When Illmaculate and The Saurus clashed in 2009 they were already two of battle rap’s elite rhymers. They'd worked together as teammates in dozens of two-on-two battles in the freestyle era and had both made a smooth transition into the written format. So, when the pair faced off as part of a Grind Time battle at "Battle Of The Bay 5," their fans were treated to what became one of the most celebrated match-ups ever.
What many don’t know is that it wasn’t the first time the two had battled.
“We had already battled once, I think only one time,” Illmaculate says in an exclusive interview with BattleRap.com (that you can watch at the bottom of this article). “That was at Spin The Mic in New York and I won that battle, but I probably shouldn’t have won that battle. That was freestyle. It was like, spin the mic, whoever it lands on, you gotta battle ‘em. I spun the mic, boom, it landed on The Saurus, so like there was always that. I think it was referenced also in the battle, too. The Saurus saying, ‘Worst decision ever,’ I think he said.
“Going into our actual battle at Grind Time, it was I think highly anticipated, for the minor reason... that we’d already battled,” Illmac continues. “But mostly because people know us as a team. It was like ‘Oh, you got Stockton and Malone playing one-on-one.’ I don’t know if that’s the best reference, but yeah. So really though the feeling in the air at Battle of the Bay, especially... for our battle, it was crazy. It was like electric, like it was really anticipated and there was just a real crazy vibe in the room and there was a lotta hype that surrounded it and I think it lived up to it. I think like two people’s heads actually exploded in the crowd. R.I.P. It was a dope one.”
The battle, which Illmaculate won by unanimous decision after an overtime round, wasn't even supposed to happen. The two emcees were set on not battling, but that all changed after a conversation between several Fresh Coast battlers and Lush One, who helped organize the bout.
“Basically, like after Grizzlemania,” Illmac says. “After, I battled Hollow and Conceited at the same event: mistake. We were like at Kap Kallous’ crib. We were just all smoking, chilling, it’s like the whole Fresh Coast, like me, Lush, Kap Kallous, Okwerdz, Dizaster, The Saurus, chilling. And Lush is like ‘Aw, you guys gotta battle. What’s it gonna take for you guys to battle?’ We’re like, ‘We ain’t trying to battle each other. Period. We’re not doing it.’ He was like, ‘Naw, you guys gotta battle.’ And I think we set a price at that time like ‘Alright.’ ‘Cause then, I think it was, battles were still being judged and a lot of times, at that time, only the winner got paid and stuff. I remember us being like, ‘Alright, the only way we would ever battle,’ we just kinda said something ridiculous at that time, ‘is if the winner got two and a half and the loser got fifteen.’ We don’t have any reason to battle. We don’t wanna battle. Then we got a call a month or two later, like ‘Well, aye, we got this. What’s up? You guys wanna set it up?’ I hit up The Saurus. He was like, ‘Let’s do it.’ I was like, ‘Alright. Let’s do it.’ That was pretty much the only time we talked before the battle, like leading up to it.”
When he looks back on his battle against The Saurus, Illmaculate says he can still think of great lines from his former two-on-two partner.
“He said a lot of good ones, man,” Illmac says. “‘He’s too short to drive a car, so he just sticks to riding coattails’ is hella funny. That’s the first one that pops into my head. The one where he said, ‘Just consider us even for me cleaning up the mess you made.’ Because that just plays on the dynamic we had in the World Rap Championships. He was like more consistent, consistently hitting in the World Rap Championships and some would argue even carried the team at certain points or whatever. I think I like those more. He had a lot of funny stuff like, ‘Hold on, Greg, let me unstrap your carseat.’ There was a lot of good ones. I think those first two though, at the time, I was like ‘Ugh’ those little jabs like ‘Ugh, OK’ I’ll take that, though. That’s something I would say for him.
Nevertheless, he says he was also strong in their battle.
“For me, it’s probably like in my overtime round in the whole like ‘We can persevere’ and ‘That was me.’ ‘That was me’ shit probably. That’s what people most hit me up about after the battle. They’re like, ‘Are y’all still cool?’ I’m like ‘Yeah, that’s my boy.’ I think those on both sides would probably be the kinda hardest hitting.”
Due to their partnership and friendship, Illmac says prepping for the battle was cathartic but also more “for the love of the sport.”
“I think we said what we had to stay,” Illmaculate explains. “We know what it is. I’m not gonna lie, it was kinda hard, like I wanted to call him a couple times like, ‘Alright, what are we doing?’ Really, I was just like, ‘I’d rather apologize after than regret not going hard and that’s kinda how I felt at the time.’ It ain’t nothing man. Boxers step in the ring and beat the shit out of each other and then hug it out after ‘cause it’s all for the love of the sport. We both understand that and that’s all it was going in, coming out of mine and The Saurus’ battle.”
When asked about his angles in the battle, particularly his scheme about giving The Saurus lines for battles, Illmaculate also explains that it’s a part of the sport to discredit his opponent, but that it was all just for the sake of strategic battling.
“The thing about battle rap, too is like it’s like politics and shit in the way that it’s really just about controlling the narrative,” he says. “Me, I could say something about you... Set up the context in a way that makes you look bad, but you could just say what actually is, like using the same facts, and it’ll be a totally different feel. It’s just really subjective and it’s really just about controlling the narrative. So, it really ain’t all that serious. While I had lines that was like ‘That was me,’ he had lines that he gave me. That’s what a team is. That’s what I woulda said in reverse. That’s a team. Oh, that was me? That’s a team. That’s how we both felt. It just was advantageous in the scope of the battle to make it like, ‘That was me.’”
Watch the full interview below:
Check out Part 1 of the battle here:
And here's the Spin The Mic battle: