Moby‘s comments last week about what types of pop are and aren’t music isn’t the first time he’s taken shots at other artists. At the 2001 Grammy Awards he called Eminem ”a racist, a homophobe, and a misogynist.” But he’s not the only artist who’s feuded over art (and, implicitly, integrity). Here are the five most notable feuds of the last 20 years.
FEUD: Nirvana vs. Guns N’ Roses
HOW IT STARTED: Nirvana never liked the lyrical misogyny and homophobia of Guns N’ Roses, but the feud officially got underway when Nirvana turned down an offer to open for the band on tour.
KEY NIRVANA PULLQUOTE: Kurt Cobain, interviewed by Kevin Allman in the February 1992 issue of The Advocate:
I can’t even waste my time on that band, because they’re so obviously pathetic and untalented. I used to think that everything in the mainstream pop world was crap, but now that some underground bands have been signed with majors, I take Guns N’ Roses as more of an offense. I have to look into it more: They’re really talentless people, and they write crap music, and they’re the most popular rock band on the earth right now. I can’t believe it.
KEY GUNS ‘N’ ROSES PULLQUOTE: Axl Rose, on stage in Seattle: “Nirvana would rather stay home and shoot drugs with their bitch wives than tour with us.”
WINNER: At the time, Nirvana by a mile, but as time has gone on and Cobain-as-icon has lost some of its political edge, it’s now closer to a draw.
FEUD: Nas vs. Jay-Z
HOW IT STARTED: As the two rappers came up head-to-head in the New York rap scene, Jay-Z affiliate Memphis Bleek took a lyrical shot at Nas in his song “Mind Right,” and Mobb Deep‘s protective and paranoid Prodigy, who was close with Nas, took the lyrical battle to another level.
KEY JAY-Z PULLQUOTE: The entirety of “Takeover,” though we’re particularly fond of “You made it a hot line/ I made it a hot song” about the Nas line “I’m out for presidents to represent me” that Jay-Z used as the hook of “Dead Presidents II.”
KEY NAS PULLQUOTE: The entirety of “Ether,” but particularly “All I did was gave you a style for you to run with,” claiming that Jay-Z’s success came from mimicking Nas’s Illmatic flow.
WINNER: At the time, Nas; as of now, Jay-Z. “Ether” became a verb in the hip-hop community, to describe any rapper who completely shut down competition, but as time went on, the “Takeover” lines about Illmatic being Nas’s only great album began to ring particularly true, and Jay-Z became a worldwide success while Nas remained primarily a New York presence.
FEUD: M.I.A. vs. Lady Gaga
HOW IT STARTED: M.I.A. took a bunch of shots at Gaga, including criticisms of the product placement in “Telephone,” in an interview with NME
KEY M.I.A. PULLQUOTE: “None of her music is reflective of how weird she wants to be or thinks she is. She models herself on Grace Jones and Madonna, but the music sounds like 20-year-old Ibiza music, you know? She’s not progressive, but she’s a good mimic. She sounds more like me than I f**king do! That’s a talent and she’s got a great team behind her, but she’s the industry last’s stab at making itself important.”
KEY LADY GAGA PULLQUOTE: No comment.
WINNER: Lady Gaga. M.I.A. may have started a feud among fans, but as every rapper who has attempted to feud with Jay-Z since Nas has learned, the strongest weapon is silence—proving that Gaga not only considered M.I.A. below consideration, but also didn’t think the feud publicity is worth it. (And when has Gaga ever thought that more publicity wasn’t worth it?)
FEUD: Pavement vs. Smashing Pumpkins
HOW IT STARTED: Pavement’s 1994 single “Range Life” riffed on then-popular alt-rockers, calling the Stone Temple Pilots “foxy” but hating on the Smashing Pumpkins.
KEY PAVEMENT PULLQUOTE: “Out on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins/ Nature kids, I—they don’t have no function/ I don’t understand what they mean/ and I could really give a f**k” from “Range Life”
KEY SMASHING PUMPKINS PULLQUOTE: Billy Corgan‘s Twitter on November 15, 2010: “Just found out SP is playing with [a reunited] Pavement in Brazil. It’s gonna be 1 of those New Orleans type funerals…I say that because they represent the death of the alternative dream, and we follow with the affirmation of life part… funny how those who pointed the big finger of ‘sell out’ are the biggest offenders now…yawn. they have no love… by the way, we’ll be the band up there playing NEW songs because we have the love xx”
WINNER: Pavement. They pulled the M.I.A. trick, only much more subtlely, and they still got Corgan’s attention (enough for him to allegedly get them pulled from the Lollapalooza 1994 lineup), and the notoriously sensitive Pumpkins frontman is obviously still upset sixteen years later.
FEUD: Oasis vs. Blur
HOW IT STARTED: The British press (particularly NME) puffed up the August 14, 1995 release of Oasis’s “Roll With It” and Blur’s “Country House” until the chart battle was a regional and class war, and fans viciously took sides.
KEY OASIS PULLQUOTE: Noel Gallagher, referring to “the bass player and the singer” of Blur (Alex James and Damon Albarn) in the Observer, September 17, 1995: “I hope the pair of them catch AIDS and die because I f**king hate them two.”
KEY BLUR PULLQUOTE: Albarn, to NME in 2007: “I can’t make it up with Noel. Britpop would be over and heaven forbid that we’d ever admit we’d all grown up!”
WINNER: Blur. They won the hyped-up chart battle, and although their success would soon be dwarfed by that of Oasis, the Gallagher brothers cooked up plenty more trouble for themselves as time went on. Albarn’s quote above is clearly self-effacingly cheeky, and neither Gallagher seems capable of humor except at someone else’s expense (most often each other’s).