Few events in hip-hop are more exhilarating and fascinating than a well-executed, properly timed diss song that lyrically dismantles its intended target. A sharp battle record can finish a career or, better still, leave the victim no choice but to respond with some heat of his or her own.
But what happens when diss records go wrong?
Naming names or firing insults alone does not a great diss record make. Clever lines, a strong beat choice and a good reason for attacking in the first place all help.
As the culture matured and it grew increasingly evident that diss records can double as marketing gimmicks—a cheap and easy way to stir up buzz for a faltering or thin career—listeners became more accustomed to the odd battle track, resulting in a sickening thud.
At best, a bad diss record demands little to no replay value. At worst, it backfires and further harms to the shooter himself.
Here are 15 examples from the 2000s of diss records that were lyrically weak, poorly timed, clumsily executed, immediately forgettable or simply lame. Plug your ears. (Or open them up to learn from these mistakes.) —Luke Fox
“Die Another Day,” Benzino Target: Eminem
Benzino poked the bear and fell in over his head when he threatened Eminem’s life in this ill-advised and clumsily executed 2003 attack over Puff Daddy’s “Victory” instrumental. The rhyming is awkward and stunted, but worse is the former Source co-founder bringing up Em’s daughter, Hailie, and comparing him to David Duke and Hitler. Ironically, the track concludes with the sound effect of a giant explosion—it was only a matter of time before Eminem would detonate Benzino’s rap career.
“J. Clone,” CanibusTarget: J. Cole
During interviews, J. Cole had reminisced about hanging Canibus raps on his bedroom walls and bumping his old joints to get in the zone, but Canibus apparently felt he deserved more than simply respect. He wanted a collab and some of that Dreamville recording budget, so he foolishly recorded this jealous mess in 2011.
“I can't help but to think that he is not nearly as sincere or genuine as he would like real hip-hop heads to think he is because he speaks about me like I am dead,” Canibus wrote on his Facebook page. “What he is doing is underhanded and disingenuous.” Two days later, Canibus dropped a video retracting the diss and admitting his behavior was selfish.
“Wanksta,” ChingyTargets: Nelly, Ali and the St. Lunatics
Let’s go with “Beefs No One Cares About” for $100, Alex! Stemming from friction over which St. Louis crew broke through first and created the phrase “derrty,” former Ludacris protégé Chingy (of “Right Thurr” fame) felt Nelly and his crew were keeping him down, worried he might rise up as the city’s most popular artist. Several disses were exchanged, including Ali’s “Get It Bitch,” but Chingy’s shots at Ali and “Smelly” (really?) fall flat as he borrows 50 Cent’s “Wanksta” instrumental only to deliver a soft body blow.
“Sweet,” CommonTarget: Drake
Common proved capable of going toe-to-toe with heavyweights when he sonned Ice Cube on “The Bitch in Yoo.” With “Sweet,” however, he took a soft swipe at the younger Drake, who had more listeners and momentum at his disposal. By making his thinly veiled Drake diss a single for a late-career album, the move reeked of desperation. Common’s subliminals included being annoyed by Drizzy’s singing ("You ain't muthafuckin' Frank Sinatra"). Softballs. “I might sing, but I ain't no bitch. If Common got something to say, say it to my face,” Drake stated onstage in Las Vegas before responding with the significantly superior “Stay Schemin’.”
“Somebody Gone Get Shot,” D4LTarget: Dem Franchise Boyz
These Atlanta ringtone rappers started beefing over some very frivolous subjects, like who made their two-step dance a fad. Masterminds of the sugary smash hit “Laffy Taffy,” D4L tries to get aggressive on “Somebody Gone Get Shot,” but it’s an ill-suited and highly homophobic look for the party crowd. It’s hard to invoke fear with threats like, “College boys stood have stayed your ass in school.” And it’s a little rich for D4L to slam DFB by labelling them “ABC rappers.”
“Two Birds, One Stone,” Drake Targets: Kid Cudi, Pusha-T
Dropped as a loosie to help promote his 2016 project More Life, Drake took both Kid Cudi and Pusha-T to task over a 40/Kanye West production. Drizzy’s lines directed at the man on the noon (a.k.a. Cudi) stirred controversy for their insensitivity: “Still never been on hiatus/You stay Xanned and perked up/So when reality set in, you don't gotta face it.” Cudi had just checked himself into psychiatric rehabilitation for depression and suicidal urges a few days prior. Bad timing, worse taste. Cudi responded to Drake on Twitter, writing: “Say it to face, pussy. You think it's a game. I wanna see you say it to my face. I'll be out soon. Promise.”
“J.D.’s Reply,” Jermaine DupriTargets: Eminem, Dr. Dre, Timbaland
No one should question Jermaine Dupri’s contributions to hip-hop on the business, marketing, promotions and production front, but the poor guy is not a battle MC. As he jacks beats from feuding producers/rappers Dr. Dre and Timbaland to speak his piece, J.D. finds a way to make a classic like “The Next Episode” sound meh. Telling Dre, “You still tryin’ to come up,” is neither accurate nor harmful. Then Dupri says Eminem isn’t worth a diss because he’s “like a character in Disney World”—no one takes him seriously.
“Better Run Run,” King HammerTarget: Jay-Z
King Hammer, better known as MC Hammer, took offense to these lines by the Jigga Man on 2010’s “So Appalled”: “And Hammer went broke, so you know I’m more focused / I lost 30 mil so I spent another 30 / ’Cause unlike Hammer, 30 million can’t hurt me.” So, the formerly genie-panted one clapped back first on Twitter and then with this PG single/video. With lines like, “Yo Jay, I got a reasonable doubt / If I knocked on your door, would you come on out?” Jay felt no need to respond.
"Wanna Know," Meek MillTarget: Drake
A flaccid and long-delayed response to Drake’s double whammy of “Charged Up" and “Back to Back” disses, Meek Mill's “Wanna Know” barely registered a battle scar on Toronto’s most-famous ghostwriter employer when it finally dropped in late summer 2015. Lines like, “Spitting another niggas shit, but you claim you king though?” failed to land with much impact or explore new territory. The most incendiary line was spoken during the outro, when Meek’s charge that “You let Tip homie piss on you in a movie theater” begged for more elaboration. To make matters worse, professional wrestler The Undertaker filed a lawsuit against Meek for borrowing his entrance theme for “Wanna Know.” Vince McMahon sent a cease-and-desist letter, and Meek removed the track from SoundCloud.
“I’m a Slick Rick,” Nick Cannon Target: Eminem
Meshing a Slick Rick impersonation with a “Teach me how to Dougie” chant, Nick Cannon calls Eminem “soft Teddy Ruxpin” on this curious and atrocious diss track. Cannon would explain that he felt compelled to respond to Eminem’s “The Warning,” in which the Detroit MC attacks Mariah Carey and Cannon and details points of their relationship. “If anything, I’ve been one of his biggest fans, but when another man crosses a line of disrespect, then you got to deal with it," Cannon told HipHopDX after serving up this weak sauce. "I can’t just sit there and allow someone to disrespect my family and think there aren’t going to be any repercussions.”
"Another One," Remy MaTarget: Nicki Minaj
Remy Ma’s vicious “Shether” did a fine job of tearing into nemesis Nicki Minaj in 2017, but the New York MC felt it necessary to double down with a worse, superfluous second diss track only a few days later. “Another One” bites the dust by unsuccessfully copying Drake’s “Back to Back” in both strategy and flow. The point of the whole song appears to be begging Nicki—the more popular of the two artists—to respond to the first diss, presumably to boost Remy’s notoriety. “I'm like, nah, where the fuck is your song, I mean, c'mon," Remy spits. “Waited four days, ma, where you been?/ I came here in the 'Rari playing Lil Kim.” Reeks of desperation.
“Built Like That” by Scott StorchTarget: Timbaland
We understand hitmaking producer Scott Storch taking offense to this Timbo smack on the Justin Timberlake–featuring "Give It to Me": "I'm a real producer/You just a piano man." Storch is more than a piano man, but what he’s not is a battle rapper. The angry “Built Like That,” in which Storch tries to discredit Timbaland’s talent, only proves that Storch’s talents are best kept on the other side of the recording booth.
“I needed to defend myself like a man is supposed to do,” Storch told MTV News at the time. “I'm not a rapper, but I wasn't about to have somebody else fight my battle for me. So I said, 'Lemme put this down.' I been making rap records long enough. I just got in the booth and spit what was on my mind.”
“Fuck Bow Wow,” Soulja BoyTarget: Bow Wow
The kiddie rappers grew up angry. Soulja Boy offers up a basic, simplistic and annoying hook in which he creatively calls Bow Wow “a bitch-ass nigga” several times. The verses are worse. Soulja accuses Bow Wow of getting sodomized by Omarion, raped by his bodyguard and having a small penis. This wretched, unlistenable submission into hip-hop’s canon of battle records is horribly homophobic and devoid of an ounce of creativity. It finishes with Soulja abandoning rap altogether in favor of an expletive-filled rant. Brutal.
“Tall Midget,” TreachTarget: Vin Rock
In this “don’t bite the hand that feed you” warning, Naughty by Nature frontman Treach tears apart his running mate, Vinnie, making fun of his weight, height and lack of talent, dubbing the poor guy “Uncle Adlib.” Of course, everyone knows Treach is the lyrical backbone and chief writer for the New Jersey trio, which struck gold with a string of hits in the 1990s. Publicly broadcasting the internal bickering by the 2000s is just a bad look and comes off as a last-ditch effort for relevancy. Also: They prefer the term “little people.”
“Bad Ass” by Troy AveTarget: Joey Bada$$
In response to a Joey Bada$$ jab—“My nigga Kirk just outsold Troy Ave"—on his track “Ready,” Troy Ave went full blast at a his rival for King of New York’s independent MCs title. But Troy stepped over the line of good taste when he brought up Joey’s dear friend, Capital Steez, who took his own life in 2012. “Don't get suicidal like your friend, here's a casket/Steez burning in hell, my burner's in my belt.” Making fun of a friend’s suicide? Nah.