15 Classic UK Diss Tracks Every Rap Fan Should Study

Legendary business.

Skepta wears a furry hat with bull horns and a red jacket over a graphic T-shirt
Image via Wil Robson-Scott
Skepta wears a furry hat with bull horns and a red jacket over a graphic T-shirt

For the past month or so, our cousins in North America have been in rap war season, with two of hip-hop’s biggest names—Drake and Kendrick—tearing some serious chunks out of each other.

This got us thinking about our own track record for on-wax pugilism. The record books for the grime and UK rap scenes are filled with tales of artists going the distance—whether it’s in the studio, on air or even on stage—and although we’d obviously never want this to spill over into the streets, we do love a good lyrical punch-up. Here at Complex UK, we got together to look back at some of the best and (figuratively) bloodiest set-tos—and there were plenty of contenders.

Sometimes a beef is great because it gives us genuinely great music that will far outlive the rivalry that bore it; sometimes it pushes the culture forward and reinvigorates the scene with passion and energy, and sometimes it’s because it was just really funny (“Your mum’s got athlete’s foot” and “Your breath smells like rusty pennies,” for example).

This isn’t a definitive ranking, but a well-stocked look-back at some of our favourite beefs and why. Tuck in below.


Skepta, “Nasty”

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Year of release: 2015
Aim: Devilman
Standout line: “Real Brummy niggas said they won’t go near ya, and you would get a wung mai lung sun den jung wun sen if you do a show in your area”

Before Skepta was denouncing rap beefs, he was something of a warmonger himself. In 2006, the Meridian Crew mic-man—who, at the time, was widely known on the grime circuit for shelling down raves and radio sets—appeared on Lord Of The Mics 2 in a clash against Birmingham bar-slinger Devilman. Easily one of the platform’s most iconic clashes yet (right behind Wiley vs Kano), this brutal diss session helped propel Devilman’s career beyond the confines of his 0121 ends, while being a great promotional tool for Skepta’s debut album, Greatest Hits. Unlike many other respectable clashes that took place on LOTM, this one didn’t end there: in 2015, while Skep was on his mission to take grime global, Devilman decided to reignite the beef by calling out his name in his diss to Chip on “Chipmunk Reply”, which itself was a response to Chip sending for Devilman on “Pepper Riddim”. Never one to back down from a war, Skepta drew for Wiley’s classic “Morgue” riddim and devoured D-E-Velopment, claiming that people in his hometown think he’s a snitch, and that he moves like he smokes “food” (hard drugs). The ominous, blue-lit visuals—looking like something out of Belly—further added to the war dub’s appeal, with “Nasty” standing as one of the most vicious takedowns in grime music history. Wun sen! —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson


Chip, “Pepper Riddim”

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Year of release: 2015
Aim: Bugzy Malone (and others)
Standout line: “I’ll dip your mixtape in holy water, take it out then frisbee it”

In March 2015, North London legend Chip took to YouTube and dropped his fiery diss track, “Pepper Riddim”, aimed at not one but five MCs—Tinie Tempah, Bugzy Malone, Big Narstie, Devilman and Saskilla—as well as DJ Cameo, emphasising his abundance of bars and unwavering confidence. In the past, Chip has also released diss tracks for Stormzy, including the viral track (which was recorded and shot in five hours), “Dickhead”. Produced by Ruff Sqwad’s Prince Rapid, “Pepper Riddim” pulses with energy and is driven by a relentless rhythm. Aimed mostly at Bugzy Malone, who had taken to Charlie Sloth’s Fire In The Booth to send shots at Chip and claim he had left grime for pop music, it sparked Chip’s bold declaration of dominance in “Pepper Riddim”, where he spits: “I’ll dip your mixtape in holy water, take it out and then frisbee it”, playing on Bugzy’s well-known catchphrase “turn into the devil”, mocking the Manchester rhymer and referring to his musical catalogue as dull. The diss showcases Chip’s effortless ability to ridicule MCs through comical lines, sharp wordplay and clever punchlines which cut through the mix, leaving a lasting impression on listeners. “Pepper Riddim” is one of many war dubs that prove Chip is not one to be played with. —Naz Hamdi


Wiley, “Nightbus Dubplate”

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Year of release: 2006
Aim: The Movement (and others)
Standout line: “Fuck it, this bullet right here, you can’t duck it / Chatterbox niggas get tucked in, fuck it / I could show you about spending a pound got a brand new leng, it’s been tested, I can trust it / Even if you had a leng, Just’ wouldn’t buss it”

90% of the artists in this list owe their career to Wiley, a man from Bow E3 with a dream for a sound he created to one day become a respected force in Black British music. The fan-crowned godfather of grime has a long history of making war dubs for fellow MCs, many of whom were once his friend. But while some take their lyrical beefs straight to hell, for Wiley, it’s all part of the sport of being an MC—iron sharpens iron, all that good stuff. His self-produced, 2006-released “Nightbus Dubplate” descended upon the scene like a live spark gone haywire, licking down any and everything in its path. While The Movement were the central aim for this dub, other MCs like Sharky Major, Lethal Bizzle and Durrty Goodz were also subject to Eskiboy’s wrath. You don’t get much more iconic than this! —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson


P Money, “Real Talk”

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Year of release: 2017
Aim: Dot Rotten
Standout line: “How dare they compare you and I / I got money and I put on for grime / You got signed, fixed your teeth, put on a suit and started singing about suicide (Overload)”

Before we dive in, we need to fill you in on over a decade of build-up to the 2017 war report between P Money and Dot Rotten (aka Young Dot, aka Zeph Ellis). In a nutshell, both MCs were members of the pioneering South London grime crew OGz, who released important projects like OG Season Vol. 1. After the sad and sudden passing of founding member N.E, growing tensions built up and Dot left the crew. Behind the scenes, rumours would spread of incidents when they crossed paths; fans would go through lyrics like a tooth comb to identify potential subliminals from each side. It was only a matter of time before both, extremely talented artists cleared their schedules to address the truth behind it all. “Real Talk” is P Money’s first response to subliminals fired at him from Dot’s Fire In The Booth and his Organised Grime freestyle. P’s delivery is direct and confident, blocking and shooting back accusations with personal in-depth stories, reframing the narrative with his version of events and all with a generous sprinkle of humorous metaphors, in classic P Money fashion. This specific war went back to back for over a month and left no stone unturned. If there’s one thing we learnt from this, whether it’s against heavyweights like Ghetts or live on stage for Lord Of The Mics with a crowd, P Money never hides from a war. —Hyperfrank


Stormzy, “Still Disappointed”

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Year of release: 2020
Aim: Wiley
Standout line: “Oi Wiley, you shoulda been the one to guide us / But since you wanna diss my mum so much, lets talk about why you moved your mum to Cyprus” 

The music video for Stormzy’s “Still Disappointed” shows the MC comfortably drinking a brew while surgically dissecting Wiley’s family members and dynamics, spilling the tea for everyone locked in through sharp jabs and chilling wordplay. This war dub aimed at Wiley was a scathing response to his earlier attacks in “Eediyat Skengman 2”, where Wiley had insulted Stormzy’s mother. Released in January 2020, it showcased Stormzy’s lyrical prowess and his willingness to defend his position in the grime scene by addressing Richard Cowie’s criticisms head-on with a commanding energy yet calm demeanour. The track not only fuelled the ongoing feud between the two artists but also sparked intense debates among fans on who was the king of grime. “Still Disappointed” was released during a period when UK drill was at the forefront of Black music in Britain, and this track reignited interest in grime and emphasised Stormzy’s position as a leading figure. —Naz Hamdi


Devlin, “Extra Extra”

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Year of release: 2006
Aim: Wiley
Standout line: “You asked to be in The Movement tryna beg friends with us, we couldn’t let a snake in the clique” 

What started as a clash between Wiley and Ghetts over who was the better MC would mutate to include the latter’s Movement brethren and a battle we still talk about today. Following Wiley’s immortal “Nightbus Dubplate”, in which he eviscerated the group, 17-year-old Devlin stepped up and showed out: spitting over a rework of Ruff Sqwad’s “Xtra” riddim, he went surgical, tackling Wiley’s character and leaving no topic unturned, including some frankly inflammatory claims about his behaviour around women. Constantly calling him ‘William’ and ‘Richard’ (Wiley’s birth name) throughout the dub, Devlin sonned a man 10 years his senior. He claims his target, in fact, wanted to be a member of The Movement, had a drug addiction and wouldn’t achieve fame and success like another of Wiley’s rivals at the time, Dizzee Rascal. What hits so much about this dub not only lies in what Devlin is saying, but how he’s saying it. Despite rampant flows, he is clear and concise, showing a scathing side to him beyond his years. This is the same Devlin who wrote “Community Outcast”, one of his most recognisable tracks, at around the same age, and Wiley was a victim of his venomous pen. So much so that Mr. Cowie gave “Extra Extra” his stamp of approval some years down the line. —Yemi Abiade


Lowkey, “The Warning”

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Year of release: 2010
Aim: Chip
Standout line: “And the money you made will mean nothing when you’re dead / So think when you get that deep thought through your pregnant head”

The overlapping worlds of rap and grime were in interesting places in 2010. Both were kind of popping off, but the mainstream doors hadn’t been kicked open yet and the mid-2010s resurgence of grime was still a few years off. Still, it was a fertile scene if you knew where to look. Dot Rotten, Chip, Wiley and a couple of others were all going at it, pitching battles in the booth and the timeline. It all seemed to start when Chip was accused of not paying his dues to Wiley—whom many credit with giving Chip his first boost in the scene. Chip lashed out and had a set-to with Wiley. To cut a long story short, Dot Rotten got involved and Lowkey chimed in to say Dot should fire a dub at Chip. Chip clapped back at Lowkey on Twitter, telling him to stay out of it, and then Lowkey hit the booth to take repeated shots at Chip’s switch to the mainstream and what many perceived to be a betrayal of the grime scene. —James Keith


Dot Rotten, “Steak Bake”

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Year of release: 2017
Aim: P Money
Standout line: “Said you weren’t hating on me, but your EP and your intentions show you’re a sucker / If you’re gonna war with me come with the facts, or come with the straps and keep it one hunna (Bodies)”

The beef between Dot Rotten and P Money consists of war dubs that read like your weekly shopping list at Asda. It’s a beef that had been primed (think wagyu) for over ten years: both were in a collective called OGz, disagreements in-camp led Dot to leave, and things happened off wax that eventually led to things happening on wax. Dot Rotten’s self-produced “Steak Bake”—a direct response to P Money’s “Facts”—saw him attack his former crew member with downright dirty bars aimed at his love interests, his family, as well as other OGz members like Blacks. This war dub stands out among Dot’s many sends over the years for his drag-em-to-hell diss lines, his firm, unrelenting flow, and a production that forced listeners to screwface like there’s no tomorrow. If only he had properly managed his gift, Dot Rotten would have been one the biggest stars in Britain today. —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson


Shystie, “Murderation”

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Year of release: 2005
Aim: Lady Fury
Standout line: “She doesn’t want it, we got bare gossip / We’re shaking hands with the skeletons in her closet / Let’s take it back to 2003 when you got booed off Sidewinder with Maxwell D…”

There’s a reason why Shystie’s send for Lady Fury, “Murderation”, was labelled “one of the most disrespectful diss tracks in the UK.” Back in 2005, East London MC and star of Dubplate Drama, Shystie penned her 6-minutes-deep war dub to Fury over 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” beat (released in the same year). The track was filled with below-the-belt, cut-throat stories, gossip and slurs that make Kendrick’s most recent war with Drake look like a fun day out at the seaside. Fury explained on the Road Rage DVD (and recently on the RTM Podcast) that the two, who were once friends, fell out over a track they were in talks to feature on together. This led to indirect and direct digs in freestyles, public violations, miscommunication behind the scenes, wild rumours and their camps interfering. If we set aside the wildness of the disrespectful vocabulary (offensive then and now), the storytelling, character breakdown and use of information warped with gossip and accusations were signs of a highly-skilled war track. It’s clear that lines were crossed during the lead-up to and recording of “Murderation”; in hindsight, what led to this atmosphere was the limited space for two talented women to shine simultaneously in a male-dominated scene (and world).
Hyperfrank


Trim, “The Lowdown”

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Year of release: 2004
Aim: Stormin (and others)
Standout line: “It’s not Trim no more, it’s dad to you”

The beef between Trim and the late Stormin went beyond music. Though they were able to patch things up before the latter’s passing in 2018, this war was as intense as they come. Numerous lyrical jabs and sends would come to a head one day with an encounter at a radio station where both MCs were at, with Stormin alleged to have come close to pulling out a gun. No one was harmed, but the war was on and Trim, in kind, delivered “The Lowdown”, a track that can only be described as a violation. Using Wiley’s “Fire Hydrant” beat, Trimbal lyrically shakes down Stormin, the late Major Ace and numerous others who thought to test him. However, his most provocative lines are saved for Stormin, who he derogatorily calls ‘Scabs’ in reference to his skin condition and alleges his then-girlfriend was highly promiscuous. With such a nonchalant but direct delivery, Trim proves that you don’t have to be angry or emotional to drop an effective dub. This was methodical beyond the bars, a mission statement that Trimothy feared no man and had equal smoke for anyone who even looked in his direction. Though Stormin retaliated with his own effective dub, “Your Nan”, it didn’t quite measure up to the white-hot abrasiveness and believability that “The Lowdown” offers. —Yemi Abiade


Cadell, “World War III”

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Year of release: 2020
Aim: Stormzy
Standout line: “Mum, why you never tell your son, ‘Stop lying’? / Wouldn’t even ride for your bredrin dying”

Around four years ago, Wiley and Stormzy were locked in a beef that gave us some of the modern era’s best war dubs. That in itself was entertaining, but as is so often the case, a few others in the scene caught strays in the process. One of those was grime MC Cadell, Wiley’s younger brother, to whom Stormzy made repeated mention in his attacks on Wiley. Naturally, Cadell fired back and it ended up giving us one of the strongest in the whole war. “World War III” went straight for the jugular. Meeting Stormzy’s decision to bring family into it, Cadell took aim at Stormzy’s mother and sister, accused him of being an industry plant, and brought out a laundry list of itemised receipts. His flow was tight, furious but controlled, and he won a lot of support from the British music scene for going up against one of the industry’s biggest names at the time. —James Keith


Ghetts, “Destruction Of The Eiffel Tower”

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Year of release: 2009
Aim: P Money
Standout line: “I ain’t taking the subtle approach / I’ll beat P like there’s a belt buckle involved” 

Two legends of grime and two lyrical scientists should make for a memorable battle, and best believe that’s what we got between Ghetts and P Money. A miscommunication would be this beef’s genesis, with Ghetto allegedly bad-mouthing P after making a reference to the latter in a freestyle. P Money didn’t take kindly to it, thus starting a war that would also spawn tracks such as “All Black Winter”. As two prolific spitters, the scene was in bated breath for what would be a fantastic run. “Destruction Of The Eiffel Tower” cranks up the temperature just that little bit more; organ keys surround Ghetts’ incendiary bars, questioning P Money’s lyrical ability, claiming his songs are just remixes of his own and exposing his opponent’s real name, Parris. G-H’s lyrical gymnastics are never ending as he breaks P Money down, comparing supposedly lopsided careers (“MCs like me, performing on tours, MCs like P, couple of shows”), claims about P’s time in prison and even expressing disappointment that his opponent wasn’t ready for the war. There’s something intensely addictive about a Ghetts dub that is on full display on “Destruction”—it feels more like a talking to than a musical display, like a dressing down by a relative. P Money would follow up with various replies, but “Destruction” is most likely the high point of an extremely entertaining battle. —Yemi Abiade


Durrty Goodz, “Panty, Bras, Coke & Cameras”

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Year of release: 2009
Aim: Wiley
Standout line: “​​I won’t even call you a pedo, but I will end it though with a torpedo / You look dodgy, on your front cover in the playground hoodied up, looking at young bodies / Hanging around with their swings and slide, mad because there was no kids on your side”

Arguably one of the UK underground scene’s longest-running clashes, Goodz vs Wiley has covered the full trajectory of war report formats, from pirate and mainstream radio to live on stage and on wax. There are multiple rumours as to how this conflict began, however it all erupted when Wiley took shots at Goodz (aka Durrty Doogz) while recording a freestyle over his “Igloo” instrumental for Commando B’s Choice FM show. Goodz responded over the same beat in what would now be an iconic moment for grime. Taking on Ghetts’ “Don’t Phone Me” beat produced by Nocturnal, “Panty, Bras, Coke & Cameras” is Goodz on full bullying mode: while he skips and flows in his legendary Axiom-era style, Goodz mocks the rumours of an alleged video circulating of Wiley, with other tales to further throw humiliation inside the ring. It was proven that these two vets knew the true art of war, not just with precision shots but how to use it to sharpen their artistic tools to elevate their craft to new heights. MCs and rappers, take heed! —Hyperfrank


Scorcher, “Nothing Less”

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Year of release: 2006
Aim: Wiley
Standout line: “I pick the knife up, I picked your wife up / Went jail, came back with a bang / Trust me, I've picked my life up”

Like any good MC, Scorcher’s got his fair share of war stories. His 2012 clapback to Dappy nearly made the cut, but it was his 2006 showdown with Wiley that won out. The context is that initially Wiley and Ghetts were warring and dubs were flying, but then the rest of The Movement (Devlin, Wretch 32, Mercston and Scorcher) all jumped into the ring to back their teammate. Repurposing the same Maniac riddim Wiley used, Scorcher rattles off a breathless takedown of Richard Cowie’s credentials, accuses him of not being popular on the roads, and claims he’s surpassed him since. Devlin’s “Extra Extra”, Wiley’s “Nightbus Dubplate” and Ghetts’s “North London Dub” were all highlights in this clash, however Scorcher’s “Nothing Less”—which featured on Logan Sama’s War Report and then re-named “Line Up” on his Leader Of The New School mixtape—just about edges it for me. It all seems to be water under the bridge now, though. Wiley has since spoken highly of them all—even praising some of the dubs that were sent his way—but at the time, it was a very heated situation. —James Keith


J Hus, “Delajore”

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Year of release: 2015
Aim: Kojo Funds
Standout line: “And I don’t like bragging but I be on the winning team / That’s why the opposition white flagging”

In a response to Kojo Funds’ “Arriba” in 2015, J Hus clapped back with his own captivating blend of Afroswing through his JAE5-produced diss, “Delajore”. This serious rivalry existed initially outside of music due to street politics and was heightened by these disses. J Hus’ response was highly anticipated and he delivered, immediately addressing Kojo by calling him “stressed” and “scared.” Not only did this era mark one of the greatest back and forths in UK rap, it was easily the waviest—especially with J Hus’ ability to make “Delajore” a listenable diss by creating a magnetic atmosphere which demands attention from the first note to the last. With its infectious chorus and clever wordplay, Hus seamlessly rides a beat switch and his slick delivery and playful nature makes the diss even more enjoyable. —Naz Hamdi

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