Cortez vs. Head I.C.E

THROWBACK CLASSIC! The 2009 Lionz Den battle is one of the best from its era.

Round 2


On Aug. 30, 2009, two respected New York emcees faced off in a Lionz Den battle, originally scheduled to be released through HBO. One, Head I.C.E, a Harlem legend, who through off-camera battles and previous Lionz Den showings had built the reputation of being unbeatable in Harlem. His opponent that day was Cortez, a Fight Klub and Grind Time veteran who had built a solid following and who was seen as a very capable opponent.

This clash isn’t notable just for its quality, but also for its judges. It was judged by New York legends Raekwon, KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, Styles P and Rakim. A great back-and-forth that had I.C.E winning a still-debated judges’ decision, this is truly one of the best battles from the era.

This battle shows the same I.C.E we’ve come to know. His presence is simply overpowering. Even if you spoke another language and didn’t understand a word he said (which can be the case even for some English speakers during an I.C.E battle...) you would still recognize that he was killing it.

Head I.C.E. Photo by Chris Mitchell for

In this battle, I.C.E ends his first round with his now iconic "Pardon my back … Shrug my shoulders. Blatant disrespect that I does to dojas.” His next two continued the theme, and if you like I.C.E, you'll like this. He’s funny while still being aggressive, disrespecting Cortez while still keeping the battle respectful.

I.C.E won the decision from the all-star panel of judges but this wasn’t a one-sided battle. Even to this day, many fans still debate the outcome and say Cortez deserved the W and it’s not an unreasonable claim. Tez started out incredibly strong, and by the end of his first, he had the room shaking. His next two rounds are arguably stronger than his first, and it remains one of his finest performances. He had such a direct style in this one, going straight at I.C.E and rapping his ass off.

Cortez at "Blackout 6." Photo by Christian Andrabado.
Cortez at "Blackout 6." Photo by Christian Andrabado.

In the fickle world of battle rap, the fact that both these men remain key members of the battle community is incredibly impressive. Though often under-appreciated, both emcees have managed to widen their fan bases with performances on different leagues and by being willing to take on unlikely opponents. Battles like this one showcase what each of them is capable of, and remind us why both are important parts of battle rap history.

Head I.C.E battles Carter Deems on Saturday, April 16, at “The Bunker” (live pay-per-view details here) and Cortez’s “Blackout 6” battle with Charron drops on April 18.

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