It is also the colloquial term attributed to a rivalry or feud. Summed up perfectly by the late great Notorious B.I.G.: “What’s beef? Beef is when you need two gats to go to sleep. Beef is when your moms ain’t safe up in the streets.”

In rap, beef is a pretty big thing; hip hop is famed for rival crews testing each others’ skills. Every rap fan has heard of the East Coast/West Coast rivalry in the nineties, which left two of rap’s most revered emcees slain. In recent years most rappers have managed to keep their beef on wax.With perceived beef or diss records often used as a promotional tool to boost a rapper’s profile before their new album drops.

Here at Viper, we’ve selected some of rap’s most iconic beefs, so you know exactly what someone means when they say they ‘want beef’ and there’s no supermarket in sight. We’ve broken rap’s best rivalries down into three sections for your easy digestion; Lyrical Beef, Actual Beef and Fake Beef. Whilst there might be a few omissions, here’s a juicy rump steak to get you started… Bon Appetit.


Jay Z V Nas
With New York’s throne left empty following the passing of Christopher Wallace, two of rap’s lyrical heavyweights went head to head for the crown. Prodigy and Freeway stoked the fire, but Jigga and Escobar set the whole city on fire with ‘The Takeover’, followed by ‘Ether’.

In the end, a Hot 97 poll saw Nas take the lead with ‘Ether’ at 52% and Jigga’s ‘Supa Ugly’ freestyle at 48%. Though Jay Z later suggested Nas only has “a one hot album every 10 year average.” The rap titans have since quashed the beef, even appearing on each other’s albums. Jay Z even signed Nas when he was still president at Def Jam. These two are arguably the two biggest living rappers to ever go at it.

Cassidy V Freeway
The classic studio battle, conducted by two celebrated Philadelphia MCs. This was lyricism versus flow, when Cassidy was in his multi-syllable, punchline prime and Freeway was hot property at the Roc. Freeway’s persistent requests to ‘put a beat on’ towards the end of the battle are taken by many as a sign of him forfeiting. Cas’ revealed in a recent interview that the battle was put together by Jay Z after Cas’ claimed he could go toe-to-toe lyrically with anyone in the Roc.

Cassidy’s continuous barrage of rhyming punchlines would come to serve as a template for many future battle rappers.

Illustration by Tavan Maneetapho
Words by Nick Bam

This is an extract from the Spring Summer 15 Issue of Viper Magazine. Read more from the magazine here. Buy physical and digital copies here.

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