Iron Solomon vs. Presence

THROWBACK CLASSIC! The finals from the "Brainstorm" freestyle tournament from 2004.

This week marks 10 years since the end of one of the greatest rivalries of the freestyle era. At a time before YouTube, when street battles were still on the rise, freestyle emcees traveled between cities like hybrid warrior-carnies, bringing their best rhymes across the country in front of an audience that, while still niche, were obsessive and savvy enough to ride the post-"8 Mile" interest in battling into must-see live events. Sadly, this was a time before phones could record video, take pictures or display more than two colors, making the magic on stage a shared gift for whoever saw it in person.

Tournaments were typically 8-16 emcees, and for a while in the early 2000s, the two emcees facing off in the finals were Presence and Iron Solomon. The best off-the-top rappers that Chicago and New York had at the time, they traded barbs and exchanged victories all over the country.

Video of their final battle, taking place in 2005 as part of Scribble Jam’s regional qualifying tournament at the original New York Knitting Factory, suffers from limitations of technology at the time and doesn’t quite capture the feeling in the room as the packed-wall-to-wall crowd’s vocal energy doesn’t translate into the clip at all.

If you’ve never seen any part of their rivalry before, check out this week’s selection, the finals from 2004’s "Brainstorm" event. While the camcorder quality isn’t quite what we’re used to today, the griminess of the footage captures what it was like seeing two masters at work.

Every Thursday, posts a classic battle that you should know about, or at least be reminded of occasionally. See them all here.