Compared to the chaos of January, February was a relatively slow month for battle rap releases — although it was a massively busy month for battle rap events. Still, hundreds of battles dropped last month, and several of them are more than worth your attention. It wasn't a particularly huge month for the major platforms, and many of the battles that made this list took place in small rooms or one-off settings.
Check out these selections from six different leagues, ranging from Manhattan to Melbourne.
Quill vs. Charlie Clips
Who: Quill (London, England) vs. Charlie Clips (Harlem, N.Y.)
Where: Don't Flop's "7th Birthday Weekend" in London, England
When: Nov. 15, 2015
By now, two things are absolutely clear: Quill is a problem, and Charlie Clips is basically untouchable when he's having fun.
To quote Clips: "Eurgh asked me to do this battle while I was battling Shotty [the day before]," meaning both emcees agreed to do one round on short notice after K-Shine no-showed at 7BW.
Still, Quill brought a surprising amount of original material for Clips. His bar-packed round, featuring one of the best slow-it-downs in recent memory, is hugely impressive considering the context of the battle. With a debatable win at KOTD's "Blackout 6" (as the sole DF representative) now also under his belt, Quill continues to solidify his spot in the U.K. scene.
Even if all-freestyle rounds aren't your thing, you have to appreciate Clips' perseverance here. Many times, it seems like his freestyle is on the verge of falling apart, and yet he still manages to amp himself up enough to deliver a haymaker. Eventually, he's so comfortable that every line rocks the room — or wait, was this outside? Anyway, Clips thrives off this sort of positive energy, and it's easy to see why he'll shine on Wild 'N Out.
Chilla Jones vs. Th3 Saga
Who: Chilla Jones (Boston, Mass.) vs. Th3 Saga (Queens, N.Y.)
Where: URL's "A Perfect Day To Die" in Manhattan, N.Y.
When: Dec. 12, 2015
You've probably seen or at least heard about this battle by now, specifically Chilla Jones' third round. We covered it in our recap of "A Perfect Day To Die," but here's the short version:
Chilla had a good first round, but it almost seemed as though he slept on Th3 Saga a bit. Saga wigged on him in Round 1, and his energy (in addition to plenty of bars) set the pace for the rest of the battle. Obviously not eager to catch an L to a newcomer during his URL renaissance, Chilla turned up in Round 2 and was able to clearly take it. Finally, the third was the clincher, where Chilla spent an entire round roasting Saga for his past porn addiction and made historic use of a Playboy magazine prop.
Saga did well though (and better than many expected) and his stock will rise with this performance and the upcoming release of his URL Pittsburgh battle against Swave Sevah.
R Streetz vs. Chef Trez
Who: R Streetz (Raleigh, N.C.) vs. Chef Trez (Atlanta, Ga.)
Where: Body Bag Battle League's "Who Gone Check Me" in Waycross, Ga.
When: Feb. 6, 2016
With this and Bill Collector vs. Rolla, Body Bag Battle League has managed to produce (at least) two hits from one event. You may not have heard of R Streetz, but he gives Chef Trez, arguably the top "free agent" in battle rap right now, a run for his money.
There's this weird thing that happens at the beginning of Trez's rounds where he'll be 3/4 of the way through a complex scheme, only for it to then become apparent that he's freestyling. He starts the battle off in just that way and proceeds to drop numerous quotables in every round. You've probably seen a clip of his "congratulations from a hater; I'm clappin' with a straight face" bar floating around online by now. Crafting compact, effective punches is an invaluable skill in battle rap, and Trez once again proves he's got it down pat.
Make no mistake, though: this is a debatable battle. R Streetz barks back at Trez in every round, and you could arguably give him Rounds 1 and 3. One of his defining qualities is his aggression, and it's a strong counter to Trez's approach, which also doesn't leave much in the way of personal space. Be ready for a lot of (merited) crowd reaction, but check this out for a competitive near-classic.
Arsonal vs. Syahboy
Who: Arsonal (Newark, N.J.) vs. Syahboy (Atlanta, Ga.)
Where: BullPen Battle League's "Cold War" in Atlanta, Ga.
When: Dec. 20, 2015
After this battle and positive feedback from KOTD's "Blackout 6" and Udubb's "Revolution," it's looking like Arsonal is back in his bag. Syahboy shows out here as well, but this battle is a vintage dose of Da Rebel's patented aggression.
It's just a one-rounder, but it's another strong showing from BullPen Battle League, and the presentation is crisp. So far, all of BullPen's footage has stood out for its clarity and editing (and those Tom Bombs? Fire), and this is no different.
Ultimately, this battle is debatable, with Arsonal being totally unrestrained and comically disrespectful and Syah delivering his usual brand of high-quality wordplay and punches, all at least loosely structured around his opponent. In terms of overall energy, you'd probably have to give this to Ars, but don't sleep on Syah. Good stuff.
DNA vs. Cojay
Who: DNA (Queens, N.Y.) vs. Cojay (London, England)
Where: Don't Flop's "7th Birthday Pre-Party" in London, England
When: Nov. 13, 2015
DNA battled three times over three days at DF's 7BW (versus Cojay, Pedro, and Deffinition), but you'd never guess that from the quality of this performance. You might think he'd go easy on the relatively unknown opponent at the warm-up party, but as he told BattleRap.com in his post-battle interview, there are no low-key match-ups for DNA since his name always brings views.
Cojay, a still-rising star in the U.K. scene, holds his own in this surprisingly intense one-rounder. The bars are definitely there, and he'll most likely surprise you with the originality and impact of his content.
Going second certainly didn't hurt, but this is a reminder that DNA can be lethal in a small room. Also, his opponents have GOT to stop saying things during his rounds. Cojay had barely uttered a syllable before DNA was rebuttaling it, earning him a haymaker reaction. To be clear, this is not one of DNA's freestyle-only performances. He evidently wrote for Cojay, but as always, the freestyles make it that much better.
E Hart vs. 40 B.A.R.R.S.
Who: E Hart (Yonkers/Bronx, N.Y.) vs. 40 B.A.R.R.S. (Boston, Mass.)
Where: QOTR's "Watch The Throne 2" in New York, N.Y.
When: Feb. 7, 2016
E Hart may never take a crystal-clear loss as long as she lives, but this battle comes particularly close and, predictably, gets pretty heated.
Like Hart, 40 B.A.R.R.S. has accumulated a massive fanbase over the years, and its presence can definitely be felt in this clash. That's not at all to say that she didn't earn the reaction she got, though, because there's really no disputing that her writing was on a higher level than Hart's in this battle. She seemed to be making a point in each round by rapping quickly and stringing together punches with complex setups, in stark contrast to Hart's to-the-point brand of writing, and it worked wonders for her in Rounds 1 and 2 (despite a slip in the very beginning of her performance).
It's damn near impossible to imagine Hart even debatably losing every round of a battle, and she built up enough momentum by Round 3 to avoid that possibility. It would be exaggeration to say she was off her game, but she didn't hit full stride until the third, where she barked on 40 in classic fashion. She was talking in the other rounds as well, but overall, 40 did her job in bringing Hart's infallibility into question.
Tone Montana vs. Dre Dennis
Who: Tone Montana (Beloit, Wis.) vs. Dre Dennis (Lawnside, N.J.)
Where: URL's "A Perfect Day To Die" Proving Grounds event in Brooklyn, N.Y.
When: Dec. 13, 2015
This battle went down outdoors in Brooklyn after the Perfect Day PGs let out, and it's a shame that more of the picturesque New York City skyline didn't make it into the footage. We covered this battle in our recap of that event, and the video still makes for a dope watch.
Dre Dennis declared himself a PG graduate in this battle, and with him now seemingly close to luring Aye Verb into a battle, he may be right. Aside from a slip, his potential is still on display here, and there's nothing easy about battling a vet outside in the cold.
This is a vintage Tone Montana performance and his return to URL is reminiscent of some of his best showings for the league.
Juan vs. Charron
Who: Juan (Oxford, England) vs. Charron (Ottawa, Canada)
Where: Don't Flop's "7th Birthday Weekend" in London, England
When: Nov. 14, 2015
Nerdy white guy versus nerdy white guy, right? Wrong. Okay not that wrong, but this is actually much more of a style clash than you'd expect. Better yet, it's a highly debatable back-and-forth.
As we all know, love him or hate him, Charron doesn't slack. He shows up for any league that books him, and he's long been an international fan favorite at DF. He shows why that's the case in Rounds 1 and 2 with sharp freestyles and clever punches. Even his third is solid, but Juan just might make you look at him differently by the end of the battle.
Simply put, in Round 3, Juan goes at Charron more specifically — and ultimately, more savagely — than anyone else has. Whereas many have taken stabs at Charron for his personality and appearance, Juan attacks his character. His case is surprisingly well-argued, and the third is definitely a haymaker round on his end. Even if his monotone style is an acquired taste, with this Juan continues to establish his voice on DF.
Tori Doe vs. Couture
Who: Tori Doe (Harlem, N.Y.) vs. Couture (Providence, R.I.)
Where: QOTR's "Watch The Throne 2 Reloaded" in the Bronx, N.Y.
When: Feb. 20, 2016
Much to fans' dismay, Tori Doe and Couture were unable to battle when QOTR's rocky "Watch The Throne 2" ended early. The match-up was quickly rescheduled and went down as a one-off that was quickly released to fans.
Like so many QOTR battles, this one comes right down to preference. If you prefer a more animated, unpredictable style that garners steady reaction throughout, you'll probably go with Tori. If you'd rather see a more relaxed approach drawing fewer but more explosive reactions, Couture, as always, is good for that.
Though some fans seem primarily concerned with her fashion choices in this particular clash, Tori arguably did enough to win Rounds 1 and 2. Still, Couture's third is solid enough to get her the round, and her calm presence is hard to match.
Harry Baker vs. Dunn D
Who: Harry Baker (Bristol, England) vs. Dunn D (Hobart, Tasmania)
Where: Amped Up's "Kick Flips" in Melbourne, Australia
When: Feb. 20, 2016
Out of all the battles on this month's list, this one might have the most entertaining vibe. If you're not already familiar, Harry Baker is a British spoken-word-poet-slash-battle-rapper and Dunn D is an established Australian battle rapper/regular rapper. This one is guaranteed to make you laugh, and it's competitive throughout.
Anyone who's seen Harry battle before knows that, even though it might take a minute to get used to his unique flow, he's pretty remarkably observant and hilarious. That's still true here, and he makes his way through his material, ranging from Australia in general to very specific things about Dunn D, with the kind of craftsmanship you'd expect from a professional writer. His weak spot is probably his projection and delivery, but that's where Dunn D comes in.
If he keeps putting on performances like this, Dunn D could be a revitalizing force in the Australian scene. His delivery in particular is top notch, but he can seemingly do a bit of everything. His writing here is tight, the jokes clever but to the point, and he sells it all expertly while grinning through the battle.
For a lighter but still competitive atmosphere, definitely don't sleep on this one.
Cover photo by Darren Johnson. Edit by Nina Zidani.
What were your favorite battles from last month? Let us know in the comments below.