-- Shaheem Reid
The current power struggle between Jay-Z and Nas for the hip-hop crown may be the hottest topic in the rap game today, but for the verbal pugilist, battling is as natural as saying, "Throw your hands in the air." It's the definitive arena where MCs pit their skills against one another to see who can take it to the next rhyming level.
Girl-power flagbearers Salt-N-Pepa came into the game dissing Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh who made the classic "The Show" with "The Show Stoppa (Is Stupid Fresh)." Those huggable tykes Kris Kross sparked a puppy-powered beef with fellow youngsters Another Bad Creation, dissing how ABC wore their clothes on "Jump" (" 'Cause inside-out is wiggedy, wiggedy, wiggedy wack"). And who could forget Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown getting all catty with each other?
As long as egos linger and mics are handy, MCs will continue to try to out-rhyme each other. Here is a look at 10 of hip-hop's most memorable exchanges.
U.T.F.O. & the Real Roxanne Vs. Roxanne Shanté (1984-85)
U.T.F.O. had no idea their love song about a stuck-up girl named Roxanne would cause so much controversy. "Roxanne, Roxanne, I wanna be your man," the foursome sang over the breakbeat. While they were making it big, a 14-year-old named Roxanne Shanté was in the wings, waiting to make a splash. With some help from her ghostwriter, Big Daddy Kane, she put out the answer record "Roxanne's Revenge."
Now three grown men teaming up to make a song directed toward a little girl could be considered crossing the line, so U.T.F.O. introduced their own fly girl to save face. To make matters worse, her name was Roxanne too "the Real Roxanne," as the song goes.
Even MCs who had no association with the ladies started jumping on the battle-of-the-Roxys bandwagon Dr. Freshh ("Roxanne's Doctor") being among them.
To her credit, some of today's female rappers credit Shanté as paving the way for them. As for her rivalry with her namesake, let's just say she had bigger fish to fry. She and some of the Juice Crew which included Kane, Marley Marl, Masta Ace, Craig G and Biz Markie got into a verbal tussle with KRS-One's Boogie Down Productions, and she also stepped to MC Lyte.
KRS-One Vs. MC Shan (1986-87)
This battle was bigger than the two MCs it was about repping for their 'hoods. Shan yelled that Queensbridge was hip-hop's Mecca on "The Bridge." KRS thought his neck of the woods was making it the hottest, hollering back with a two-piece combo, "South Bronx" and "The Bridge Is Over." "Saying hip-hop started out in Queensbridge/ Saying rhymes like that, bwoy, you can't live," the Blastermaster spouted.
Although KRS went on to have a bigger career in the rap game, both men were winners. Years later, the two had a brief stint endorsing Sprite with a TV commercial that was inspired by their battle.
Antoinette Vs. MC Lyte (1988)
If Big Worm from "Friday" were commentating during a lyrical catfight, he would chalk the situation up to "the principalities of it."
In 1988, MC Lyte accused Antoinette of stealing one of her tracks by lashing out on "10% Dis." "Beat-biter! Dope-style taker!/ Tell you to your face you ain't nuthin' but a faker!" went the chant on the chorus. (The line Lil' Kim says on Mobb Deep's "Quiet Storm" remix "Hot damn, here we go again" was authored by Lyte on the record.)
Antoinette went in for the kill with "Lights Out, Party's Over," warning that she was bringing "100 percent beef" and would "fly that head," intimating that Lyte was a lesbian.
Lyte, the MC from "the planet of Brooklyn," would go on to silence her rival with "Shut the Eff Up! (Hoe)," boasting, "In '10% [Dis]' I popped your head in a microwave/ I'm into blenders now, so you better behave."
LL Cool J Vs. Kool Moe Dee (1987-90)
Probably the biggest issue in the battle between LL Cool J and Kool Moe Dee was respect. Kool Moe Dee ("How Ya Like Me Now") publicly expressed his feelings that LL's music was too frivolous. But you don't stomp on a man's art form, especially when that man comes from Queens and is white-hot at the moment.
"'How Ya Like Me Now,' punk?" LL struck back on 1988's "Jack the Ripper." "A washed up rapper needs a washer/ My name is Jack the Ripper."
Moe Dee ripped into the Ripper on "Let's Go," rhyming, "Lower Level, Lack Luster/ ... Lazy Lemon/ Little Logic/ ... Low Life with the loud raps, boy/ You can't win, huh, I don't bend/ Look what you got yourself in."
Showing his resiliency, LL struck back with "To Da Break of Dawn." "Got the nerve to have them Star Trek shades on," he rhymed. "You can't handle the whole weight/ Skin needs lotion/ Teeth need Colgate/ Wise up, you little burnt up French fry." He also levied shots at Ice-T and MC Hammer for good measure.
N.W.A Vs. Ice Cube (1991)
One of the first times we heard about shady contract dealings on wax, this war of words had nothing to do with who was the best at rocking the mic. After blazing a trail with his gangsta brethren on 1987's Straight Outta Compton, Ice Cube bolted the group due to a dispute over money.
Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, MC Ren and DJ Yella didn't take too kindly to the departure of the man they called "Benedict Arnold" on 1991's N---az4life. Not only did they do the unheard of at the time and shout out the frosty one by his government name, Oshea, they also called him the "b" word.
Cube blasted back on "No Vaseline" off of his Death Certificate LP, painting "the world's most dangerous crew" as fake gangstas who were getting robbed by Eazy and his business partner, Jerry Heller. Dre decided Cube was right on the money, and he left the group too.