Beefs! All hail beefs! Every year we start off with a blank slate, and every year our favorite (and least favorite!) artists bring all of their personal and professional drama and air it out on Twitter and through diss tracks and in snide interview quotes. The beefs vary in size and texture — some take place over months, others are quick one-and-dones, and even more are completely one-sided — but they’re all delicious, and well-appreciated by a rearing public. A balanced meal for any well-to-do entertainment site and its voracious readers!
This year’s premium-cuts include debates over artistry and accessibility, contracts and collaborations, politics and holograms. I’ve already covered my personal favorite beef — Joanna Newsom’s vengeful vendetta against the banana! — elsewhere, but there were arguments this year that dealt in both larger stakes and a higher cultural capital than even that, though I’d venture to say that none were as unnecessarily cruel as The War Joanna Raged.
An honorary mention goes out to beef lifer Azealia Banks, who exchanged words with the likes of Erykah Badu, BET, K. Michelle and the country of Australia this year, though none of those conflicts were big enough to land her on this list. (She’s making progress! A few years ago, we had to give Banks her own list.) The rest are all worthy contenders for your entertainment.
Where’s the beef? It’s right below!
15. Skrillex vs. Deadmau5
DJs and human noodles Skrillex and Deadmau5 continued their longstanding beef this year by exchanging some muted barbs on Twitter. They both seem a little too self-aware and boring to be legitimately captivating, but let’s dub this the try-hard spot because, while neither are threatening enough to make a blip on anyone’s radar, reading through pitiful exchanges like “YES @skrillex im SUPER SAD im not as cheerful, and super inspired by life like you. and im so SORRY im an asshole” and “youre great at finding talented people but ur leadership skills are atrocious. I’m sure you don’t care tho” are amusing in the same way that watching someone try to swat a fly is. An entertaining effort, but grow up and find something else to fight over.
14. St. Vincent vs. Burritos & Art
I already dissected the most important food-related argument of the year, but let’s not so hastily forget about Annie Clark’s War On Burritos. After waitressing at her relative’s taqueria opening in Dallas, she took a stance on an age-old debate that’s better left unanswered: Tacos or burritos? Let us have both! Clark thought differently, however, and cheered for #TeamTaco. Despite a half-hearted apology, we know where her real loyalties lie. Fellow Texans Spoon also weighed in on her side, so who knows what to think anymore? This one’s all too confusing to call, but what’s clearer is that Clark’s strong allegiance carried over to art: Allegedly, she slashed a few paintings backstage at a show in Chile and, while official reports don’t indicate what they depicted, the logical conclusion is that they were drawings of nice, juicy, respectable burritos. For shame.
13. Damon Albarn vs. Adele
Never one to hold back his opinion, Damon Albarn weighed in on a number of notables this year, among them Drake (“not as consistent as he could be”), Future (“really interesting”), and Rihanna (“Well, she’s on the cover of NME, so she must be cool”). But he saved his most direct assessment for Adele: He worked with the pop star while she was putting together 25, but was unimpressed by the whole experience: “middle of the road,” he commented of her collaborations with Danger Mouse. (Well, duh! How do you think she manages to sell so many records?) “The thing is, she’s very insecure. And she doesn’t need to be, she’s still so young,” he continued. Adele didn’t like that, and responded in kind in her Rolling Stone profile: “It ended up being one of those ‘don’t meet your idol’ moments.” Albarn tried to smooth the whole thing over by saying the feud was “not even true,” but while discovering the comments section, he seemed to forget one thing: Beefs don’t have to be entirely true to be amusing. Let the public have its fun — go cash a check or something!
12. Miguel vs. Frank Ocean
Is Miguel to blame for the delay of Frank Ocean’s Boys Don’t Cry? Perhaps. Let’s review the facts: After rumors that Ocean’s highly anticipated new album would drop in July, Miguel made some comments at the beginning of that month about his talent in respect to the Channel Orange creator: “To be completely honest — and no disrespect to anyone — I genuinely believe that I make better music, all the way around. […] It’s interesting, but we’ll see who’s in it for the long haul. It’s like a marathon, you know?” (This was shortly after Wildheart dropped.) Maybe a lapse in confidence caused Ocean to go back to the drawing board — he did cancel an FYF Fest appearance that was scheduled to take place a month later. Now that we’re at the end of December with no Ocean album in sight, maybe we should take a long, hard look at Miguel. And then look away bitterly. Who’s in it for the long haul now?
11. Noel Gallagher vs. Modern Music
With the release of a new Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds album, the former Oasis member was a prominent press fixture and, because he loves to talk about (and shit on) modern music, we were gifted with a bunch of choice quotes. He kicked off the year in style: “There is a lot of shit pop music these days that’s just devouring everything at the minute. I’m hoping that will come to an end,” he said, going on to name the Arctic Monkeys specifically. More recently, he aimed the same ire at Radiohead: “I reckon if Thom Yorke fucking shit into a light bulb and started blowing it like an empty beer bottle it’d probably get 9 out of 10 in fucking Mojo. I’m aware of that.” He didn’t just stick to aging rock bands, however: Gallagher dished out remarks to the likes of Avicii (“I don’t wish to know anything about Avicii. It sounds like an artist from the Renaissance period”), the worldwide Friday release date (“Unfortunately, it won’t make shit albums any better, will it?”), and Adele (“music for fucking grannies”). Not a bad year for the cantankerous ol’ chap.
10. Hologram Chief Keef vs. Chicago
Because of outstanding warrants, Chief Keef couldn’t step foot in Chicago, but wanted to perform a benefit show for his associate Capo and the family of a one-year-old who was killed in a hit-and-run accident, both victims of gang violence. So he came up with the ingenious idea to get his hologram to do it, while he performed from Los Angeles. But mayor Rahm Emanuel blocked the show, saying that Keef’s music “promotes violence [and] posed a significant public safety risk.” Keef insisted the show would go on, and it did in Indiana at Craze Fest, but police shut down the event after only one song. “They don’t want to see a young black man be successful and try to do something good. It’s crazy,” Keef told Billboard, and then followed that up with what has to be the most glorious insult of the year: “Fuck the mayor with a sandpaper dick.” The racial bias and circumstances surrounding the beef are unsettling (and Keef didn’t have much better luck in Los Angeles later in the year), but at least Keef knew exactly what to say to fire back appropriately. Now if only his hologram could perform in peace.
09. Nicki Minaj vs. Taylor Swift & Miley Cyrus
In hindsight, the flavorful beef surrounding MTV’s Video Music Awards seems like a well-orchestrated publicity stunt, but at the time it was just fodder for dozens of now-irrelevant thinkpieces. It all began after Nicki Minaj tweeted about her “Anaconda” video being snubbed, and seemingly alluded to Taylor Swift being nominated instead: “If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year,” she wrote. Swift pulled a Swift and presumed that it was all about her “Bad Blood” video, and responded as such: “I’ve done nothing but love & support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot…” They went back and forth a bit, and it ended with them performing on stage together at the VMAs because of course it did. At the event itself, there was also some blurred beef between Minaj and Miley Cyrus over some press comments that the latter had made, but it all felt so fake that it blew over quickly enough. Oh well, all’s well that ends well — MTV got a lot of trending topics out of it, and we got ourselves a show. Manipulated beef: malleted, but not raw.
08. Mark Kozelek vs. Himself
Mark Kozelek is his own worst enemy. By far, his biggest year for beef was 2014 — the War On Drugs and Run The Jewels (who he’s now collaborating with) were his primary targets — but anyone who wanted to get their Kozelek hate fix on had their fair share of drama to deal with this year, too, because he couldn’t stop making a fool of himself. The two major tentpoles were his verbal harassment of a female journalist over the summer, and a back-and-forth with the organizers of the Ottawa CityFolk Festival. The latter resulted in yet another diss track, “The Ottawa Blues Fest Is Run By Inbreds“: “They’re emailing me about guestlists and such/ Every single day, as if I give a fuck,” he sings in that one, sounding very much like he gives a fuck.
07. Kanye West vs. Beck
Kanye West instigated one of the best beefs of all time by speaking his mind at an awards show — one that was, interestingly enough, officially squashed this year — and he tried for round two at this year’s Grammys. And once again, it was over Beyoncé getting beat out by someone Kanye viewed as less worthy. In this case, it was Beck winning Album Of The Year for Morning Phase over Bey’s 2013 self-titled record. It began with Kanye faux-storming the stage during the Grammys ceremony, looking to recreate the infamous Swift incident. At the time, it seemed like a joke, but West set the record straight backstage: “Beck needs to respect artistry and he should’ve given his award to Beyoncé, and at this point, we tired of it,” went part of his explanation. “We as musicians have to inspire people who go to work every day, and they listen to that Beyoncé album and they feel like it takes them to another place.” Predictably, his response caused an uproar, and he spent the next few weeks clarifying his comments in every single interview he did. Finally, he gave up and issued a public apology, and Beyoncé’s horrendous loss still goes unavenged. At least he tried!
06. Morrissey vs. The World
Morrissey is no stranger to this list — back in 2013, he topped it (though we did have to break out a whole separate list for Azealia Banks that year) — but he’s been knocked down a few pegs this time around. His vegan imitation-beefs remained free-flowing; it was still Moz versus the world, but his grievances weren’t as well-directed or impactful as they were in year’s past. Here’s a headline rundown of all things Morrissey: “…Refuses Fan’s Autograph Request Because ‘He Has Ebola,'” “…Cancels Iceland Show Because Venue Serves Meat,” “…Hates The Brit Awards,” “…Can’t Find A Label, But Says Crowdfunding Is Desperate,” “…Is Proud Of Ireland, But Not That Proud,” “…’Obama Seems To Be White Inside’” (ugh), “…Laments ‘Zero Label Interest’ Despite ‘Fantastic’ MSG Show,” “…Disses Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith.” Pretty boring, right? The closest thing to some juice that Morrissey got this year was over his allegations that security sexually assaulted him in a San Francisco airport, comparing the TSA to ISIS. But it’s unclear what happened there, and it feels a little gross to comment on without knowing all of the details. So we’re left with what’s likely his final beef of the year, another tiresome dispute with his label. Moz, what happened? Quality over quantity, bud!
05. Donald Trump vs. Music
(Typically) liberal musicians have long decried conservative politicians using their music at rallies and campaign events without their permission, and it’s become a huge problem this year thanks to Donald Trump. It’s been a while since we’ve had a candidate as polarizing, radical, and undeniably shitty as Trump, so of course artists would take umbrage with being associated with the him, and they’ve made their distaste well-known: “Go fuck yourself,” Michael Stipe said after Trump used R.E.M.’s “It’s The End Of The World” during an anti-Iran deal rally. Neil Young also requested that he stop using “Rockin’ The Free World.” (Trump responded to that one himself, calling Young a hypocrite and adding that he “didn’t love [the song] personally.”) Even noted Trump pal Steven Tyler didn’t want an Aerosmith song being used: “It gives the false impression that he is connected with or endorses Mr. Trump’s presidential bid,” a letter from the band’s representatives read. Ouch! But even though music keeps trying to distance itself from Trump, Trump is determined to scooch right back over to the music: In an egregious move, he was invited onto Saturday Night Live as a host and partook in a “Hotline Bling” parody, tainting that song forever. All’s well that end’s well, though: Adele doesn’t seem to mind being blared at Trump gatherings. “Middle of the road,” eh, Albarn?
04. Bradford Cox vs. Billy Corgan
A late-stewing but very satisfying beef came out of nowhere a few weeks ago: During a Deerhunter show at Atlanta’s Orange Peel, Bradford Cox recounted a story about a backstage fight with Billy Corgan that happened when his band opened for the Smashing Pumpkins at the very same venue almost a decade ago. After Cox grabbed a water from “a big pyramid of VOSS Water, like, laid out in a fucking pyramid,” he was allegedly physically assaulted by a bodyguard who yelled “What the fuck are you doing? That’s Mr. Corgan’s water.” The next day, Cox says that he was brought to Corgan on the stage and the bald musician went off: “Do you know who you are? You’re shit. You’re a shitty little insignificant fucking indie rock band. And you’re invited — not by me, who knows what fucking idiot in my management did this — but you are invited to open for the Smashing Pumpkins.” Cox says he gave him a hearty, well-deserved “fuck you” and slapped a sticker on Corgan’s leg, and Corgan responded by threatening to sue while his crew threw their drummer’s set down a flight of stairs.
Crazy story, right? Well, Corgan’s camp used some scare tactics and threatened legal action after Cox repeated the story, and said that they had the whole incident on tape and it did not go down as told. Cox then retracted the entire thing, and proceeded to play a 10-minute improv of Siamese Dream’s “Today” during a show a few nights later, incorporating lyrics like “Please don’t sue me/ I love my dog/ And I don’t have that much money/ And I don’t think you’re the kind of person/ Who’d sue somebody’s dog/ Just to prove a point.” Who knows what really happened that day back in 2007, both both of them come out of this looking sorta like assholes, and definitely like egomaniacs. Musicians, huh?
03. Kanye West vs. The Old Guard
It wasn’t until I started compiling this list that I realized just how many old dudes expressed a distaste for Kanye West this year. Maybe it’s because he’s one of the biggest, most vocal stars we have — see his extended, Presidential-bid-announcing VMAs speech — or perhaps it’s that his point of view rubs people the wrong way, but this list of largely irrelevant rock stars criticizing Kanye and his music this year is probably longer than (or concurrent with) Santa’s naughty list: Liam Gallagher, David Crosby (twice!), Brandon Flowers (kinda), Graham Coxon, Keith Richards, Don Henley, Five Finger Death Punch, a whole lot of Glastonbury attendees. The words used against him were vitriolic — “utter shit,” “idiot and a poser,” “musical injustice,” “dumb as a post,” “a big fucking idiot,” “incredibly arrogant or incredibly insecure,” “fuck Kanye.” No, it’s not a coincidence that everyone on the above list are white men and, yeah, it’s about time The Old Guard fucks right off. Thankfully, Kanye doesn’t seem to let it affect him much (and, when he does, he just channels it into his music): “I’m confident. I believe in myself,” he said in his VMAs speech. “We the millennials, bro, this is a new mentality.” The world seems to be beefing with Kanye, but he’s pretty savvy with figuring out when it’s worth beefing back.
02. Lil Wayne vs. Birdman & Young Thug
One day, somebody’s going to make a Straight Outta Compton-style film about the saga of Birdman and Lil Wayne and it’ll make a whole lot more sense. The events coming out of this fractured camp this year already felt like something out of a movie, albeit one that’s sad and depressing and where, unfortunately, the stakes are all too real. Lil Wayne got the ball rolling at the end of last year, when he tweeted that he felt like he was a “prisoner” on Cash Money, and said that the only reason his long-delayed album Tha Carter V wasn’t out yet was because Birdman was delaying it. The following month, Wayne filed a lawsuit against Birdman and Cash Money for $51 million.
Things only got messier from there. In April, Young Thug got involved, and wanted to release a mixtape called Tha Carter 6, indicating that Thug had surpassed his “idol.” Wayne threatened to sue, and Thug renamed the tape Tha Barter 6. (It was good!) But that’s when it turned violent: At the end of April, Wayne’s tour bus was shot at in Atlanta while Wayne was on-board. Thug’s tour manager Jimmy Carlton Winfrey was arrested. A few months later (and a few days after Birdman allegedly threw a drink on Wayne mid-performance), Young Thug, Birdman, and Winfrey were indicted for allegedly conspiring to assassinate Lil Wayne. The day after the indictment, Birdman sued TIDAL and Jay Z for $50 million over the Free Weezy Album, which went up as a TIDAL exclusive in July. “I love my son,” Birdman said in an interview soon after.
The feud seems to have calmed down a little since then, at least in the public eye. Wayne released a new mixtape, as did Young Thug. But this beef is one that seems far from over, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing about it for years to come.
01. Drake vs. Meek Mill
Not many artists can spin a beef off into one of the biggest songs and memes of the year, but then again, not all artists are Drake. In 10 years, when people are struggling to remember who the fuck Meek Mill was, the tick-tocks of “Hotline Bling” will ring eternal.
It all started when Meek Mill called out Drake on Twitter late one fateful summer night, seemingly pissed off that Drake didn’t tweet out a link to promote his new album, Dreams Worth More Than Money. “Stop comparing drake to me,” Meek wrote. “He don’t write his own raps! […] The whole game know forreal they scared to tell the truth!” He went on to pay compliments to Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, noted that both Lil Wayne and girlfriend Nicki Minaj knew about Drake’s ghostwriting tendencies, and then dropped the name of the alleged ghostwriter himself: Quentin Miller.
The internet exploded! Drake’s longtime producer Noah “40” Shebib rushed to defend his friend; reference tracks were leaked; Miller released a statement of denial. The big joke of it all is that it turns out no one really cares about whether or not Drake ghostwrites his verses because, well, it’s fucking Drake. Dude’s got, like, whatever the opposite of cred is.
But the beef marched on: It took Drake a few days to respond, but he did so on his own Beats 1 OVO Sound Radio show. He debuted what would end up being his first of two diss tracks, “Charged Up,” alongside two other songs, one of which was “Hotline Bling.” Mill only responded with 15-seconds of laughter. Drake released another diss track a few days later, the now Grammy-nominated(!) “Back To Back Freestyle,” which contains the prescient line: “When I look back, I might be mad that I gave this attention/ But it’s weighing heavy on my conscience/ And fuck, you left the boy no options.” By the time Meek finally delivered his own diss track, an entire week after firing off the first shots, no one cared. Everyone had moved on…
To what, you ask? Well, a little song called “Hotline Bling.” Everyone was momentarily distracted by the takedowns on Drake’s diss tracks, but the true hook slowly made itself known. In fact, it ended up being Drake’s biggest hit (though he missed #1, thanks in part to his own protégé the Weeknd). And, in a roundabout way, Drake probably has Meek to thank for all the publicity that led everyone to listen to the track. And to throw some extra salt in the wound, Drake did his whole appropriating/stealing/whatever-you-wanna-call-it thing that he does best with “Hotline Bling,” lifting D.R.A.M.’s “Cha Cha” to create a phenomena all his own.
Or, as one of our commenters so astutely put it:
This is some grade A daily-massaged Kobe Beef. This couldn’t be more in Stereogum’s wheelhouse if Carly Rae Jepsen showed up to confess her hate for Mumford & Sons while wearing a Beyoncé t-shirt.
See you in 2016!