Comparing every fight between rappers to the beef between Tupac 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
Tupac Shakur vs. The Notorious B.I.G.
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 years year’s award in New York.
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 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.
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Then, things got quiet. There were a couple of diss tracks here and there and a couple of 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 cents’ 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 festivals, and in 2018 Ja ranted extensively about 50 on Twitter. The winner, it seems, will be whoever lives longest.
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.” Its standout track, “Fuck the 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, Icecube 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.
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 his West Coast rival in 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 beef, 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 bars 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.
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