In late 1996 and early 1997, the most impactful hip-hop feud of all-time ended in a double dose of tragedy: Tupac Shakur was murdered in Las Vegas, and The Notorious B.I.G. was gunned down in Los Angeles. Every significant rap beef since has been measured against that bloody, bi-coastal dispute. Some have ended on similar terms; many more have been resolved peacefully.
Comparing every fight between rappers to the beef between Pac and Big does a disservice to the genre and the artists that shape it. Rap is not inherently violent, and rappers' disagreements are born from a variety of causes: failed business relationships; geographical alliances; romantic entanglements; jealousy; betrayal; loyalty; honor. Some feuds are petty, some are deeply personal. Some end in hope, others haven't ended. Learn more in our list of the 40 Biggest Hip-Hop Feuds of all-time.
Tupac Shakur vs. The Notorious B.I.G.
The feud between Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. is the standard-bearer for every hip-hop conflict since. Not only did it involve possibly the two greatest rappers of all time, but it served as a microcosm for a larger East Coast vs. West Coast/New York vs. Los Angeles rivalry.
Biggie, who was raised in Brooklyn, and Pac, who was headquartered in L.A., met for the first time in 1993. They became friends; later that year, they performed together at Madison Square Garden in New York.
By 1994, the partnership had deteriorated. Pac was ambushed and shot in Times Square on his way to record with Big. He accused Biggie and Puff Daddy, Big’s manager, of involvement. Later in the year, Biggie released “Who Shot Ya?” which was widely interpreted as a Tupac diss.
In 1995 the feud became the focal point of a long-simmering coastal beef dating back to at least 1991. Suge Knight, the CEO of L.A.-based Death Row Records, took shots at Puff Daddy’s label, Bad Boy Records, at that year’s Source Awards in New York. He later signed Pac and bailed him out of prison. Pac jumped on several tracks attacking Bad Boy artists, including Big. Toward the end of the year, West Coast group Tha Dogg Pound came under fire while filming the music video for “New York, New York” in NYC.
The beef reached its violent zenith in September 1996, when Tupac was tragically killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. Six months later, Big was murdered in a shooting in L.A. Both artists were in their artistic primes.
Nas vs. Jay-Z
The seeds of dispute were planted in 1996, when Nas failed to appear at a recording session for Jay's legendary debut album, Reasonable Doubt. Nas's sophomore record, released weeks after Jay's debut, included at least one line "inspired" by his rival.
The beef took another step in 1997 when Jay-Z anointed himself New York City's best MC following the death of The Notorious B.I.G. In 1999, Jay-Z associate Memphis Bleek took aim at Nas, and in 2001, Jay ripped into the Queensbridge product on "Takeover," a track from his sixth album The Blueprint.
Nas's response? Possibly the greatest diss track in hip-hop history, "Ether." The vicious attack took aim at Jay-Z's full Roc-A-Fella roster and was seen as a knock out blow on the streets. Not one to go down quietly, Jay responded with "Supa Ugly," a deeply personal response that earned the rapper a public reprimand from his own mother.
Then, things got quiet. There were a couple diss tracks here and there, a couple subliminal jabs, but it seemed like both rappers had fired their best shots. The hip-hop community looked elsewhere for entertainment (see below) until 2005 when, on the East Rutherford, New Jersey, leg of Jay-Z's "I Declare War" tour, Nas joined his rival on stage to squash the beef. The duo performed "Dead Presidents" and "The World Is Yours," and everything was right in the hip-hop universe.
50 Cent vs. Ja Rule
The masterpiece of 50 Cent's illustrious feuding career is his twenty-year beef with Ja Rule. The origins of the feud are disputed: Did 50's associate snatch Ja's chain in 1999? Or did Murder Inc. turn 50 away from a video shoot in Queens?
We may never know, and at this point it doesn't matter; the pair's legacies are hopelessly intertwined. 50's first major hit, "Wanksta," was inspired by Ja Rule, and Ja's 2013 rebuttal, "Loose Change," earned him rare street approval. For a brief moment in the early- to mid-2000s, this beef was the hottest thing in hip-hop.
Today, it has become tiresome. 50 continues to needle Ja over a variety of topics, including the disastrous Fyre Festival, and in 2018 Ja ranted extensively about 50 on Twitter. The winner, it seems, will be whoever lives longest.
Drake vs. Meek Mill
Does Drake write his own raps?? That's the question that sparked one of the greatest ever international rap beefs, a feud that roiled the hip-hop industry from its inception in 2015 to its official squashing four years later.
It started with a Tweet from Meek Mill: "Stop comparing drake to me too... He don't write his own raps!" The accusation set off a flurry of finger-pointing and threats. Before long, Drake's supposed ghostwriter, Atlanta rapper Quentin Miller, was unmasked and weighed in. Drake's longtime producer and collaborator, Noah "40" Shebib, framed the Toronto native as more than a rapper, and therefore not beholden to the codes and customs that shaped the community.
And then came the diss tracks. Drake released "Charged Up" in July 2015 and, before Meek had opportunity to respond, "Back to Back." By the time Meek unleashed "Wanna Know," the damage was done. Drake became known as a formidable opponent in a feud, despite his reputation for softness.
With the release of Meek Mill's "Going Bad" featuring Drake in 2019, this beef was officially squashed.
N.W.A. vs. Ice Cube
The release of N.W.A.’s debut album, Straight Outta Compton, was a watershed moment in hip-hop history. The record cemented Los Angeles as a hip-hop powerhouse on par with New York and pioneered a fledgling subgenre that would eventually become known as “gangsta rap.” It’s standout track, “Fuck tha Police,” is as relevant and impactful today as it was more than 30 years ago.
Unfortunately, Straight Outta Compton’s success didn’t keep N.W.A.’s members from feuding. Less than two years after its release, Ice Cube left the group over royalty disputes. He filed a lawsuit against the band’s manager, struck out on his own, and immediately found solo success with AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, his 1990 solo debut.
Cube avoided taking shots at his former bandmates on Most Wanted, but N.W.A. was less kind. Their follow-up to Compton, 100 Miles and Runnin’, and their 1991 album, Efil4zaggin, both contained multiple disses. Cube responded the same year with “No Vaseline,” a five-minute tirade featured on his second full-length release, Death Certificate.
By 1993, the rest of N.W.A. had disbanded and the feud was over. Ice Cube appeared in the video for Dr. Dre’s “Let Me Ride,” and the next year they recorded “Natural Born Killaz” for the soundtrack of Snoop Dogg’s film Murder Was the Case. In 2000, Dre and fellow N.W.A. alum MC Ren appeared on Cube’s album War & Peace Vol. 2 and a song for the Next Friday soundtrack.
50 Cent vs. The Game
Above all else, 50 Cent is a businessman. Even in the mid-2000s, when his street cred was at its apex, fans wondered about the credibility of the rapper’s beef with West Coast rival The Game. Was it a media ploy to boost record sales?
Officially, the feud started not long after The Game was placed in G-Unit by Aftermath Entertainment boss Dr. Dre. G-Unit was involved in a slew of running beefs, most notably with Ja Rule and his Murder Inc. label, and 50 Cent wasn’t happy with Game’s lack of participation. He also believed he wasn’t getting enough credit for his work on Game’s debut album, The Documentary.
The situation quickly escalated. Shots were fired outside the Hot 97 studio in New York, injuring a member of The Game’s crew. After a brief truce, both sides unleashed a flurry of diss records, with Game’s 14-minute “300 Barz and Running” being the piece de resistance.
The feud eventually ran out of steam, and 50 and The Game squashed it for good at the Ace of Diamonds Strip Club in Los Angeles in 2016.
Cardi B vs. Nicki Minaj
How times have changed. In the 90s and early-2000s, rapper confrontations took place at recording studios and on street corners. By 2018, they were playing out at the Harper's Bazaar's New York Fashion Week Party. That's where Cardi B threw her shoe at, and allegedly attempted to assault, Nicki Minaj.
The heel-hucking incident was the boiling-over point for a feud that had been simmering for years beneath a lid of media denials. The New York rappers had appeared on songs together and tweeted love back and forth, but couldn't escape rumors of a beef. Cardi took subtle shots at Nicki over her verse on Migos' "Motorsport," then denied any bad blood in interviews. Nicki said she was hurt by the comment, but insisted the dispute was a media creation.
The NYFW melee proved that where there's smoke, there's fire. The pair have been openly hostile ever since. They exchanged insults on radio shows and Instagram videos. Shoemaker Steve Madden got involved. The 2018 New York gubernatorial race became a battleground. There appears to be no end in sight to this bitter rivalry.
Lil Wayne vs. Birdman
The several-years-long feud between Lil Wayne and his father-figure/manager Birdman was almost a New Orleans tragedy. For years, Bird nurtured Wayne to stardom, helping him become one of the most successful and influential rappers of his generation. But by 2015, their relationship was in pieces. Wayne accused Bird of refusing to release his 12th studio album, Tha Carter V, and dissed his mentor on Sorry 4 the Wait 2, the mixtape he released to make up for the missing album. He also filed a lawsuit alleging money mismanagement and threatened to leave Bird’s Cash Money Records with rising stars Drake and Nicki Minaj.
In July 2015, the feud reached its darkest hour. Prosecutors allege that Bird and new protégé, Young Thug, conspired to murder Lil Wayne, an unthinkable suggestion given their once inseparable bond.
Somehow, Bird and Wayne managed to squash their beef in the past several years. As of February 2020, the New Orleans duo have put the past behind them and are continuing their working relationship.
The Roxanne Wars
In 1984, New York City rap trio U.T.F.O. released "Roxanne, Roxanne," a track about a woman who ignored their advances. The song was a hit.
The same year, U.T.F.O. cancelled an appearance on a show promoted by NYC legends Mr. Magic, Marley Marl, and Tyrone Williams. The duo recruited 14-year-old Lolita Shante Gooden - a.k.a. Roxanne Shante (pictured) - to record a diss track. The Marley Marl-produced "Roxanne's Revenge" was also a hit.
U.T.F.O. responded by enlisting The Real Roxanne for their answer track, and the Roxanne Wars were born. Other artists got involved and as many as 100 songs were recorded before the city-wide feud eventually simmered down.