When Nicki Minaj unleashed her venomous diss track "Big Foot" in January, it was abundantly clear the song was aimed at Megan Thee Stallion. But Nicki was only reacting to the Houston rapper dropping the song "Hiss" a few days prior. Nicki seemed to take offense to Meg's bar: "Aye, these hoes don't be mad at Megan/These hoes mad at Megan's Law." Fans assumed Meg was taking a dig at Nicki's husband, Kenneth Petty, who failed to register as a sex offender in California, where he lived with Nicki, in 2019. Megan's Law requires convicted sex offenders to register with the state.

It's assumed that Nicki thought Megan's lyrics were meant as a subliminal diss directed at the head Barb. While it still hasn't been confirmed if Megan was talking about Nicki, the Queens MC returned fire with a direct attack.

"This lil beggin' wh*re talkin' ’bout Megan's Law/For a free beat, you could hit Megan raw/If you a ghostwriter, party in Megan jaw/Shots thrown, but I still ain't let Megan score," Nicki raps.

The direct candor of Nicki's noxious bars ushered in an exciting moment for hip-hop, which has felt overdue for a declared rivalry. Nicki mentioning Megan Thee Stallion's first name on the track is a rarity when it comes to diss tracks these days. For years now, the genre has been tip-toeing away from targeted insults and moving into subliminal territory. The refreshing feeling of a direct feud between two high-profile rappers begs the question: are the days of name-dropping on diss tracks behind us?

Watch Megan Thee Stallion's "Hiss"

Listen to Nicki Minaj's "Big Foot"

Rappers Calling Out Names in Diss Tracks Dead?

The level of candor presented in Meg and Nicki's ongoing dispute has become increasingly rare in hip-hop, despite the list of feuds continuing to grow. Currently, there's Drake and Metro BoominBlueface and Soulja BoyLatto and Ice SpiceCardi B and Bia and even Cardi B and Nicki Minaj, just to name a few, but none of these have ever been confirmed on a record.

Even though Cardi was seen on camera hurling a shoe at Nicki Minaj during New York Fashion Week in 2018, neither rapper has ever mentioned the other on wax. Instead, MCs these days opt for vague umbrella statements or petty subtweets, like when Drake covered Metro's name with emojis in an Instagram post praising 21 Savage's latest album, American Dream, in January.

The same sort of vague subtexts have also translated over to the rhymes. Ice Spice appeared to take shots at Latto on her latest single, "Think You The S**t (Fart)," when she raps: "She all on the floor, told her get up," presumably a reference to Latto's "Put It On Da Floor."

Latto fans believed the Atlanta rapper then returned shots on her song "Sunday Service," where she rhymes: "Think I'm the s**t? B***h, I know, ho," presumably referencing Spice's aforementioned single. None of this was ever confirmed by either artist.

While subliminal disses like these have existed in hip-hop beefs for years now, it didn't always used to be this way. One of the first pair of recorded diss tracks were traded back in 1980, as part of The Roxanne Wars, and even then everyone knew who was being rapped about. The beef started after Brooklyn rap group UTFO dropped "Roxanne, Roxanne," a 1984 track focused on a girl who rejected the band’s romantic advances.

The song was then met with a response track by the alleged girl in question, Roxanne Shanté, who rapped that her rejection was because UTFO wasn’t on her level romantically. On "Roxanne's Revenge," she called out the group directly by name.

"So, the UTFO crew, you know what you can do/Lemme tell you one for me, and then I'll tell you one for you," Shanté raps.

From that point on, diss tracks became a bona fide part of hip-hop. At times, things got so personal and vicious that it resulted in real-life violence. The notorious East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry of the 1990s resulted in multiple deaths, including that of The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur, and technically all started after Bronx rapper Tim Dog mocked N.W.A and Dr. Dre in his song "F**k Compton."

Targeted disses then continued well into the 2000s, with Jay-Z, Nas, 50 Cent and Ja Rule being among the few chart-topping rappers who very publicly could not stand each other.

Hov called Mobb Deep a "little f**k" and declared Nas to be a "lame" and a "f*g model" on his 2001 diss track "Takeover." Nas responded that same year by rapping, "F**k Jay-Z," among other designated obscenities on "Ether." 50 Cent and Ja Rule's beef has spanned more than 25 years and most recently traded shots in March. They have never shied away from making it known on record. 50 Cent called Ja Rule "a little punk a*s" on 2003's "Back Down" and said he smelled like "p***y" on "I Smell P***y" that same year. Ja returned fire numerous times with diss tracks of his own like "Loose Change" and "Clapback."

Listen to Jay-Z's "Takeover"

Listen to Nas' "Ether"

Read More: Wild Rap Beefs That Will Probably Never Be Resolved

Subliminal Disses More Popular Than Ever

As rap became more mainstream, the diss tracks inevitably were more about clever wordplay rather than direct tag lines. During Meek Mill and Drake's feud in 2015, Meek ignited the beef when he accused Drake of using ghostwriters in a series of tweets on Twitter. Drizzy implied the Philadelphia rapper had overactive "Twitter fingers" on "Back to Back," but never once called Meek out by name. With that being said, Pusha T got unbelievably personal in his diss track aimed at the 6 God later that same year.

Drake had previously come for Push on "Duppy Freestyle," which itself was a response to disses made by the former G.O.O.D. Music President on "Infrared" in 2018. On "Duppy Freestyle," Drizzy never mentioned Push by name. Instead, he enigmatically responded via bars like: "Must've had your infrared wrong, now your head in the beam."

King Push, on the other hand, flat-out named Drake on "The Story of Adidon." He then drove the point home by using a real-life picture of Aubrey Graham in Blackface for the single's cover art. It was a diabolical move. Between the song's problematic cover art and Push revealing on the record that Drizzy had a secret child with an adult film star, some believed "The Story of Adidon" went too far. "Marriage is somethin' that Sandi never had, Drake/How you a winner but she keep comin' in last place?" Push raps.

Listen to Drake's "Duppy Freestyle"

Listen to Pusha T's "The Story of Adidon"

Remy Ma then went off just as hard on her 2017 diss track "Shether," which she very clearly aimed at Nicki Minaj. "Are you dumb?/You wore a pink diamond chicken wing chain (Are you dumb?)/You had a leopard beehive on your head (Are you dumb?)/(F**k Nicki Minaj!)/Are you forgettin' that I pressed you before, b***h?/(F**k Nicki Minaj!)," Remy delivers.

However, rap disses slowly disintegrated into vague lines that the fans were meant to dissect. Young Thug opted for this way of dissing on his 2018 song "Just How It Is," in which he appears to target YFN Lucci. "Last n****a tried me almost got popped in Lenox/Ask the cops, ask the detectives, they know all the business," Thugger raps.

Lucci caught wind of the shade and returned fire by dissing Thug's So Much Fun album at the time. "Cap a*s album," Lucci wrote on his Instagram Story. The feud escalated from there and may have even contributed to Lucci going to jail. The Atlanta rapper was arrested in 2021 and charged with murder for his role as a driver in a shooting.

Subliminal digs again consumed hip-hop in March, when Kendrick appeared to call out Drake and J. Cole on the song "Like That," which appears on Future and Metro Boomin's We Don't Trust You album.

"Sneak dissin', first-person shooter, I hope they came with three switches," K-Dot raps on the track, seemingly referencing Drake and J. Cole's song "First Person Shooter." "I crash out, like, 'F**k rap,' this Melle Mell if I had to/Got two Ts with me, I'm snatchin' chains and burnin' tattoos, it's up/Lost too many soldiers not to play it safe/If he walk around with that stick, it ain't Andre 3K/Think I won't drop the location? I still got PTSD/Muthaf**k the big three, n***a, it's just big me/N***a, bum, what? I'm really like that."

Listen to Metro Boomin and Future's "Like That" Featuring Kendrick Lamar

The internet was ablaze with speculation, and investigative fans then tried to see whether Future may have actually dissed Drake, too. On the album's intro track, "We Don't Trust You," fans noted King Pluto's second verse. They think Future's repeated use of "dog" is a reference to Drake's latest album, For All the Dogs, and that Future's reference to "pillow talk" could mean the bubbling—yet still unconfirmed—dispute may be over a girl.

On the other hand, there are still some rappers taking name-dropping to menacing levels. Rising Chicago rapper FBG Duck developed notoriety for listing off rival gang members in his songs. The rapper was shot and killed in 2020, a few weeks after releasing the track "Dead B***hes," where he name-dropped numerous gang members.

The good news is that violence isn't happening in instances like Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion—where one rapper chooses to be direct and the other subliminal. This kind of play within the circles of women rappers seems like the norm these days. When Ice Spice subliminally targeted Latto on "Think U The S**t (Fart)" in February, she clarified soon after on a X Spaces session that Latto was the intended target of her insults. Latto, meanwhile, shrugged at the idea of a beef with Spice.

"Baby, I come from a rap competition show," Latto told the Million Dollaz Worth of Game. podcast in February. "So, like, yeah, if it's gonna be that let's do it."

Direct Jabs Disappear From Mainstream Rap

Still, direct jabs continue to disappear from mainstream rap. Considering the gruesome violence that plagues the drill scenes in Chicago and New York due to diss tracks, maybe it's for the best. But competition is inherently in hip-hop's foundation. The excitement of waiting to see how far a rap battle could go was what resulted in some of the genre's best rhymes and most memorable moments. Maybe social media is to blame, or maybe rap feuds just aren't that deep anymore. Regardless, there will always be something especially courageous about calling out an opp by name.

Read More: Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion's Beef Timeline

Watch the videos for Ice Spice's "Think U The S**t (Fart)" and Latto's "Sunday Service" below.

Watch Ice Spice's "Think U The S**t (Fart)" Video

Watch Latto's "Sunday Service" Video

See 10 of the Shortest Beefs in Hip-Hop

Beefs within rap that ended quickly.

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