Syanide vs. Nocando

THROWBACK CLASSIC! The 2006 standout from JumpOff's a cappella freestyle era.

Between the freestyle and the street DVD era was JumpOff. While many battle fans have heard of JumpOff.TV’s 2006 and 2007 World Rap Championships, these weren’t just annual one-off tournaments or annual events like so many of their contemporary — for lack of a better word — battle promotions. Rather, the success of JumpOff’s rap battles and other hip-hop exploits in Europe led to them attempting to create an unprecedented international battle league.

The closest rap battling ever came to sports, these match-ups were scored on points with different values attributed per rhyme, rewarding flips and wordplay. While the judges were never seen onscreen (reminders that hosts Scars and Mazzi were NOT judges were commonplace) they would determine if one rapper was the victor after three one-minute rounds, if there was a need for three 30-second overtime rounds and, if no winner was determined, a sudden death alternating back-and-forth spitting of five punchlines.

These rules, as well as the single-camera presentation from some of New York’s most notable landmarks, intrigued fans since a points system with an ongoing record and the promise of a world championship really hadn’t been done before. Pulling from a talent pool of noted freestylers and street battlers, it was an interesting hybrid of both the Scribble Jam and the Smack/Fight Klub styles at the time which, outside of Iron Solomon, had no overlap.

This was before YouTube's popularity, so rap battle fans’ options were limited to being there live or downloading grainy video and audio from sketchy file-sharing sites. JumpOff’s website had their own video player and a set posting schedule, giving new match-ups to a worldwide battle audience like never before.

Given what new territory this was, the freestyling-without-a-beat hybrid style has developed a reputation as something of a growing pain of a transitional era as traditionalists of each style were often displeased with the influence of the other. However, revisiting some of these battles now reveals a few gems that have aged surprisingly well.

Nocando, already a West Coast freestyle legend who successfully transitioned into both styles a few years later, faced off with Syanide, a young upstart that would become one of JumpOff’s flagship artists and today is the reigning champ at New York’s long-running "Freestyle Monday" series. Both have the tremendous ability to freestyle, the charismatic presence to carry a ten-minute single-camera shoot, and the boldness to attempt both at the same time while trying to outperform each other.

Considering both how rehearsed modern a cappella battles are today, as well as how guided freestylers are by the beat they perform on, the early JumpOff format has to be one of the most strenuous battle formats ever devised. An admirable curiosity in battle history.

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

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