Counting down the rappers who've survived and thrived on Sway In The Morning's "real MCs only" freestyle challenge, The Five Fingers Of Death.
Hearing Sway Calloway introduce his radio show's centerpiece, the "Five Fingers Of Death" challenge, is truly something to behold. Abruptly switching gears from his softer interview tone, he'll adopt an Ali-esque swagger and go off the top to hype up the segment, saying things like, "There ain't no smoke, there's no mirrors, this ain't Hollywood." It's theatrical, yes, but the challenge, which asks rappers to freestyle over five random (and often very eclectic) beats selected by DJ Wonder, is one of the most difficult in the industry. It's not surprising that most MCs nowadays opt out of it.
We've seen some good attempts recently, namely YG's from a few days back, but today, we're here to count down the all-time greats. Since the segment's inception in November 2011, many have tried, many have failed, and few have excelled. It's tough to judge freestyles, mainly because it's sometimes impossible to know whether the bars are pre-written or truly off-the-dome, but there are a few telltale signs that we're using as disqualifiers in this countdown. Number one: no reading bars off your phone (ruling out Meek Mill's otherwise pretty dope appearance). Number two: it's gotta be more than bars that appear in past or future songs (for example, Your Old Droog shot himself in the foot by rapping the entirety of his track "Porno For Pyros").
It was a struggle ranking these, so first we've got to shout out some honorable mentions. Childish Gambino came with some clearly spur-of-the-moment bars and was original as always (complete with a Scrooge McDuck mention), but he stumbled at times. Cassidy proved why he's earned a rep as one of the best battlers of his time, but he got repetitive at times and only went for under two minute total. Joey Badass killed it earlier this year, but those bars were clearly pre-written. The ten we've selected blow those others out of the water, whether they're well-known rappers with huge followings or under-the-radar battlers.
"You are now entering the Five Fingers Of Death..."