Behind the Beef: Eminem and Machine Gun Kelly’s Real-Life Rap Battle

Emotions run high when writing, performing and listening to music. And it’s supposed to happen that way. It’s what makes music such an intimately relatable experience for everyone involved; it’s why we love listening to our favorite songs over and over again. But this phenomenon also opens the door to hurt feelings and bruised egos. And, consequently, it’s why feuds between artists are so commonplace in the music world. 

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And perhaps one of the most famous (or infamous?) artists that will throw down his proverbial glove is rapper Eminem. He feuds to defend his family, to sharpen his craft, and, sometimes, just because the wind blew the wrong direction that day. So, here we’re going to dive into just one of Eminem’s famous feuds—the one with fellow rapper Machine Gun Kelly.

How it all got started

To set the scene for this musical feud, we have to go back a decade. In 2012, MGK tweeted about Eminem’s daughter, Hailie Mathers, and it wasn’t exactly what the father of a teenage girl likes to see on the world wide web. “[O]k so I just saw a picture of Eminem’s daughter,” the original MGK tweet begins, “and I have to say, she is hot as fuck.” 

(Reader’s note: Eminem has always been open about his relationship with his daughter Hailie, and has rapped about her in several of his songs. “Hailie’s Song” is just one example.)

Regardless of the rest of MGK’s tweet (“in the most respectful way possible cuz Em is king”), the message was sent and received. Eminem was on alert.  

But without even saying anything—yet—the threat of Eminem’s clapback loomed in the music industry. And a few years later, MGK claimed in a radio interview that some critics wouldn’t review his work because his comment about Hailie was seemingly out of line.

The diss tracks

Now, this is where things really start to heat up: the diss tracks.

After some frustrations over the fallout of the 2012 tweet, MGK was featured on Tech N9ne’s 2018 song “No Reason.” In the second verse, MGK shades Eminem with a reference to the latter’s hit song “Rap God.”

I pop cherries and popstars, you popsicles is not hard
Popped in on the top charts out the cop car
To remind y’all you just rap, you’re not Gods
And I don’t care who got bars

After this song was released, Eminem returns the diss on his song “Not Alike” off of his highly-anticipated album Kamikaze. Read below for a snippet of Eminem’s reply in “Not Alike.”

He wants to keep up his tough demeanour
So he does a feature, decides to team up with N9na (Yeah)
But next time you don’t gotta use Tech N9ne
If you wanna come at me with a sub, Machine Gun
And I’m talkin’ to you
But you already know who the fuck you are, Kelly
I don’t use sublim’s and sure as fuck don’t sneak-diss
But keep commenting on my daughter Hailie
I keep on telling motherfuckers
But, just in case you forgot really and need Ja memories jarred

like strawberry or pineapple apricot jelly
I respond rarely, but this time Shady ’bout to sound off

MGK then responds to that with his own diss track this time. Listen to “Rap Devil” here.

Ayy, somebody grab him some clippers (zzzzt)
His fuckin’ beard is weird
Tough talk from a rapper payin’ millions for security a year
“I think my dad’s gone crazy, ” yeah, Hailie, you right
Dad’s always mad cooped up in the studio, yellin’ at the mic
You’re sober and bored, huh? (I know)
About to be 46 years old, dog
Talkin’ ’bout “I’ma call up Trick Trick”
Man, you sound like a bitch, bitch
Man up and handle your shit (ugh)
Mad about somethin’ I said in 2012
Took you six years and a surprise album just to come with a diss

Eminem explains his fury

After this rather epic back and forth, Eminem sheds some light on his feud with the younger rapper. In a 2018 interview with Sway Calloway, Slim Shady explains that he’s feuding over more than just Hailie (although she is still part of the equation).

“The reason I dissed him is actually a lot more petty than that,” he said. “The reason that I dissed him is because he got on—first he said, ‘I’m the greatest rapper alive since my favorite rapper banned me from Shade 45’ or whatever he said, right? Like I’m trying to hinder his career. I don’t give a fuck about your career. You think I actually fucking think about you? You know how many fucking rappers are better than you? You’re not even in the fucking conversation.”

The feud continues

Eminem releases another song that includes an MGK-aimed diss titled “Killshot.” The rappers publically feud over the contents of this song for a while in interviews, appearances, etc. Then in 2020, two years after “Killshot,” Eminem name drops MGK again.

But when they ask me is the war finished with MGK? Of course it is
I cleansed him of his mortal sins, I’m God and the Lord forgives
even the devil worshippers
, Eminem raps on “Unaccommodating.”

So, Eminem seems to have claimed the last word on the feud. And while there have been some murmurings of new feud fuel, nothing as wild as the pair’s 2018 rap battle has surfaced. For now at least. Stay tuned.

Weigh in on Eminem and MGK’s Rap Battle – comment below.

Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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