The Best Don't Flop Battles Of 2014

Adam "Mos Prob" Felman gives a rundown of last year’s top U.K. clashes.

Don’t Flop’s story last year was one made up of two halves. Even Eurgh will tell you that . A temporary staff walkout was followed by the "Raise The Bar” tour which, even considering some high points, stretched performers thin and oversaturated DF’s YouTube channel with content. The latter half of the year, from around the summer "Sunburn" event onward, took a drastic upturn. Some stellar performances, international expansion and a hugely successful Sixth Birthday event have given them a running start heading into 2015.

Don’t Flop always produces some of the best battle content worldwide, and at a ridiculous pace, but there have been a handful of battles that shaped this progression in 2014. Here is a hearty salute to the 10 that gave the U.K. scene an encouraging pat on the shoulder followed by a hefty kick to the rear over the last twelve months. We’ve seen new talent take the spotlight, old heads returning to the scene and perhaps the best British rap battle ever to take place.

So, in no particular order…

Dialect vs. Natrill

Who: Dialect (Leeds, England) vs. Natrill (Great Yarmouth, England)
Where: "Raise The Bar” Tour in Leeds, England
When: April 5, 2014
Why you should watch it: Beat battles are a notable feather in Don’t Flop’s fitted, and when they work in the performers’ favor they run extremely favourably. This battle, aside from being one the best outcomes of the "Raise the Bar" tour this year, is one of the best match-ups of the last twelve months.

The format is so novel to written battle rap — pre-formulated, structured bars over beats — but the result is an adept showcase of both energy and sharp penmanship. Here, the lyrical content loses no clarity for the more rhythmic nuances of the setup, and the mutual respect between the emcees adds a jovial, light-hearted outline to the directness of the lyrics. Dialect was playing to a home crowd in Leeds, and Natrill has always been immensely underrated and has showed himself to be incredibly versatile when it comes to balancing music and battles.

Basically, both emcees had a great time and took everyone else in the room with them, while simultaneously delivering top-end content in an interesting format.

Tony D vs. Double L

Who: Tony D (London, England) vs. Double L (Wolverhampton,England)
Where: "Sunburn" in London, England
When: July 20, 2014
Why you should watch it: Double L is one of those consistent over-performers that rarely gets mentioned among the top tier but, for me, always lands in the Top 10 battles of the year. His clash with the champ (not a title shot, but a highly potent threat against which Tony could keep ring rust at bay) was a great back-and-forth exchange which showed a great deal of versatility from L and a tremendous showing from Tony.

Double L combines humor with bars and flow with charisma, and Tony D came with a wall of top quality content. It’s one of the most debatable clashes the champion has been in and Double L showed just how difficult he is to upstage.

Shuffle-T & Marlo vs. Dialect & Zen

Who: Shuffle-T (London, England) & Marlo (London, England) vs. Dialect (Leeds, England) & Zen (Leeds, England)
Where: “Sixth Birthday Weekend” in Leeds, England
When: Nov. 15, 2014
Why you should watch it: The doubles title match has, for the last two years, been an absolute treat, largely because it has been Shufflo’s alone to defend. They had a hilarious clash against Scizzahz and Wizard in May and then went on to battle a can of Fanta and a stick and then a Dirtbag Dan-ta and a Cau-stick, and have not battled individually all year. So their chemistry is not lagging, and they’ve been pulling off their grand ideas all year.

Dialect, however, featured in two other entries on this list and made his presence known against Chilla Jones for King of the Dot recently, and Zen was one of the consistent highlights of the "Raise the Bar" tour, popping up almost every other event to do freestyle battles then laying dormant until this clash.

It’s such a good battle. Shuffle and Marlo are on top form and they pulled out bars on the level of their first title match against Cee Major and Cracker. Dialect and Zen took in some dizzying back and forth verbal gymnastics in the second to set the room alight, and only lost on the back of a weaker third.

Shuffle-T and Marlo remain one of the best things to watch in battle rap, and Dialect and Zen are their worthiest competitors yet.

Lego vs. Ogmios

Who: Lego (York, England) vs. Ogmios (London, England)
Where: “Sunburn” in London, England
When: July 20, 2014
Why you should watch it: Ogmios very much made 2014 his year, with outstanding performances throughout, and Lego was a key part in building the style that put West Yorkshire on the U.K. battle map (predating international heavyweights Matter, Lunar C and Dialect). His return was very much a welcome one, and Ogmios his perfect foil.

Both gave wonderfully off-kilter and fluid performances, culminating in Ogmios pulling out a Lego toy figurine and finally providing the perfect marriage of a gimmick and entertaining bars. Lego’s third was one of the best rounds from the event and it was still a dead even match-up. The Yorkshire stalwart didn’t step too far out of the box for Og, focusing largely on baldness and veganism, but he delivered a perfect, deceptively simple and refreshingly old-school barrage of punchlines.

This is, quite simply, an exceptionally watchable meeting of minds.

Cruger vs. DNA

Who: Cruger (London, England) vs. DNA (Queens, N.Y.)
Where: “Sixth Birthday Weekend” in Leeds, England
When: Nov. 15, 2014
Why you should watch it: Cruger stepping into the ring is a rare treat, and when he does it is often numbered among the highlights of a battle calendar. DNA is a Don’t Flop regular and Cruger took Conceited to pieces in the previous year, so was no stranger to stepping into the ring with street-style opponents.

DNA was on top form, delivering direct wordplay (despite a few forced name flips) but Cruger was, as always, on another level. Sporting a multicolour tie-dyed? top and chirpy grin, the Don’t Flop co-founder effortlessly reeled off some of the funniest material of the year and had the crowd chanting his name after about eight bars. After his dispatching of Conceited, you might’ve assumed DNA would be easy pickings but it was a startlingly even match-up.

Both this and Eurgh’s battle with John John confirm that the DF staff can simultaneously run a league and battle like they haven’t had to do all of the admin to secure the stage they’re standing on. Both of the hosts’ battles are a great celebration of the U.K. battle style.

Raptor vs. Gemini

Who: Raptor (Manchester, England) vs. Gemini (London, England)
Where: "Raise The Bar” tour in London, England
When: May 17, 2014
Why you should watch it: This battle is a direct result of Don’t Flop’s continued investment and promotion of new talent. Gemini is in every sense a newcomer, and Raptor is by no means new to battling, having frequently competed for Northern leagues Rapped in Wire and Words Are Weapons since 2012. Still, his emergence on the scene can really be earmarked with his successes in 2014 and it was this battle that put him and his stagemate on the map.

The level of polish that each of their performances carried is no small achievement, and between Raptor’s frantic Shotty-esque diatribes and Gemini’s poised imagery, the battle gave the impression they’d been performing at that level for years longer than they had. It was dead even and full of relentless energy from start to finish.

This was two hungry young rappers out for blood, and it looked brilliant. Both went on to have breakthrough 2014s, and were named as the year’s best rookies by Eurgh in a recent interview. Don’t Flop has a bright future if it can continue to produce rappers who can so readily take to the battle format.

Unanymous vs. Dialect

Who: Unanymous (Plymouth, England) vs. Dialect (Leeds, England)
Where: "Raise The Bar” tour in Nottingham, England
When: April 5, 2014
Why you should watch it: It seems like the fun thing to do is hate on Unan, but no Don’t Flop Top 10 is complete without at least one of his battles. It’s strange to think how much experience he has given his tender years, but his appearance in one of the most talked about clashes of the summer marked him as a force of nature and most likely bagged him the title shot against Tony D.

The battle was sheer aggression. Despite a weird audience, it was great to see Dialect’s rhythmic growls clash with Unanymous’ multi-syllabic body horror. There wasn’t much in the way of directness; this was simply bars vs. bars, and it worked perfectly.

The only letdown is that the audience was a little unresponsive at points but the tension in the battle is palpable and both performers pulled their load and more.

Eurgh vs. John John Da Don

Who: Eurgh (London, England) vs. John John Da Don (Atlanta, Ga.)
Where: DFUSA’s “The Revolution” in Atlanta, Ga.
When: Nov. 1, 2014
Why you should watch it: An expansion into the U.S. was no small feat for Don’t Flop co-founder Eurgh, and giving himself a headline battle against his first URL opponent was a pretty considerable burden to carry. Luckily, he represented his brand hard against a formidable performance.

This was John John at his most aggressive, and he got pretty direct with it. He seemed to tailor his material to the DF fan base, mixing in lighter comic moments and taking entertaining swipes at both Daylyt and DNA in the process.

Eurgh took a resolute stance in his first written solo battle since DNA two and a half years ago, and he showed no signs of rust. He didn’t have the crowd onside to the same extent as his opponent, but he broke down John John and the URL style succinctly and clearly and gave a clean, confident performance. His local references were a hit too, and his momentum with the crowd grows as the battle progresses.

With the recent global growth of battle rap it takes solid iron bollocks to step into the ring as a league owner in a new market, and Eurgh pulled it off.

Cee Major vs. Chilla Jones

Who: Cee Major (London, England) vs. Chilla Jones (Boston, Mass.)
Where: “Sixth Birthday Weekend” in Leeds, England
When: Nov. 16, 2014
Why you should watch it: This battle cemented Cee Major in the top tier. The cancellation of Tony D vs. Unanymous and Shotty Horroh vs. Yung Ill at the Sixth Birthday left Cee and Chilla as unintentional headliners, and they filled those boots and ran a marathon with them.

Chilla, as with all of the U.S. contingent at 6BW, gave a worthwhile performance, and while his material was mostly name flips, he still put in work and pulled off some fantastic wordplay to rile up the crowd. Cee Major, on the other hand, was incendiary. His second may be the perfect battle round, and his third was no less impressive. He threw in enough in the way of fancy-footed wordplay and hard truths to ensure that he came out triumphant against one of the best out right now.

Cee will be one to keep a close eye on for 2015, as his hunger and considerable talent were both on display here.

And battle of the year…

Tony D vs. Shotty Horroh

Who: Tony D (London, England) vs. Shotty Horroh (Manchester, England)
Where: “MCRvsLDN” in Manchester, England
When: Oct. 11, 2014
Why you should watch it: This was the big one. Owing to the lopsidedness of Don’t Flop’s early 2014, there was an obscene amount of pressure on the DF champ and the most viewed battler in the U.K. to get this battle right. And, thankfully, they got it so right. You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief echo round each of the staff.

Tony D and Shotty have their statuses for a reason, and it’s because they typify a lot of what’s great about U.K. battle rap. 2012 saw the league’s fourth birthday produce two of the most successful battles ever: Oshea’s title defence against Tony D, and Shotty’s clash with Arsonal, which is now the most-watched battle in the English language. Their performances in this battle are nothing short of world class.

Shotty could’ve suffered from ring rust having not battled in Don’t Flop for more than a year, but he re-emerged an evolved creature. His writing has become more intricate, his performance more bat-shit eccentric and his angles more inventive. He was already one of the abiding personalities in the new wave of Don’t Flop, but his character is growing and it’s great to watch.

Tony, though, was on another planet. He’s been top tier since his debut, and his showing here cemented his champion accreditation more than any title defence he’s been in. His wordplay is effortless and his persona impenetrable.

Whether you think Tony won or not, this was one of the best U.K. vs. U.K. rap battles ever to take place, and it happened right when it needed to. That, my friends, makes this the U.K. battle of 2014.


This was not by any means an exhaustive list of the great content coming from British shores this year. Here are some other notable clashes.


Mid-April comedy to-ing and fro-ing between the two funniest pairings in the league.


Two London-based newcomers swinging big and landing heavy.


The winner of this year’s Top 8 tournament takes on the underrated visiting U.S. emcee in a veritable bar-fest.


Prolific newcomer takes on established URL vet and comes off looking like the established URL vet.


One of the best clashes from DF’s Atlanta event.

Any more you would add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.