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Great Feuds in Music

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I was in my car the other day and my radio was tuned to the local classic rock station. You know the one. Every market has at least one of these stations. Anyway, the DJ starts talking about the latest Rolling Stones album, chortling about how the Stones can still rock after all these years. Ok, I’ll play. Let’s pretend that the Stones are still relevant to people under the age of 50 for a few minutes.

Apparently in a shrewd attempt to generate some buzz for their new offering, Mick and the boys threw in a song that slams U.S. President George Bush, a move which then led to the obligatory Dixie Chicks reference by our DJ. He then went on to make some ambiguous comment about how music is a great forum for people to make statements about their personal beliefs. Or a great forum for an over-the-hill band that hasn’t put out good music since the early 1980s to get some free publicity in order to generate some sales from a fan base that hasn’t figured out how to download music. But I digress. The clandestine marketing efforts of the Rolling Stones isn’t my focus. Yet, I’m well aware of the irony as I read back this last paragraph. Damn you Jagger!

The purpose of today’s offering was to talk about great feuds in music that featured a song with lyrics that disparage another musician or band. For the purposes of this discussion, I have limited my list to my personal top five as well as only including feuds that took place within the last 25 years. I also included my thoughts on why these disputes stuck with me as well as why they placed where they did on my list. So without further ado, here is top five countdown:

5. Vanilla Ice vs. Kid N’ Play

The Skinny:
At the height of their popularity, Kid N’ Play were well known for their dancing ability. Dancing also happened to be something Vanilla Ice was known for at this time. This one culminated with Ice using the lyrics, “and I can dance better than any Kid or Play” in the song Play That Funky Music. Kid N’ Play later went on the Arsenio Hall show and dismissed the song and any other claims made by Ice while Arsenio rocked back and forth in his chair, cupping his hands over his mouth. At least that’s how I remember it. My memory is a little foggy. Sure no one was shot (foreshadowing alert!) but that was a different time. A better time. Did I mention I live in the past?

Points For:
Any time I have the opportunity to mention Kid N’ Play, Vanilla Ice AND Arsenio Hall in the same paragraph, you better believe I’m going to take advantage of it. Also, how great was Kid N’ Play? They had popular songs like Back to Basics, a hit movie series in House Party and their own Saturday morning cartoon…that I watched religiously even though I was 16 years old at the time. Of course Kid (Christopher Reid) went on to host television shows while I believe Play (Christopher Martin) is now on tour with DJ Jazzy Jeff and the other rapper from House of Pain. (FYI the House of Pain DJ went on to join Limp Bizkit or this would be a two turntable act.)

Points Against:
It’s Vanilla Ice and Kid N’ Play…and no one got shot…and no one really remembers it except freaks like myself. I just threw this one out there to whet the palate.

4. Kurupt vs. Irv Gotti et. al.

The Skinny:
Rapper Kurupt records the song Calling Out Names, in which he runs down a bunch of other rap and hip hop music stars. This of course leads to feuding that is typical of rap music. The only difference is that one of Kurupt’s entourage gets shot and then Kurupt strangely disappears for months, just when he’s starting to scratch the surface of mainstream music. Kurupt later returned from wherever it was that he went but the guy’s career hasn’t returned to the level and momentum he enjoyed before he went missing.

Points For:
A wounded posse member. Much needs to be said about the entourage/posse/hype men in the entertainment industry – basically the friends of the star that accompany him, protect him, join him at celebrity events, and drive the Range. Again, that’s not the point here but the fact that one of his posse took a bullet in this feud warrants mentioning. Also, it got so bad that Kurupt, who is a pretty good rapper, had to disappear at a key moment in his career because the heat was too much.

Points Against:
This feud isn’t very well known and neither are it’s players, thus knocking it down a few notches. Did I mention a guy in his posse took a bullet?

3. INXS vs. Oasis

The Skinny:
At the height of their popularity, one of the Gallagher brothers from Oasis slams the band INXS in an interview. INXS responds by releasing Elegantly Wasted, whose chorus contains the verse, “I’m elegantly wasted, I’m better than Oasis.” The Oasis part is not in every chorus, but listen for it, it’s there. Even better, the song goes on to be a big hit and the unofficial theme song for two years of my life.

Points For:

The delivery. INXS didn’t come out and write a whole song or a distinct line in response to Oasis’ comments. Instead they subtly laced their rebuttal into a good song. The song also goes on to become a huge hit.

Points Against:
No one got physically injured, if you ignore INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence losing his life soon after in an unfortunate masturbation accident. (That’s not even a joke.) Also the feud sort of burned out pretty quickly, perhaps partly because of Hutchence’s sudden death and turbulent relationships between the members of Oasis.

Although on a side note, I have mixed emotions about the show Rockstar: INXS. While I am addicted to the show itself, the premise seems like a cheap cash grab by the surviving members of the band. I’m torn here. Also, the colon after the word “Rockstar” implies that there will be sequels, which I assume would feature different bands like Rockstar: Queen or Rockstar: Alice In Chains. Hey, after a few seasons of this, they may even throw in a twist and reverse it so you have Rockstar: Axel Rose or Rockstar: Zach de la Rocha. Anyway, I’m ranting again.

2. Eazy-E vs. Suge Knight and Death Row Records

The Skinny:

In the late 1980s and very early 1990s, rapper Eazy-E’s record label, Ruthless Records was a big success. In a time when rap was really breaking into the mainstream, Ruthless boasted a stable featuring many top artists including Dr. Dre and The DOC. Then came Marion “Suge” Knight, who also had a vision to build a record label on par with Berry Gordy’s Motown. His label was called Death Row Records (which today is known as The Row Records). Dre and several artists in the Ruthless camp moved over to Death Row. Unfortunately, a dispute erupted between Eazy and Suge over whether these artists were still under contract with Ruthless. Allegedly violence was used by Death Row representatives to get Eazy to release these artists from their contracts. In fact, I’m so scared of Suge Knight that I will just leave it there.

Points For:
This one scores high due to the involvement of some of the biggest and most influential names in the rap and hip hop genre. The continuing speculation, rumors, theories and even jokes all add a little flavor to the mix. Plus this feud offered up some great back and forth slandering through music with songs like Real MFin’ G’s (I kept it clean) by Eazy-E that slams Dr. Dre and his new Death Row protégé, Snoop Dogg. Then you have Dre in a video featuring an Eazy-E impersonator holding a sign reading “will rap for food.”

Points Against:
This one always gets me down simply because Eazy-E is no longer alive. Sure this has nothing to do with the feud itself as he succumbed to AIDS related complications, but the two are usually linked in conversation. Also, this one may be a bit too far out of the mainstream spotlight to claim the number one spot, in my eyes anyway.

1. Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.

The Skinny:
No big surprise here and most people know the story but a high level view is that Tupac and Biggie were friends, they had a falling out that allegedly involved Tupac sleeping with Biggie’s wife. Tupac is invited to a Bad Boy Records recording studio, where Biggie is hanging out. Tupac is shot nearly to death in the lobby and later claims he was set up by the Bad Boy crew and Biggie in particular. B.I.G. releases a song called, Who Shot Ya? that Tupac interprets as a personal insult and responds by recording the very angry song, Hit ‘Em Up. Soon after, Tupac is shot dead in Las Vegas, followed by Biggie being gunned down in Los Angeles. Neither murder has been solved despite strong conspiracy theories, including those that say Tupac is alive and living in the Caribbean, still recording music.

Points For:
All of the stuff in the last paragraph. High build up drama, well known and much talked about and theorized, both participants are dead, both murders unsolved and both went on to become even bigger legends after death. This is absolutely THE defining feud in all entertainment. The story reads like a Shakespeare tragedy and in the process we lost two great musicians and the world was robbed of all the good stuff they were capable of producing over the course of their lives.

Points Against:
Nothing really. In fact I’m sort of depressed after writing the “Points For” on this one.

So to summarize, perhaps you agree and perhaps you don’t. Perhaps you have a few feuds of your own to share. If you do, pass them on by email or post a comment. As for right now, my hands have frozen into claw like shapes so I’m going to throw in the towel. Damn you Jagger!

– Hardy

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  • Billy Shears

    Seems like the Oasis v. Blur fued was bigger than the Oasis v. INXS fued. Either way, I f**King love Oasis. And they’ll still writing #1 UK hits left-and-right.

    INXS, on the other hand, has embarrassed itself to a degree I never thought possible.

  • Hell, Oasis’ Noel V Liam was bigger than Oasis V INXS.

    Don’t Believe the Truth is still my favorite album of 2005!

  • Luke

    Oasis and INXS were in a bar with Bono, oasis didn’t slam them in an interview

  • manny

    neil young vs lynyrd skynyrd, paul vs john – also some great ones.

  • [edited]

    Well that was a stupid ignorant comment. I’m a teenager and even I know how important the Rolling Stones are and they’re always praised among generations. It might not be the same as when they first came out but it’s still there. [personal attack deleted]