As 2016 nears its close, November has given us a flood of quality battles from all sorts of platforms, thanks in part to leagues following tradition by dropping a strong release for fans to enjoy after chowing down on Thanksgiving turkey.
You might notice that some very high profile match-ups like Dizaster vs. O'fficial, Tsu Surf vs. T-Rex, Daylyt vs. John John Da Don and Tsu Surf vs. Shotgun Suge didn't make this month's list. That's because, for a variety of reasons, none of them were that particularly strong.
This just goes to show, once again, that highly anticipated match-ups don't always deliver, and you're usually more likely to be pleasantly surprised than to have your lofty expectations met. That said, there are still plenty of huge names on this month's list, along with some you should familiarize yourself with and two that you'd do well to never hear rap again (check #10 for our first ever "Trainwreck Of The Month").
Th3 Saga vs. Chess
Who: Th3 Saga (Brooklyn, N.Y.) vs. Chess (Bronx, N.Y.)
Where: URL's "Born Legacy 3" in Brooklyn, N.Y.
When: Aug. 27, 2016
As more and more URL talent becomes solidified, the demand for sophomore vs. sophomore matches is increasing. Don't let the hour-plus runtime on this one intimidate you, because the style clash between Chess and Th3 Saga will make it worth your while. You might think you know just what to expect from "Christian versus misguided youth," but rest assured there's a lot more to it than that.
Saga's stock has actually dropped a bit since this battle's release, and by Round 3 you'll probably start to pick up on why. But make no mistake, this is still a strong performance from him, especially in Round 1. Saga goes first, and he sets the tone with an energetic, essentially flawless first verse breaking down why Chess isn't as original as he seems with back-to-back name flips and punches. He mostly keeps up the pace in the second as well, but it's all downhill for him from there. By Round 3, Saga's angles on Chess' father not stepping up to the plate are falling painfully flat. They aren't particularly poorly executed, but the depth of Chess' writing make them sound woefully uninspired.
Despite the huge buzz he had already amassed by this time, Chess may have turned a corner in this battle. After being outdone in Round 1 as a result of Saga's sharper delivery and another unfortunate dry heave on his part (here's to hoping that never happens again), Chess really needed to win Round 2. He did that and more, shaking the room with a thorough takedown of Saga's preachy approach and a well-spoken rationale for sinning one's way through life. His second and third rounds, particularly the second, need to be heard to be fully appreciated, and you'll find yourself wondering how the hell an 18-year-old can come up with this shit.
B Magic vs. E Ness
Who: B Magic (St. Louis, Mo.) vs. E. Ness (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Where: KOTD's "Battles At The Bunker" in Los Angeles, Calif.
When: Oct 29, 2016
It already sounds cliché to say "this is the kind of battle The Bunker was made for," but that's just because The Bunker's simple, high-quality format has already produced a few classics in just three events. This battle is a paradigmatic example, a mere 20 minutes packed to the brim with memorable punchlines from B Magic and impeccable performance energy from E Ness.
There's truly not much to say about this one other than to guarantee that you'll enjoy it if you've ever been a fan of either of these emcees. Aside from a very small slip from Magic in Round 2, not much complicates this slugfest, and you'll just have to decide whether you prefer heavy punches or dynamic patterns. Magic's highs are higher (and lows arguably lower), but Ness' consistency goes a long way, and having the "DAMN!" guy around never hurts.
Chilla Jones vs. The Saurus
Who: The Saurus (Las Vegas, Nev.) vs. Chilla Jones (Boston, Mass.)
Where: 413 Battle League's "Mass Appeal 3" in Northampton, Mass.
When: Oct. 15, 2016
It's still flying relatively under the radar, but this is basically everything fans of complex writing could ask for. 2016 has been a great year for The Saurus (this battle being no exception), and although Chilla Jones has cooled off a bit from his phenomenal 2015 run, this small room clash near his hometown sees him back at his best.
Well over 100 battles in, Saurus has never given fans a reason to doubt that he'll bring three rounds, and he's always been able to take a ridiculous number of battles per year without sacrificing quality. He's taken quite a few names in 2016, and the only signs of wear and tear here are a couple of small stumbles, but they hardly throw off his rounds. His Round 2 is particularly memorable, picking apart the scheming style Chilla has made famous.
Speaking of that style, Chilla wastes no time here reminding us that he's still far and away the best at it. His first round is impossibly chock-full of schemes, some of which overlap with each other in face-melting fashion, and all three of his dense rounds come off 100% polished. If you're at all a fan of this approach, you won't want to miss this showing.
Tony D vs. Shox The Rebel
Who: Shox The Rebel (London, England) vs. Tony D (London, England)
Where: Don't Flop's "Next In Line" in London, England
When: Oct 22, 2016
This is a judged battle between Tony D, arguably the GOAT of the British scene, and Shox The Rebel, the battler in the U.K. with some of the heaviest buzz at the moment. It turned out to be a unanimous decision for Tony, but as the seemingly 50% disappointed crowd would suggest, the on-camera winner is entirely up for debate.
The only real weakness Tony has ever shown is in choking and stumbling, and depending on how important a flawless performance is to you, a couple slight slips might make you edge this battle to Shox. It's no wonder The Rebel has picked up so much steam in the U.K. recently; his authentically cold material and aggression add a truly refreshing element to Don't Flop's roster. But for a slower, more methodical approach with airtight writing, you can't go wrong with Tony.
Aye Verb vs. Bonnie Godiva
Who: Aye Verb (St. Louis, Mo.) vs. Bonnie Godiva (Yonkers, N.Y.)
Where: Rare Breed Entertainment's "Validation 5" in New York, N.Y.
When: Nov 12, 2016
Although the rapport between Aye Verb and Bonnie Godiva stays pretty friendly throughout, this battle is, in many ways, about as stereotypically "male versus female" as it could be. That's mostly due to Verb's relentlessly brutal approach, but Bonnie's decision to whip out a dildo in Round 3 doesn't do much to take gender out of the equation.
As he hinted he would, Verb really leans into the whole misogyny angle, and it's bound not to be everyone's favorite. Still, even though his energy stays relatively low over three rounds, his conviction is hilariously evident. Just as easily as many will dismiss his material, others will find it hugely relatable.
Bonnie is consistent as always and mostly sticks to straight bars in breaking down what she sees as Verb's fall from grace, but her third round makes clear that she's no stranger to gimmicks either. If you prefer a more specific and personal approach, you'll probably go with Bonnie, but this one is a toss-up and a nice change of pace if you're looking to disrupt the "two guys screaming at each other" routine.
Chef Trez vs. Ryda
Who: Chef Trez (Atlanta, Ga.) vs. Ryda (Calvert County, Md.)
Where: URL's "The Hunger 2" in New York, N.Y.
When: Nov. 6, 2016
With two showings on this list, Chef Trez has been all over Battles Of The Month for a while now, and we've long called him one of battle rap's most dangerous free agents. His recent run on Bullpen Battle League has turned even more heads, so it was that much more surprising when URL-signed rookie Ryda outclassed him fairly clearly in this one-off.
Trez is already well known for his rebuttals and freestyles, which frequently sound like the sort of 4- and 8-bar patterns other battlers would have to sit down and write out, and his comfortably delivered writtens have rocked quite a few different rooms as well. Oddly enough, here he's immediately a bit off his game, seeming to rush through his material when following Ryda's jarringly strong first round. Trez eventually heats up enough to arguably win the third, but this battle is really all about Ryda.
A strong delivery goes a long way for newcomers, and Ryda certainly has that. His projection and pacing are on point and, like Ave, he seems to have tapped into the exact brand of rapidly delivered, tightly structured punchlines that fans go crazy for these days. He has more than a few quotables here (e.g. "I'm letting two peel out like Morpheus' hands... Next thing you know, the pound behind your head like the Scorpion stance!") and he'll more than likely make a fan of you if you're not yet familiar.
Fresco vs. QP
Who: QP (Stockton, Calif.) vs. Fresco (Rockford, Ill.)
Where: KOTD's "Battles At The Bunker" in Los Angeles, Calif.
When: Oct 29, 2016
In his battle versus The Saurus last year, Fresco abruptly resurfaced as one of the culture's top punchers. This time around, he does more of the same, looking even more comfortable while doing it. Oh, and QP (you know, the guy who inducted Fresco into Innuendo just before the The Saurus battle) is here too. Why did they battle each other? That's still not entirely clear, but it definitely worked out for the best.
As their friendship might imply, you can expect all bars between Fresco and QP. Long considered one of battle rap's top writers, QP really seems to have found his rhythm. His delivery is extremely animated and exaggerated, which makes it that much more impressive that he's able to fire off such complex lines without ever stumbling. Even with the savvy Bunker crowd, there are, as always, some great sleeper bars from him here. Still, Fresco just about punches QP's head off. The only thing he might consider tweaking in his approach is just how often he uses the word "like" in delivering his punchlines, but there are so damn many haymakers at play you're not likely to find yourself caring.
Real Deal vs. Reverse Live
Who: Reverse Live (Hollister, Calif.) vs. Real Deal (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Where: No Coast's "Snow Coast 2" in Minneapolis, Minn.
When: Nov 4, 2016
Underrated, meet underrated. The reliably receptive No Coast crowd has been witness to bigger and bigger headline match-ups lately, and the small room format is a recipe for replay value, similar to the likes of iBattle in its heyday. Real Deal and Reverse Live both show up in top form in this highly debatable back-and-forth.
For whatever reason, this ended up being something of a roast session on both sides. Both RD and Reverse usually work humor somewhere into their rounds, but they seem particularly focused on it this time, and it's hugely entertaining to watch them give their different takes on "corny white guy."
As he often does, Reverse does this with long, rapid-fire strings of multies and RD puts his usual brand of endlessly recognizable references to work. This one probably comes down to Round 3, and it's entirely up to your preference.
Chef Trez vs. Bad Newz
Who: Chef Trez (Atlanta, Ga.) vs. Bad Newz (Rocky Mount, N.C.)
Where: BullPen Battle League's "Any Last Words" in Atlanta, Ga.
When: Sept. 24, 2016
Yup, another thoroughly debatable battle. You know about Chef Trez already (even if it's just from reading this article), and Bad Newz' stock is also rising quickly on Bullpen Battle League. This bar-fest of reasonable length hits all the right notes and makes for plenty of replay value with its small but enthusiastic crowd.
This is a considerably stronger showing from Trez than the Ryda battle. Interestingly though, he seems to have more explosive moments against higher profile opponents (like DNA and B Magic), and Bad Newz arguably steals the spotlight from him. Bad Newz' up-and-comer status actually gives him something of an edge here, simply because it's hard to tell what to expect from him; as soon as you have him pegged as just an aggressive puncher, he'll drop some startlingly strong wordplay that takes the crowd off guard. He reportedly had a great showing versus Shotgun Suge recently too, proving he's a versatile talent to keep an eye on.
Fozzy vs. Jack
Who: Fozzy (Hull, England) vs. Jack (Manchester, England)
Where: King Of The Ronalds' "Raw 69" in Manchester, England
When: Oct 22, 2016
This is not a typical "Battles Of The Month" pick. Picture the biggest catastrophe of a battle you could ever conceive of. This is immeasurably worse than that. Does this clash have any redeeming qualities to it whatsoever? Not in the traditional sense, but you will quickly find yourself unable to look away.
This is a tryout battle on Mickey Worthless' notoriously rowdy U.K. league King Of The Ronalds, and it innocently starts off as an incompetent back-and-forth between two KOTR hopefuls: Jack, who is overly confident and drunk off his ass, and Fozzy, who can't really rap and just seems to be an awkward guy (or so you think). Fozzy chokes all over the place throughout, much to Jack's amusement, who doesn't do much better, and the unforgiving crowd makes it all pretty hysterical. About six minutes in, a casual observer would assume this was worth watching just for the hilarity of KOTR's "if you choke, your round's over" policy and Mickey's general savagery, but soon, things take a bizarre turn.
In the midst of a lame-sounding personal about god knows what, Fozzy inexplicably drops the n-bomb. It's a truly surreal moment, especially because there doesn't seem to have been any point to it, and absolutely no one in the building is about to let it slide. The following minutes consist of Fozzy pleading with the audience and nervously repeating himself on some sort of insane loop, Jack chastising him while still failing to say anything clever, and cameraman Hulk eventually personally running Fozzy out of the building. The scene of Fozzy being forced to walk away, alone, from a disgusted crowd that will forever consider him a racist failure, is simply unforgettable.
Watch this and expose yourself to just how horribly a battle can go. To quote Fozzy, it's a "trainwreck," but he said that even before dropping the n-bomb.
Thoughts? Let us know in the comments below