Photo illustration by Kaushik Kalidindi for Okayplayer.
Queen Talk: The Top 11 Women-Fronted Rap Disses
The ladies have history. Some of the best diss bars in hip-hop have been rapped by women We gathered the best of the best, from Roxanne Shanty taking on all the girls, to the early career beefs that solidified Nicki Minaj's firey reputation.
Considered to be a man’s sport, it's ironic that one of the first iconic rap disses or beefs in hip-hop history began with a woman. Responding to U.T.F.O.’s song “Roxanne Roxanne,” Roxanne Shante and Marley Marl’s “Roxanne’s Revenge” (1984) marked the start of the Roxanne Wars, with a then-14-year-old Shante showing that the women could be just as combative as the men in rap.
When speaking about diss records, we often only reflect on notable classics like “Hit ‘Em Up,” “No Vaseline,” “Back to Back,” “Ether,” and “The Bridge is Over” — all of which are mostly made by and directed at men. But women have also participated in this practice for quite some time, directing their ire at men and women alike, and creating their own diss track classics in the process.
In recent documentaries like dream hampton’s Ladies First, the relationship between women in rap is glossed over in favor of a narrative celebrating sisterhood and unity. While there is some validity to that in both hip-hop’s past and present, it’s also important to highlight how women across generations have contributed to the genre’s everlasting pastime of dissing. Whether it be Lil Kim versus Foxy Brown or Remy Ma versus Nicki Minaj, there’s a thrill in seeing female rappers take their grievances to the booth.
In honor of that, we’re highlighting the 11 best diss tracks that found women in rap going at each other on record. Some of these are full songs aimed at a particular rapper, and others are features where a rapper decided to use their guest verse to call a peer out. Regardless, all of these are examples of how female rappers can be just as lethal and raw as their male counterparts when it comes to disses. Being a woman in hip-hop is more than just defending your place against misogyny and banding in unity in the name of false sisterhood. Sometimes, it’s also about putting someone in check, even if it’s another woman emcee. As Queen Latifah once declared on “Name Callin’”: “I wouldn’t diss another sista unless she had it coming.”
1. “Big Mama” by Roxanne Shante (1992)
Roxanne Shanté - Big Mama (Lyrics - Video)youtu.be
Directed at: MC Lyte, Monie Love, YoYo, Queen Latifah, and Salt-N-Pepa
It makes sense that the mother of diss tracks set the standard for woman-fronted diss tracks. Although “Big Mama” wasn’t written by Roxanne Shante (Grand Daddy I.U. and Kaycee actually wrote the song), she made the track her own by ruthlessly calling out most of her female peers of the time, the song essentially a culmination of her disillusionment with the faux hip-hop sisterhood she witnessed firsthand during 1991’s Sisters in the Name of Rap concert. From Salt-N-Pepa (“Bring any hoe, and I’ll wreck her / I rip the nicest, from Isis down to Salt-N-Pepa”) to Yoyo (“Now as for that West Coast slut / With fake-ass hair, contacts, and padded butt”), no female rapper was safe from Shante’s lyrical assassination, with the rapper unafraid to be the villain that disrupted hip-hop’s sisterhood. The callouts inspired a chain of diss tracks from Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Yo-Yo, and Salt-N-Pepa, but none came close to the lethal drag by the queen of dissing. With “Big Mama,” Roxanne Shante gave female rappers the definitive rulebook of how to diss your fellow women in rap.
2. “Bang Bang” by Capone and Norega featuring Foxy Brown (2000)
Capone-N-Noreaga - Bang, Bang ft. Foxy Brown (Lyrics)youtu.be
Directed at: Lil Kim
Rarely has a diss between women resulted in violence or even catching cases, but Foxy Brown’s “Bang Bang” verse is one of those anomalies. Starting off her feature with, “Hot damn ho, here we go again” (a reference to Lil Kim’s opening lines on the “Quiet Storm” remix), Foxy makes direct shots at Lil Kim and Diddy following their featured appearances on Lil’ Cease’s “Play Around.” Stating, “Impress me, go back to that freak shit,” in response to Kim’s more mafioso-inspired bars after Biggie’s death, Foxy continues with, “Let the nigga rest in peace, and hop off his dick, bitch.” The shots at Kim and her crew were lethal enough that when they caught Capone and his entourage outside of Hot 97’s former building in 2001, bullets flew, resulting in Kim going to jail after she lied to protect friends who were involved in the shootout.
3. “Quiet Storm (Remix)” by Mobb Deep and Lil Kim (1998)
Mobb Deep - Quiet Storm (Remix) ft. Lil' Kim (Lyrics)youtu.be
Directed at: Charli Baltimore
“Quiet Storm” marks a significant role in Lil Kim’s evolution. As with most great female rappers, their male co-signer or musical partner is often assumed as the mastermind behind their artistry, and Kim was no exception to this thanks to her relationship with The Notorious B.I.G. After his passing, many began to wonder if Kim could stand on her own as a rapper, which she proved with her appearance on Mobb Deep’s “Quiet Storm (Remix).” Her verse has become synonymous with legendary features, partially because people believed that it was about Foxy Brown. But upon closer inspection lyrics like, “I’m a leader, y’all on some followin’ shit / Comin’ in this game on some modeling shit” and “Bitches suck cock just to get to the top,” speak less to Foxy and more to Biggie’s last girlfriend, Charli Baltimore. Aside from briefly modeling overseas, Charli also dropped an album following Biggie’s passing with visuals that seemed to match Kim’s style. Whether you believe the diss was for Charli or Foxy, Kim’s verse on “Quiet Storm (Remix)” proved that a diss doesn’t need to have its own full song to make an impact.
4. “Shether” by Remy Ma (2017)
Remy Ma - Shether (Lyrics)youtu.be
Directed at: Nicki Minaj
The last major female rapper standing before Nicki Minaj’s dominance, Remy Ma was on top of New York hip-hop thanks to a standout verse on Terror Squad’s “Lean Back,” and the release of her debut studio album, 2006’s There’s Something About Remy. After proclaiming herself the “queen of NY” in 2005, it seemed as if Remy’s reign had just gotten started. Then, Nicki came. In 2007, she released her Playtime Is Over mixtape, which included the song “Dirty Money” that had a line assumed to be directed at Remy: “Tell that bitch with the crown to run it like Chris Brown / She won three rounds, I’mma need a hundred though.” From 2007 to 2016, subtle back-and-forths were exchanged between the two, despite both being coy about if the disses were for each other. But there was nothing coy about 2017’s “Shether,” Remy’s seven-minute diss that was clearly directed at Nicki. Packaged with artwork of a dismembered Barbie doll and set to the instrumental for Nas’ own scathing diss track “Ether,” “Shether” found Remy unloading all the ammunition she had on Nicki: ghostwriting allegations, rumors of sleeping with Ebro Darden and Trey Songz, being locked into a 360 deal, plastic surgery gossip, and rumors of pill addiction. Although it’s clear that Nicki won the war, Remy had won a notable battle, leaving social media in shambles and briefly dismantling the queen of rap title Nicki had in her tight grip.
5. “Roman’s Revenge” by Nicki Minaj (2012)
Directed at: Lil Kim
Another media-induced beef, prior to the release of Pink Friday critics and fans alike began comparing Nicki’s image and sound to that of Kim’s. In response to the comparisons, Kim said, “If you are going to steal my swag, you gonna have to pay.” Rather than pay, Nicki dissed. A nod to “Roxanne’s Revenge,” the Swizz Beatz-produced “Roman’s Revenge” finds Nicki and Eminem trading back and forth raps as their respective alter egos, Roman Zolanski and Slim Shady. Nicki takes claim to the reigning spot she held, calling out Kim with lines like, “So fuck I look like gettin’ back to a has-been,” “That bitch mad cause I took the spot,” and the direct shot “Got some niggas out in Brooklyn that’ll off your top.” Kim would respond with her Black Friday mixtape, but her approach to the two’s longstanding feud ultimately painted her as a bitter veteran instead of a worthy competitor. “Roman’s Revenge” showed that Nicki wasn’t afraid to go up against the queens of hip-hop’s past, all while beginning to make her own impactful mark on the genre.
6. “Notorious K.I.M.” by Lil Kim (2000)
Directed: at Foxy Brown
In the beef between Foxy Brown and Lil Kim, a winner has never truly been declared — with both women having different approaches to their long-lasting feud. While Foxy primarily relied on Rap City freestyles and rap features to get her disses off, Kim used the title track of her sophomore album, The Notorious K.I.M., to address Foxy. Highlighting Foxy’s erratic behavior around incidents like crashing her Range Rover in Brooklyn, Kim is searing in lines like, “This chick running around with this stink ass gap / And them fake ass raps, having panic attacks.” Further adding to the insults, Kim claims Brown isn’t a star and her record company knows, alluding to media claims that Foxy’s style was being altered to align with Kim’s signature aesthetic. Kim’s shot at Foxy may not carry weight lyrically, but the song foreshadowed remarks the two would make at each other throughout the 2000s. Most notably, “Notorious K.I.M.” would provoke Foxy’s response on Capone-N-Norega’s “Bang Bang,” which incited an altercation (more on that later) that resulted in Kim getting locked up.
7. “Name Callin' Part 1 (featuring Nikki D)” by Queen Latifah (1996)
Directed at: Foxy Brown
During the late ‘90s feud between Queen Latifah and Foxy Brown, Foxy’s attempt to call out Latifah’s sexuality, low album sales, and hypocrisy as becoming a crossover act, were no competition for Latifah’s lyrical aggression. Featured on the Set It Off soundtrack, “Name Callin’ Part I” is clearly about Foxy, even though Latifah isn’t explicitly saying her name. With lines about using sex for sells (“All you rappers sellin’ more sex than skills / I’ll rip your style, all the while keep my sex appeal”), shots at JAY-Z for co-writing her raps (“Fuck you and that nigga who write the rhyme for you”), and accusations of copying (“Tried to mix it up and make it blimp / sound like Lauryn with a dash of Lil Kim”), Latifah is relentless on the track. To make sure her win against Foxy was cemented, she even went on to make a “Name Callin’ Part II” in 1998. Despite Foxy’s attempt to come at the queen, Latifah proved to be the lyrical superior.
8. “10% Dis” by Foxy Brown (1998)
Foxy Brown - 10% Dis (Lyrics - Video)youtu.be
Directed at: Queen Latifah
A random (and often forgotten) beef was the one between Queen Latifah and Foxy Brown. Allegedly, the beef began in 1996, when Foxy made statements about Latifah making romantic advances toward her. Coming off the memorable role of Cleo in Set It Off and speculation about her sexuality, Foxy’s comments led Latifah to respond with “Name Callin Part I” and “Name Callin Part II,” to which Foxy responded with “10% Dis” and “Talk to Me,” respectively. Of the two though, it’s “10% Dis” that’s the most pointed. Rumored to have been ghostwritten by JAY-Z, the diss finds Foxy making homophobic claims about Latifah (and fellow rapper Queen Pen) with notable lines like, “Y’all confused ass chicks / Now is you straight or is you gay?” Although the pair reconciled in 2000, there’s no denying how lyrically venomous Brown was to Latifah, especially on “10% Dis.”
9. “What's Beef” by Trina (2006)
Directed at: Khia
No one knows where the beef between Khia and Trina begins. The widely-accepted reason is Khia’s claim that she wrote Trina’s breakout solo hit “Da Baddest Bitch,” and never received her due credit. Regardless of the reason, these two Miami rap queens have exchanged disses at each other for over a decade, with the most notable being Trina’s “What’s Beef.” Borrowing The Notorious B.I.G.’s “What’s Beef?” beat, Trina’s diss managed to turn Khia from a potential peer to a caricature of the artist we know her as. From saying that Khia’s a scam with leftover hits to accusing her of attaching her name to Trina’s for promo, Trina is masterful in her evisceration of Khia. Observing the trajectory of their careers following “What’s Beef” — and Khia’s lackluster response over Tupac’s “Hit Em Up” — it’s clear that Trina had effectively ended any real beef with Khia before it really began.
10. “Steady Fucking” by MC Lyte (1993)
Directed at: Roxanne Shante
One of the first responses to Roxanne Shante’s “Big Mama,” MC Lyte’s “Steady Fucking” was warranted. On “Big Mama,” Shante had a handful of homophobic disses aimed at Lyte, saying that the rapper acted like a man and claiming she was gay and that she needed something “thick.” In response, Lyte used a sampled line from “The Bridge Is Over” — “Roxanne Shante is only good for steady fucking” — as the basis for her diss track, “Steady Fucking.” It was a perfectly aligned shot that called back The Bridge Wars between KRS-One’s Boogie Down Productions and Marley Marl’s Juice Crew (which Shante was a part of). Despite how questionable the line was (Shante was just a teenager when KRS-One rapped the line on “The Bridge Is Over”), it was a wicked choice that assisted Lyte’s sex-shaming diss record. Lyrics that hinted at Shante’s longtime collaborator Grand Daddy I.U. laying “pipe in that butt,” rumors of drug addiction after becoming a mother (“I heard you’re smokin’ crack, lady / You just had a kid, I guess that makes him a crack baby”), and childish bars about needing to douche and getting her teeth fixed, Lyte matched Shante’s ire with each and every line. Lyte’s response to “Big Mama” marked the beginning of the end to Shante’s vicious attacks on women in rap.
11. "T.K.O." by Jacki-O (2003)
Jacki-O - TKOyoutu.be
Directed at: Foxy Brown
The beef between Foxy Brown and Miami-based rapper Jacki-O began in 2005 in a Miami recording studio. According to what we know from Jacki-O via an MTV News interview, Jacki was in the studio working with Brooklyn rapper Gravy when Foxy showed up unannounced. Depending on who you ask, the truth ultimately lies in Gravy wanting the two female rappers on a song he was making. However, when Jacki and Foxy were in the room, egos were flared and a fight ensued. Following the fight, Jacki took to wax to record “T.K.O.,” where she addresses the fight with Brown while calling out her known anxiety attacks, her former relationship with rapper Kurupt, ghostwriting rumors, and her mental health, dropping memorable lines like, “You deserve better than a bitch on prozac.” While Foxy has gone on to claim that the fight between them never happened, it still resulted in a notable diss track where Jacki-O came out the winner.
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