It's been a busy year for battle rap. With so many leagues putting on so many events and then rushing to get so much footage out, it's tough to keep up with even the major releases. It's inevitable that battles slip through the cracks, so we've put together this list as a reminder that not all of the year's best battles happened on the biggest stages or got the views they deserve (all of these have 35,000 views or less).
LU CIPHER VS. TROY BROWN
Who: Lu Cipher (Tampa, Fla.) vs. Troy Brown (Baltimore, Md.)
Where: Don't Flop's "Resurrection Day 1" in Atlanta, Ga.
When: April 3, 2015
Views in 2015: 31,000 since April 29
Can a battle be famous for being slept on? This low-view classic is the only one on this list to hit a major league's channel, and still remains a hidden gem known mostly to the people who caught the word-of-mouth about how good it is.
Not to unduly narrow the battle, but this one’s all about wordplay. It’s bar after bar after bar, and Troy actually secured the much deserved Number 1 spot in DF’s “Best Punchlines of April” list as a result. Although these two emcees employ many of the same techniques as all your favorite URL battlers, there’s a whole lot more than gun bars going on.
It’s a tough one to call, but most people seem to be giving it to Cipher, probably just due to his unrelenting homonyms and double entendres. If one were to complain about this battle, the grievance would probably have to be about the crowd constantly freaking out. But honestly, can you blame them? DF’s Atlanta outings have been successful on a number of levels, and bringing new American talent to light is evidently one of them.
BEDAFFI GREEN VS. GUTTA
Who: Bedaffi Green (Long Island, N.Y.) vs. Gutta (Austin, Texas)
Where: Traphouse NY's "Bars Over Bullshit 3" in New York, N.Y.
When: June 14, 2015
Views in 2015: 19,000 since July 5
Like so many Traphouse battles, this one is extremely debatable and a low-key near-classic. Gutta once again shows he’s good for a lot more than being a front-row spectator to Gjonaj's rise to fame, and Bedaffi Green gives what might be his best performance yet.
What’s more important: staying consistent or being able to heat up? The answer to that question might decide this fight for you, as Bedaffi’s third round is probably the best of the battle despite him having been arguably outdone by Gutta in the first two. To be fair, their styles are actually quite different: Gutta is slick and complex while Bedaffi is gruff and commanding.
A lot of the time, the more abrasive method that Bedaffi employs tends to win out in small rooms, but it can never be that simple with material as strong as Gutta’s. Although footage is often the deciding factor in close battles, it really only adds another layer of complexity in this case.
REVERSE LIVE VS. STEP EASY
Who: Reverse Live (Hollister, Calif.) vs. Step Easy (Guelph, Canada)
Where: No Coast's "SnowCoast" in Minneapolis, Minn.
When: Nov. 14, 2015
Views in 2015: 2,000 since Dec. 2
In a weird way, Step Easy and Reverse Live have a lot in common. Both were early contributors to the Canadian and Fresh Coast scenes respectively, helped build these scenes up, and have been semi-slept on as they have been steadily grinding ever since. Perhaps more than all of this, they both are hated on for their biggest strength; actually rapping. Over their long careers, these two have always been more interested in stringing together the most original multis with the most obscure references than catering to any crowd. That said, when these two got in the ring, in front of a No Coast Minnesota crowd that was weird enough to fully tune in, some magic was made.
Step starts it off slow with fat jokes, and Reverse hits back hard in his classic way of rapping about beating his opponent up while also tying it together nicely with an angle at the end. The second is where things get interesting, as Step preludes his round with, “Oh we're doing them multis, ay?” And that’s exactly what happens. Step floats through the round using a single ending rhyme, hitting every couple of bars and gaining a ton of momentum.
The battle’s intensity doesn’t turn back from there, as each round builds with haymakers from Reverse like, “Step switching up on some Hogwarts shit,” and fire from Step like, “We from the OT days, you needed four rounds of fire like a stovetop.”
Overall, if you are a hardcore fan of battle rap, you will know why this battle is so amazing, and why it is such a tragedy that pens like this don’t get the attention they deserve.
PEDRO VS. TONY D
Who: Tony D (London, England) vs. Pedro (London, England)
Where: KOTR's "The Beginning Of The End" in London, England
When: Feb. 21, 2015
Views in 2015: 28,000 since March 2
After years in the scene, Pedro finally had a breakout year in 2015, and to see his frenetic freestyle abilities pitted against Tony D — arguably the U.K.’s best pen — is damn near surreal.
That said, this battle goes essentially how you'd think it would, and it’s worth every second. Tony seems relaxed and well aware of the style clash he’s involved in, and Pedro makes a slight adjustment in terms of organization but mostly just does what he does best. KOTR could probably benefit from continuing to set up these sorts of oddball match-ups, as this one hits just the right, bizarre note.
PH VS. MADNESS
Who: PH (Brooklyn, N.Y.) vs. Madness (Orlando, Fla.)
Where: Grind Time Now's "Night Of Champions" in Orlando, Fla.
When: Dec. 27, 2014
Views in 2015: 25,900 since Feb. 13
Here is one of PH's last great performances before his death in June.
PH had been on a streak of strong showings, performing like an updated version of himself in his prime. Over the years, he patented a style all his own where jokes and punches collided and became nearly indistinguishable..
Madness proved to be a perfect match for PH’s comedic/aggressive bar-blending, and here he landed more on the side of “hilarious.” Looking like you’re having a great time won’t win you a battle, but it certainly doesn’t hurt when your performance is as strong as Madness’ was in this one.
HA DOUBLE VS. T. RILEY
Who: HA Double (New Orleans, La.) vs. T Riley (New Orleans, La.)
Where: "Shit Get Ugly When U Got Barz 2" in New Orleans, La.
When: Aug. 1, 2015
Views in 2015: 18,900 since Aug. 3
Many remember HA Double from his Proving Grounds battle against Anubis in 2013, which is arguably one of the best PGs to ever surface. Unfortunately he's also remembered for his infamous choke during his Ultimate Freestyle Friday battle against Sno in 2014 on BET. Since then, he’s been on a mission to remind battle rap fans how he became one of the most respected battlers in his PG class.
T. Riley earned regional respect from his days on Grind Time battling the likes of Carter Deems, Dirt and Maniphest Destne. Since his battle with Rosenberg Raw in 2013, Riley’s momentum took a steep decline causing many to believe he’d lost his spark as a writer. In this battle Riley seeks to reclaim his spot at the top of the #SouthernBattleRap totem pole.
HA Double gave a forewarning in his battle against B.C. that he would kill the rest of Warrior Gang, a crew that included only one member he hadn't yet battled, T. Riley. The two would go on to vlog back and forth on GotBarzTV for weeks, building the anticipation for this match-up between New Orleans’ veterans. They didn't disappoint as neither of them took a round lightly.
It’s tough not to give HA Double the win in this battle with his trademark wordplay and aggression winning the crowd over. Though Riley was an underdog in this match-up, the battle was much closer than some expected or would like to admit.
JOEY GAMBELLO VS. FRANCHISE
Who: Joey Gambello (Toronto, Canada) vs. Franchise (Toronto, Canada)
Where: BeastMode's "Call To Arms" in Toronto, Canada
When: Oct. 3, 2015
Views in 2015: 1,400 since Oct. 29
We might never see Dizaster vs. Tay Roc on a main stage, but at least there's this. Despite having styles that can be easily compared to their top tier counterparts, both battlers bring enough individual character that they shouldn't be dismissed as clones.
Here are two of BeastMode's best facing off with bragging rights at stake, which seems to inspire both guys (despite Joey stumbling across the finish line at the end of his third).
Illipsis vs. Copasetic
Who: Illipsis (Vancouver, Canada) vs. Copasetic (Vancouver, Canada)
Where: KOTD's "Up In Smoke" in Vancouver, Canada
When: May 23, 2015
Views in 2015: 4,400 since July 6
In order to enjoy this battle, you can only take it so seriously. Copasetic is dressed as an old man (which is a lot more entertaining than you’re probably thinking it will be), and Illipsis writes fire bars that he grins through delivering while mixing high-concept literary references with promises of brutality. His writing is truly top-notch, though, no matter how absurd you might think it is for him to touch on the subjects that he does. He’s had a handful of great performances on GZ, and his battle against Isaac Knox on Day 3 of KOTD's "World Domination 5" was excellent, with a third-round dissection of Isaac's Christianity going viral on Facebook, netting him a view count close to his high school battle debut that somehow got three million plays on YouTube.
Copasetic has had some bad battles previously (and has turned his "winless" record into a point of pride), but the folks at GZ were wise to keep giving him shots. He took a big risk by taking the antics route here, but it worked for him.
Like it or not, we live in the era where that sort of technique is fair game. Hey, it could be worse: everybody could sound the same.
Jay Rell Vs. Mackk Myron
Who: Jay Rell (Detroit, Mich.) vs. Mackk Myron (Pontiac, Mich.)
Where: Alpha League's "The Invasion" in Detroit, Mich.
When: March 8, 2015
Views in 2015: 9,300 since March 23
Remember Jay Rell, that guy who beat a hungry Danny Myers on URL a couple years ago? This battle proves he’s still in prime form in this Alpha League match-up out of Detroit. You might not know much about Mackk Myron, but he’s been putting in work for years now, and it shows.
It’s true that both these emcees exhibit a punchline style you hear a lot these days, but their respective abilities to actually make it their own are to be commended. Mackk sounds like his performance has been internalized to the point that he could deliver it with any cadence he wanted. His dynamic style is the type to make you quietly anticipate a punchline and have to stifle yourself to hear the next one. That said, Jay Rell has patented a pretty devastating combination of bars and bully tactics, and he’s a force to be reckoned with here.
REMY'D VS. COMA
Who: RemyD (St. Louis, Mo.) vs. Coma (Washington, D.C.)
Where: LRC Battles' event in Washington, D.C.
When: May 24, 2015
Views in 2015: 4,500 since July 7
2015 newcomer Coma will demand your utmost attention from the moment he starts rapping in what was just his second showing, and he does plenty here to justify a win in his favor.
First, a small disclaimer: Remy has stumbles in this battle. This is his sole problem that constantly holds him back and sometimes ruins his performances altogether, and it once again prevents him from clearly winning. Coma’s performance is not completely pitch-perfect, but he does a notably better job keeping it together, especially given his relative lack of experience.
Aside from these stumbles, the other thing that might distract you here is host Pat Stay’s blatant favoritism toward Coma. It really doesn’t take away from the battle much, but it does get weird at a few points. Anyway, don’t sleep on this one, as it features an insane third round on both sides and a breakout performance for Coma.
As mentioned in the intro, if you think we're missing a classic make sure your league rep submits it for our "best battles from every league" list. See last year's most slept-on battles list or check all our 2015 In Review coverage..
Words by Jackson Yates, Alex Fraknoi, Teddy Holmes and Chris Mitchell.
Thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.