What’s Beef? The 10 Types of Rap Beef BY DAVE BRY 

It’s getting colder. Winter’s coming. Time to hunker down, settle in and start eating foods that will warm you up—and give you an extra layer of fat to keep you that way. Heavier food, rich food, comfort food. Like chili, like stew, like slow-cooking, long-simmering beef. 

The atmosphere in rap this year is in accordance with the seasons. “Nothing’s been the same since they dropped “Control,” said Kendrick Lamar, about the puglistic, name-naming verse he wrote for Big Sean’s remix. And he’s right. Countless response records, including what sure seems like a veiled dig on Drake’s album, and, well, everyone’s appetite is piqued.

What will happen? Where will this lead? What does the future hold? Who knows. We’re hoping for some great, competitive rap music. (And, of course, that there be no physical ramifications for any of this. Sticks-and-stones, everyone. Always remember: Words are just words.)

Pondering how it might play out, we took a look back at historical precedent. All the types of rap beef we’ve seen before. Patterns take shape, categories become clear. We’ve broken them down for you. Cozy up with your crockpot and dig in: What’s Beef? The 10 Types of Rap Beef.


Grade A Beef

Definition: The Best Kind of Beef
Example(s): Jay Z vs. Nas

Kobe. Wagu. The dry-aged porterhouse at Peter Luger’s. This is the good stuff. The best rap beef is the kind that brings out the best in both its participants. Feeling disrespected and underappareciated in his home city of New York, Jay-Z writes “The Takeover.” Which then lights a career-rekindling fire under Nas’s butt. This is the kind of beef where everybody wins—especically rap fans.

The Phantom Beef

Definition: The Beef Everyone Wants To Happen But Isn’t Really Beef
Example(s): Kanye West vs. Drake

Remember how long people were talking about it? “Did you hear what he said on his new song? He’s definitely going at him.” “Yeah, that’s about him all right…” “Well, who else could he have been talking about when he said that he heard your new shit and hated it?” But then, just when things seem to be heating up to a boiling point, Kanye flew up to Canada to get onstage with Drake, and the next thing we know, they’re having dinner together at the Kardashians’. So, all that bad blood, all those subliminals, that was all in our imagination? Maybe so.

Shotgun Beef

Definition: Indiscriminatly starting Beef With the Whole World
Example(s): 50 Cent f/ Madd Rapper “How to Rob” (1999), Gucci Mane during September 2013

One time I got in the car with my mom and little sister and my grandmother for a four-hour drive to Boston for Thanksgiving, and the first thing I said was, “Nobody better talk to me for the rest of the trip.” We all have days like this. The little storm cloud hovering over your head. Just like, “You know what? Fuck everybody.” But if you’re a rapper, you can go into the studio and just starting blasting at everyone whose name can think of something to rhyme with. Or get on Twitter and air out the dirty laundry of everyone you’ve ever been friends with. This might be in the three days prior to your album release, in which case it would also be…

Strategic Beef

Definition: Beef As Career Move
Example(s): 50 Cent vs. Ja Rule, Tip vs. Flip, Benzino v. Eminem

Rap is a hustle and there’s no bigger money maker than the strategic rap beef. If an up-and-coming rapper decides he’s not getting the attention he deserves, he can either keep at his obscure, frustrating grind or, hey, call-out someone more famous in public! The competitiveness is a win-win for rap fans. They get the entertainment that comes from beef and the rapper who made the move will likely get a larger fan base. 50 Cent is the best example of the strategic rap beef. Every move he’s made in terms of beef has helped his career and today he’s worth over $200 million. The strategic beef could also backfire, though. Just think about what Eminem did to Benzino.

The Doppleganger Beef

Definition: Beef That Arises Due to a Shared Style
Example(s): Three 6 Mafia vs. Bone Thugs & Harmony, Ja Rule vs. DMX, Clipse vs. Lil Wayne

This is always a strange, strange beef. And often very made-up seeming. “He’s biting my style,” says an accusatory rapper. “No I am not!” says the the other. And then, it’s on. Maybe one of the rappers has never even heard the music, seen the style, of another. Who knows? But, well, in the instances that great music results, who cares? 

Heartbreak Beef

Definition: Beef Between exes
Example(s): Lauryn Hill vs. Wyclef

This type of beef is more prevlent is the realms of pop and rock than it is in rap. Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks going at each other on the same album! Carly Simon writing the most famous sublimal diss record in history about (it turns out) David Geffen. Taylor Swift and John Meyer sniping it out in song. But: it happens in rap, it happens everywher: two lovers stop being lovers. Warm feelings turn cold. An artist as talented as Lauryn Hill turns her heartbreak into rhymes. “What you throw out comes back to you, star/Never underestimate those who you scar/Cause karma, karma, karma comes back to you hard,” she says. And the world learns again that hell hath no fury like that.

Love Triangle Beef

Definition: Beef over a woman
Example(s): Biggie vs. 2Pac (Faith), Jay vs. Nas (“You know who…”), Soulja Boy vs. Fabolous (Kat Stacks), Common vs. Drake (Serena), Chris Brown vs. Drake (Rihanna)

Love triangle beef isn’t ever actually about the women as much as it is about pride. Tell a man you took his girl and no matter who she is or what their history is, he’ll respond negatively. Soulja Boy and Fabolous beefed over Kat Stacks. Remember her? No. Remember that beef? Yes. There’s a part in Jay Z’s “Song Cry” about that kind of pride. (“You don’t get a nigga back like that…”) And while Hov shared that situation in a more somber tone, most of his fellow rappers aren’t that intelligent or nice. They like to go for the juggular instead.

Girlfight Beef

Definition: Beef between lady rappers
Example(s): Lil Kim vs. Foxy Brown, Lil Kim vs. Nicki Minaj, Azealia Banks vs. Iggy Azalea, Roxanne Shante vs. Queen Latifa, MC Lyte, Salt-N-Pepa, etc.

When I was in high school, one of the gym teachers, who was also a hall monitor told me that he would step in between the two toughest guys in the school to break up a fight, but if was two girls squaring off, he would stand back and wait til one of them was down on the floor before intervening. The girls fought harder, he said. And they wouldn’t stop in deference to a teacher. He was liable to get hurt. The guys fought more frequently of course. Two football players bump into each other, and the mix of raging hormones and steroids leads to flexing, shoving and sometimes fisticuffs. But the girls would plan their fights in advance. They’d take off their jewelry and smear vaseline all over their faces—so fingernails wouldn’t catch. It was like they were going to war. Remember when Foxy told Kim to “Let a nigga rest in peace/And hop off his dick…” after Biggie died. That’s not nice.

“Et Tu Bruteef?”

Definition: Friends Turned Enemies Beef
Example(s): Biggie vs. 2Pac, Ice Cube vs. N.W.A, Kim vs. Foxy, Eazy-E vs. Dr. Dre, Gucci Mane vs. Waka Flocka Flame

Betrayal sucks. Nobody likes getting got, especially not a rapper, and especially not by his best friend who also happens to be a rapper. When betrayal between rappers happens all hell breaks loose. Both parties have the capacity and the platform to rip each other apart—and unlike many of the rest of these beefs, they have juice. Two rappers who came up together, share experiences that they might not want the whole world to know, which might or might not include things like Dr. Dre’s costumes while he was with the World Class Wreckin’ Cru, Biggie’s marital situation and Gucci Mane’s drug problem.

Game-over Beef

Definition: Beef that Ends a Career
Example(s): KRS-One vs. MC Shan, 50 Cent vs. Ja Rule

Rap beefs can end lots of different ways. A truce, a public handshake. A recording contract, and a joint appearance on a stadium stage. A bury-the-hatchet record. Or sometimes they just sort of fizzle out. Maybe someone wins and someone loses, or maybe no one wins or loses as much as the rival rappers and their fervid fans just get bored and everybody stop squawking at each other. But sometimes, every once in a long while, there is ultimate victory and ultimate defeat. MC Shan, hearing those ten piano notes from “The Bridge Is Over,” over and over and over again, as he lies sleepless in his bed. Ja Rule, wondering how 50 did it-it all happened so fast, and now no one’s answering the phone. Sometimes a beef ends a career. Game over.

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Game-over Beef

Definition: Beef that Ends a Career
Example(s): KRS-One vs. MC Shan, 50 Cent vs. Ja Rule

Rap beefs can end lots of different ways. A truce, a public handshake. A recording contract, and a joint appearance on a stadium stage. A bury-the-hatchet record. Or sometimes they just sort of fizzle out. Maybe someone wins and someone loses, or maybe no one wins or loses as much as the rival rappers and their fervid fans just get bored and everybody stop squawking at each other. But sometimes, every once in a long while, there is ultimate victory and ultimate defeat. MC Shan, hearing those ten piano notes from “The Bridge Is Over,” over and over and over again, as he lies sleepless in his bed. Ja Rule, wondering how 50 did it-it all happened so fast, and now no one’s answering the phone. Sometimes a beef ends a career. Game over.

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Strategic Beef

Definition: Beef As Career Move
Example(s): 50 Cent vs. Ja Rule, Tip vs. Flip, Benzino v. Eminem

Rap is a hustle and there’s no bigger money maker than the strategic rap beef. If an up-and-coming rapper decides he’s not getting the attention he deserves, he can either keep at his obscure, frustrating grind or, hey, call-out someone more famous in public! The competitiveness is a win-win for rap fans. They get the entertainment that comes from beef and the rapper who made the move will likely get a larger fan base. 50 Cent is the best example of the strategic rap beef. Every move he’s made in terms of beef has helped his career and today he’s worth over $200 million. The strategic beef could also backfire, though. Just think about what Eminem did to Benzino.

The Doppleganger Beef

Definition: Beef That Arises Due to a Shared Style
Example(s): Three 6 Mafia vs. Bone Thugs & Harmony, Ja Rule vs. DMX, Clipse vs. Lil Wayne

This is always a strange, strange beef. And often very made-up seeming. “He’s biting my style,” says an accusatory rapper. “No I am not!” says the the other. And then, it’s on. Maybe one of the rappers has never even heard the music, seen the style, of another. Who knows? But, well, in the instances that great music results, who cares? 

Heartbreak Beef

Definition: Beef Between exes
Example(s): Lauryn Hill vs. Wyclef

This type of beef is more prevlent is the realms of pop and rock than it is in rap. Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks going at each other on the same album! Carly Simon writing the most famous sublimal diss record in history about (it turns out) David Geffen. Taylor Swift and John Meyer sniping it out in song. But: it happens in rap, it happens everywher: two lovers stop being lovers. Warm feelings turn cold. An artist as talented as Lauryn Hill turns her heartbreak into rhymes. “What you throw out comes back to you, star/Never underestimate those who you scar/Cause karma, karma, karma comes back to you hard,” she says. And the world learns again that hell hath no fury like that.


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