Hate Is The New Love: Canibus vs LL Cool J

As promised, in warm-up for our gig debut on the 21st October with Canibus, this is the first Hate Is The New Love episode delving into two of Canibus’ fiercest rivalries to date.

LL Cool J is a master at what he does and undeniably one of the founders of the genre as we know it. By LL’s seventh full length LP, 1997’s Phenomenon, he had the knack of both pleasing his record execs with his now-famous love-ballads and still hitting the streets hard with underground collaborations. Whilst putting together Phenomenon LL lined up Method Man, Redman, an up-and-coming DMX and a then-unheard of underground MC, Canibus for his joint 4,3,2,1.

As a long-time listener and fan, Bis was aware of the microphone that LL had tattooed on his arm. In his original verse, Bis spits: “L, is that a mic on your arm? Let me borrow that”. After Bis had laid his verse, LL went in to inspect each MC’s vocals but took offence to the line and told Bis to change it if he wanted to remain on the track. In interviews since, Bis reiterates the reference was merely a mark of respect to LL as an artist he had long admired and according to Red and Mef, LL took Bis’ line out of context, making it into something it clearly wasn’t. Bis agreed to change his verse, however LL went against his word and failed to change his. His unchanged verse on 4,3,2,1 contained jabs aimed at Bis’ original verse:

“The symbol on my arm is off limits to challengers / You swing the rusty sword, I swing the Excalibur”


“Now let’s get back to this mic on my arm / If it ever left my side, it’d transform into a time bomb / You don’t wanna borrow that, you wanna idolize / And you don’t wanna make me mad, you wanna socialize.”

Perhaps somewhat naively (with the growing use of the Internet) LL claimed that with Bis’ original reference now absent, noone would know who LL’s lines referred to. Of course, the original verse was leaked, resulting in fans across the world speculating about a brewing beef. Keen to squash any animosity, the two got on the phone endeavouring to iron things out. In a brilliantly interesting taped conversation, LL and Bis go back and forth discussing the references made in each other’s verses before agreeing that in 2/3 months they would reunite on an underground joint, in effect formally putting those rumours to bed.

Months passed with no response from LL and, wanting to get on, Bis grew restless from the streets claiming he had been done over by LL. Canibus hit the studio with Wyclef and Mike Tyson to record one of the most scathing diss tracks of all time: Second Round K.O.

“So I’ma let the world know the truth, you don’t want me to shine / You studied my rhyme, then you laid your vocals after mine / That’s a bitch move, somethin that a homo rapper would do.”

“You walk around showin off your body cause it sells /
Plus to avoid the fact that you ain’t got skills /
Mad at me cause I kick that shit real niggaz feel /
While 99% of your fans wear high heels.”

“Before you wanted a war, now you wanna talk /
It’s about who strikes the hardest, not who strikes first
That’s why I laugh when I hear that wack ass verse /
That shit was the worse [pause] rhyme I ever heard in my life.”

“Now watch me rip the tat from your arm /
Kick you in the groin, stick you for your Vanguard award / In front of your mom your 1st, 2nd and 3rd born / Make your wife get on the horn call Minister Farrakhan /
So he could persuade me to squash it.”

LL could have left things alone. As he stated in his phone conversation with Bis, he didn’t have to put Bis on and now that Bis had dissed him, not speaking his name would have been perhaps more damaging to Canibus’ career than responding. But he didn’t leave things. LL responded with Ripper Strikes Back. Although LL’s mainstream appeal saw the record reach further, the joint itself was pretty scarce in terms of insulting content. The most notable bars came at the start of the second verse:

“Don’t ever open your mouth and mention my seeds
Talk about my book you bought to read
You know you watch the sitcom nigga so stop that
Mad rapper, but now you turned mad actor
Forty-nine pounds and tryin to be a monster
Run around town with the Bob Marley imposters
Ask Canibus, he ain’t understandin this
Cause ninety-nine percent of his fans, don’t exist.”

Although the two dropped one more diss track each in later years, it is considered the beef is now over. Bis now has a mic tattoo on his arm in reference to the feud and LL even thanked Bis in the liner-notes of his G.O.A.T. album as “a source of inspiration”.

Beef Winner: Tie. Canibus without doubt won the battle with his damaging, now-classic Second Round K.O. but LL Cool J’s career, in desperate need for inspiration, was rejuvenated and many will therefore argue LL won the war.

LL Cool J (feat Method Man, Redman, DMX & Canibus) – 4,3,2,1

Canibus – Second Round K.O. (LL Cool J Diss)

LL Cool J – The Ripper Strikes Back (Canibus Diss)

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