Monday Mixtape: Diss Songs

    Marco Cartolano serves up some beef on this week's mixtape. Find this week’s mixtape on Spotify here! transcript below.

    [Kick In the Door”-Notorious B.I.G.]

    Welcome to Monday Mixtape. On this episode, we’re serving up some beef. This mixtape is devoted to songs where artists diss other artists. Whether they be devoted to artistic rivals, former bandmates or cruel exes, these tracks bring the heat. You just heard “Kick in the Door” by the Notorious B.I.G. Biggie allegedly takes shots at some of the biggest names in ‘90s rap. Tupac, Nas, Jeru the Damaja as well as the Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah and Raekwon are some of the artists that the track supposedly disses. Biggie states that he will end the careers of anyone who messes with him and calls himself the king of New York. With a flow that tight and a with beat as ominous as “Kick In the Door’s,” it’s hard to disagree. “Kick In the Door” is one of the most ferocious diss records in rap history and few can top its clever wordplay.

    [“Deceptacon”- Le Tigre]

    Sometimes you need to stand up for yourself. Kathleen Hanna did just that on her band Le Tigre’s “Deceptacon.” The song attack’s the punk band NOFX, who claimed that Hanna hated men. Hanna, a fiery feminist, did not take that insult lying down. “Deceptacon” criticizes people who wished that her music was less political and who want women to just make shallow pop music. Hanna also references to the NOFX song “Linoleum” right before Hanna promises to walk over them. For a song that decrys the idiocy of boneheaded punk rockers, it’s also a really catchy tune that mixes dance beats with the aggression of hardcore punk.

    [:Teenage Wildlife:-David Bowie]

    Leave it to David Bowie to devote one of his most intricate songs to accusing up and coming musicians of ripping him off. “Teenage Wildlife” is specifically aimed at Gary Numan, one of the fathers of synthpop. Bowie believed Numan and his ilk owed a great debt to his classic albums and androgynous persona, calling them the “Same old thing in brand new drag.” Bowie also attacks their obsession with technology and their dependency on record labels. In the end, Bowie boasts that he is not some flash-in the pan youngster. The song may be filled with vicious lyrics, but the layered guitar work of Roger Fripp, Chuck Hammer and Carlos Alomar create a sense of grandness fitting of the legend that Bowie claims he is.

    [“How Do You Sleep?”-John Lennon]

    What happens when the biggest songwriting duo in the history of popular music have a falling out? The answer of course is some great musical burns. John Lennon pulls no punches in “How do You Sleep?” a cutting track directed at his former co-Beatle, Paul McCartney. Lennon recorded the song because he felt that McCartney subliminally attacked him on the album, Ram. Lennon’s jabs are much more explicit. The song makes plenty of references to some of McCartney’s classic Beatles tunes, such as “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Yesterday.” Lennon calls McCartney a sellout who surrounds himself with yes-men. He goes so far as to compare his former bandmates’ music to elevator muzak. A bluesy guitar accompanies Lennon’s snide lyrics and adds an additional harshness to the track.

    [“Real”-Freddie Gibbs & Madlib]

    One of the most potent diss tracks in modern hip-hop comes from rapper Freddie Gibbs’ collaborative album with the acclaimed producer Madlib. “Real” evicerates Young Jeezy, the head of Gibbs’ former label. Angry that Jeezy’s CTE label mismanaged him, Gibbs unleashes a verbal smackdown reminiscent of the ‘90s rapper that influenced him. Gibbs claims that Jeezy lied about his street cred and is actually a coward and a failed businessman. Madlib provides his trademark wonky production, but adds some grit to match Gibbs’ tough persona. Tracks like “Real” demonstrate that hip-hop’s competitive spirit has survived three decades after it’s formation.

    [“Go Your Own Way”-Fleetwood Mac]

    Making your former lover sing backup vocals on a track that drags them is one of the pettiest things a musician can do. Lindsey Buckingham did just that to Stevie Nicks on the Fleetwood Mac track “Go Your Own Way.” A classic rock staple, “Go Your Own Way” describes the bandmates’ complicated relationship. Buckingham alleges that Nicks refused his love and instead “packed up” and “shacked up” with other men. The chorus of the song tells Nicks to split up with him if she won’t accept his love. The album that the song came from, “Rumours,” was recorded at a time of romantic strife for everyone in the band. While Nicks told her version of the breakup on other songs, “Go Your Own Way” is the most bitter track. Propelled by Buckingham’s guitar playing, “Go Your Own Way” is a jam that will make you never want to date a rock star.

    [“Ex-Factor”-Lauryn Hill]

    Another breakup anthem, Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-factor” has been interpreted as an indictment of her former bandmate Wyclef Jean’s treatment of her. After releasing the classic album The Score, their hip-hop group, the Fugees, broke up due to conflicts within the group. “Ex-Factor” illuminates how vicious these conflicts were. Jean comes off as an emotionally distant lover who panicked whenever Hill considered leaving him. The track’s outro reflects how Jean’s manipulative behavior hurt Hill and left her conflicted about her feelings. Hill never released another studio album after her solo debut and her behavior the subject of much media scrutiny. But, beautiful songs like “Ex-Factor” helped her album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” gain stature as a masterpiece. Wyclef Jean, on the other hand, was accused of pocketing funds from his Haitian charity. So, maybe Hill was right about him.

    [Reprise- “Ex-factor”]

    And that’s all for Monday Mixtape. This week’s playlist will be available on Spotify at mondaymixtape. Make sure to subscribe to Monday Mixtape on Apple Podcasts so you get a notification every time we post a new episode. I promise next week’s episode won’t be as mean as this week’s. Until next time, I’m Marco Cartolano.


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