lotion soft”. ‘Back To Back’ is Drake’s latest in the saga, “This for ya’ll that think that I don’t write enough/They just mad ’cause I got the Midas touch.”
The Smiths vs Rough Trade’s Geoff Travis, ‘Frankly, Mr Shankly’: ‘Frankly, Mr Shankly’ from ‘The Queen Is Dead’ is a jibe at the head of Rough Trade records. Travis mused on why they wrote the track in an interview, saying “I think their beef with Rough Trade was that they thought they should be selling more records and riding around in limousines and helicopters.”
John Lennon vs Paul McCartney – ‘How Do You Sleep?’: We can’t be the only Beatles fans who find ‘How Do You Sleep?’ an uncomfortable listen. Lennon’s acerbic attack on McCartney surfaced after he thought he was being dissed on McCartney’s ‘Ram’. “The only thing you did was yesterday/And since you’re gone you’re just another day,” he sang.
Lynyrd Skynyrd vs Neil Young, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’: This one is a little different. ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ was written as an answer to two songs ‘Southern Man’ and ‘Alabama’ by Neil Young. In the tracks, Young pointed a finger at the South and wrote about its record of racism and slavery. Lynyrd Skynyrd stood up for their homeland.
Eazy-E vs Dr. Dre And Snoop Dogg – ‘Real Muthaphuckkin G’s’: ‘Real Muthaphuckkin G’s’ is a response to Dr. Dre’s ‘Fuck Wit Dre Day (and Everybody’s Celebratin’)’ which was a diss to Eazy-E. The former N.W.A bandmates had fallen out after Dre left the group. “All of the sudden Dr. Dre is the G thang/But on his old album covers, he was the she-thang,” he rhymed.
Eminem vs Dilated Peoples – ‘Girls’: Eminem has always been a God at trash talk. You could make up a top ten alone with his disses. Here he is on ‘Girls’ dissing Dilated Peoples, Everlast and Limp Bizkit. “You fuckin’ sissy, up on stage, screamin’ how people hate you/They don’t hate you/ They just think you’re corny since Christina played you,” is a key line.
Lauryn Hill vs The Fugees – ‘Lost Ones’: Proving her genius as a poet, Lauryn Hill takes the rest of her old band The Fugees, and particularly Wyclef Jean to task in ‘Lost Ones’. “It’s funny how money change a situation/Miscommunication leads to complication/My emancipation don’t fit your equation,” she sang.
The Pharcyde vs Your Mum – ‘Ya Mama’: The Pharcyde’s ‘Ya Mama’ isn’t aimed at anyone in particular but it’s a brilliant example of a rap battle diss track. “Ya mom is so fat (how fat is she?)/Ya mama is so big and fat that she can get busy with twenty-two burritos/but times are rough/I seen her in the back of Taco Bell with handcuffs.” Told you.
Nick Cave vs Mat Snow – ‘Scum’: It’s not every day you get called a “fuckin’ traitor, chronic masturbator, shitlicker, user, self-abuser” by Nick Cave. Mat Snow, a music journalist, put Nick Cave and his girlfriend up at his house in Brighton. A couple of years later he wrote a review of the latest album in NME, calling it ‘disappointing’. Cave came out with the song ‘Scum’ in retaliation.
Stereophonics vs music journalists – ‘Mr Writer’: Stereophonics sent out this bitter barb to NME journalist Mark Beaumont and his kind after he served the Welsh rockers up with a less than favourable review. “I’d like to shoot you all,” moaned Kelly Jones in the general direction of disinterested music hacks.