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A diss track or diss song is a song primarily intended to disparage or insult another person or group. While musical parodies and attacks have always existed, the trend became increasingly common in the hip hop genre as part of the hip hop rivalry phenomenon.
Historical forerunners of the diss track were the satirical Arabic poems called "Hija" during the Middle Ages, from the 9th century on. The idea was insulting somebody present in the same room as the poet recited his poem.
One of the earliest musical diss tracks occurred in Jamaica. After Lee "Scratch" Perry left producer Coxsone Dodd he released a track called Run for Cover (1967) poking fun at him. Perry in particular has a long history of releasing diss tracks directed at former musical collaborators. The musical single People Funny Boy (1968) attacked his former boss Joe Gibbs. In response Gibbs himself released a track called People Grudgeful (1968). Perry's "Evil Tongues" (1978) was aimed at The Congos and “Judgement Inna Babylon” (1984) and "Satan Kicked The Bucket" (1988) at Chris Blackwell. Perry also attacked Michael Jackson (with whom he never worked together) on the track "Freaky Michael" (2010).
Another early example of a musical artist dissing another artist happened on Frank Zappa's We're Only In It For The Money (1968), where during the track "Concentration Moon" the line "I get to work for The Velvet Underground which are as shitty a group as Frank Zappa's group." could be heard on the original album, reflecting the animosity between both artists. On the CD-release this line was cut.
On the 1971 album Ram, Paul McCartney included a track called "Too Many People", which poked fun at Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono. Later in the year, John Lennon replied with the much more caustic "How Do You Sleep?" from his album Imagine.
Diss tracks in hip hop history
Diss tracks are made almost exclusively in the Hip hop culture genre. The first ever recorded diss track was 14 year old Roxanne Shanté's 1984 diss track to UTFO entitled "Roxanne's Revenge." Most of the older feuds can be traced back to geographical affiliations. In various cities around the U.S. are territorial patriotism that leads to violence. When this violence cannot be solved, many local artists use their music as an outlet.
One of the most well known territorial feud was between the East and West Coast Rappers. However this is now settled and most 'beefs' now occur when a group or artist attacks another artist or group rather than a geographic area; a good example of this is of Ja Rule and 50 Cent who started a feud with one another (both artists lived in the same neighborhood of Queens, New York).
Outside of hip-hop, Diss tracks tend to deal with more personal issues. Post-Hardcore band Alexisonfire have made numerous songs targeting their ex-drummer, a feud caused by him leaving the band at a crucial moment in their rise to fame.
The most famous non-rap example of an ongoing musical feud is that between Taking Back Sunday and Brand New. They both aimed several songs at each other since John Nolan allegedly slept with the girlfriend of Jesse Lacey.
Throughout his career, rapper M.C. Hammer has dissed hip hop DJs and rappers in general beginning in the mid-to-late 1980s. Since his debut album in 1987, Feel My Power (claiming he was "...second to none, from Doug E. Fresh, LL Cool J or DJ Run" on the single "Let's Get It Started"), Hammer has had "feuds" with several rappers. In fact, Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em was an effort to avoid disrespecting others on wax and becoming more "pop". Nevertheless, Hammer has created, responded to, attacked and/or participated in rap battles with MC Serch of 3rd Bass and LL Cool J (including a feud with other rappers on Mama Said Knock You Out and the remix of "I Shot Ya"), Dres of Black Sheep, Rodney O, A Tribe Called Quest (Q-Tip), Redman and Run DMC (on the track "Break 'Em Off Somethin' Proper" from The Funky Headhunter), Eminem and Busta Rhymes from Full Blast (title track with music video) and most recently "Better Run Run" in response to a comment Jay-Z made about him on the single "So Appalled" in 2010.
In September 2007 rapper 50 Cent proclaimed that if fellow rapper Kanye West sold more records than him in the first week, he would retire from making CDs. Kanye accepted the challenge and it appeared that this was an attempt to get more people interested in the respective artists and buy their CDs. At the end of the first week, however, Kanye outsold 50 Cent with 957,000 copies to 50's 691,000. 50 Cent was recently quoted on The Howard Stern Show as saying that he only said he would retire to "hype the situation."
Often rappers go on radio shows to broadcast their dislike for other rappers. They usually make back-handed comments so as not to say directly whom they are referring to, rather leaving it to the listeners to decide for themselves. Often people take lyrics of some rappers and claim that they are saying something bad about another, and rumors start. This creates controversy for both parties, but usually the pseudo-dispute is settled by one of the parties responding to the allegations in attempt to clear the air.
Diss songs are usually the by-product of heated rivalries between two or more rap artists:
- Kool Moe Dee vs. Busy Bee
- Boogie Down Productions vs. Juice Crew (The Bridge Wars)
- LL Cool J vs. Kool Moe Dee feud
- MC Lyte vs. MC Antoinette
- N.W.A vs. Ice Cube
- Tim Dog vs. N.W.A
- Erick Sermon vs. Parrish Smith
- Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg vs. Eazy-E
- Death Row Records vs Ruthless Records
- Compton's Most Wanted vs. Tim Dog
- Tim Dog vs. Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg
- MC Eiht of Compton's Most Wanted vs. DJ Quik
- 2Pac vs. The Notorious B.I.G (see East Coast vs. West Coast feud)
- Westside Connection vs. Cypress Hill
- 2Pac vs. Mobb Deep
- Nas vs. The Notorious B.I.G.
- 2Pac vs. Jay-Z
- Westside Connection vs. Common Sense
- Three 6 Mafia, Twista, Do or Die & Crucial Conflict vs. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony
- Foxy Brown vs. Lil' Kim
- LL Cool J vs. Canibus
- Eminem vs. Insane Clown Posse
- DMX vs. K-Solo
- Lauryn Hill vs. Wyclef
- Cash Money Records vs. No Limit Records
- Kurupt vs. DMX, Foxy Brown & Ja Rule
- G-Unit vs. Murder Inc. feud
- Jay-Z vs. Nas
- D12 vs. Everlast & Limp Bizkit
- Eminem vs. Benzino & The Source feud
- Royce da 5'9" vs. D12
- KRS-One vs. Nelly
- Daz vs. Kurupt
- Snoop Dogg vs. Kurupt, Suge Knight & Death Row Records
- Jay-Z vs. R. Kelly
- Chingy vs. Nelly
- Ludacris vs. T.I.
- The Game vs. Yukmouth
- G-Unit vs. The Game feud
- Lil' Flip vs. T.I.
- Gucci Mane vs. Young Jeezy
- 50 Cent vs. Nas, Jadakiss, Mobb Deep, Kelis, Shyne, Fat Joe & Lil' Kim
- The Game vs. Jay-Z
- Bow Wow vs. Romeo Miller
- Pusha T vs. Lil Wayne (G.O.O.D. Music) vs. (YMCMB)
- Lil Wayne vs. Jay-Z (YMCMB) vs. (Roc[disambiguation needed])
- Ice-T vs. Soulja Boy
- Young Jeezy vs. Rick Ross
- Kid Cudi vs. Wale
- MC Hammer vs. Jay-Z
- Professor Elemental vs. Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer
- Nicki Minaj & Lil Wayne vs. Lil' Kim
- Hopsin vs. Odd Future
- Common vs. Drake
- Ludacris vs. Big Sean & Drake
- Meek Mill vs. Cassidy
- Kendrick Lamar vs. Drake
- Gucci Mane vs. Yo Gotti
- Gucci Mane vs. Waka Flocka Flame
- Trinidad James vs. Maino
- Drake vs. Jay-Z
- Tyga vs. Lil Durk
- A.KOR (Kemy) vs. 2NE1 (Park Bom)
Rapper Lil Wayne released his third album, 500 Degreez, in the summer of 2002. It directly references fellow former Hot Boys member Juvenile's 400 Degreez, released November 3, 1998. Juvenile had left Lil Wayne's Cash Money earlier in the same year.
In some cases, the diss song may be a parody of another song. One example of this is "No Pigeons" by Sporty Thievz, which parodied the TLC hit, "No Scrubs". In the original "No Scrubs" the women talk about not wanting men with bad credentials. The parody talks about not wanting women with no means of their own, as well. In the same vein, rapper Too Short parodied the song "My Neck, My Back" by Khia in the form of the 'male' rebuttal "My dick My sack".
In some cases, disses involves rappers and singers of another music genre, such as Eminem and Mariah Carey. Throughout his career, Eminem claimed he once had a relationship with Carey, dating her for six months. Carey, however, always denied the claim. As a result, Eminem recorded a number of songs in which he rapped about the singer in a negative light, angered by her not admitting to seeing him. On Charmbracelet, Carey included a song titled "Clown", which critics suggested was aimed at Eminem. "Clown"'s lyrics were described as "languidly sinister" by Sarah Rodman of The Boston Globe, and read: "I should've left it at 'I like your music too'... / You should never have intimated we were lovers / When you know very well we never even touched each other". In 2005, during concerts on the rapper's Anger Management Tour, he began playing voice-mails and recordings that were reportedly left by Carey. One of the messages said: "I heard you were getting back with your ex-wife. Why won't you see me? Why won't you call me?" After playing the excerpt, Eminem would pretend to be sick before launching into his song "Puke". In his sixth studio effort, Relapse, Eminem released a song entitled "Bagpipes from Baghdad", the lyrics of which suggest that Eminem is still in love with Carey, and feature insulting comments about the singer and her husband Nick Cannon. Afterwards, Cannon made a post on his website, defending Carey and expressing his disgust at the rapper's comments. Eminem responded to his comment sarcastically, saying he meant well and that the song is actually "wishing the couple the best", and later noted that he respected Cannon for his comment, expecting him to defend his wife. After the release of Carey's "Obsessed", a song about an obsessed man who claims to be having a relationship with her, suspicions were raised with many, including Eminem himself, that it was directed at Eminem, despite claims on the contrary by Cannon. As a response, Eminem released "The Warning", in which he claims he still has proof of the couple. Cannon responded to the song with his "I'm a Slick Rick", and even challenged Eminem to a boxing match for charity which never took place.
- Hija#Satirical poetry
- "The Upsetter", Black Music (January 1975). "Perry says the song was his was of expressing how he felt about the way Clement Dodd (Sir Coxsone) had treated him financially while he had been working for Dodd. It spoke of revenge: 'You take people for fool, yeah / And use them as a tool, yeah / But I am the av-en-ger...'."
- Frances Robinson, In 'Chap-Hop,' Gentlemen Rappers Bust Rhymes About Tea, Cricket, Wall Street Journal, April 4, 2011, accessed April 5, 2011.