In 1996, Scribble Jam was almost exclusively a Cincinnati hip-hop festival, a local celebration of the four elements thrown together by Nick Accurso and Mr. Dibbs. But a year later, Scribble blew up, thanks in large part to the emcee battle portion of the event.
Chicago emcees Juice and Rhymefest came in as the most well-known names and the heavy favorites, but they faced strong challenges from a pair of upstarts — Ohio transplant Doseone and a then-unknown Detroit emcee named Eminem.
That quartet blazed through the bracket and into the semi-finals, where Juice and Eminem met in one of the most iconic showdowns of the freestyle era.
"It was too hard to call," said Kevin Beacham, the man responsible for organizing most of the emcee battles at Scribble Jam. "Juice consistently was Juice. Juice was just a fucking flawless machine, always does the right thing. He would consistently have his moments. Eminem ... he had, always three or four amazing punchlines. I've never, actually ever, seen a battle I can think of ... that was quite that way. It was probably one of the few battles where I clearly could never make a decision."
The two went back and forth for what seemed like an eternity, even stretching into what became a three-man final round (that's another story altogether) with Doseone.
By the time it was over, Juice and Eminem had traded blows for six rounds, with Juice emerging victorious.
"It was like how they expected Floyd [Mayweather] and Manny [Pacquiao] to be," Juice recalled. "It was really the real version. I’ve never seen a mind as fast as mine but so laid-back with it. It was really kind of eerie, to be honest. Dude is nuts."
Eminem wound up doing all right for himself. He parlayed that Scribble performance, another strong outing at the Rap Olympics later in the year and his Slim Shady EP into a record deal with Dr. Dre's Aftermath label. The rest, as they say, is history.
But in the summer of 1997, he didn't quite have the Juice.
Every Thursday, BattleRap.com posts a classic battle that you should know about, or at least be reminded of occasionally. See them all here.