Mark Grist vs. Blizzard is currently the third most-viewed English speaking rap battle on the Internet (behind AHAT's "14 year old rapper battles 16 yr old MC" and Shotty Horroh vs. Arsonal), recently passing a monumental five million views. It’s such an iconic and recognizable battle that many fans could probably identify the exact upload if they heard the irritating intro song playing from the back of a noisy room.
The 2011 battle had an unprecedented influence and impact on the direction that U.K. battle rap would take, with its popularity subsequently introducing new demographics and audiences to the underground culture as well as providing a range of personalities and backgrounds with a platform to flourish, arguably birthing some of Don't Flop’s most popular active battlers such as Shuffle-T, Marlo, Harry Baker and Juan.
At the time of this match-up, both emcees were relatively well-known but not for their battling, with Blizzard being a popular young talent on the U.K. grime scene and Mark Grist being a figure in the spoken-word poetry circuit. It was this interesting style clash as well as the "teacher vs. student" concept that created such a unique outcome.
Blizzard approached the battle aggressively using a mixture of technical grime flows, punchlines and wordplay, including some funny educational references: "If I punch you in the face who are you gonna call — Ofsted?"
Mark Grist contrastingly took a sarcastic approach of clowning on Blizzard from a position of authoritative adult superiority, achieving some huge crowd reactions for his jokes and maintaining a high level of energy throughout.
"You wank off in sandals to pictures of Gandalf, you stack with the mags in your porn stash / He’s got a hard-on for wizards, he only called himself Blizzard cause that’s the company that made World of Warcraft" – Mark Grist
Blizzard arguably got slept on a lot in the battle, partially due to the atmosphere created in Grist’s rounds, but the youngster nevertheless produced some great wordplay including the impressive triple entendre, "You only talk gas, Mark, on various degrees."
Grist then did a round based on Blizzard’s mom that once again took an original approach to a very popular battling concept. As the battle reached a conclusion, Blizzard’s incredibly well written breakdown seemed to lack the haymakers his opponent was consistently landing, which definitely won Grist the battle (in the room at least), resulting in a 5-0 unanimous decision in Grist’s favor.
"You’re trying to act like you’re the boss of Don’t Flop, like you’re Rowan / Acting like you’re all-seeing and all-knowing /
But you’re in a canoe with no paddles bitch it looks like you’re rowing
And I’m gonna get rid of Mark like when Germany brought the Euro in" - Blizzard
One thing often overlooked in this battle is the depth behind the writing of the two emcees. I was personally interested in providing a closer analysis of it and also debunking the myth that Blizzard lost convincingly, and you can check out my annotations on Genius. BattleRap.com also has a new version of the lyrics up here. You can also check out my battle against Heretic to see me get mocked for writing a thesis on the battle, though I am secretly proud of it.
So what made this classic encounter such a success and a constantly talked about battle more than four years later?
The student vs. teacher angle drew in a vast amount of viewers, with many major websites branding it as a "teacher battling his student" (which of course was not the case) and this certainly got the academic world, as well as a variety of demographics, engaged in battle rap. The battle was also promoted on mainstream outlets such as recognized newspapers and popular clickbait websites, most notably Reddit. Furthermore, another key to the battle’s success was that the content of the battle requires almost no prior knowledge of Don’t Flop and battle rap in order to understand and engage with it, and its entertainment value makes it a highly re-watchable encounter.
Cover photo by Corin Faife via Don't Flop.
Every Thursday, BattleRap.com posts a classic battle that you should know about, or at least be reminded of occasionally. See them all here.
Thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.