The 5 Most Notorious Hip-Hop Feuds

As a genre built on overcoming adversity and embracing an abrasive mindset, it’s no wonder that certain artists butt heads from time to time. Sometimes, though, a small spat can turn into a major pop culture moment, especially when two high-profile figures clash.

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In the 50-year history of hip-hop, this has happened quite a few times, and results have varied from settled dust to the loss of lives. In the list below, we recall five of the most infamous beefs between rappers, and how they started and ended.

5. Lil Wayne vs Birdman/Young Thug

When Lil Wayne first launched his rap career in the early 2000s, he did so with the help of fellow New Orleans MC Birdman and his record label Cash Money. However, after Wayne had reached the pinnacle of the genre, he and Birdman underwent a war of words in the mid-2010s surrounding Wayne’s highly-anticipated Tha Carter V album.

Wayne accused Birdman of refusing to let him release the project, and would then diss his idol on Sorry 4 the Wait 2 (2015), a mixtape he put out to make up for the delay of Tha Carter V. Additionally, Wayne filed a lawsuit against Birdman and Cash Money, where he threatened to leave the label along with fellow signees and protégés Drake and Nicki Minaj.

In July 2015, Wayne ended up releasing a separate LP titled Free Weezy Album solely on Tidal, side-stepping his deal with Cash Money. Two weeks later, though, Wayne’s tour bus would be shot up, and prosecutors alleged that Birdman and Cash Money’s newest member, Young Thug, planned the attack.

Around the same time, Thug released his debut commercial mixtape, Barter 6, whose title served as a jab at Wayne. Nowadays, though, it seems Birdman and Wayne have settled their differences, as Wayne finally dropped Tha Carter V in 2018 and even collaborated with Birdman on the song “STUNNAMAN” with Roddy Ricch in 2021.

4. Nas vs. Jay-Z

Though they practically shared a joint throne atop the East Coast rap scene in the late 1990s after The Notorious B.I.G.’s death, Nas and Jay-Z just couldn’t seem to get along. At first, Nas was meant to appear on Jay’s breakout debut album, Reasonable Doubt, in 1996, but he instead ditched the studio session he was scheduled for.

Then, when Nas dropped his sophomore album, It Was Written, that summer, he alluded to Jay-Z on the second song, “The Message,” poking fount him for driving a Lexus car.

“I saw Jay-Z driving a Lexus with the TVs in it. I got rid of my Lexus at that point and I was looking for the next best thing,” Nas told Complex in a 2016 interview. “So that line—Lex with TV sets, the minimum—wasn’t a shot at Jay but he inspired that line.”

Five years later, Jay returned the favor on his sixth album, The Blueprint, dissing Nas during “Takeover.” This moment turned the passive disdain into a full-on rivalry. After a few months, Nas responded to Jay on “Ether,” still widely recognized as one of the best diss tracks in rap history.

Though Jay would eventually answer back with the song, “Supa Ugly,” the beef seemed to subside after “Ether.” In 2005, the two MCs decided to do a joint performance in New Jersey as part of Jay-Z’s I Declare War Tour, where they formally buried the hatchet.

[RELATED: 5 Rap Songs That Sparked Controversy]

3. Drake vs. Pusha T

For years, Virginia rapper and former president of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label, Pusha T, had an outspoken discontent for Cash Money pals Lil Wayne and Drake. However, he wouldn’t put this opinion into his music until 2018, when he released his critically acclaimed album DAYTONA.

On the LP’s outro “Infrared,” Pusha included several subliminal shots at Drake. This soon prompted a response from the Toronto icon, as he released “Duppy Freestyle,” exclusively on SoundCloud, which saw him name-drop his adversary’s wife Virginia Williams. Pusha did not take kindly to this, and immediately responded with the earth-shattering “The Story of Adidon.”

Throughout the song, Pusha not only revealed to the world that Drake had a secret child out of wedlock, named Adonis, but he also dissed OVO 40, Drake’s best friend and trusted producer.

Since the release of “The Story of Adidon,” Drake has sent mild shots back at Pusha T on several tracks, though never explicitly mentioning his name. These include “Survival” (2018), “Omertà” (2019), “Only You Freestyle” (2020), and “Meltdown” with Travis Scott (2023).

2. N.W.A vs Ice Cube

Depicted in the 2015 N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton, Ice Cube’s departure from N.W.A. after their 1989 debut album was anything but cordial. After Cube left due to disagreements he had with the group’s manager, Jerry Heller, N.W.A dissed him on their 1991 album, N****z4Life, where they called him a traitor like Benedict Arnold.

Cube soon issued a response in the form of “No Vaseline,” which he recently called the best battle song in rap history. “And it’s not even close,” he told the Full Send podcast in May.

1. Tupac Shakur vs. The Notorious B.I.G.

Without question, the most notable and storied beef in the history of hip-hop was between Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. Once friends, the relationship soured when Tupac was shot on the way to work on music with B.I.G, as he believed his friend set him up. What accelerated this bitterness was the fact that B.I.G. later released a single titled “Who Shot Ya?” which Tupac felt was directed at him.

A year and a half later, Tupac put out “Hit ‘Em Up,” a much more direct diss to B.I.G. In the song, he asserted that he slept with B.I.G.’s wife, Faith Evans (which she denied), and even addressed the aforementioned shooting.

Biggie, remember when I used to let you sleep on the couch
And beg a bitch to let you sleep in the house?
Now it’s all about Versace, you copied my style
Five shots couldn’t drop me, I took it and smiled

All while this happened, Pac’s label Death Row, and B.I.G.’s label, Bad Boy, were engaged in an equally contentious feud. In a matter of seven months from Fall 1996 to Spring 1997, Pac and B.I.G. were both gunned down and killed in still-unsolved murders (although an arrest was recently made in Tupac’s murder), which many believed stemmed from this heated rivalry.

Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for NARAS

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