If rap is to be looked at as sport, then a battle rap is the sport at its finest.
Like UFC but with words as weapons, battle raps can be more fun to watch and do more damage than a physical fight (even though some do get physical, see below), as two emcees pit their wit and cleverness against each other, doing their best to flex their lyrical prowess while humiliating their opponent.
In homage of Wrekonize, who started out his career in battle rap, we went to YouTube and compiled a list of 10 videos that everyone should watch who wants to know what a battle is all about. Along the way we also found examples of battles gone wrong and a few clips that defy any explanation but must be watched.
The largest and most popular battle circuit in the world. Not much more needs to be said. These battles are usually close-knit and filmed on ground level not unlike a street fight setting (unlike the URL which stages battles like an epic boxing match), making the proceedings very intimate and in-your-face. Check out some that we’ve put together.
Mac Lethal vs Dirtbag Dan
Kansas City giant Mac Lethal came out of battling retirement to do this promo match with San Jose emcee Dirtbag Dan. The match culminated into a vicious rebuttal from Mac Lethal. When Dirtbag Dan ended his round with “How the fuck could a Mac be Lethal? A Tech N9ne runs Kansas City” Mac ended his following round with “It must suck being broke you little poor midget you, Kansas City bitch, Tech N9ne runs your city too.” Cue raucous response from the crowd.
E Ness vs Iron Solomon
Elliot Ness was one of the 6 out of the 40,000 who tried out to make it on P Diddy’s debut reality show Making The Band. Remember any songs by Da Band? Probably not. Iron Solomon wastes little time before completely dismembering Ness, reducing his entire career into a series of ruthless punchlines that never let up. You almost have to feel sorry for Ness but it’s clear that he did it to himself by bringing generic threats and braggadocio raps to a legend of the battle circuit.
Tantrum vs. Dumbfounded
Two Asian battle emcees go at each other at who’s the better (and worst) Asian, throwing every stereotype in the book at the other one that range from: video games, driving skills to (something else). While the race and subject matter of the battlers is the same, their contrasting styles provide a great conflict to watch, as the chillaxed Dumbfounded and Tantrum trade racial barbs that make for one of the most hilarious battles you’re likely to ever see.
Swave Sevah Vs. Dizaster
This battle is an excellent example in contrasts: contrasting styles, coasts and demeanors battle it out as the amplified and agressive Dizaster pits up against the cool and deliberate Swave Sevah. LA’s Dizaster and his angry-as-hell approach go a little off the cuff as he screamed in the fan of a heckler in a hostile New York crowd. Swave Sevah’s threat to the Armenian emcee to beat him up for Bin Laden’s location is a humorous jab in a sport where anything goes.
Ego, skill, reputation, pressure, respect…mix all these things together and put them on display and you have yourself a rap battle. Not everyone is built for such a high-stakes event, and when their buttons get pushed the wrong way, a fight-or-flight response takes over and people start swinging.
Here’s a few examples of battle raps going wrong.
ENJ vs Nyckz
What more needs to be said about this one? This viral smash had everybody reciting the infamous line that preceded ENJ throwing a fist to Nyckz face. The seemingly-ordinary phrase seemed to have hit a nerve that resulted in an internet sensation.
Cam vs. Dukes
What started out as your run-of-the-mill street rapper battle (“I’ll shoot you with more bullets”, etc.) turns into an all-out bar (cafeteria) fight, complete with people swinging chairs, blows thrown and bodies flying over tables. It all stops thanks to an old lady who comes in to tell everyone to leave. Luckily after the dust settled, Dukes was able to find his hat.
Math vs. Dose
A gym filled with drama-hungry spectators watch two street rappers battle it out, what could go wrong? During Math’s response-verse, Dose tries to throw Math off by getting all up in his grill, even touching his face with the brim of his baseball cap. Math doesn’t take too kindly to this, and warns Dose to back up. Dose tries to tell Math to chill but Math has none of it, and not even a few seconds after his warning, throws a fist in Dose’s face. The gym erupts and what used to be a pack of spectators turns into a gymnasium sized fight.
Epically staged in auditoriums in front of thousands, these battles are usually longer lasting and on a much larger scale than the more intimate Grindtime Battles. For this category we only chose one battle but it’s definitely one of the greats.
Loaded Lux vs Calicoe
Loaded Lux came out of retirement to battle Calicoe in a match so anticipated that it brought out the likes of Diddy, Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip and Lloyd Banks to watch it all go down. The battle is so revered it even has its own thoroughly-noted entry on rapgenius. The battle is pretty evenly matched until the third round where Lux gives Calicoe a round of bars that cuts to the core, touching on social issues that lead to the endless cycle of violence that Calicoe rhymes perpetuate. One of the most famous rounds of all time, Lux’s third round leaves you breathless and in awe and could have reduced any street rapper to the sad and contemplative emotions that Calicoe tries so hard to hide.
Battles that defy any categorization, we had to give them their own category.
Eli Porter vs. Envy
Dubbed The Worst Battle in History, this battle went from an obscure high school archive to a viral sensation, inspiring a Kanye West reference in “H.A.M.” and its own two-part documentary.
It’s hard to really pick a single memorable moment from a video that’s completely bizarre from start to finish: the host with his hands on one of the judges, the awkward pauses and so-bad-its-great production value. If you haven’t seen this by now do yourself a favor and check it out.
Supa Hot Fire vs T-Bone
The posturing, the cadences and the over-the-top responses from battle rapper cliques: every cliche in battle rap is put on display in this hilarious parody featuring “Supa Hot Fire”, the greatest battle rapper known to man. With lines like “I broke up with my ex-girl…here’s her number…sike! That’s the wrong number!” his prowess in the battle circuit is undisputed and undeniable.