The History of Diss Tracks


Illustration by Joshua Blatt

Diss Tracks have been a staple in rap music since the very beginning.

Joshua Blatt, Sports/Graphic Editor

    The art of a good diss track hasn’t always been appreciated; sometimes rappers come in with a certain mentality that resembles a common roast session. Some rappers don’t worry about selecting the best beat or the best rhymes. Instead, they care about taking shots at the other artist. I’m going to dive into some of the most famous diss tracks in the history of rap and hip-hop and analyze them to see how they rank head to head against each other. The following categories will be covered: flow, severity of diss, lyrics, and overall enjoyment of the diss on a scale from one to ten.

   I will be judging them in chronological order, starting first with Ice Cube’s ‘No Vaseline.’ Ice Cube went absolutely insane on this N.W.A. diss track. He verbally abused each member of his former group individually. Ice Cube dissed the group as a whole. He even went after former manager Jerry Heller, so much so that Heller wanted to take legal action until the rest of the group members told him to simmer down. This track is one of my favorites by far, the pure hatred that you feel from Cube really spices up the track. For flow I would have to give ‘No Vaseline’ a solid 7/10. I find his flow extremely average even though it could just be a sign of the times, as this track was released back in 1991. The severity of this diss is easily a 10/10 due the way he savagely pulls the group apart. He has also earned a 9/10 for his lyrical ability. I thoroughly enjoy ‘No Vaseline’ as a song, and as a diss track I have to give Ice Cube a 9/10 on overall enjoyment. ‘No Vaseline’ adds up to a 35/40.

   Next up is Tupac’s ‘Hit ‘Em Up’, a song that is one of my absolute favorite Pac songs. One thing that discredits this track is that it’s not very much of diss. Sure, as a whole this is a fantastic song. This might be one of my favorites from a flow and overall enjoyment standpoint. ‘Hit ‘Em Up’ disses a whole slew of rappers, the most noteworthy artist is The Notorious B.I.G. The dissing of B.I.G. definitely helped the song gain traction and popularity back in 1996. This song earns a 9/10 on flow easily, as Pac goes nuts on the mic and delivers a great party track to this day. Severity of the diss is about a 6/10 just because of how he starts out the song just throwing small disses at Biggie Smalls, when quite frankly he should have thrown boulder sized disses. Lyrically, I would have to give ‘Hit ‘Em Up’ a 9/10, because it is absolutely fantastic with the rhyme scheme. When it comes to overall enjoyment, this is the only song on this list that I can give a 10/10, resulting in a total of a 34/40 score.

   The third song on this list is ‘Ether’ by Nas, let me preface this review with the statement, and I love this track, one of my favorite songs by far. Ether is a 2001 track that actually disses one of my favorite rappers Jay-Z, but whenever this track comes on I can’t skip it. Nas bodies Jay in a way that is just ridiculous, he goes absolutely crazy and there’s nothing better than the second verse of that song when he destroys Jay and Roc-a-Fella records. I have to give the flow a 9/10 because, for a diss track, it’s nearly perfect. The severity of the diss is one-hundred percent a 10/10, as he went at Jay’s head and has had that dirt on him since 2001. Lyrically, ‘Ether’ ranks as an 8/10 due to them not being the most original lyrics, but they still sound fantastic. Overall, enjoyment ranks in the top percentile with an 11/10, no that is not a typo, I genuinely believe that it deserves that ranking because it’s one of the best diss tracks of all time. It is one of the greatest diss tracks of all time, and it earns an overall 38/40.

   The penultimate song on my list is Pusha T’s ‘The Story of Adinon,’ where he absolutely verbally abuses Drake. Drake got dissed so hard on this track that he just decided not to respond. Pusha T dug up some very intense dirt on the Canadian rapper, and knocked him off his high horse. He finally could cut Drake down to size, someone who hasn’t had a lot of confrontation as a rapper. The track was released earlier in 2018 and isn’t that great of a song, but as a diss track it’s one of the most intense. Pusha T’s flow has always been kind of weird to me, which earns him a 6/10 onView Postthe flow scale. He earned himself an 11/10 on severity of diss because he turned it up a notch and completely exposed Drake as a deadbeat dad, who hasn’t done a lot for his son (which he hid from the world). He also mocked Drake’s manager ‘40’ for being sick and having multiple sclerosis, that may have been a bit much. Lyrically, ‘The Story of Adinon’ is forsure a 9/10 because of the sheer fact that he picks Drake apart with his harsh words, and it all held together pretty well. Overall, enjoyment is where this song is very average at about a 7/10, not a lot of replay value to this one which kind of soils the whole listening experience, Resulting in a 33/40 ranking.

   The final song on our list is Machine Gun Kelly’s ‘Rap Devil’, a track that disses Detroit rapper Eminem. Rap Devil is another song released in 2018 that is by no means the best song on this list. Kelly uses auto tune to try and increase his diss about how often Eminem wears sweat suits, and it doesn’t really work. Not a lot in this track works, except one of the most hilarious lines I, along with many other people, have ever heard. “Somebody grab him some clippers, his beard is weird.” That’s how the song starts; it’s so funny you really have to listen to it to get a grasp. The song’s flow is one of the more mid level ones on the list with a 7/10. The severity of the diss is an all time low because it’s just kind of funny,more so than demeaning, earning a 3/10. Lyrically, the song suffers with a 6/10 because there are certain lines that suffice in a diss track but it seems as if MGK did it moreso for attention. Overall, enjoyment of the track falls to a 6/10, purely due to amusement. This earns ‘Rap Devil’ an overall ranking of 22/40.

   In first place we have Ice Cube’s ‘No Vaseline,’ one of the first major diss tracks in history. In second place, is Nas’ ‘Ether.’ In third we have Tupac’s ‘Hit ‘Em Up’, a fantastic diss on Biggie Smalls. In fourth place is Pusha T’s ‘The Story of Adinon,’ a severe diss that really knows what it’s doing. Coming up the rear is Machine Gun Kelly’s ‘Rap Devil’, a track that couldn’t really put it all together, but still can be enjoyed for a good laugh or two. In my opinion, diss tracks have become less serious over the years. They haven’t become a staple of some rapper’s careers like they used to.