This weekend, the intriguing match-up between Keith Murray and Fredro Starr goes down as part of MC WAR's "Generation X" event. The latest in a growing number of mainstream artists entering the battle rap arena, Murray vs. Starr on paper does look promising, in that the match boasts two emcees known for their charisma and wordplay with a background of animated theatrical performances and well-known legacies. The best-case scenario is that both know what to do to show why they deserve to be in the arena that battle rap presently finds itself.
Today, with battle rap bigger than ever, even the most casual fans know of the disconnect between success on a rap record and success in a rap battle. Yet, there was a time as recently as three years ago when "[name of rapper] could kill anyone in a battle, have you heard [title of song]" was a fairly frequent sentiment and accepted as a legitimate argument.
Then, we had Canibus vs. Dizaster.
Now, at that particular point in rap history, Canibus had made plenty of career choices and projects that hip-hop fans had a penchant for mocking, but being a "battle emcee" wasn't one of them. As verbose as he was aggressive on records, Bus made a name for himself with blistering verses on the radio cameo and collaboration circuits, culminating in his seminal LL Cool J diss "Second Round K.O." That wax battle was one of the last great high-profile showdowns of its era and spawned years of fantasy battles that imagined what Bus would do against the current crop of battle rappers. But while Bus somehow earned a reputation for battling, none of his performances had been documented in any form of media. Granted this wasn't the YouTube era, but even hearsay of specific Canibus battles didn't exist, and this was at a time when everybody even caught wind of Eve going 9 out of 10 rounds with KRS-ONE.
King Of The Dot decided to play "Mythbusters" and booked Canibus against Diz in 2012, bringing Bus' fiercely devoted fanbase and the ever increasing KOTD audience head-to-head. Would Canibus have his redemption? Would the new generation manage to out-Canibus Canibus?
Given the meme that Canibus whipping out the notebook became, looking back at the battle now is interesting because Canibus goes right for quite a bit before he goes wrong. The first round does everything an emcee entering a battle should do. He creates a spectacle right off the bat, evokes everyone's favorite moments from his career, and confidently brings it to his opponent greater than anyone imagined he would.
But so much about the notebook moment is a turning point for where battle rap was headed. It was a clear sign battle rapping wasn't for everybody, even an alleged "battle rapper." While the likes of Mistah F.A.B. and Ab-Soul have proven to be more adept at transitioning than most, Canibus in all his "you just a funny guy with peanut butter brown honey eyes" glory set the standard for "you must be at least this qualified to battle."
The battle's virality also served as a launching point for both Dizaster and KOTD to a much broader audience and currently stands as the league's fourth most-popular upload.
Thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.