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B Side, Music

“Big 3” Rankings, Diss Tracks and the Power Play in HipHop and Afrobeats

With ciphered lyrics and the fanbases spreading the feud between one another on social media, diss track seasons are one of the best times to be alive as a fan

  • Favour Overo
  • 20th April 2024
"Big 3" Rankings, Diss Tracks and the Power Play in HipHop and Afrobeats

Music is a double-edged sword.


The curtains of lyrical and sonic brilliance, to an extent, hide rocky personal differences, assertions of dominance, and individual battles that go on behind the scenes. However, we have seen banks overflow over the years, and artistes come out to creatively infuse their bad blood for each other in their music—that is the diss culture. 


Although some instances unfortunately end up being bigger than music, the fans are usually the ones that get most of the thrill. With ciphered lyrics and the fanbases spreading the feud between one another on social media, diss track seasons are one of the best times to be alive as a fan. 


Recently, the music world has been on its toes in the ongoing feud between Kendrick Lamar and Drake, which has yet to fail in delivering at every checkpoint. Unlike the conventional rap battles between the likes of Nas and Jay-Z, and the one-sided Eminem and MGK, this broil has offered everything hence far; alliances, betrayals, malice, verbal artistry, and has been described by the John Hopkins Newsletter as the “Hip hop Civil War”


As both rappers continue to drag their decade-old beef, the present heat was set off after Kendrick Lamar impolitely rebutted Drake and J. Cole’s ranking of the industry’s “Big Three”— “Motherf*ck the Big 3/It’s just Big ME!”; said the Compton-grown rapper in a guest verse on “Like That,” from Future and Metro Boomin’s album, We Don’t Trust You. Of course, Lamar went further to take shots at both artistes, with the barrel being aimed fully at Drake.



Cole, who collaterally got caught in a crossfire that was always meant to happen, wasn’t hesitant to reply Kendrick. He released a surprise album, Might Delete Later, which was a collection of disses aimed at K Dot. Not long after the album’s release, during the 2024 Dreamville Festival, he publicly apologised, claiming that his move “didn’t sit right with his spirit.” 



Well, unlike Germany in this cold war, Drake stood on business. He commonly receives diss shots, and it’s fair to say that the Canadian rapper is an easy target, considering how often he gets involved in multiple rap-on-rap crime events. Latterly, he got called out by ASAP Rocky and The Weekend; on the second edition of Future and Metro’s album; We Still Don’t Trust You. We can’t also forget his infamous lengthy lyrical battle with Pusha T;  his 2018 faceoff with Kanye West; and at the beginning of 2024, he clashed with Yasiin Bey after he criticised his style of music.


So, Drake released a diss track that was initially leaked on X (Twitter). Titled “Push Ups,” Drake threw shades at Kendrick Lamar’s last album, Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers, his height, and everything else he saw as ammo.



Sampling Junior Mafia’s “Get Money,” he also went for a couple of other enemies within his range, including Metro Boomin, Future, The Weekend, Rick Ross, and NBA Star, Ja Morant. 


As much firm of a pillar competition is in hip-hop, the Nigerian music scene is not starved of diss battles—and “Big 3” calls.



With bars like “Yes, I’m Arsenal, and you’re Manchester United. It makes sense why you resemble a Malu,” from Kelly Handsome’s scuffle with Mo-Hits in 2010, to Burna Boy’s recent shots at Brymo’s father’s menial occupation as a Carpenter and his faltered music career during a freestyle; “Hustle hard make you no fall off like Brymo/ I’m the son of a real Gangster, you are just the son of a Carpenter,” and Zlatan Ibile’s diss track aimed at former Big Brother Housemate and socialite, Tacha, that remained unreleased for obvious reasons. Nigerians know their way around words when dishing out insults, which can be attributed to the nation’s wide array of language options. Although Afrobeats isn’t traditionally built on violence, the Nigerian music industry delivers emblematic disses when necessary.


In the last eight years, Afrobeats has had its centre stage rocked by three of the most consistent acts in the game. Wizkid, Davido, and Burna Boy (in no particular order) are unarguably Nigeria’s “Big 3,” as they stand in as the hottest international musical exports. With two Grammy Awards, billions of streams, and multiple mega arenas sold out between them, these three have no other competition but themselves.


Just like the “Big 3” of hip-hop however, they find it hard to see eye to eye, with their rivalries topping their professional respect for each other. It is either a pair from the three trade jabs on social media; creating triggering lyrics aimed at the other, or delivering defiant denials of being part of the purported three-tier ranking. Kendrick and Drake’s enmity is synonymous with that of Davido and Burna Boy. Only worse that they have not been able to maintain a studio session together.


In 2020, Davido and Burna Boy had a barter of hate for a long time, which resulted in a direct diss from Davido on “FEM,” “Then Odogwu says we like to party just call me…” an allusion to Burna Boy’s breakout track.



We cannot also forget Davido tweeting an edited photo of him and Wizkid, captioned “The 2 greatest of all time! No cap,” evidently removing Burna from the mix.



In response, Burna Boy in a post highlighted the popular claim of Davido’s career success being the handwork of his father.


Burna Boy’s response


The last tangle these two had was in 2023, after Davido referred to Burna Boy as a “New Cat,” while listing upcoming talents in the industry.



Wizkid’s involvement likens J. Cole’s, a pacified creative who is really all about tranquillity and good music. Expressly so, he titled his fifth studio album More Love, Less Ego. Although he has had altercations in rare times, Wizkid has managed to remain non-partisan between his colleagues. Recently, Davido came out to rebut being among any “Big 3,” as he calls himself “Big Me”; a move Burna Boy has pulled off in the past, in addition to his and Wizkid’s  disassociation from the Afrobeats genre.


The highlight of “Big 3” battles is not how much they put into their hate, but how they keep delivering top projects despite the noise from the outside world. The room gets stuffy when three players come in. Contrary to fake publicity rivalries that are common in the new generation, there is authenticity when it comes to the contest between these sets of three. While it might be possible for two legends to coexist, three certainly cannot. 

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