If you hadn’t noticed, battle rap is crazy lately. Even with relatively few events, January was an unbelievably busy month for the culture with upcoming match-up announcements and battle releases, and the output from small leagues in particular has been incredible. Many smaller platforms have stepped up their presentation, and the heavy hitters haven’t slowed down either.
We’ve already reported extensively on four of the biggest battles released in January, so watch those first if you haven't already:
Check out the additional 10 battles below for early-in-the-year fire from all corners of the scene.
Cortez & Math Hoffa vs. DNA & K-Shine
Who: Cortez (Brooklyn, N.Y.) & Math Hoffa (Brooklyn, N.Y.) vs. DNA (Queens, N.Y.) & K-Shine (Harlem, N.Y.)
Where: BullPen Battle League's "Cold War" in Atlanta, Ga.
When: Dec. 20, 2015
Who knew Cortez and Math would have some of the most natural chemistry ever displayed in a 2-on-2? The always-solid DNA and K-Shine gave them a tough fight, but after this showing NYB really have no choice but to team up again.
The number of battles NWX have taken since teaming up, in concert with the strength of many of those performances, is pretty astounding. There’s been a tendency emerging for one of the rounds to lapse into freestyles as of late, but even that seems to work most of the time. They’re also becoming known for props, and their donning of chef outfits here might make you roll your eyes at first, but give it a chance.
This is a fairly debatable battle, but you could also argue that NYB took it 3-0. The back-and-forth between Cor and Math feels genuine and exasperated in the exact way you’d want it to. Cor pretends to calm Math down frequently, Math clowns Cor more than once, but all their attacks are still aimed straight at NWX. Finally, their third round, which feels like a short film, is nothing short of phenomenal. Do not miss this.
For a totally different, hilariously raw approach to the 2-on-2 format, check out this impromptu freestyle battle from BMNY featuring Vicci & Jus Daze vs. Zeps & Doron.
Unanymous vs. Big T
Who: Unanymous (Plymouth, England) vs. Big T (Chicago, Ill.)
Where: Don't Flop's "7th Birthday Weekend" in London, England
When: Nov. 14, 2015
This is the sleeper hit from DF’s 7BW. While Tony D and Chilla Jones were battling for pen supremacy and Caustic and Soul were settling longstanding tension, Unanymous and Big T quietly made a battle with a ton of replay value.
Big T’s first round is the textbook definition of a room rocker. The way he can build energy and control the crowd is almost unparalleled, and it’s on full display in Round 1. Sure, some of it doesn’t have a whole lot to do with his opponent, but it still makes the powerful point that he can perform in ways that Unan probably can’t. He cools off some in the last two rounds, but this is still a more than solid showing.
It’s been a while in the making, but it seems like Unan has finally found his lane. Instead of being invariably hostile and, perhaps, overly aggressive with his style, he’s relaxed a bit and started delivering more calm, calculated attacks. It’s not as explosive as his older, borderline-horrorcore flow, but it’s been winning him battles. It worked against Shuffle-T, and it arguably works again here. Consistency can be deadly, and all three of Unan’s rounds, with content ranging from “you’re fat” to much more serious material, are high quality.
Syahboy vs. Money Bagz
Who: Syahboy (Atlanta, Ga.) vs. Money Bagz (Queens, N.Y.)
Where: RBE's "Validation" in Bronx, N.Y.
When: Nov. 14, 2015
Put two of battle rap’s most underrated against each other in a small room, particularly on RBE, and you're most likely going to end up with a classic. Syahboy is fairly consistent and has earned the bigger names he’s gotten recently, but damn … the culture desperately needs more Money Bagz.
For close followers of battle rap, Bagz has been in high demand for years. There’s never been a period where he constantly takes battles, and he’s never delivered anything close to resembling a poor performance. Here, he snaps for three straight rounds with some of the best punchlines you’ve probably heard in a while. Even besides that, he has some jokes and stories that command the appreciation of everyone in the (admittedly small) room, including Syah.
Although arguably outdone in at least two rounds, Syah still delivers each round flawlessly, with no concern for the amount of reaction Bagz earns. When both emcees go this hard, you really can’t be mad at how anyone calls it, even if their opinion contradicts the crowd.
For another, much more tense small room RBE battle, check out the very solid Jai vs. Showoff.
Bigg K vs. Math Hoffa
Who: Bigg K (Norfolk, Va.) vs. Math Hoffa (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Where: GO-Rilla Warfare's "The Crown 2" in Markham, Ill.
When: Nov. 21, 2015
With just the right amount of tension between battlers and solid performances on either side, this battle would have been a bona fide classic with a more enthusiastic crowd. Sleepy as it was, it couldn’t help but erupt for some of the bigger moments here. The bully comparisons are obvious, and astute fans were right to predict heat from both Bigg K and Math.
There’s been a lot of pressure on Math for a long time, and in a way it’s done him more good than harm. He’s had some lousy performances, sure, but he’s also clearly pushed himself in many of his recent matches, including this one. From the jump, he has no trouble getting the relatively drowsy crowd to rock with him and arguably takes Round 1. He doesn’t slack in the least for the remainder of the battle, and Round 2 is highly debatable, but one can see why so many people are rocking with K.
It’s widely acknowledged that K is one of the most dangerous battle rappers, period, but he’s a whole different beast when he chooses to get personal. In short, his third round is deadly, and it might be the single best breakdown of Math’s recent tribulations we’ve heard. This clash is still debatable at the end of the day, but K’s third and Math’s reaction to it can’t be ignored.
Reepah Rell vs. Bangz
Who: Reepah Rell (Hempstead, N.Y.) vs. Bangz (New Haven, Conn.)
Where: URL PG Battle at We Go Hard's "Halloween Havoc 3" in Brooklyn, N.Y.
When: Oct. 25, 2015
Presented in black and white, featuring Reepah Rell’s Halloween face paint and Bangz’ natural panache, this PG battle has a crazy atmosphere. Although there’s almost always some gas in these small rooms, this clash surprised a lot of people for good reason.
Bangz’ name has been making the rounds lately, even outside of his home league of iBattle. He’s a born showman and an unbelievable seller of absurd wordplay in every battle. This performance carries on that tradition in full force, with perhaps even more dramatic pauses and even more indulgent delivery, but it most definitely works. Unless you really just can’t tolerate that style — and that sounds like a personal problem — the appeal can’t be denied.
It means a lot to steal the show from Bangz in a small room, and that’s what Reepah did. He has a deranged sort of cadence that works scarily well with his bars, and the demands for him to battle someone like Brizz Rawsteen are already popping up. It’s hard to be different in battle rap today, but both these emcees are.
The Deadman vs. Jonny Storm
Who: The Deadman (Los Angeles, Calif.) vs. Jonny Storm (Orlando, Fla.)
Where: King Of The Dot's "Back To Baysics 3" one-off in San Jose, Calif.
When: Oct. 25, 2015
Both these dudes’ styles were made for small rooms, and the vibe in this one is perfect. The Deadman has had some projection issues in bigger rooms in the past, but that's no issue in this battle shot at Dirtbag Dan's studio the day after "Back To Baysics."
Deadman is confident as hell this time around, and he hits Storm from all angles with perfect comedic timing. He has a haymaker for every topic, including Storm’s wife MyVerse ("Let's just call her OurVerse"). This kind of relentlessness is tough to follow in a small room, but Jonny still does enough to debatably take a round.
It would have taken something pretty momentous from Storm to clearly outdo Deadman on this particular day, but don’t sleep, he still has plenty of dope lines.
Chess vs. Dougy
Who: Chess (Bronx, N.Y.) vs. Dougy (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Where: We Go Hard's "Midnight Bars 5" in Brooklyn, N.Y.
When: Dec. 20, 2015
This battle is extremely long, but it’s worth it. Yes, the WeGoHard crowd loses its shit constantly, but you really can’t blame them. We all know Chess is different, but it turns out that newcomer Dougy is also a huge threat. With the number of quotables at play here — and it’s always more exciting to hear them from relative newcomers — 53 minutes will fly by.
For whatever reason, Chess really takes his time with this performance. His off-kilter haymaker style is apt for this kind of setting, and he snaps in usual fashion. It’s hard to take anything away from Chess’ rounds here, but there’s no debating that Dougy did exactly what he needed to do.
Almost instantly, Dougy’s name started buzzing after this battle’s release. He clearly knew what he was in for battling someone like Chess, and his preparation is built into his punch-every-bar style. The punches land so ridiculously frequently, you’d swear at times there was more than one per bar. There’s room for debate as to who took this one, but it’s an overall W for Dougy regardless.
Danja Zone vs. DNA
Who: Danja Zone (Temple Hills, Md.) vs. DNA (Queens, N.Y.)
Where: Black Ice Cartel's "Format 2: One Off" in Queens, N.Y.
When: Jan. 10, 2016
In terms of taking it back to the essence, you can’t do much better than a one-off at a barbershop in Queens. DNA and Danja Zone reconvened the day after Black Ice’s "Format 2" (DNA had an emergency that forced him to postpone) and made yet another small room classic.
If you haven’t noticed, DNA has settled into a new style that’s gained him far more favor from fans than what critics previously called his “four bar setup” approach. You might catch on to the rhythm or cadence after a while, but there’s no way you’ll predict even half the punches thrown in. It's very entertaining, and he does more than enough to make the battle debatable.
Danja seems relatively incapable of taking a clear L, at least in a small room, and strictly speaking that’s still true. His freestyle ability, while rarely seen, is put to great use here and definitely doesn’t hurt. You’d have a hard time majorly critiquing his bars, charisma, or delivery here, and he can continue his hot streak.
Coma vs. Chef Trez
Who: Coma (Washington, D.C.) vs. Chef Trez (Atlanta, Ga.)
Where: Don't Flop Atlanta's "First Anniversary" in Atlanta, Ga.
When: Nov. 28, 2015
Combine Don’t Flop’s notoriously great Atlanta crowd with the Spit Dat Heat collective’s infectious, collar-stretching energy, then pit two hungry emcees with differing styles against each other on short notice, and you have a fire, debatable battle. Coma and Chef Trez go to work, and both seem to have a great time doing it.
Against Frak, Coma learned of the danger of being overly serious in the ring when the situation doesn’t call for it, and he strikes a much better balance here. He’s still his angry, aggressive self, but he gives Trez a ton of props and cracks jokes mid-round. “Hey could you lift my shirt up at some point too?” he asks after a big reaction, and Trez quickly obliges him. Hilarious. He has a couple (very) minor slips, but you still have to salute Coma on four days’ prep.
As for Trez, it’s becoming clear that he's a real talent. He doesn’t give Coma an inch of breathing room in any round, and his ridiculously clean rebuttals make him that much more dangerous. Filling in for someone on short notice is always commendable, but Trez deserves an extra nod for the way he commits himself to this style clash.
For some more small room DF heat, check out Olde English vs. Shox the Rebel. Shox’ name is buzzing in the U.K. right now, and for good reason.
Reverse Live vs. Patron
Who: Reverse Live (Hollister, Calif.) vs. Patron (Olympia, Wash.)
Where: Counter Productive's "Battle Of The Zae 5" in San Jose, Calif.
When: Jan. 9, 2016
Reverse Live has a tendency to make these lists in slept-on classics, and Patron has been putting in work over the last year and a half or so on small leagues. Hailed as Battle Of The night at BOTZ5, hopefully this clash does its numbers, because Reverse and Patron absolutely earned it.
As always, you can count on Reverse for some of the best “beat you up” bars around, but his jokes have actually gotten funnier as well. He’s also been perfecting a way to blend the two, and when the concoction hits, it hits hard. The only, and I mean only, thing that holds Reverse back is the occasional stumble, and there is one in this battle, but it’s short and he plays it off fairly well. This is an otherwise dominant performance, but not for any lack of fire from Patron.
Patron’s delivery is top notch, especially for someone relatively new to the game. He has some wild punches throughout this battle, and his self-assuredness carries even some of the weaker ones. He definitely did enough to win a round, and any league on the rise would be wise to book him.
What was your favorite battle that dropped in January? Let us know in the comments below.