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History remembers the famous conflicts, and forms some kind of general consensus as to who the winners were. In rap, the results are generally more subjective. But perhaps the ultimate dismissal is to record a song attacking another rapper and have them ignore it completely, to the point where they refuse to even dignify or acknowledge the shots fired with a response of any kind. The reasons for this tend to vary. It could be because the target of the verbal barbs has been advised by their manager, record label, or producer not to add fuel to the fire and give the attacking party publicity, or it could simply be a case of the MC being so popular at that point that naysayers are jumping out the woodwork in a desperate attempt to steal some of the shine.

Spare a thought for MC Shan, who dedicated two records at James Todd Smith in the mid-eighties, only to be greeted by a wall of silence. The first salvo was fired using Philadelphia’s Steady B as the mouthpiece, as Shan penned the answer record ‘Take Your Radio’ for him while the early incarnation of the Juice Crew were releasing music through the Pop Art label. LL brushed that one off his shoulder, but Shan struck a second time later that year, accusing LL of stealing the drum pattern from ‘Marley Scratch’ for his ‘Rock The Bells’ single. Once again, Cool James refused to take the bait and continued to stonewall Shan. In the years to come, LL would become embroiled in public feuds with Kool Moe Dee, Ice-T and Canibus, but for whatever reason he just didn’t consider the Queensbridge upstart worthy of his attention. Nor did he pay any attention to Mikey D’s ‘I Get Rough’ in 1987, which accused Cool J of stealing his style. Once Shan, Marley Marl and the rest of the gang moved over to Cold Chillin’, Pop Art owner Lawrence Goodman felt some kind of way and recruited future cop killer and death row inmate Cool C to record ‘Juice Crew Dis,’ delivered in a voice that was remarkably similar to Shan’s signature squeaky tones.

Old school MC and producer Spyder-D found himself engaged in a one-sided battle of words when he accused Kool Moe Dee of stealing the title of his ‘How Ya Like Me Now’ single for his version on Jive. When he addressed the topic with ‘Try To Bite Me Now,’ Moe Dee chose to take it in his stride and refused to fan the flames on the issue, since he had a major label behind him and a video to make his case. Over in Detroit, Awesome Dre and the Hardcore Committee declared ‘I Don’t Like You (Kool Mo She)’ for reasons which still elude me but can only be assumed to involve the fact that didn’t appreciate Moe Dee’s recent chart success and love of enormous Space Invader shades. It’s safe to say that Moe Dee had his hands full in a war of words against the previously mentioned LL Cool J, the results of which are still being debated in some quarters.

The bigger you are, the more fruit flies are bound to come looking for a piece of the action. Just ask Run-DMC, who crowned themselves the ‘Kings of Rock’ and had the entire rap world gunning for them by the time they became the most popular rap crew on the planet. KRS-One asked ‘Who gets weaker, the king or the teacher?’ on ‘My Philosophy,’ while Ultramagnetic MC’s pointed out that ‘their rhymes are pathetic, they think they copacetic/Using nursery terms, at least, not poetic’ in reference to ‘Peter Piper.’ Melle Mel and the Furious Five took direct shots at the trio from Hollis back in 1984 on ‘The Truth’ and again four years later on ‘Yo Baby,’ while Roxanne Shante added Run-DMC to her list of targets on ‘Bite This.’ Before he teamed up with Kool G Rap, DJ Polo recruited a kid named Frost to go at the Kings from Queens on the limp ‘Forever Dis,’ Reverend Run and DMC were too busy appearing at Wrestlemania to reply, and the world moved on.

Jay Z has been the target of naysayers for longer than most people can remember and handled the situations with suitable aplomb (or not, in the case of ‘Super Ugly’). But by the time The Game decided to divide his time shamelessly jocking Dr. Dre and making pathetic attempts to get Jay’s attention by pointing barbs at him on songs, Mr Carter was gearing up for life as a Tidal spokesman and had little interest in getting his hands dirty again. It got to the point where Jayceon admitted that Jay will never respond (apart from some disparaging remarks in magazine interviews) and now regrets the fact that he will never be invited to the Carters’ summer beach house for the holidays.

The common logic seems to be that it’s only worth responding to someone you consider a worthy opponent, although this isn’t a hard and fast (pause) rule. The fact that everyone from Run-DMC, Third Bass, Black Sheep, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Redman, LL Cool J and Tim Dog got at MC Hammer on record was more of rejection of his brand of pop-rap rather than a verbal tussle of any great significance, while KRS-One vs. Nelly is just one of life’s unsolved mysteries. The important thing to remember is that a reply isn’t necessary to make a diss song great, as long as it manages to be either incredibly inappropriate, wildly offensive or just plain hilarious. Now if we could just get Twitter to introduce some kind of ‘time-out’ system where rappers need to record one song for every ten shade-filled tweets they send out…

Keep up with Robbie’s weekly ‘No Country for Old (Rap) Men’ here.