Regardless of what you may have heard, Nicki Minaj is still on the clock. While we await the Queen of the Barbs’ long-in-the-making response to Remy Ma’s devastating lyrical thrashing “ShETHER,” we can take solace in the fact that female emcees have always embraced the sport of battle rapping.
BET.com presents 10 intriguing diss cuts, from landmark statements to criminally underrated gems. Let’s get it on!
The ETHER: “Well, let me tell you something else about the Doctor, too/He ain’t really cute, and he ain’t great/He don’t even know how to operate.”
One of hip-hop’s earliest (and most influential) diss records ignited a seemingly endless barrage of answer backs, transforming 14-year-old Roxanne Shanté into rap’s first solo female superstar. With fresh-faced producer Marley Marl manning the boards, the Queensbridge, New York, projects native and future Juice Crew stalwart took out all four members of UTFO (Kangol Kid, The Educated Rapper, Doctor Ice and MixMaster Ice) as if they were an afterthought. The nerve.
Target: Doug E. Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew
The ETHER: “He wore plastic Bally’s and a booty Gucci suit/Cracked a little smile and showed a fake gold tooth/Was he cute? Negative, he was a dupe.”
This lighthearted diss track didn’t so much show malice towards the regal likes of Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick and the Get Fresh Crew. It was a competitive tap on the shoulder courtesy of Queens, New York, newbies Salt-N-Pepa, who most likely had no idea they were capping off one of rap’s most indelible runs.
Target: MC Lyte
The ETHER: “I stretch my arm like elastic and finally reach the h*/Antoinette's dope, and now I'm a teach you, so/Ain't nobody chillin, your whole clan's wack/And damn, you cram to understand that…you may be Lyte, but you ain't lovely.”
When two-fisted, around-the-way-girl Antoinette challenged MC Lyte, the Brooklyn spitter who carried the title as pound-for-pound the best female lyricist in the rap game, it ignited one of the genre’s most bruising rhyme showdowns. The Hurby “Luv Bug” Azor protégé and Bronx native struck first in 1987 with the thoroughly cocky “I Got an Attitude.” Lyte shot back with 1988’s incendiary “10% Diss” only to catch a fade on Antoinette’s “Lights Out, Party’s Over,” a brutal verbal assault that would force one of that era’s fiercest return volleys.
The ETHER: “You ain’t really down, you wig wearing clown/Borrowing money to buy an outfit/Not even good enough for a Sunday picnic/I ask you: do you know who you’re f**kin’ with?”
If you are going to deliver a knock out blow to a worthy adversary, you might as well go savage. MC Lyte’s ridiculously brazen response to rival Antoinette effectively ended the most competitive rhyme battle in female rap history. Both profane and cringe-inducing, this is straight-no-chaser hip-hop.
The ETHER: “Oh yeah, who shot ya?/Who knows but they gotcha/Uh, fed up, uh, wet up, uh/Maybe next time your punk a** will keep your head up.”
When Lil’ Kim found herself being name checked in the explosive war of words between NYC rhyme king Notorious B.I.G. and West Coast rap deity 2Pac, she did what any self-respecting Brooklyn girl would do: fight back. Although the Queen Bee doesn’t name names, Kim’s eye-winking reference to the late Shakur’s infamous 1994 shooting at Manhattan’s Quad Studios spoke volumes.
Target: J.J. Fad
The ETHER: “Keep hearing J.J. Fad, that’s just annoying/They have the nerve and challenge us and come get some/I don’t know, there ain’t s**t on the album/A real rapper writes from the heart and from the soul/A fake rapper sits down and recites what they are told/Like you J.J. Fad, you can’t cope/Trying to diss us with some rhymes that Dr. Dre wrote.”
There had long been tension between the spunky duo of Sugga & Spice and J.J. Fad ever since the two West Coast acts were both rising stars on Dream Team Records. So when J.J. Fad bolted the independent imprint to sign with Eazy E’s Ruthless Records, you could say all hell broke lose. Sugga & Spice’s “That’s Funky” did not go the subliminal route. Instead, it viciously called out names.
Target: Sugga & Spice
The ETHER: “On the back of your glossy, I'll leave my signature/’Cause just face it/Nobody wants a picture of you hanging anywhere that they may go/'Cause I seen a better picture on a can of Alpo.”
It was way easy to dismiss J.J. Fad as mere pop pretenders following the bubbly crossover success of their Grammy-nominated, gold-selling party-starter “Super Sonic.” But the Los Angeles trio, backed by the N.W.A crew, proved their worth on the mic with this quite hilarious dig at their former label mates.
Target: Foxy Brown
The ETHER: “I don’t spit subliminals, no doubt/This way you don’t walk around wondering who the f**k I’m talkin’ ‘bout/I’m not trippin’, I heard you rippin’/But I’m into breaking b*****s, sending them back to their first career…stripping.”
If you really want to impress your friends with your omnipotent hip-hop knowledge, just break down the secret war between Foxy Brown and Queen Latifah. It all started around ’96, when Fox Boogie allegedly claimed in music industry circles that Latifah, who had by then become a respected TV and film heavyweight, made an unwanted advance towards her.
The Queen didn’t take too kindly to the whispers concerning her sexuality, dropping a barely veiled swipe at Foxy on “Name Callin’” on the soundtrack for the heist classic Set It Off (1996). But when Foxy Brown decided to reignite the feud with her scathing nod to MC Lyte with “10% Dis,” Latifah took off the gloves and went for the jugular on the snarling “Name Callin’ Part 2.” Indeed, it wasn’t all U-N-I-T-Y.
Target: Lil’ Kim
The ETHER: “You and Diddy, y’all kill me with that subliminal s**t, b***h/Why’s you frontin’ and kickin’ that street s**t?/Please, impress me, go back to that freak s**t/While your broke-a** was guzzlin’ nuts and s**t, I was choppin’ the weights, leak and O.Z.s and s**t.”
In retrospect, the long simmering beef between Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown should have produced some of rap’s most memorable battle records. Instead, we are left with a series of clandestine back-and-forths that left fans wondering when they were going to get a true payoff. That is until Brown left little to the imagination and let off on her fellow Brooklyn diva on the Capone-N-Noreaga threat “Bang, Bang.” It’s rumored that Foxy’s bloodthirsty, deeply personal ambush of a verse is the reason why the one-time associates are no longer on speaking terms. Yikes.
Target: Foxy Brown
The ETHER: “Capitalize on what?/I ain’t wanna contend with ya/Honest Inga, I don't think nobody remembers ya/Fox-Bozo, Foxy Clown, Foxy Cotton, or Jello/S**t, I wanna see who the hell is the Gepetto/How ya'll brought that/Whack a** throwback/BROOOOKLYN/You deserve better than a b***h on Prozac.”
Following a Miami recording studio altercation with Foxy Brown, which turned into an outright brawl, a seething Jacki-O went into the booth and released this cutthroat middle finger of a track. Yes, the self-proclaimed Queen of the South does not mince words (“In your interviews, go ahead and tell them how linoleum tasted…”). In fact, she even threatens Foxy in Haitian Creole just in case the message wasn’t clear.
(Photo from left: Michael Tran/Getty Images, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Live Nation, Johnny Nunez/Getty Images)