From classic-rock squabbles to hip-hop diss tracks and social media wars, here are the ridiculous, rancorous conflicts that have held us rapt
Creative differences, financial disputes, drug abuse, love triangles – in the music industry, the opportunities to butt heads are basically limitless. The bigger the star, the bigger the ego, and when two tangle, you get a supernova of spite and bile that holds the world in rapture, turning mature adults into spit-flecked children chanting “Fight, fight, fight!” in a circle at recess.
Many clashes are over in a flash, while others drag out for years and even decades. Some feuds are undoubtedly hilarious, birthing otherworldly insults like Liam Gallagher’s “Potato” and Mariah Carey’s beyond catty “I don’t know her,” both of which will live on until the end of the Internet. Others are tragic and have no possible upside as friendships, bands, families and even lives are destroyed in the process. Others still have inspired an entire sub-category of song that crosses all genre boundaries: the diss track. (See: “Bad Blood,” “Swish Swish,” about 25 percent of all rap songs.)
Read on for 30 of the most explosive beefs in music history. Pick a side, or simply spectate. No judgment.
John Lennon vs. Paul McCartney
The generation-defining duo kept their squabbles behind closed doors during the Beatles’ death throes in the late Sixties, but as McCartney made a move to legally dissolve the band’s partnership in December 1970, Lennon took the spat public in the pages of Rolling Stone. The conversation with magazine founder Jann Wenner touched on McCartney’s supposedly overbearing nature in the studio (“I pretty damn well know we got fed up of being sidemen for Paul,” he seethed), McCartney’s poor leadership following the death of the band’s manager Brian Epstein, and the other Beatles’ reaction to Lennon’s new relationship with Yoko Ono. “Ringo was all right, but the other two really gave it to us. I’ll never forgive them.”
McCartney’s public response was more measured. On 1971’s Ram, he included a subtle jab at Lennon on the opening track, “Too Many People,” mocking the former Teddy Boy rebel’s sudden fervor for world-peace crusades with the line “Too many people preaching practices.” Elsewhere in the song he sings, “You took your lucky break and broke it in two,” which McCartney later admitted was also directed at his former bandmate.
The line went over most people’s heads, but Lennon got the reference – and fired back with one obvious enough for everyone. Included on 1971’s Imagine is “How Do You Sleep?,” a diss track so positively nasty that it borders on obscene. In footage taken at the session, Lennon, Ono and guest guitarist George Harrison can be seen laughing as they swap lines like “The sound you make is Muzak to my ears/You must have learned something in all those years,” and a dig at his most famous song: “The only thing you done was ‘Yesterday.'”
McCartney was reluctant to punch back. His major public response was the devastating “Dear Friend” from 1971’s Wild Life, in which he mournfully wonders whether this was “really the borderline” of their relationship. The delicate lament was an olive branch, though it would take some time to be accepted as such. Friendly calls from McCartney were met with Lennon’s suspicious “Yeah, yeah, whatdaya want.” His new American twang particularly grated McCartney, who once shot back, ‘Fuck off, Kojak!”
Relations had improved enough by the mid Seventies for McCartney to occasionally drop by Lennon’s Upper West Side apartment at the Dakota building when business brought him to New York City. Together the old friends would reminisce and exchange thoughts on baking bread or their young children. Any hopes of a permanent reconciliation were ended by an assassin’s bullet on December 8th, 1980.
Brian Wilson vs. Mike Love
Discord between the cousins had set in by the mid-Sixties when Wilson, the acting maestro behind the Beach Boys, sought to move the band beyond their fun-in-the-sun persona. Love found the new musical daring pretentious, and feared alienating the fans originally won over by their carefree surfing image.
The stress was palpable during the 1966 sessions for Pet Sounds, Wilson’s most experimental work to date. Skeptical of augmenting their sound with a fleet of session musicians wielding exotic instruments, Love resented that Wilson took the majority of the lead vocals himself. It’s just as well, as he took issue with much of the album’s lyrical content. “Some of the words were so totally offensive to me that I wouldn’t even sing ’em because I thought it was too nauseating,” Love admitted to Goldmine in 1992. Exhibit A: a new tune Wilson presented with the LSD-drenched title “Hang Onto Your Ego.” Hardly a psychedelic warrior, Love put his foot down and refused to participate. The title was promptly changed to “I Know There’s an Answer.”
The clashes continued when Wilson plunged into his next project, the ambitious “teenage Symphony to God” dubbed SMiLE. It was during this period that Love supposedly delivered his famous warning: “Don’t fuck with the formula!” The oft-quoted remark made its first appearance in a 1971 Rolling Stone profile, though Love dismissed it in his memoir as “the most famous thing I’ve ever said, even though I never said it.” Even so, Wilson later claimed that Love was “disgusted” by the project.
Wilson’s mental health struggles drove a wedge between the cousins, and their relationship was further strained by a series of courtroom battles. In the early Nineties Love filed a lawsuit claiming he wasn’t credited on many songs he had written with Wilson. A jury ruled in his favor, awarding Love a co-writer credit on 35 of the titles, including some of the band’s biggest hits. Several years later, the death of band mate Carl Wilson splintered the remaining group into several opposing camps, all of whom competed in legal arenas for the right to use the Beach Boys name. Love eventually won, and began leasing the name from the band’s label, Brother Records.
As part of the Beach Boys’ 50th anniversary in 2012, the surviving members buried the hatchet long enough to record a new album and embark on a triumphant tour. It seemed like a long-awaited happy ending until it was revealed that Love would continue touring as the Beach Boys without the help of Wilson later that year. “The Beach Boys might get together again – but not with me,” Wilson told Rolling Stone’s Jason Fine mid-2017.
The Eagles rarely had peaceful easy feelings within their ranks, but the most extreme schism widened during sessions for Hotel California in 1976. Felder expressed the desire to sing his composition “Victim of Love,” but his bandmates were less than pleased with his initial takes. “Don Felder, for all of his talents as a guitar player, was not a singer,” Frey said in the band’s authorized 2013 documentary, The History of the Eagles. Henley agreed, saying it “simply did not come up to band standards.” While Felder was at dinner with the group’s manager, Irving Azoff, the rest of the band wiped his vocals and rerecorded it with Henley. Felder never forgot the slight.
The Eagles struggled to follow up the record-breaking success of Hotel California, and sessions for what would become The Long Rundragged on for 18 months. During this time, Felder found himself increasingly at odds with Henley and Frey, sarcastically dubbing them “the Gods.” The resentment reached critical mass on July 31st 1980, the night the band played a benefit concert for California Senator Alan Cranston at Long Beach Arena. Felder, who preferred to steer clear of political causes, was frustrated about having to go along with Henley and Frey’s wishes. When the Senator thanked each musician individually at a pre-show meet-and-greet, Felder replied with a curt: “You’re welcome, Senator … I guess.”
Enraged, Frey laid into Felder as soon as the politician was out of sight, and the fight continued – on-mic – in the middle of the night’s performance. “We’re onstage, and Felder looks back at me and says, ‘Only three more songs till I kick your ass, pal.’ And I’m saying, ‘Great. I can’t wait,'” Frey later recalled. “We’re out there singing ‘Best of My Love,’ but inside both of us are thinking, ‘As soon as this is over, I’m gonna kill him.'”
That was how the Eagles’ story ended until 1994, when they reconvened for Hell Freezes Over, an album, tour and MTV special. The project’s success kicked off a long stream of well-regarded blockbuster tours, but the tenuous peace was disrupted when Felder made waves about the bottom line. Though the band had split their revenue equally back in its Seventies heyday, he now complained that Henley and Frey insisted on a higher percentage for themselves. Henley and Frey didn’t take kindly to having their motives questioned, and fired Felder from the Eagles on February 6th, 2001.
The dismissal set off an avalanche of messy legal proceedings, beginning with Felder filing suits for wrongful termination, breach of contract and fiduciary duty. The lawsuits were eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, but the wounds never healed. When Frey died in January 2016, Felder paid him a warm tribute in the Associated Press. “I had always hoped somewhere along the line, he and I would have dinner together, talking about old times and letting it go with a handshake and a hug.”
Roger Waters vs. David Gilmour
Pink Floyd were divided during sessions for The Wall in 1979, as Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright grew frustrated by Waters’ unwillingness to compromise in the studio. “He forced his way to become that central figure,” Gilmour told Rolling Stone in 1987. Waters, for his part, claimed he was pushed into the role of creative taskmaster due to the diminishing input of his (to his mind) less talented bandmates. “There was no point in Gilmour, Mason or Wright trying to write lyrics,” he countered in Rolling Stone. “Because they’ll never be as good as mine. Gilmour’s lyrics are very third-rate.”
The global success of The Wall only widened the divisions. On the accompanying tour, Waters stayed at separate hotels, and rarely spoke with his bandmates offstage. As work began on a follow-up, 1983’s The Final Cut, a less-than-enthusiastic Gilmour feared that the album was padded with rejects from The Wall. The conflicts grew increasingly hostile, and Gilmour’s name was ultimately removed from the album’s production credits.
When Waters decided to pursue solo endeavors in December 1985, he attempted to dissolve Pink Floyd in his wake, labeling it “a spent force creatively.” Gilmour disagreed, forging ahead with Wright and Mason to record a new album as Pink Floyd. An irate Waters took legal action to bar Gilmour and the rest of his former colleagues from using the band’s name – and the famed inflatable pig mascot during live performances.
Gilmour won the court battle but the war waged in the court of public opinion. The remaining Floyd members characterized their former bassist as a vindictive egomaniac, while Waters portrayed his Gilmour and Co. as coasting on the back of his genius. When the scaled-down Floyd released A Momentary Lapse of Reason in 1987, Waters dismissed it as “a very facile but quite clever forgery.”
Pink Floyd remained largely dormant following the release of 1994’s The Division Bell, but tensions had eased enough by July 2005 for the band’s classic lineup to reunite for a set at the Live 8 global charity event. The reconciliation would prove to be the last time the foursome would perform before Wright’s death in 2008.
Waters surprised fans in 2011 by bringing out Gilmour and Mason for a guest appearance on “Comfortably Numb” during a performance at London’s O2 arena, and by 2013 he even admitted that he regretted the lawsuit over the band’s name. But when Gilmour and Mason polished off some old demos for release as a new Floyd album, The Endless River, in 2014, Waters declined to participate.
Before the Gallagher brothers, the world had the Davies as their prototypical Britpop sibling rivalry. “We were battlers,” reflected Ray. “But the very thing that makes a band special is what ultimately causes it to break up.” According to Dave, their differences stem from childhood. “I think Ray has been happy for only three years in his life. And those were the three years before I was born.”
One incident seems indicative of things to come. The boys had staged a mock boxing match, but the roughhousing turned serious when Ray collapsed in a heap after hitting his head on the side of the family’s piano. Dave bent down in concern to ask if Ray was ok; Ray immediately opened his eyes and socked him in the face. “It’s symbolic of our whole relationship, really,” Dave reflected.
Once the two were bandmates, the fighting would take place practically anywhere: onstage, in the studio, in the back of a limousine. Even on major family occasions, they found it hard to play nice. When Ray tapped Dave to act as best man at his 1964 wedding, the younger brother got extremely drunk and announced that he was “too pissed” to give the speech.
The Kinks performed together for the last time in 1996, shortly before Dave’s ill-fated 50th birthday party. “Ray had the money and I didn’t,” he recalled, “So he offered to throw it for me. Just as I was about to cut the cake, Ray jumped on the table and made a speech about how wonderful he was. He then stamped on the cake.” They would see very little of each other for many years.
Begrudging fraternal love united them in 2004 when Dave suffered a serious stroke. Ray invited Dave to stay at his home, but old jealousies returned. “I was ill in bed and could barely move, but he started saying: ‘I’m sick, I’m sick!’ He was screaming in pain from his stomach.” A medical examination revealed nothing out of the ordinary. “He just wanted attention,” opined Dave.
In 2013 they fought over the genesis of what might be the Kinks’ greatest legacy: the fuzzed-out overdrive guitar distortion heard on their 1964 breakthrough hit, “You Really Got Me.” Ray claims that he came up with the idea of slashing the speaker cone of Dave’s guitar amplifier to achieve the effect, while the guitarist claims he developed the technique himself. Dave accused Ray of propagating the myth in his West End musical Sunny Afternoon, based on the songs of the Kinks. “My brother is lying,” he wrote in a furious Facebook post. “I am just flabbergasted and shocked at the depth of his selfish desire to take credit for everything.”
They were able to put their difference aside for long enough to appear together onstage in December 2015 to perform the song in question before an audience in London – their first live collaboration in nearly two decades.
Paul Simon vs. Art Garfunkel
The childhood friends first recorded together as teenagers in 1957, but as Garfunkel began to focus on his academic career, Simon quietly inked a solo side deal. Garfunkel took it as a serious betrayal when he learned of his musical partner’s extracurricular endeavors, and the incident would be a sore point in the decades to come.
After the two scored global fame in the mid-Sixties, long-held resentments made the union a ticking time bomb. The detonation occurred in late 1968 when director Mike Nichols offered them both roles in his adaptation of the book Catch-22. Simon’s character was cut before production began, so Garfunkel flew solo to shoot in Mexico. Initially Simon had been supportive of the outing, even penning “The Only Living Boy in New York” as a tender good luck for his old friend. But as the three-month film shoot stretched into nearly a year, Simon grew frustrated by the delay.
Garfunkel’s eventual return failed to repair relations, and the two clashed over differing musical ideas. Simon had written a song called “Cuba Si, Nixon No,” which he presented as a potential 12th track on what would become Bridge Over Troubled Water. Garfunkel, turned off by its overt political commentary, suggested doing a Haitian Creole chorale called “Feuilles-O.” Neither side would budge. The album was released with only 11 songs, and the pair decided to go their separate ways.
It was during a professional nadir in 1981 that they agreed to reunite at a free concert in New York’s Central Park. The performance became of one of the biggest musical events in history, drawing an unparalleled 500,000 people to the Great Lawn. A world tour was planned for May 1982, but it wasn’t long before they fell into the same destructive patterns. Things weren’t any better in the studio as they worked on an all-new Simon & Garfunkel album to be called Think Too Much. In the end, Simon wiped Garfunkel’s vocal tracks and set about finishing the songs as a solo effort.
Eyebrows were raised during their somewhat frosty Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech in 1990. Garfunkel started off sincere, saying, “I want to thank most of all the person who has most enriched my life by putting these great songs through me: My friend Paul here.” It should have been a touching moment of reconciliation, save for Simon’s parting joke. “Arthur and I agree about almost nothing,” he said. “But it’s true, I have enriched his life quite a bit, now that I think about it.”
The men hit the road for high-profile reunion tours in 1993, 2003 and 2010, but it never stuck. The same unexplainable force that blends their voices together in celestial harmony also compels them to spend the majority of their time apart.
“Lovely bloke,” Richards said of John in a 1988 Rolling Stone interview, “but posing.” The venomous dig was prompted by John’s recent single, “I Don’t Wanna Go On with You Like That,” but some wondered if Keef harbored a grudge against John for outstaying his welcome during a guest appearance – which stretched to 10 songs – at a 1975 Rolling Stones concert in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Whatever the cause of the rift, Richards didn’t hold back when asked his thoughts on “Candle in the Wind 1997,” John’s musical elegy for friend Princess Diana. Though profits from the single were donated to charity, Richards said the rewrite of John’s 1973 tribute to Marilyn Monroe “did jar a bit” in an October 1997 interview with Entertainment Weekly. “Songs for Dead Blondes,” he pronounced. “I’d find it difficult to ride on the back of something like that myself, but Reg [John’s birth name] is showbiz.” He echoed the sentiment a short time later and took aim at John’s theatrical stage style.
John fought back in an interview published by the Daily News that same month. “I’m glad I’ve given up drugs and alcohol. It would be awful to be like Keith Richards. He’s pathetic, poor thing. It’s like a monkey with arthritis, trying to go onstage and look young. I have great respect for the Stones but they would have been better if they had thrown Keith out 15 years ago. … I just think he’s an asshole and I have for a long time.” He also refuted the accusations of Vegas-level theatrics. “Please, if the Rolling Stones aren’t show business, then what is? You know, with their inflatable naked women.”
John went on the offensive in 2011 when he criticized Richards’ recent autobiography, Life, which featured some unflattering details about Jagger’s anatomy. “I was a bit put off by hearing about the bit about Mick Jagger’s penis,” he said. “If I said that [songwriting partner] Bernie Taupin was a miserable twat and had a small penis, he’d probably never talk to me again. It’s like, why do that?”
Relations between the two rock icons thawed in September 2015, when fellow Stone Ronnie Wood was able to broker a truce long enough for Richards and John to pose for a photo at the GQ Awards in London.
David Lee Roth vs. Eddie Van Halen
Tensions simmered during the 1983 sessions for 1984. David Lee Roth resented the decision to record at Eddie Van Halen’s newly constructed home studio, 5150, as he felt it gave the guitarist too much creative autonomy. Though Van Halen’s sole Number One, “Jump,” emerged from Eddie’s sonic laboratory, the singer remained unhappy; by 1985, he turned his attention to a solo EP, Crazy from the Heat, with the aim to star in a movie of the same name. “The band as you know it is over,” Eddie told Rolling Stone that August. “Dave left to be a movie star. He even had the balls to ask if I’d write the score for him.” (The movie never materialized.)
Roth reconnected with the band in 1996 as they assembled a Greatest Hits album, and relations improved enough for the original lineup to reunite in the studio to record two new tracks for the compilation. Given that replacement singer Sammy Hagar had recently departed the group, fans viewed this as a dry run for a full-fledged reunion. But that all came to a halt when Van Halen, plus Roth, made a painful appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards. Trouble began when Roth went off script, trumpeting the importance of the original band members standing together. Eddie steered his one-time bandmate away from the microphone long enough for Beck to accept his Moonman for “Where It’s At,” but Roth vied for attention by dancing in the background with a demented grin.
The annoyance of sharing a stage with Roth for even just a few minutes was enough to torpedo any hope of reconciliation. “His onstage antics were embarrassing and disrespectful to Beck,” Eddie later told MTV. Matters deteriorated further that night as Eddie denied reports of an upcoming reunion tour during a backstage press conference, citing his hip surgery scheduled later that year. “Tonight’s about me, man, and not your fucking hip,” Roth responded. A tour manager had to physically restrain Eddie, who spat back, “If you ever speak like that to me again you better be wearing a cup.'”
It took more than a decade for tempers to cool, but in February 2007the band unveiled plans for a long-awaited tour with Roth. They followed it up in February 2012 with A Different Kind of Truth, their first full-length album with Roth since 1984, but the accompanying tour didn’t go well. Several legs were postponed, or cancelled altogether. “The conflict was immediate and sustained from day one,” Roth said in an interview on The Opie & Anthony Show at the time. “Not a note of this symphony has changed.” More cracks in the uneasy alliance showed while promoting their 2015 North American tour, with Eddie slamming Roth in a Billboard interview. “He does not want to be my friend.”
Lolita Shanté Gooden, a 14-year-old aspiring emcee, was walking through the Queensbridge housing project in 1984 when she overheard her neighbors, record producer Marley Marl and disc jockey Mr. Magic, complaining about the hip hop collective UTFO. The group had pulled out of an upcoming show they were promoting, leaving the two men in a lurch. Gooden offered to get back at the group by writing a diss track, and despite her tender age, the men agreed.
For a beat, they borrowed the instrumental track from UTFO’s “Roxanne, Roxanne,” the B side to their recent single “Hanging Out.” The original song told the tale of the band having their romantic advances cruelly rebuffed by a woman named Roxanne, so Gooden assumed the identity of the titular heartbreaker to record a less-than-flattering answer track. Dubbed “Roxanne’s Revenge,” the young rapper reportedly freestyled her obscenity-laden verse in just one take, done in Marl’s apartment. To complete the ruse, the song was released under the name Roxanne Shanté.
It caught fire immediately, becoming a sizable radio hit and selling 5,000 copies almost overnight. The chastised UTFO did the only thing they could do – they shot back with a song of their own. Enlisting Elease Jack (later replaced by Adelaida Martinez), they created the character of “the Real Roxanne,” and together recorded a song of the same name. It wasn’t exactly an all-out verbal assault on Shanté – presumably going in on a teenage girl was frowned upon – but the challenge to her authenticity was just as effective.
Given the chart success of the Roxanne songs, many rappers recognized an opportunity for some easy airplay and jumped into the fray. Over the coming year, more than 30 (and some say as many as 100) tracks were released, with MCs portraying all manner of Roxanne associates telling their sides of the story. Her relatives weighed in with tracks like “The Parents of Roxanne” by Gigolo Tony and Lacey Lace, “Yo, My Little Sister (Roxanne’s Brothers)” by Crush Groove, and “Rappin’ Roxy: Roxanne’s Sister” by D.W. and the Party Crew featuring Roxy. After exhausting her family tree, even her physician got some play on “Roxanne’s Doctor – The Real Man” by Dr. Freshh.
Roxanne fatigue eventually set in, as evidenced by the East Coast Crew’s trend-killing “The Final Word – No More Roxanne (Please),” but UTFO and Shanté had some unfinished business. The group swung first with “Roxanne, Roxanne, Pt. 2: Calling Her A Crab,” a downright dirty track, on which they called their rival an “ape” and offered her bananas to stop rapping. Shanté, meanwhile, asserted her status as rap feud royalty on “Queen of Rox.” From there, the inferno died away.
Steven Tyler vs. Joe Perry
The Toxic Twins’ run of Aerosmith was derailed during the recording of Night in the Ruts in 1979, when addiction and infighting resulted in massive production delays. The costly sessions forced their label to send Aerosmith on tour to generate income, but the stresses of the road made a brawl inevitable. Even so, few suspected that the bandmates’ wives would throw the first punch.
The rumble occurred on July 28th, 1979, before Aerosmith were due to perform in Cleveland. Terry Hamilton, wife of bassist Tom Hamilton, had some choice words for Perry’s wife Elyssa, and things quickly escalated. “Terri and I didn’t get along at all,” Elyssa said in the book Walk This Way. “I remember asking her something – sarcastic – and she might have thrown some ice at me. I had a glass of milk in my hand because I drank milk exclusively, and …” Milk was the thrown, and it got ugly.
Tyler entered the backstage chaos mid-scene. Helpless to intervene, he took his anger out on Perry. “I got into it with Joe,” he admitted in his memoir, Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? “Man, can’t you come over here and control your woman?'” This sparked an even bigger screaming match between Tyler and Perry that continued after show time. “I remember clearly being on the steps of the trailer, walking down and yelling at Joe, ‘You’re fucking fired!'” Tyler wrote.
It would be almost five years before Perry rejoined the fold. Trips to rehab strengthened the band, but by 2009 they started to falter. Tyler pulled out of a planned South American tour, telling Ultimate Classic Rock that he was “working on the brand of myself – Brand Tyler.” The move troubled Perry, who stoked press rumors that his longtime partner had left for good, and revealed he was holding vocal auditions for his replacement. Tyler responded by firing off a “cease and desist” letter.
Tyler returned, but tempers spiked again in August 2010, when it was announced that he would serve as a judge on American Idol. Perry railed against his bandmate’s new side gig to a Calgary newspaper. “It’s a reality show designed to get people to watch that station and sell advertising. It’s one step above Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. … It’s his business, but I don’t want Aerosmith’s name involved with it.”
In 2017 the band embarked on their Aero-Vederici Baby! global trek, which Tyler had at one point dubbed a “farewell tour.” Perry himselfwalked back those claims, saying they intended to play “till we drop.” At present, the fate of Aerosmith remains murky.
While the pair had already begun butting heads over the musical direction of Guns N’ Roses, the relationship was dealt a serious blow in 1991, when Slash contributed a guitar solo to Michael Jackson’s “Black or White.” According to former manager Doug Goldstein, Rose – who claims to have been molested by his father as a boy – believed the child-abuse accusations leveled against the King of Pop, and took his bandmate’s collaboration as a betrayal. The singer got revenge that year when GN’R recorded a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” for the Interview With a Vampire soundtrack, replacing Slash’s playing with that of Paul Huge.
The partnership was strained to the breaking point when Rose obtained legal ownership of the group’s name, effectively demoting his bandmates to the level of hired hands. By 1996, Slash decided to part ways with Guns for good. Of course, there was acrimony. As the news broke, Rose sent a fax to MTV saying that he had fired the guitarist because he had lost his “dive in and find the monkey’ attitude.”
The pair wouldn’t speak for decades, but they exchanged words in the press. Rose publically slammed Velvet Revolver, Slash’s new project with Scott Weiland and fellow GN’R vets Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum, and got even nastier in a 2009 interview with Spinner. “Personally I consider Slash a cancer and better removed, avoided – and the less anyone heard of him or his supporters, the better.” The fact that Slash’s mother had recently died after a breast-cancer battle gave the barb extra sting.
Over the years, Rose repeatedly made it clear that reconciliation with Slash was not in the realm of possibility, telling Billboard in 2009, “One of the two of us will die before a reunion and however sad, ugly or unfortunate anyone views it, it is how it is.” He pointedly refused to attend Guns N’ Roses’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2014. When asked why, Slash told Rolling Stone that the frontman “hates my guts.”
But one of the most unlikely truces in rock was declared in 2016, when it was announced that Slash would rejoin Guns N’ Roses to perform alongside Rose for a series of tour dates. “It was probably way overdue,” Slash told Sweden’s Aftonbladet television show as the news made headlines across the globe.
Oasis vs. Blur
Oasis and Blur started out sharing a healthy mutual respect, but the headstrong Gallagher brothers began to resent being lumped together with the figureheads of Britpop. The beef began when Blur’s Damon Albarn attended a gathering thrown in honor of Oasis’ first Number One single in the U.K., “Some Might Say” in the spring of 1995. “I went to their celebration party, y’know, just to say ‘Well done,'” he said at the time. “And Liam came over and, like he is, he goes, ‘Number fookin’ one!’ right in my face. So I thought, ‘OK we’ll see …'”
To ensure a charts showdown, Albarn conspired to schedule Blur’s next single, “Country House” the same day Oasis was due to release their latest song, “Roll With It.” The so-called “Battle of Britpop” became a cultural event, with Blur taking on the role of elitist, middle-class Londoners, while Oasis personified rough-necked working class northern Englanders.
Blur emerged victorious when “Country House” sold 274,000 copies to 216,000 for Oasis’ “Roll With It,” charting at Number One and Two respectively. They proved courteous winners. “The thing that most people don’t understand when they read the papers is that this rivalry is all made up,” Alex James insisted when the dust settled. “There’s few people I’d rather drink with than Oasis.”
But the Gallaghers weren’t ready to play nice. “I cared, ’cause I want number ones,” Liam told NME at the time. “I met Alex in the pub and said, ‘Congratulations on number one – it’s about fucking time, mate,’ and he goes, ‘Oh yeah. But both our songs were shit anyway.’ And I went, ‘No, this is where you’re wrong. And this is why I fuckin’ hate your band, and you. I thought our song was top.'” Noel was even more direct. “I hate that Alex and Damon,” he spat to The Observer. “I hope they catch AIDS and die.” Six months later, Oasis performed a brief cover of Blur’s “Parklife” at the Brit Awards under a new title: “Shitelife.”
Relations between Noel and Albarn improved in 2011, mediated by booze. “I literally haven’t seen the guy for 15 fucking years and I bump into him in some club,” he revealed during an interview with Shortlist. “We both went, ‘Hey! Fucking hell!’ and then he said, ‘Come on, let’s go for a beer.’ So, we’re sitting there, having a beer, just going, ‘What the fuck was all that about 15 years ago? That was mental.’ … Like I said to him, you can say that you respect someone as an artist a thousand times and it will never get reported. But you call someone a cunt once … you know?”
Tupac Shakur vs. The Notorious B.I.G.
The two New York City-born MCs were initially close after they met on the set of John Singleton’s film Poetic Justice in 1993. “I always thought it to be like a Gemini thing,” Biggie later told Vibe. “We just clicked off the top and were cool ever since.” But that would change on November 30th, 1994, when Tupac was robbed at gunpoint outside of New York’s Quad Recording Studios and shot five times.
Badly injured, he harbored suspicions that his supposed friend had advance knowledge of the attack. The fears were reinforced months later when Biggie released “Who Shot Ya?” which appeared to mock the incident. Despite Biggie’s assertion that he “wrote that muthafuckin’ song way before Tupac got shot,” ‘Pac took the track as an admission of guilt. While in prison for an unrelated sexual assault charge, he gave an interview with Vibe in which he publicly pointed the finger at Biggie and his Bad Boy Records label chief, Sean “Puffy” Combs. “Even if that song ain’t about me, you should be, like, ‘I’m not putting it out, ’cause he might think it’s about him.'”
In October 1995, Tupac signed with Suge Knight’s Death Row Records in exchange for payment of his $1.4 million bail. The move put him on a collision course with Knight’s rivals at Bad Boy Records – especially Puffy and Biggie – and stoked the flames of an East Coast–West Coast hip-hop war. Tupac brought out the big guns with “Hit ‘Em Up,” a blazing response to “Who Shot Ya?” that opened with the inflammatory cry, “I ain’t got no motherfucking friends/That’s why I fucked your bitch, you fat motherfucker.”
Tupac continued to take aim at his former friend in interviews and on tracks like “Against All Odds” and “Bomb First (My Second Reply),” but Biggie didn’t release an official response on record. In fact, he seemed genuinely hurt in a 1996 interview with Vibe: “This shit’s just got to be talk, that’s all I kept saying to myself. I can’t believe he would think that I would shit on him like that.”
The men failed to repair their relationship before Tupac was gunned down in Las Vegas in September 1996. Suspicions immediately fell on Biggie, but he strenuously denied any involvement. “Even though we were going through our drama, I’d never wish death on nobody,” he said soon after. “Ain’t no coming back from that.”
Biggie himself would be the victim of a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles the following March. Both murders remain unsolved.
Kid Rock vs. Tommy Lee
The saga of Rock and the rocker is a Southern-fried fairy tale with no happy ending. The role of the princess is played by Baywatch siren Pamela Anderson, swept off her feet by the Mötley Crüe drummer in 1995. They quickly married, despite only knowing each other for 96 hours, and eventually had two children. The marriage was over by 1998, and soon after she began a hot-and-cold relationship with “American Bad Ass” Kid Rock. The couple endured a broken engagement in 2003 – during which time she reportedly had brief liaisons with Lee – before they patched things up and wed on a yacht near Saint-Tropez, France, in July 2006. But the pair was unable to make it work, and Anderson filed for divorce that November, citing irreconcilable differences.
While Anderson and Lee were reasonably friendly exes, Rock later claimed that Lee was openly hostile to him. “We had just gotten divorced, and [Lee] was at a birthday with their oldest son,” he explained while testifying in connection with an unrelated brawl at a Georgia Waffle House in 2010. “He took Pam’s cell phone, called me, and started harassing me, saying, ‘You’re a piece of this, you’re a piece of that.’ I texted him back on that phone and said, ‘When I see you, I’m messing you up.'” The animosity bubbled over into an all-out battle royale during the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards. In Rock’s version of events, he returned from the bathroom to find Lee sitting in his seat. The fuse thus lit, things got physical during the broadcast.
“This was unavoidable,” Rock explained during an appearance on a L.A. radio program at the time. “I had to do what I had to do because this was a long time coming.”
Lee shared his side of the story on his website, TommyLee.tv, calling him “Kid Pebble” and a “jealous no career havin country bumpkin” with an “ugly ass mug.”
Anderson was not exactly won over by the brawl. “As soon as I left … meow!” she later said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Prince vs. Michael Jackson
Prince emerged onto the music scene with For You in 1978, one year before Jackson came into his own as a solo artist with Off the Wall, and for the next decade their musical paths would run on parallel tracks – never to intersect. The battle began when MJ upstaged 1999, Prince’s bestseller to date, with the industry-defining mega-smash Thriller in December 1982. Prince countered with Purple Rain, a triumph of sales and substance that caught even Jackson’s attention. When the Purple One came through Los Angeles with his Purple Raintour, Jackson reportedly attended multiple nights, studying his competition.
Even friendly games could turn heated. When both men shared a studio, the competition bubbled over onto the Ping-Pong table. Prince ultimately emerged victorious when Jackson fumbled his paddle trying to ward off a spiked ball. “Did you see that?” Prince supposedly crowedas Jackson slunk away. “He played like Helen Keller!” Longtime Revolution drummer Bobby Z maintained that the athletic challenges continued for quite some time. “They’d shoot hoops at Paisley Park,”he recalled in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Prince had a deep-seated competitive nature, so it’s easy to see where he would measure himself against Jackson’s success.”
Accustomed to his regal role in the pop pecking order, Jackson was reportedly miffed with Prince declined to participate in his all-star charity recording “We Are the World” in 1985. Prince also turned down the chance to duet with Jackson on the title track to 1987’s Bad, the follow-up to Thriller, and even to appear alongside him in the song’s video. “That Wesley Snipes character? That would have been me,” Prince admitted in a 1997 interview with Chris Rock on MTV.
Mutual friend Will.i.am attempted to broker peace in 2006 when he invited Jackson to watch him perform with Prince in Las Vegas. Things were going great until Prince decided to venture into the audience and play an aggressive slap-bass solo right in Jackson’s face. The hostile low end did not go over well, and Jackson made a point of mentioning it to Will.i.am the next morning. “I go to his house for breakfast, knock on the door, first words he says: ‘Why was Prince playing the bass in my face? Prince, he’s always been a meanie.'”
Rose was initially a big fan of Seattle’s most famous export, even wearing a Nirvana hat in the video for “Don’t Cry,” but Cobain repeatedly badmouthed GNR in the press. Undeterred, Rose invited Nirvana to be their opening act on a co-headlining tour with Metallica. “One day we’re walking through an airport and Kurt says, ‘Fuck. Axl Rose won’t stop calling me,'” Dave Grohl later recalled in a 2006 interview with Esquire. “I think it represented something bigger. Nirvana didn’t want to turn into Guns N’ Roses. So Kurt started talking shit in interviews, and then Axl started talking back.”
Rose lobbed his first volley of insults onstage during a lengthy mid-concert tirade about Cobain and his wife Courtney Love, calling them “a fuckin’ junkie with a junkie wife,” and even touched on hurtful rumors that their daughter, Frances Bean, had been born with drug-related birth defects.
When both bands were both booked to perform at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, things exploded backstage when Rose and model-girlfriend Stephanie Seymour walked past Cobain and Love, who were holding baby Frances. “When Courtney saw Axl, she said: ‘Axl, Axl, do you wanna be the godfather to our child?’ She was taunting him,” recalled MTV executive Amy Finnerty, who witnessed the tense exchange.
Rose then hissed a warning Cobain never forgot. “These were his words: ‘You shut your bitch up, or I’m taking you down to the pavement.’ [laughs] So I turned to Courtney and said: ‘Shut up, bitch!'” Cobain later recalled. The mood turned even uglier when Seymour asked Love if she was a model. “No,” came the reply, “Are you a brain surgeon?”
Before Nirvana took the stage, an irate Duff McKagan intercepted Krist Novoselic and they exchanged words. After concluding a historic performance of “Lithium,” Grohl couldn’t resist tweaking the easily tweak-able Rose by repeatedly whining into the mic, “Axl! Axl! Where’s Axl? Hi, Axl!”
The feud dissipated after Cobain’s suicide in April 1994. “After Kurt died, one of the first phone calls I got was from Matt Sorum,” Grohl told Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. “He left a message and said, ‘Man, I’m really sorry, and I hope you’re doing well.’ I thought that was really cool.” In 2010, McKagan apologized for the “terse words” exchanged with Novoselic, now a friend, in an open letter. Most recently, when Rose injured his foot during Guns N’ Roses’ 2016 reunion tour, Grohl sent over the oversized guitar throne he had used with the Foo Fighters.
Lil Kim vs. Foxy Brown
Comparisons can lead to competition. That’s the simple way to describe the relationship between these two rap stars, who rose in tandem in 1997. Both hailing from Brooklyn, even attending the same high school for a time, each released solo debuts a week apart in November 1996, then appeared together on the cover of The Source in February 1997. It only made sense for the two to come together for a collaboration, and when it never materialized, something seemed amiss.
The origins of the feud have never been clear-cut. Kim Osorio, former editor-in-chief of The Source, told XXL one theory: “I remember hearing that one had borrowed the outfit from the other and that led to them not speaking.”
In 1999, the feud made its way to music starting with the Lil Cease track “Play Around.” Lil Kim was featured alongside Puff Daddy, whose line “Stop tryin’ to sound like her too, bitches” was widely believed to be referencing Foxy Brown. Kim fired again on the title track of her sophomore album The Notorious K.I.M.: “This chick running around with this stink-ass gap/And them fake-ass raps having panic attacks/You ain’t a star/And your record company know that.” Foxy clapped back on Capone-N-Noreaga’s “Bang Bang”: ‘You talk slick, fuck is all that sneak shit?/You and Diddy, y’all kill me with that subliminal shit, bitch.”
In February 2001, real shots were fired outside of the Hot 97 station in New York between Capone-N-Norega’s and Lil’ Kim’s entourage. Foxy Brown shortly thereafter spoke to MTV News about the incident and the feud at large, “I really don’t know how it started. … Let’s just end it. We can even do a collaboration. We’re bigger than this.” But no such closure would come. In 2005, Lil Kim was sentenced to a year in prison for lying to protect some of her friends who were present at the shootout.
In 2013, Fabolous made the ambitious effort to help the two MCs bury the hatchet by reuniting during his set at Hot 97’s Summer Jam, a la Jay-Z and Nas. The moment never happened. Foxy Brown appeared onMTV’s RapFix Live to give her side, getting choked up while explaining: “[L]et’s just say that it wasn’t orchestrated properly … I understand the epic-ness of those two huge … the biggest female rappers in the game to come together and touch mics is phenomenal … but somewhere along the way, some part of that has to feel real.”
Mariah Carey vs. Whitney Houston
In the pre-Bodyguard Nineties, Whitney Houston seemed in danger of losing the octave-scaling R&B diva mantle to a young upstart named Mariah Carey. Barely in her twenties, Carey’s self-titled 1990 debut had sold 15 million copies worldwide, 5 million more than Houston’s (still absurdly high-selling) I’m Your Baby Tonight. Tabloids were quick to pit the pair against one another, but their feud was largely all smoke and no fire until Houston was asked about her supposed rivalry during a 1990 television interview – delivering the immortal: “What do I think of her? I don’t think of her.” The studio audience got the hint and hooted with Jerry Springer–level abandon. Houston’s halfhearted backpedaling (“Musically, I think she’s a good singer.”) did little to calm the crowd.
Houston served up an equally chilly response in 1995, when her own “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” got booted from the top of the charts by “One Sweet Day,” Carey’s ballad with Boyz II Men. When MTV dared to put the “What do you think of Mimi” question to her again, she answered with the delightfully obtuse, “Maybe it’s not what I think; it’s what she thinks. It’s more important.”
Producers of the 1998 animated biblical epic The Prince of Egyptbooked Carey and Houston to duet on “When You Believe” for the soundtrack, leading to a string of public goodwill gestures between the two. They put in an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show to deny that any beef existed between them, dismissing it all as “dramatics.”
They even poked fun at their rocky past while presenting Best Male Video at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards, strutting to the podium in identical, but supposedly “one of a kind” dresses. The staged fashion faux pas provoked a comical catfight, until they stripped down to reveal different dresses and embraced in a warm hug.
Following Houston’s death in February 2012, Carey was among the mourners at the star-studded service held in the late icon’s hometown of Newark, New Jersey. “I’m almost incapable to be talking about this still,” she said during an appearance on Good Morning America in the days that followed. “I don’t think people could ever really understand our relationship. There was always this supposed rivalry in the beginning and then we did the duet and became friends … I loved her.”
50 Cent vs. Ja Rule
Few music feuds have clear-cut winners, but Ja Rule admits that he lost this clash of the Queens rappers. That’s about all that the pair agrees on, as even the genesis of the beef remains the subject of debate. Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson alleges that Ja inaccurately held him responsible for the theft of his jewelry and went to complain to Murder Inc. boss Irv Gotti. However, Ja Rule claims that the feud began after being confronted by a largely unknown – and jealous – Jackson while filming on their home turf.
The up-and-coming Jackson threw the first punch with his 1999 track “Life’s on the Line,” which mocked Ja’s trademark “It’s murdah!” cry on the chorus: “Scream murder, I don’t believe you.” The blows became physical a few months later when the pair crossed paths in an Atlanta hotel lobby. According to Ja Rule’s memoir, Jackson took a swing at him with a Louisville Slugger – and missed. Enraged, Ja says he wrestled the bat away and began to beat him back. “Bam! I dropped the bat. I pulled the shirt over his head. I started catching him left, right, uppercut,” he wrote. “We proceeded to whip his ass.”
The violence increased in March 2000 when Jackson tangled with the Murder Inc. crew in the parking lot of New York City’s Hit Factory studio, earning three stitches in the process. Ja was not personally involved but the rappers traded barbs on tracks like “Wacksta,” “Clap Back,” “Hail Mary” and “Things Gon’ Change” – on which he rapped the lines, “I’ll probably go to jail for sending 50 to hell.”
But Ja Rule would find himself crippled when Murder Inc. was shut down due to a federal racketeering indictment. Then the law turned on Ja Rule personally. In 2011 he received a two-year prison sentence for charges related to gun possession and income tax evasion. Before serving his time, did his best to make nice with 50 Cent. “I’m cool. We ain’t beefing no more,” he said in an interview with the.LIFE Files. “We don’t gotta go to war, but we’re not friends either.”
Meek Mill dug up the beef during his own feud with Drake in the summer of 2015. “This that Ja Rule shit and 50 Cent,” he rapped on the diss track “Wanna Know.” Ja Rule, aware that he was being used as a punch line, took offense. “Which one supposed to be Ja Rule???” he captioned an Instagram photo. “#Over30millionrecordsSOLD #IwriteallmyS–t.”
Despite Ja Rule’s assertion that the feud has “flatlined,” the men can’t resist the occasional social-media flame war. When his one-time nemesis was lambasted for his role in the Fyre Festival fiasco in April 2017, 50 Cent got the last laugh by sharing a photo of Donald Trump purportedly “appointing Ja Rule as the secretary of festivals.”
Nas vs. Jay Z
Nas was one of the hottest rappers in the game when Jay-Z invited him to contribute a verse to Reasonable Doubt in 1996. For reasons unknown, Nas never made it to the studio, so Producer Ski Beatz sampled a line from the Nas track “The World is Yours” on Jay’s “Dead Presidents II” as revenge for the snub. The absentee artist did not appreciate the move, so he took a subtle jab at Jay-Z on “The Message” that year with the line, “Lex with TV sets the minimum.” As he later explained to Complex: “I saw Jay-Z driving a Lexus with the TVs in them. I got rid of my Lexus at that point and I was looking for the next best thing. … It wasn’t necessarily a shot at him but … he definitely inspired that line.”
Nas fired more warning shots over the next few years, but Jay-Z went way beyond the subliminal during an appearance at Hot 97’s Summer Jam concert in 2001. After premiering the first 32 bars of “Takeover,” a never-heard track from his upcoming album, Blueprint, he capped off the performance with the barb, “Ask Nas, he don’t want it with Hov. No!” Nas responded almost immediately with “Stillmatic,” in which he labels Jay both a “fake King of New York” and the “rapping version of Sisqo.”
The release of Blueprint that September revealed the full version of “Takeover,” which packed more bite than the Summer Jam sneak peak. When assessing Nas’ 10 year career, the former fan offered a damning critique: “Your shit is garbage/What you trying to kick, knowledge?”
Provoked, Nas unleashed the fury on “Ether,” a diss track so lethal that its title has become hip hop shorthand for lyrical annihilation. On it, he compares Jay-Z to the Joe Camel cigarette mascot and to J.J. “Dy-No-Mite!” Evans from Good Times. “You a fan, a phony, a fake, a pussy, a stan/I still whip your ass, you 36 in a karate class,” he raps.
Jay-Z went nuclear. On December 11th, 2001, he unveiled a new freestyle, “Supa Ugly,” on New York City’s Hot 97 FM on which he boasts about sleeping with Carmen Bryan, the mother of Nas’ daughter, Destiny. Jay’s mother, Gloria, had been listening to the premiere and demanded her son apologize to Nas and his family, which he did the following day. Even Nas acknowledged the need to call time on the increasingly nasty back-and-forth.
In October 2005, Jay shocked fans by bringing out Nas as a special guest on his “I Declare War” tour. Despite the name, the night was a peacemaking summit of the highest order as the men performed “Dead Presidents” and “The World Is Yours” together. After Nas’ deal with Columbia was up, he signed with Jay-Z’s Def Jam label, cementing what might be the most successful hatchet burial in rap history.
The feud began in 2002, when Sir Elton slammed the Queen of Pop’s title song for the 007 film Die Another Day, declaring it “the worst Bond theme ever.” But that was mild compared to the verbal roundhouse kick he unleashed at England’s Q Awards in October 2004. While accepting a songwriting honor, he took offense to the fact that Madonna’s name was included in the “Best Live Act” nominations. “Madonna, Best Live Act? Fuck off. Since when has lip-syncing been live? Sorry about that, but I think everyone who lip-syncs on stage in public when you pay like 75 quid to see them should be shot. Thank you very much. That’s me off her Christmas card list, but do I give a toss? No.” He was partially right; the following year he sent her two Christmas cards and both were apparently returned.
His husband David Furnish also got in on the Madge bashing in 2012, after she beat John out for Best Original Song at the Golden Globes that January. “Madonna winning Best Original Song truly shows how these awards have nothing to do with merit,” he wrote in a private Facebook post that soon leaked.
He later deleted the message and apologized for his words, but Madonna seemed unbothered. “I hope [Elton] speaks to me for the next couple of years,” she said in the post-Globes press conference. “He’s known to get mad at me…He’ll win another award. I don’t feel bad.”
She may have felt bad after John royally unloaded during an interview on Australian television that August. “Why is she such a nightmare?” he wondered aloud of his nemesis, then on her MDNA tour. “Sorry, her career is over. Her tour has been a disaster and it couldn’t happen to a bigger cunt. If Madonna had any common sense, she would have made a record like Ray of Light,’ stayed away from the dance stuff and just been a great pop singer and made great pop records, which she does brilliantly. But no…” he trailed off before serving the piece de resistance: “And she looks like a fucking fairground stripper.”
Then a chance meeting at the end of 2012 apparently brought the whole ugly affair to an end. “I was in a restaurant in the south of France and she walked in so I sent her a note saying, ‘You’ll probably never speak to me again but I am really sorry and ashamed of myself and can I buy you dinner,'” he recalled during an interview with Graham Norton. “She was very gracious and accepted and we talked. We are fine – it was just me and my big mouth.”
Noel Gallagher vs. Liam Gallagher
When they’re not venting about other subjects that displease them – here’s a list of Noel’s Top 101 – the Gallaghers can be found unleashing their wrath on each other. The spark of their acrimony remains lost to time, but Liam offered a possibility in the 2016 documentary Supersonic. “One night I came in pissed and I couldn’t find the light switch. So I pissed all over [Noel’s] new stereo. I think it basically boils down to that.”
Oasis’ first tour of the US in 1994 provided a showcase for their family squabbles. A shambolic gig in Los Angeles that September culminated in an onstage fight after Liam altered the lyrics to “Live Forever” specifically to piss off his brother. Words were exchanged, then fists. Liam eventually hurled a tambourine at Noel’s head, thus ending the show. An interview with the NME from the period captured the full extent of their sniping, and was released for posterity as a bootleg single, “Wibbling Rivalry.”
The success of “Wonderwall” propelled Oasis to the highest echelon of stardom, but the fights hampered their rise in the United States. Liam pulled out of filming their 1996 episode of MTV’s Unplugged at the last minute, claiming a sore throat. Noel took over vocal duties while Liam downed beers in the VIP box, shouting insults at his brother throughout the performance.
Their portrayal as ultraviolent thugs on MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatchtook on a scary reality one night in 2000. An ill-advised comment from Liam, allegedly questioning the paternity of Noel’s daughter, resulted in a physical altercation. It took Liam years to apologize, but by then their relationship was stretched to its limits.
The breaking point came on August 28th, 2009, minutes before the band took the stage in Paris. Noel claimed that Liam “was quite violent” in the backstage area, swinging a guitar dangerously close to his face. Shaken, he retreated to his car and refused to go on. The next day he shared a statement on his website announcing his departure from Oasis: “I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer.”
Since 2011, Liam has used Twitter as a tool to mock his estranged partner and occasionally compare him to a potato. The jibes turned serious in the wake of the May 2017 terrorist attack in Manchester. Liam made an appearance at the star-studded benefit show, but fans were left disappointed when Noel failed to attend. Liam scolded his brother, who was vacationing abroad, in a tweet: “Get on a fucking plane and play your tunes for the kids you sad fuck.” He later took the razzing one step further, mocking Noel’s seemingly teary performanceof Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger” at a One Love Manchester benefit.
When the tables were turned, Mimi was just as a brutal to the new diva on the block as Houston had been to her. During an interview with a German television network in 2000, when asked about J.Lo, she uttered the most effective four-word shutdown in history: “I don’t know her.” A master class in shade, the clip has since become deeply embedded in the DNA of Internet culture.
The feud’s origins remain a mystery, but Andy Cohen interrogated Lopez about it during a 2014 episode of Watch What Happens Liveexchange. “I don’t have a feud against her at all. I know from back in the day that she’s said things about me that were not the greatest, but we have never met,” she said. “We don’t know each other. I think it’s kind of like from word of mouth or things that have happened in the past that I’m not really aware of, but I don’t know.” She then raised an olive branch, saying, “I would love to meet her and I would love to be friends with her. I think she’s incredibly talented and I’ve always been a fan of hers. ‘My All’ is one of my favorite songs of all time. It saddens me to hear anything that’s negative because I’m a fan.”
Some questioned Lopez’s sincerity in May 2015 at the Billboard Music Awards when, during Carey’s performance of “Infinity,” she was seen scrolling through her phone, seemingly ignoring the show. “I watched most of it,” she insisted during another appearance on WWHL in February 2016. “I may have looked down for one second and people were like, ‘Look at her! Look at her!'”
Lopez’s diplomacy faltered weeks later on The Wendy Williams Show,when the infamous “I don’t know her” comment was mentioned. “She does say that. She’s forgetful, I guess! We’ve met many times.” Carey, for one, didn’t deny it. “You know what? I’m very forgetful. Apparently I’m forgetful because I don’t remember the fact that it was just like, ‘Hi, I’m so and so,'” she later said.
Even after the better part of two decades, during which time Lopez has become a bona fide ubiquitous star in music, film and TV, Carey’s story didn’t change. When TMZ asked for her thoughts on J.Lo in 2016, her answer was the same: “I still don’t know her!”
Lady Gaga vs. Madonna
Lady Gaga has been saddled with comparisons to Madonna since the very start of her career – they even played rivals in a 2009 Saturday Night Live sketch – but the match-up stopped being a laughing matter when Mother Monster released “Born This Way” in January 2011. Some felt the tune sounded an awful lot like Madonna’s 1989 hit “Express Yourself” – including Madge herself, who wasn’t shy about making the connection.
“I said, ‘That sounds very familiar,'” she told 20/20 correspondent Cynthia McFarrden of hearing Gaga’s song for the first time. “I certainly think she references me a lot in her work. … Obviously, I’ve influenced her.” She drew the line at calling it a full-on steal, instead delivering a much more nuanced body blow: “It feels … reductive.” When McFarrden asked whether that was a good thing, Madonna replied, “Look it up,” before sipping tea from a china cup.
She was less subtle in a July 2012 appearance on Brazilian TV, cracking, “I’m a really big fan of [‘Born This Way’]. I’m glad I helped Gaga write it,” but Lady Gaga vehemently denied all accusations. “If you put the songs next to each other, side-by-side, the only similarities are the chord progression,” she protested in NME. “It’s the same one that’s been in disco music for the last 50 years.”
Madonna prodded at the controversy throughout her 2012 MDNA tour, which included a mash-up of “Express Yourself” and “Born This Way” featuring the refrain “She’s not me.” That wouldn’t be her only musical comment. When more than a dozen demos were leaked in December 2014, fans zeroed in on a track called “Two Steps Behind Me,” which appears to address the feud. The lacerating lyrics include lines like “You’re a copycat/Where is my royalty,” and “Did you study me hard enough?/You’re never gonna be/You’re just a wannabe me.”
Tired of the back-and-forth, Gaga attempted to downplay the beef on Howard Stern’s radio show. “There’s this thing with some people that I’m a threat to the throne. And I don’t want your fucking throne and no thanks. And I have my own and I don’t actually want a throne at all.” On this last point, they were finally in agreement. “I don’t think she wants my crown,” Madonna said of the “boring” feud in Rolling Stone‘s 2015 cover story. “We live in a world where people like to pit women against each other.”
Sisterhood ultimately brought the two closer together. When Madonna delivered an impassioned speech against sexism and misogyny at the Billboard Women in Music awards in December 2016, Gaga applauded her via Twitter. “Your speech … was inspiring. You’re so brave & strong. Thanks for being that for us girls we need that.”
Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift
T-Swift and Yeezy began their feud in front of millions watching the MTV VMAs on September 13th, 2009. The rapper’s “‘Imma let you finish” mic-grabbing gaffe (he was adamant that Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” should have won the Best Female Video) was so ubiquitous that even President Obama weighed in to brand West a ‘jackass.”
A chastised West appeared on The Tonight Show the following day to try and explain the inexplicable. “It was rude, period. I don’t try to justify it, ’cause I was in the wrong,” he admitted. But the following year he reversed course, remaining defiant about the affair. “Taylor never came to my defense in any interview, and [she] rode the wave and rode it and rode it,” he railed in November 2010. He took it a step further in a June 2013 interview with The New York Times, claiming the he’d been coerced into apologizing. “I don’t have one regret.”
So it was surprising when the smiley pair posed for pictures at the Grammys in February 2015. Days later, West boasted of an upcoming collaboration between the former foes. Swift offered similarly warm thoughts on West in a Vanity Fair profile that August saying, “I like him as a person. And that’s a really good, nice first step.” MTV took advantage of the relaxing tensions by having Swift present West with the Video Vanguard Award at the 2015 VMAs, apparently closing the circle on the feud.
Then he dropped The Life of Pablo in February 2016 and everything went sideways. The track “Famous” made waves for the line: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that bitch famous.” The collective national gasp had barely faded away when he released the accompanying video in June, which featured nude wax figures of several West-related celebrities – Swift among them – in bed next to a replica of himself and wife Kim Kardashian. Protestations from Swift’s camp were blunted when Kardashian leaked a video that appeared to show West clearing the offending lyric with the singer.
Swift posted a lengthy note to her social media accounts objecting to the use of the word “bitch,” which had not been discussed previously. But that was just the preamble for her earthshaking “Look What You Made Me Do,” a lethal revenge track released in late August 2017.
Though West isn’t mentioned by name, the lyrics are littered with hints about its target. “I don’t like your tilted stage,” she sings, seemingly alluding to the slanted set West used during his Saint Pablo tour, and the faux phone call proclaiming, “the old Taylor is dead” recalls the taped call controversy. The final scene of the music video features Swift mockingly reenacting the VMAs moment while pleading, “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative” – her famous rebuke to West’s “Famous” controversy, thus confirming that West is at the top of her enemies list. In red. Underlined.
Meek Mill vs. Drake
The controversial topic of ghostwriting in music was the basis of the summer 2015 feud between Meek Mill and Drake. Shortly after Drake was featured on Meek’s track “R.I.C.O.,” the latter took to Twitter to weigh in on the verse Drake contributed: “Stop comparing drake to me too. … He don’t write his own raps! That’s why he ain’t tweet my album because we found out!”
Rapper OG Maco supported Meek and furthered intrigue by naming names – Atlanta rapper Quentin Miller, a writer openly credited on Drake’s songs. Miller himself and Drake’s producer Noah “40” Shebib denied accusations of any misrepresentation in writing credits.
Drake promptly released a diss track called “Charged Up”: “Wow, I’m honored you think this is staged/I’m flattered, man/In fact, I’m amazed.” Meek Mill tweeted “Baby lotion soft……” Just days later, Drake released another diss track, “Back to Back,” more aggressively prodding Meek with lines like “Is that a world tour or your girl’s tour?” calling Meek out for opening for girlfriend Nicki Minaj on her Pinkprint jaunt. The track became a hit and was subsequently nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Performance.
Meek responded with his own diss track, “Wanna Know,” which sources ranging Kevin Durant to Whataburger deemed an embarrassing flop. At OVO Fest, Drake kicked Meek when he was down, performing his pair of diss tracks (plus the ‘R.I.C.O.” verse that started it all), and projecting memes targeted at his foe. Meek’s comebacks in the form of onstage insults and some tracks on his January 2016 EPs 4/4 and 4/4 Pt. 2 proved too little too late, and Drake remained the obvious winner of the apparently lopsided feud.
In February 2017, after the dust had settled, Drake sat down for an interview with U.K. DJ Semtex on OVO Sound Radio and spoke at length on his beef with Meek. “[A]nybody that’s been in any room with me knows first of all knows that I am one of the best writers, period. That is what I do. That is what I’m known for. … I write my biggest songs, my biggest hits. The massive majority of my catalogue has all been written solely by me.”
But the battle between the two artists, he admitted, was “not something that I’m proud of, because it took just as much of an emotional toll on me, I mean, not as much as it did on him …” He concluded that he doesn’t see a truce down the line
Jack White vs. the Black Keys
Comparisons to the Black Keys had left White well and truly pissed, and he took every opportunity to distance himself from the band. “I’m a lot more to do with Jay-Z than the Black Keys,” he told Rolling Stonein 2010 – and to keep it that way he barred Dan Auerbach from his Third Man Studio.
The feud escalated during White’s contentious divorce from Karen Elson in August 2013, when emails between the exes leaked. In one, White bemoaned Elson’s decision to send their kids to the same Nashville private school as Auerbach’s children. “That’s a possible twelve fucking years I’m going to be sitting in kids chairs next to that asshole with other people trying to lump us in together. He gets another free reign to follow me around and copy me and push himself into my world.”
The emails made headlines across the globe, but the Keys took it in stride. “As fucked up as that shit is, that was a private conversation,” Patrick Carney said in a May 2014 interview with Rolling Stone.Despite the gracious response, White continued venting. “I’ll hear TV commercials where the music’s ripping off sounds of mine, to the point I think it’s me,” he told Rolling Stone in a May 2014 cover story. “Half the time, it’s the Black Keys.”
As the interview hit stands, White shared an apology on his website. “I wish the Black Keys all the success that they can get,” he said. “Lord knows that I can tell you myself how hard it is to get people to pay attention to a two piece band with a plastic guitar, so any attention that the Black Keys can get in this world I wish it for them.”
It seemed as though the hatchet was buried, but Carney then accused White of trying to physically fight him when they crossed paths at a Manhattan bar in September 2015. Carney chronicled the alleged incident in a lengthy series of tweets. “Really really sad and pathetic,” he wrote. “Jack White is basically Bill Corgan’s dumb ass zero t-shirt in human form.”
White quickly issued a denial – sort of. “Nobody tried to fight you, Patrick. … Quit whining to the Internet and speak face to face like a human being.” Further details remain scarce, but not long after, Carney deleted most of the tweets detailing the supposed fight, instead writing simply: “Talked to Jack for an hour he’s cool. All good.” White shared a similar message of goodwill, tweeting, “From one musician to another, you have my respect Patrick Carney.”
Katy Perry vs. Taylor Swift
The pair shared the stage in 2010 to duet on Perry’s “Hot n Cold,” but four years later Swift was singing a new tune: “Bad Blood.” In her September 2014 cover story with Rolling Stone, she admitted that the 1989 track was written about another woman in the music industry who “did something so horrible” that it ended their friendship for good. It later came out that the misunderstanding was over backup dancers who had defected from Swift’s Red tour to Perry’s Prismatic trek. Though she never mentioned Perry by name in the profile, the California Gurl shared a telling tweet the day after the story hit stands: “Watch out for the Regina George in sheep’s clothing …”
Perry would periodically chime in from the sidelines over the next few years when Swift engaged in high profile Twitter confrontations. One 2015 tiff with Nicki Minaj – who protested that her video for “Anaconda” had been shut out from the VMAs in favor of ones that celebrated “women with very slim bodies” (like the supermodel-packed clip for ‘Bad Blood”) – led Swift to fire back, “It’s unlike you to pit women against each other.” Perry noted that the accusations from Swift were “ironic” considering her own VMA-nominated song was literally about women fighting.
The feud bubbled under the surface until Perry released “Swish Swish,” a single from her album Witness, in May 2017. Lyrics like “You’re calculated/I’ve got your number/Because you’re a joke/And I’m a courtside killer queen,” caught everyone’s attention. A guest verse by Minaj left little doubt that this was the long awaited follow-up to “Bad Blood.”
Perry got extremely candid about her disagreement with Swift during the Witness press tour (noting that Swift tried to “assassinate my character”), but Swift didn’t need words to respond. After famously pulling her music from Spotify several years earlier, Swift announced on June 8th that her catalogue would return to the streaming service at midnight the following day – the same time Witness was due to drop. A press release claimed the move was in celebration of 1989‘s sales figures, but many saw it as an attempt to steal Perry’s limelight.
Perry was ready to bury the hatchet soon after, telling Arianna Huffington, “I forgive her and I’m sorry for anything I ever did,” but Swift wasn’t done. In late August she dropped “Look What You Made Me Do,” a no-holds-barred assault on all who ever crossed her. In themusic video that premiered at the VMAs days later, Swift can be seen wearing a wig looking suspiciously like Perry’s new cropped ‘do, wrecking a sports car that looks uncannily like the one from Perry’s 2009 “Waking Up in Vegas” video. Not content with (seemingly) comparing Perry to a metaphorical car crash, Swift then holds up a Grammy, a possible reference to the fact that she has 10 to Perry’s zero
Zayn Malik vs. One Direction
Malik’s split from One Direction seemed as amicable as it could be when he first announced his departure in March 2015. He cited a desire to step back from the spotlight and be a “normal 22-year-old,” but eyebrows arched when he was photographed just days later in a recording studio with producer Naughty Boy. Louis Tomlinson began a heated Twitter exchange with Naughty soon after the split, citing his “inconsiderate” choice to retweet a video which the One Directioner believed was “clearly trying to wind the fans up” in the wake of the band’s personnel change.
Malik himself managed to stay out of the conflict at the time, but that would change that May when Naughty tweeted a photo of the two together with the caption “Replace this.” Tomlinson, believing the message to be a thinly veiled dig at rumors that One Direction were planning to replace the departed Malik, did not bite his tongue. A lengthy back and forth with Naughty culminated in Tomlinson writing, “Jesus, forgot you were such an in demand producer … How does it feel to be riding on the back of someone else’s career?” Unamused, Malik replied to his former bandmate: “Remember when you had a life and stopped making bitchy comments about mine?”
For fans, the feud was a sad reminder that Malik, who had just purged his social-media bio of any reference to his prior band, was unlikely to return to the fold in the foreseeable future. In the coming months he was brutally honest about One Direction’s new output. “I heard the second single and yeah, I didn’t buy [their] album,” he told Billboard in January 2016. He elaborated in an interview with Fader: “That’s not music that I would listen to. Would you listen to One Direction at a party with your girl? I wouldn’t.”
Relations between the former friends grew still frostier that winter. “The truth is I haven’t spoken to any of the boys at all really,” he toldL’Uomo Vogue that January. “I tried to reach out and be their friend, but they haven’t even replied to any of my calls or texts.”
Ultimately it was tragedy that helped restore relations. After Tomlinson’s mother died that December, Malik reached out to offer his condolences and support. “[Zayn and I] got back in touch with each other and kind of cleared the air and talked everything through,” he said on Andy Cohen’s radio show in August. “So we’re mates again, I suppose.”
Remy Ma vs. Nicki Minaj
Remy Ma’s career was sidelined in 2008 by a weapons and assault conviction that brought a six-year prison sentence, leaving the lane open for Minaj – who had taken shots at her on 2007’s “Dirty Money” – to secure the Rap Queen title. After her release, Remy started making her play for the throne in March 2015 when she remixed Minaj’s “Truffle Butter,” seemingly mocking the Queens rapper’s transition into catchy electro songs like “Superbass” and “Starships.” The shots continued throughout 2016 with Remy’s verse on “Money Showers” (“Bitch claiming she the queen, what? Not hardly/Who the fuck gave you your crown, bitch? Steve Harvey?”) and Phresher’s remix of “What a Minute” (“Will I smoke this bitch? Yes/Probably fail my piss test/Get rid of those fake breasts/And put a vest on this bitch chest”).
Nicki retaliated in February 2017 with her featured verse on Jason Derulo’s “Swalla.” “Bless her heart, she throwing shots but every line sucks.” She followed up with a jab on Gucci Mane’s “Make Love,” which references the disappointing album sales of Remy’s collaboration with rapper Fat Joe, Plata O Plomo.
Remy responded by launching an all-out assault with the seven-minute diss epic, “ShETHER,” which took aim at Minaj. “I’m jealous? Bitch, you was happy when they took me/Best thing that ever happened to you was when they booked me,” she seethed on the track.
Remy gave Minaj a 48-hour deadline to respond to the song, which she did – sorta. Instead of a response track, Minaj shaded her on Instagram by posting a (since deleted) screenshot of Plata O Plomo‘s “disappointing” album sales with a caption reading “yikes.” She alsoshared a video in which Beyoncé, pop royalty in her own right, acknowledged Minaj as a “rap queen” on her rework of Prince’s “Darling Nikki.”
Remy dropped an equally brutal diss track four days later, “Another One,” and continued the taunting with a (since-deleted) throwback Instagram photo of Minaj captioned “#B4TheButtJob.” Addressing the feud on The Wendy Williams Show the following day, Remy, resplendent in funeral attire, quipped, “My grandmother told me to never speak ill of the dead.” Minaj eventually came for her with some help from her Cash Money friends Drake and Lil Wayne to serve up the “#3PackFromPARIS,” a trio of diss tracks led by “No Frauds.”
Remy scored her biggest triumph at the 2017 BET Awards in June, when she ended Minaj’s seven-year run as the Best Female Hip Hop Artist. She paused during her acceptance speech to rap a few victorious verses from “Spaghetti,” an anti-Minaj Plata O Plomo album cut. The following day, Minaj chose to perform two of her Remy disses, “Realize” and “No Frauds,” at the NBA Awards.