Competition has always played a big role in hip hop. Battle rhymes, diss songs, trying to outshine someone on his own song, it’s all in the spirit of competition.
But in the mid-90s, the competition in New York was especially heavy. Let’s think about the rappers were coming up at that time – you had Nas and Big both releasing landmark debuts in ’94, Mobb Deep damn bringing all of Queensbridge wherever they went, Raekwon with The Purple Tape and the rest of Wu-Tang by his side. Most of the rappers on our greatest of all time list came on the ’90s East Coast.
The Only Built 4 Cuban Linx album contained a skit called "Biters" in which Raekwon and Ghostface discuss how much they hate rappers that copy styles, slang & lyrics.
The Notorious B.I.G.’s album cover for “Ready to Die” was interpreted as biting Nas' “Illmatic,” cover, and the Chef and Ghostface clown Biggie without dropping his name – the point was made, and Big later kicked in the door.
Of interesting note is that Method Man was featured on Big’s The What and his own crew is spitting fire off the same album.
It seemed as though a new rapper was making their claim for the throne every other day. So when it came time for Nas to drop his highly anticipated sophomore record, on the song "The Message" he made sure to let everyone know who the rightful king of New York was.
It has been widely perceived as singling out B.I.G., who had been declared “king of New York” in an infamous 1995 profile in The Source.
Nas, whose Illmatic pioneered the NYC street rap that Biggie perfected for pop radio with hits like “Juicy”, tries to reassert his royal status on his more commercial sophomore album.
Nas has confirmed that the song actually disses The Notorious B.I.G. with the lines, “There’s one life, one love, so there can only be one King.” This lyric challenged Notorious B.I.G.’s title of King of New York at that the time of its release. He responded on the track “Kick in the Door” from his 1997 album Life After D3ath.
From Biggie’s second and final official album, Life After D3ath, “Kick in the Door” is a diss track aimed at everybody, nobody, haters, other rappers (including Nas, Jeru the Damaja, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah), and most importantly, YOU. He dissed more than a dozen rappers on the entire album & showed Nas & the Wu-Tang clan that he's the superior rapper & the rightful King Of New York.
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