October was another wild month for battle rap. It started with the bonkers battle between Keith Murray and Fredro Starr and ended with a scandal stemming from the "Malcolm X vs. Klansman" match-up between Daylyt and Cadalack Ron.
Here are our picks for battles of the month, most of which are bar-heavy classics.
Ave vs. Nunn Nunn
Who: Ave (Norfolk, Va.) vs. Nunn Nunn (Wilson, N.C.)
Where: SMACK/URL's "Summer Madness 5 Proving Grounds" event in Brooklyn, N.Y.
When: Sept. 27, 2015
This battle had people talking, and for good reason. How often do you get to see someone (Nunn Nunn) team up with his wife in the middle of a battle? For that matter, how often does someone (Ave) belt three flawless, room-shaking rounds in a PG? Whoa.
Ave goes second, after a relatively quiet round from Nunn, and he sets the bar almost unfairly high. The amount of material he stuffs into each round is mind-boggling; seriously, take a drink every time you make the Jaz face and you'll probably pass out. Aside from a brief scuffle that results from Ave grabbing Nunn’s collar to accentuate a bar, there’s not much to differentiate his punchline-packed rounds, which is actually a good thing.
Nunn has an interesting style. It’s slow and deliberate, meaning that when it hits, it hits hard. Somewhat ingeniously, he decides to supplement it by recruiting his wife to rap alongside him in Round 2, straightforwardly (and aggressively) airing out material that might be used against him. Classic.
Related: Scenes From The "Summer Madness 5" PGs.
JC vs. Big Kannon
Who: Big Kannon (Chicago, Ill.) vs. JC (Detroit, Mich.)
Where: RBE's "Lift His Soul 2" in Queens, N.Y.
When: Sept. 6, 2015
Some question why Writers Bloque even exists, but doesn’t the near-guaranteed delivery of a classic whenever members battle each other count as a reason? Here, you’ll find Big Kannon and JC egging each other on in typical WB fashion.
The highlight of this battle is probably Big Kannon’s first, and it’s a building shaker. At this point, you’d have to weave together a pretty complex argument to dispute him being the nameflip GOAT. Surprise surprise, there’s a lot you can do with “J,” and Kannon’s flips are the cream of the crop. Interestingly, he makes a point in Round 2 by sticking to freestyle, the point presumably being that you suck if you can’t.
JC is a small-room veteran, and it shows. His setups are some of the smoothest and most meticulous in battle rap, and his second and third rounds are glowing examples of that. This is a debatable classic, but if writing means a lot to you, you’ll probably go with JC.
Big T vs. Shotgun Suge
Who: Big T (Chicago, Ill.) vs. Shotgun Suge (Newark, N.J.)
Where: URL's "Summer Madness 5" in Manhattan, N.Y.
When: Sept. 26, 2015
Mr. Chillackaboo is back, and Suge continues his rapid ascent. Frankly, this match-up seemed random and last-minute to much of the battle rap community, but man, were they wrong.
T was snapping from the gate, and it's refreshing to see the URL crowd losing their shit over raw lyricism used against someone like Suge. But T did more than that; he was animated, jokey, bar-heavy, and aggressive all at once. He showed his versatility in every round (although he took a while to heat up in the third). Plus, that second was one of the best he’s ever delivered.
You can be sure things are changing when Suge is becoming known for impeccable third rounds. He thoroughly spazzed, making the absolute most of his “what you know ‘bout” approach. “When he was putting the nose on Mr. Potato, I was putting a potato on the nose.” Sheesh.
Even Shaq was excited.
@fat_suge vs Big T Drops Tomorrow Brick City All Day Southward Stand Up for This One Shotgun Suge Holding it Down pic.twitter.com/dpIwRDElsC— SHAQ (@SHAQ) October 28, 2015
Charron vs. John John Da Don
Who: Charron (Ottawa, Canada) vs. John John Da Don (Atlanta, Ga.)
Where: KOTD's "World Domination 5" in Toronto, Canada
When: Aug. 21, 2015
Here’s a perfect example of a battle that looked like a body in the building but became entirely different on camera; in the reaction department, John John got washed, but real fans know that doesn’t matter. Ignore the crowd, and you’ve got a great battle.
You can’t take much away from Charron though, as he once again delivers a well-rounded performance. He should be careful not to essentially repeat bars his opponent has just said (what happened with that “Grinch” line?), but Charron’s rebuttals make him extremely dangerous. They’re in full effect here, some being surprisingly complex, and the personals and back-to-back punches do enough for him to argue that he’s 6-0 against URL (or 0-6, depending on how you feel about Charron).
What can you say about John John’s reception? It’s shitty and confusing that the crowd would (not) react like that, but do yourself a favor and hear him out anyway. His third, for example, is basically a cricket-fest despite being loaded with material. Still, this just makes what might have been classic merely great.
Tony D vs. Raptor
Who:Tony D (London, England) vs. Raptor (Manchester, England)
Where: Don't Flop's "Sunburn 2" in London, England
When: Sept. 5, 2015
Raptor seemed like a top gunner in 2014, and then his buzz quieted down a bit. Meanwhile, Tony D dominated and ultimately grew tired of the DF title. This match serves as a reminder that they’re still two of the UK’s most dangerous.
This is another battle where it’s best to throw crowd reaction out the window — not because it’s lopsided, but because there’s so much being said that it just makes things confusing. In Tony, you get a slick yet heavy-handed tirade and in Raptor, a multi-laden, rapid-fire string of insults. It’s almost impossible to decide who is more fire, with Tony’s slight stumbles and Raptor’s minor dry spots supplying arguments on either side.
With both these guys preparing for heavy match-ups at DF’s 7BW, this is a more than ample warm-up.
Daylyt vs. E. Farrell
Who: Daylyt (Los Angeles, Calif.) vs. E. Farrell (Manchester, Conn.)
Where: iBattle's "The Takeover 3" in Hartford, Conn.
When: Sept. 12, 2015
I’ve written about this battle at length already, but here’s all you really need to know: it involves an “impromptu” third round featuring Batman vs. Superman, but the replay value lives in the first two rounds.
Daylyt vs. B Dot
Who: Daylyt (Los Angeles, Calif.) vs. B Dot (San Fernando Valley, Calif.)
Where: LA BattleGroundz "Oct-O-Barfest" in Los Angeles, Calif.
When: Oct. 17, 2015
There’s really only one reason to watch this one — B Dot — but it’s a very good reason. Although it looks fairly even in Round 1, by the end of the night, Daylyt was posting online that he'd been 3-0'ed.
Day goes first and delivers a typical first round with plenty of top-notch wordplay that may or may not have been used in other low-profile battles. Round 1 evidently represents the extent of his preparation, though his third is still a fascinating watch. But B Dot steals the show in this battle with content far more intellectual than Day’s, which isn’t necessarily a winning formula, but he more than pulls it off.
Thrown into B Dot’s remarkably thorough analysis of Day’s character is a second round impression of him that rivals, if not tops, E. Farrell’s. While Farrell nailed the style of wordplay, B. Dot’s mimicry of Day’s hand gestures and mannerisms is uncanny; it feels like you’re watching him. As if that weren’t bad enough, his third round is absolutely brutal. If you read it on paper, you’d have no problem believing it was Loaded Lux. Tell me I’m wrong.
Bad Newz vs. Big Hann
Who: Bad Newz (Rocky Mount, N.C.) vs. Big Hann (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Where: Spit Dat Heat event in Georgia
Ah yes, the monthly “Who versus who?” battle. Don’t sleep; both of these dudes have been grinding. Bad Newz has a ton of great battles on SDH, and Big Hann has been putting in work on 7 Cities Sharks, WBL, Trap House, and Pit Fights.
If SDH host Miltown Bloe’s involvement is a major distraction, then this battle is not for you. For gritty punches and some of the more creative street talk you’ve probably heard lately, this is grade A. Both of these dudes bring some pretty complex material, but Big Hann’s has a bit more bark to it. That works to his favor a lot of the time, but Bad Newz talks right back, as usual. Plus, anyone who rhymes “praying mantis” with “save Atlantis” is cool with me.
Unanymous vs. Shuffle-T
Who: Unanymous (Plymouth, England) vs. Shuffle-T (London, England)
Where: Don't Flop's "Sunburn 2" in London, England
When: Sept. 6, 2015
Shuffle-T is great at a lot of things: mockery, posh humor, multis, and, it seems lately, underestimating his opponents. This Unanymous was not to be played with, but the two manage to have a memorable clash regardless.
Unan gets a lot of shit, mostly because some people see him as an overly serious nerd. Here, he boldly embraces that and somehow uses it to make Shuff look downright foolish for playing along. Shuff is known for having thoughtfully structured rounds, but Unan's content makes them seem disjointed by comparison. Add in the masterfully crafted “you can’t rap” angle, and Shuff is in a tight spot.
Don’t get me wrong; this is still a solid Shuffle-T performance. The problem is that he barrels into these solo matches with no defense, starting off hilarious and gradually being beaten down. At the end of the day, he still brought the best out of Unan.
DNA vs. Cityy Towers
Who: DNA (Queens, N.Y.) vs. Cityy Towers (Bridgeport, Conn.)
Where: iBattle's "Takeover 3" in New Haven, Conn.
When: Sept. 13, 2015
It was quickly apparent that joining NWX reinvigorated DNA’s enthusiasm, but I’m beginning to suspect that they injected him with some kind of serum. The dude is incapable of taking battles lightly nowadays, and Cityy Towers is the latest to fall victim to 100% effort, despite putting on a good show himself.
It’s hard to put your finger on what’s improved in DNA’s approach. In a way he sounds more like K-Shine, but there’s clearly more to it than that. There’s a certain urgency to his cadence, kind of like when he first came onto the scene, that makes his material much more compelling.
Even though he gets mostly outclassed, don’t do anything stupid like skip Cityy’s rounds. An unfortunate choke in the third makes what might have been arguable clear, but his performance is otherwise solid.
Cover image design by Steve Finch. See more of his work here.
Did we miss any classics? Let us know which ones and why in the comments below.