Don't Flop had a pretty astounding year in 2015. The London-based league retained its dominance of the British scene while making moves into new territory, from Atlanta to Amsterdam. With each trip, the league showcased unknown or under-appreciated talent and ended up with more footage than most fans could process. In fact, Don't Flop had more entries on our Battles Of The Month lists than any other league.
So here are our Top 10 favorite battles released in 2015, with a focus on consistent quality and diversity. Check out 10 more honorable mentions at the bottom of this article.
Soul Vs. Cee Major
Who: Soul (Dunfermline, Scotland) vs. Cee Major (London, England)
Where: Don't Flop's "Checkpoint 2" in London, England
When: April 25, 2015
Two names that couldn’t have possibly seemed feasible for title consideration two years ago have come together to put on an absolute classic and perhaps the best DF title match yet.
This could be seen as an unlikely match-up to decide the replacement for Tony D (who stepped down after multiple title defenses) since one battler was banned from the league at one point (Soul) and the other only had one battle last year (Cee). But being that they're among the most talented in the U.K., there is a certain logic.
Although he’s been incredible on several occasions, this is arguably Cee’s best performance. It’s almost impossible to keep up with Soul lyrically, but Cee comes quite close and also offers an ease of flow and delivery that better his opponent's. He powers through this performance without the slightest slip and proves that not taking a lot of battles doesn’t necessarily form rust.
All that said, Soul is just a powerhouse in this one. Despite a (pretty severe) choke in the first, the energy and content of his performance basically made it impossible for him to lose. Those in the know are already well-familiar with Soul's talent, but this win should help bring him to a bigger audience.
Math Hoffa vs. Chilla Jones
Who: Math Hoffa (Brooklyn, N.Y.) vs. Chilla Jones (Boston, Mass.)
Where: Don't Flop's "Resurrection" in Atlanta, Ga.
When: April 4, 2015
Things don’t always go as planned in battle rap, and that often works out for the better. Chilla is nothing like T-Top (Math's original opponent for this event), but apparently he didn’t need to be in order to have a classic with Math.
Math had his ups and downs in 2015, but we've said it before and we’ll say it again: the game needs Math. So long as he doesn’t act on any violent impulses, battle rap benefits from the presence of a bar-heavy bully. That’s right, bar-heavy. Math has always been that, and this performance should make that obvious to those who haven’t taken notice.
Chilla, a very different guy from Math, proves to be a perfect counterpart. Who knew “math” wordplay could still be done creatively? Chilla takes it to the next level and makes a solid case for victory. This is ultimately a preference battle, and the great crowd, flawless performances, and style clash give it that golden-era feel.
Hitman Holla & Aye Verb Vs. DNA & K-Shine
Who: Hitman Holla (St. Louis, Mo.) & Aye Verb (St. Louis, Mo.) vs. K-Shine (Harlem, N.Y.) & DNA (Queens, N.Y.)
Where: Don't Flop's event in Chicago, Ill.
When: June 20, 2015
Whether or not you think it’s merited, these 2-on-2s revitalized some battle rap careers in 2015. DNA was pretty unanimously considered “oversaturated,” but here he is creating demand again. Aye Verb too had been subject to some lackluster tendencies, but here you’ll find him in full form. It’s odd to see two people (Verb and Shine), one of whom recently bodied the other, face off again in a different format mere weeks later. It’s even weirder when both teams are composed of people who have famously clashed before.
All that said, it certainly works. The formation of NWX invigorated Shine and DNA, and they work amazingly as a team. Verb and Hitman give them a run for their money, though, even though it’s difficult to match the intensity of their constantly back-and-forth style.
Of note, Shine and DNA fall victim to one of the most extreme backfires in battle rap history when a dude they bring on stage to intimidate Verb ends up taking his side instead. DNA saves it with a freestyle, but it makes what could have been a clear W very debatable.
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 U.K.’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.
Quill Vs. Harry Baker
Who: Quill (London, England) vs. Harry Baker (Bristol, England)
Where: Don't Flop's "Training Days" in London, England
When: March 22, 2015
It’s not often that special effects add to a battle (see Daylyt vs. Tsu Surf, or ... don’t), but Don't Flop's Cruger is not your average editor. If you have any place in your heart for video games, this is sure to entertain.
It feels ridiculous to say, but this rap battle comprised of bars based exclusively on video games will come down to your personal preference. If you really like video games, you can’t go wrong with Quill. If you’re looking for a more tongue-in-cheek homage to the medium, Harry Baker is your dude.
There’s really no point in breaking down. Just do yourself a favor and reminisce with the incredibly precise visual components that accompany this bizarrely niche bar-fest.
Oshea vs. Kid Twist
Who: Oshea (Liverpool, England) vs. Kid Twist (Toronto, Canada)
Where: Don't Flop's "7th Birthday Weekend" in London, England
When: Nov. 14, 2015
Oshea is back in prime form, and Kid Twist gives what is probably his best performance of the year after making his return against Shuffle-T at "Blackout 5." If you like non sequiturs, silly-ass wordplay, and all around clever absurdity, you’re going to love this one.
Oshea telling Twist, “You look like Big T if Big T looked completely different” is still oddly hilarious, and it’s a symbol of the absurdist irreverence he’s made his own. It shines gloriously in every round, and it’s a genuinely difficult style to compete with when he’s in rare form, as he is here. You know true talent is involved when even “ah, fucked that up” actually adds to a performance.
Twist had a steep hill to climb in vying for attention over Oshea in the U.K., and he took a brilliantly smart-but-stupid approach. Twist is someone you can tell plans his attacks extremely meticulously, and that’s bound to take you to weird places with someone like Oshea, but he nails it, even throwing in a daring anti-U.K. angle in the third. Plus, those every-round rebuttals never hurt.
E. Ness Vs. Bill Collector
Who: E. Ness (Philadelphia, Pa.) vs. Bill Collector (Norristown, Pa.)
Where: Don't Flop's event in Philadelphia, Pa.
When: March 29, 2015
Remember that enraged lunatic who gave one of the most ridiculed performances of all time versus DNA on URL? He’s nowhere to be found here. This is just a great battle between two emcees who were both looking for another shot.
Getting lumped up by Hitman's little brother and going to jail is not a great way to build momentum in battle rap, but here we find Bill Collector back in fighting shape. E. Ness is back to his old self too, thankfully with no references to Krazy Glue anywhere in sight. Bill comes off as consciously restrained in this battle, giving a clean performance that lacks some of the more spastic flare that made him famous.
Don’t worry though, because Ness makes up for that absence with plenty of Bill Collector impressions that leave the room dying. From the moment Ness starts rapping his first, it’s clear that he’s there to win and to restore his legacy as much as possible in one battle. That Philly flow is extremely dangerous when done well, and Ness takes it to its height. It’s pretty hard to give Bill the win, or even a round, but this is a solid battle and a remarkable return to form for Ness.
Unanymous Vs. Shuffle-T
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 overly serious. 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.
Bamalam Vs. Dialect
Who: Bamalam (London, England) vs. Dialect (Leeds, England)
Where: Don't Flop's "6.5 Birthday" in Leeds, England
When: Feb. 1, 2015
When you think Don't Flop emcees who excel in the Grime style, the first names that come to mind might be Dialect, Zen or Bru-C (with the last two having a dope clash last month too). Bamalam may not even make your list, that is, unless you've already this watched battle from the "6.5 Birthday." He rides the third-round grime beat convincingly here, stopping only when the crowd is cheering louder than the music.
Shox The Rebel Vs. Cojay
Who: Shox The Rebel (London, England) vs. Cojay (Manchester via New Jersey)
Where: Don't Flop's "Checkpoint 2: Training Days" in London, England
When: April 26, 2015
You may have seen Shox in his URL debut, but he also put in a ton of work at Don’t Flop in 2015.
Although Shox is always solid, he gets outclassed in this battle. Cojay, a name once mocked for his cringey lines that frequently landed him on "Bad Bars," delivers an A1 performance. His accent might throw you a bit, because he's from Manchester by way of New Jersey, but he’s on his way to being another U.K. killer (especially once his 7BW battle with DNA drops).
He came to win, and his intensity compels Shox to take notice. “I’m losing,” says Shox after the first round, and he also acknowledged defeat despite being satisfied with his own performance. Some of Cojay’s bars are actually jaw-droppers that will probably surprise the hell out of you.
Don't Flop had so much strong content in 2015 that we could've done a Top 20 list and still left out classics. Here are 10 more battles that are absolutely worth your time.
- Oshea vs. Pedro
- Pedro vs. Marlo
- Lunar C vs. Oshea
- Ogmios vs. Wizard
- Freestyle Royal Rumble Vol. 1
- Raptor vs. Big Kannon
- Big J & Lefty vs. P Solja & Matter
- Oshea vs. The Calcium Kid
- Troy Brown vs. Lu Cipher (which topped our Most Slept-On Battles Of 2015 list)
- Ogmios vs. QP
Words by Chris Mitchell and Jackson Yates. Cover photo by Joel Hoyte for Don't Flop.
What were your favorite DF matches of 2015? Let us know in the comments below.