Louder Than War’s Carl Stanley puts together his favourite ten put down or “diss” records.
Putting together 10 favourite “diss” records I realised they were all either punk or rap records, but then the best ones are! Anyhow, in no particular order here’s ten personal fave’s…
Ice Cube – No Vaseline…
Ice Cube leaves N.W.A over royalty disputes and goes solo only to get into it with his old group after they diss him with the release of ‘100 mile and running’. Although within the Rap industry “diss” records make up a big part of the oeuvre, (generating rivalries to create excitement which in turn makes money) – it’s Ice Cube’s answer to ‘100 mile and running’ which goes down as still one of the all time classic rap-diss records. Accusing Eazy E (R.I.P) of selling him and N.W.A out to his white / Jewish manager Jerry Keller ‘Cube’ ridicules ‘Eazy’ with lines like “Bend over for the cracker-gettin fucked by a white boy…with no Vaseline”. Produced by ‘Sir Jinx’ and Ice Cube himself ‘No Vaseline’ sounds as cutting (and cutting edge) today as it did in ’91 when it was released.
John Lennon – How Do You Sleep…
After McCartney had fired a couple of ‘put down’ tracks across his bow (with…’Too Many People’ & ‘Dear Boy) Lennon responded with this no holds barred Macca attack. Funnily enough ‘How Do You Sleep’ was also the same song title used by The Stone Roses when they had a pop at their former manager Gareth Evens, but it’s Lennon’s version which stands as one of the most famous rock diss-tracks ever. Stinging lines such as “the only thing you did was…yesterday” found McCartney on the wrong side of his old writing partners writing talents.
The Sex Pistols – Wanna Be Me
Like Hip-Hop the punk scene’s aggressiveness, energy and confrontational stance have given us some of thee best diss / put down tracks ever, and though many of punks front-men were all capable of upsetting and offending, did any of them do it with more passion or precision than Johnny Rotten? Though still a young chap at the time Rotten was cynical to the core and armed with that acid tongue rips the music press for actually being his and the Pistols biggest fans.
Cee Lo Green – Fuck You
A belting number from ex Goodie Mob member / now ‘pop-star’ Cee Lo Green, with one of the most straight-up yet sweetest ‘fuck you’s’ you’ll probably ever hear ( rather than the chart friendly ‘Forget You’ version), wrapped up in a dangerously catchy chorus.
The Stone Roses – Shoot you Down
Ian Brown’s cleverly worded dry-northern rebuttal’s and put downs to ‘Shoot you Down’ is classic Roses. Though it’s not the groups only one, there’s the anti monarchistic ‘Elizabeth My Dear’, ‘Bye Bye Badman’ as well as Brownie’s solo number ‘Corpses’ which tells the story of your average coke-fuelled groupie, hanger-on and scenester’s. ‘Shoot you Down’ highlight comes again via the chorus with its…”I love to do it and you always knew you had it coming” which not just catches but celebrates that very moment ‘they’ fall on their arse.
Pete Wylie – The day Margret Thatcher Dies
If any politician was worth a diss record it was that old bag, and what a beauty from militant scouse rocker Pete Wylie. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if it was this tune that was playing on the speaker system in Gods waiting room as she arrived – just before being packed-off to Hell that is.
Sex Pistols – God Save The Queen
Though it failed to knock Rod Stewart off the top of the charts, due to intervening powers, ‘God Save the Queen’ has got to be the UK’s greatest anti-royal theme tune ever, & it’s definitely the most controversial.
John Lennon – God
Only John Lennon could release a tune dismissing everything from Elvis to Tai Chi, including God (who ever that is) and be taken seriously, in a perfect world it would have been his last ever released record and defining end statement.
The Clash – I’m so bored with the U.S.A
Both the Sex Pistols and The Clash featured anti-American tunes on their respective classic debut albums, but it was The Clash who went all the way with it. As the Pistols focused solely on insulting New York and it’s punk scene The Clash slated the U.S over Nixon and the Watergate scandal, supporting 3rd world dictators and American society as a whole.
N.W.A – Fuck the Police…
If a successful diss track is measured by the fuss it causes (as well as sales) then NWA take the crown, as much as a political and social statement as a diss at the L.A P.D. Christening themselves ‘Niggers With Attitude’ it’s not like they got together to record love songs but ‘Fuck the Police’ transcended rap music by deeply offending middle America (masterstroke), which in turn established it as maybe the most controversial diss record ever released.
All words by Carl Stanley. More writing by carl on Louder Than War can be found in his author’s archive.