Battle Rap Classics, Vol. 1

Rap battles have been a mainstay of hip-hop ever since Kool Moe Dee dressed down Busy Bee. They have made for classic songs, from Boogie Down Productions' "The Bridge Is Over" attack against MC Shan to Jay-Z's "Takeover" dismissal of Nas and Mobb Deep, and Nas' "Ether" response. They have led to violence, as when Young Jeezy's "Stay Strapped" preceded a home invasion attempt on Gucci Mane by reputed Jeezy associates; Gucci shot and killed one of them in self-defense. (Hilariously, Gucci titled his next album Hard to Kill.) Battles have been waged over business disputes (Dr. Dre vs. Eazy-E), soured relationships (Lauryn Hill vs. Wyclef Jean) and even, uh, bruised feelings (Eminem vs. Limp Bizkit and Everlast).

Of course, this is familiar news to every rap fan. So without further ado, here are some of the greatest battle tracks the genre has produced, from famous takedowns like Canibus' "Second Round K.O." of LL Cool J to newer entries like Nicki Minaj's shots at Lil Kim on "Roman's Revenge." 2Pac made so many he deserves his own special playlist, but for now we'll start with his "Hit 'Em Up" dis of Notorious B.I.G. and Bad Boy Records. (I omitted Biggie's "Who Shot Ya?" since he denied it was aimed at 'Pac.) Stay tuned for more Battle Rap Classics in the weeks ahead.

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