We sure do love it when musicians fight

It's beef

I'm going to be honest with you — I don't know a whole hell of a lot about the Drake vs. Kendrick Lamar feud that's been eating the internet lately, nor have I listened to any of the songs that have been released as part of music's latest audio slapfight. I've listened to enough Kendrick to know he's a supremely talented individual, I've listened to enough Drake to know where to turn if I'm having trouble sleeping, and that's plenty for me. So rather than use this space to get into an ongoing argument I know nothing about, I figured it'd be more fun to look back at some of the other times musicians have used the studio to record a big middle finger to somebody else. (Musical beef predates recorded music by hundreds of years, but I'm not aware of any classical composers who wrote diss tracks. Alas.)

"Rapaz Folgado," Noel Rosa
It's kind of difficult to really outline the context surrounding this song without getting into the weeds of samba lore and Brazilian history, but I'll try. While most Americans have never thought of the samba as a vehicle for sociopolitical commentary, there's actually a rich tradition there, some of it rooted in the music's adoption by the malandro, essentially street toughs — largely Black — who responded to post-slavery discrimination by adopting a lifestyle dubbed malandragem, which entailed a lot of loitering and gambling and basically flouting the law. This in turn led to the rise of samba malandro, songs that celebrated malandragem, which itself led to the government and assorted straitlaced naysayers trying to legislate or shame the malandro into straightening up.

All of this led to what's considered by some to be the first diss track battle in music history. Incensed by the song "Lenço no Pesoço," which glorifies the life of the malandro, an artist named Noel Rosa released "Rapaz Folgado," which essentially dismisses the entire culture as a bunch of lazy hoods, accuses them of giving samba a bad name, and tells them they need to improve their wardrobes. This kicked off a series of dueling diss tracks that might have lasted longer if Rosa hadn't died just a few years later, succumbing to tuberculosis at the age of 26. (You can read a lot more about the whole thing here.) For a few minutes of puritanical scolding, the song that started it all is undeniably pretty.

"It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels," Kitty Wells
Long before Roxanne Shanté hit back at U.T.F.O., Kitty Wells gave Hank Thompson a kick in his beer-soaked nuts with this song, which offered a pointed rejoinder to Thompson's hit "The Wild Side of Life." In that song, Thompson presented himself as a blameless jilted lover who's been left by a faithless woman that tramped off with some guy she met in a bar, moping "I didn't know that God made honky tonk angels."

Calling bullshit on the idea that women are liable to just up and cheat for no reason, Wells recorded this track — which was actually written by a dude, swamp pop pioneer J.D. "Jay" Miller — and its success on the charts helped pave the way for generations of female country singers who told their men to go to hell with fiddles and pedal steel as accompaniment.

"Five Per Cent for Nothing," Yes
The 35-second British prog rock version of Marvin Gaye's Here, My Dear, this blink-and-you'll-miss-it instrumental track was named in honor of Yes manager Roy Flynn, who floated the group during its early years but wasn't the guy they needed to get them over the hump. Upon learning he was being replaced, Flynn negotiated a pretty sweet severance package that included five percent of the band's future grosses forever; understandably, upon hearing about this, the members of Yes were none too pleased. Those terms were apparently later renegotiated, but they're forever commemorated with "Five Per Cent for Nothing," which was renamed in Flynn's dubious honor during the sessions for 1971's Fragile.

"Death on Two Legs," Queen
Illustrating the power (and the folly) of the Streisand effect decades before it even had a name, this song seemed for all the world to serve as a one-size-fits-all kiss-off — at least until Queen's former manager Norman Sheffield sued for defamation, thus revealing himself to be the target of the track's withering scorn. According to Sheffield, the suit resulted in an out-of-court settlement, but whatever the terms and however favorable they might have been for him, it's hard to see how he wouldn't have been better off if he'd just kept his stupid mouth shut instead of making it so his entire legacy essentially comes down to being the guy who inspired lyrics like "You suck my blood like a leech" and "Do you feel like suicide (I think you should)." But hey, give Sheffield credit for doubling down for the rest of his life — his memoir, published decades later, was titled Life on Two Legs: Set The Record Straight.

"Don Henley Must Die," Mojo Nixon
Of all the musical establishment targets for scorn from "modern rock" acts in the late '80s, few were larger and riper than Don Henley — which is why Mojo Nixon, a tongue-in-cheek, vaguely cowpunk act never known for his subtlety, whooped on the erstwhile (and future) Eagle like a piñata with this very aggressive and very silly hitlike thing. "Don Henley must die," howled Nixon. "Put him in the electric chair and let him fry." A little harsh, perhaps, for a guy whose most recent crime was "The Boys of Summer," but the story has a happy ending: Henley, never known for his sense of humor, actually joined Nixon onstage for a live rendition of the song in the early '90s. Score one for Don.

"Freed Pig," Sebadoh
After being fired from the group that would become alt-rock faves Dinosaur Jr., Lou Barlow felt the pain of everyone — and then he did not feel nothing, instead channeling his scorn for former (and, it should be noted, future) bandmate J. Mascis into "Freed Pig," a song recorded by his subsequent band, Sebadoh. It should be noted that as diss tracks go, this one's pretty soft: "I've got nothing better to do than pay too much attention to you," Barlow admits. "It's sad but it's not your fault."

"Plaid," Chicago
A song that may also surface in a future discussion of albums that had to sit in label storage for years before they finally reached the public, Chicago's "Plaid" was recorded for what was supposed to be the follow-up to their 1991 album Twenty 1 — but the record company decided the LP in question, titled Stone of Sisyphus, was so offensively non-commercial that band and label ended up getting divorced. In retrospect, it's hard to understand where Warner Bros. was coming from; while Sisyphus contains perhaps 35 percent less gooey adult contemporary balladry than the hit records Chicago had been producing for them since 1982, and certainly contains a lot more brass, it isn't like this is their version of Trout Mask Replica or something.

That said, perhaps Warners execs were incensed after listening to tracks like "Plaid," which serves as a rebuttal to the years Chicago spent soaring into the upper reaches of the Top 40 with songs like "You're the Inspiration." "For so long you told me to keep it familiar, just play what they all would find," sings keyboardist/vocalist Bill Champlin. "I can wear this blindfold, stick to your story,
But I gotta ask myself why / And I play those songs for so many seasons, 'til I'm sure I'm losing my mind." The label's rejection of Sisyphus sent Chicago into an artistically bankrupt spiral that lasted for over a decade; ironically, the album was finally released in 2008 on Rhino... a subsidiary of Warner Bros.

"Chris Kattan," Andy Dick
I'm bending the rules here — neither Andy Dick nor Chris Kattan are musicians, and this song was never released on an album, and as far as I know, Chris Kattan has never responded to the song Andy Dick wrote and performed in his dubious honor. That said, I have to make a little room for this, if only because it contains the lyric "Chris Kattan, Chris Kattan / Horse-faced troll of a man." Andy Dick might be a tragic weirdo, but you do not want to piss him off.