Familiarize yourself with some of the most legendary tilts in battle rap history.
Battle Rap has come a long way. Early hip-hop was built on combative foundations, with borough fighting borough for ultimate domination; in many ways, KRS One’s “The Bridge Is Over” retains Battle Rap elements, down to the visceral audience reaction. Moments like Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes’ fabled high-school tete-a-tete remain entrenched in cultural lore. During BET’s late nineties heyday, a weekly segment called “Freestyle Friday” emerged as a fan favorite, and likely served as many a young fan's introduction to the subculture. Of course, Eminem’s 8 Mile played a pivotal role in bringing Battle Rap to the masses, a “gateway” for those seeking further exploration into the sport.
In 2006 and 2007, Jumpoff TV hosted back-to-back installments of the “World Rap Championships.” While the first included rappers from the United States and the UK, the subsequent tournament expanded to include artists from the States, Canada, Australia, and the UK. Though competition was fierce, and infamous “stolen tapes” went on to cast a dark cloud upon the event, the combined forces of TheSaurus and Illmaculate proved formidable; the duo went on to take home the prize money, further solidifying their reputations in the process.
While Jumpoff TV ultimately dissipated, King Of The Dot emerged, and soon became the prominent forum for high-end Battle Rap events. In fact, the majority of prominent names have held it down in battle, including TheSaurus, Illmac, 360, Dumbfoundead, Iron Solomon, Dizaster, the late Bender, PoRich, Arcane, Rone, and of course former KOTD champion Kid Twist, who actually came through to co-write the screenplay for Bodied.
In truth, the history of Battle Rap is extensive, and the cast of characters vast. To do justice to the various contributors and champions would take, at the very least, several historians. Yet Bodied is set to arrive on November second. With appearances from Kid Twist, Dumbfoundead, and Dizaster, it’s entirely possible that Bodied will leave many viewers diving into the world, desperate to catch up on years of memorable head-to-heads.
In honor of the upcoming flick, here are five of Battle Rap’s best battles, which should serve a worthwhile introduction to the craft, and those who live and breathe it.
HONORABLE MENTION: DUMBFOUNDEAD VS TANTRUM
For anybody who appreciates the comedic elements of battle rap, you’d be hard pressed to find a more amusing battle than Dumbfoundead VS Tantrum. While Dumb has delivered no shortage of amazing rounds, his performance against Tantrum perfectly encapsulates his jovial, yet scathing style; he’ll clown you without resorting to aggressive posturing, and have you laughing while doing so. Though this one is relatively low-stakes, it serves as the perfect introduction to Battle Rap culture, and features an endless slew of hilarious punch-lines. “What the hell dude, stop rapping and sell shoes,” raps Dumb, “after he lost that battle he went to his dad, got down on his knees and said ‘I have failed you.’”
5. KID TWIST VS DUMBFOUNDEAD
Though we've already seen what he can do, Dumbfoundead found himself facing a truly formidable opponent in Kid Twist. The comedically inclined rappers faced off in the first KOTD championship, back in 2009. Though some of the more racially driven material hasn't exactly aged gracefully, there is still plenty of scathing piss-taking, wit, and impressive back-and-forth throughout this legendary underground match-up. It should be noted that Kid Twist originally rose to prominence during the World Rap Championships, where he and his partner poRich were among the only teams to hand TheSaurus and Illmaculate a lost round. Now, while Twist has retired from Battle Rap, he and Dumb have once again crossed paths while working on the upcoming Bodied.
4. PAT STAY VS MARVWON
Where some battles stem from a place of mutual respect, this heated tilt between Nova Scotia’s Pat Stay and Detroit’s Marv Won truly encapsulates the battle element. When this one first aired in 2011, the PC culture of today was far from entrenched in society; that much quickly becomes evident the second Stay begins targeting Marv’s autistic brother. Never has a battle felt more likely to take it back to that "Oh you mad cause I'm stylin' on you" energy. Yet despite his sheer ruthless nature, or perhaps because of it, Pat Stay truly solidified himself as a formidable force, taking an unexpected intensity to the former WRC participant. Can a battle go too far? Such moral quandaries have been at the center of many debate, yet the audience seems to hold no opposition.
3. THESAURUS VS ILLMACULATE
After deftly handling an endless barrage of competition as allies, TheSaurus and Illmaculate found themselves face to face in one of the most anticipated match-ups in Battle Rap history. Dubbed by many as a cult classic, the former friends turned temporary rivals held nothing back. One particularly hilarious moment arises when Illmac targets TheSaurus’ post World Rap Championships tantrum, in which hats were thrown. “Come on Pete,” laughs Illmac, reflecting on his impromptu pep talk, “we can persevere!” A monumental Battle Rap occurrence between two of the best to ever do it.
2. DAYLYT VS RICH DOLLAZ
In 2012, Daylyt squared off with Rich Dollaz for King Of The Dot. Though both parties fought valiantly, the leather-clad Daylyt came through with a performance for the ages. You’ll often hear fans looking back on his “Bus Stop” rhyme scheme among the genre’s legendary stanzas. We've seen plenty of varying styles, with some rappers favoring aggression, others comedic belitting. Yet Daylyt's sheer barrage of bars proves second to none; it's no wonder that the enigmatic artist is held in high esteem within the Battle Rap community. "No whip, I'ma catch 'em waiting at the bus stop, he wait on the bus for arrive, I wait until the bus stop," raps Daylyt, in his closing statement. "Wait until the bus arrive, spray one in the bus top, leave you on the bus stop laying with a bust top."
1. DIZASTER VS DNA
In 2011, controversial battle legend Dizaster took on New York’s own DNA in a widely publicized King Of The Dot match-up. To make this one all the more historic, Drake himself came-through to co-host the event, going so far as to put $3000 on the line. The forty-plus minute battle featured excellent performers from both parties, with notable rebuttals, impressive rhyme schemes, and punchlines for days. Dizaster’s “Prince Of Persia” bar quickly emerged as a fan favorite, while DNA’s multi-lingual third-round had Drizzy doing the scrunchy-face. To be fair, it was difficult to decide between this one and Dizaster Vs Iron Solomon, which also deserves a mention. Still, the sheer spectacle, no-holds-barred approach, and simmering tension helped establish this tilt as the definitive Battle Rap experience.