April was a strange, strange month. As you may have heard, YouTube is in crisis mode at the moment after many advertisers seemingly just realized that it was not a family-friendly place and began pulling their content from the site. All that nonsense adds up to smaller profits for anyone monetizing YouTube videos, including battle league channels. Not surprisingly then, April was an unprecedentedly light month for releases, particularly from the major leagues. That doesn't mean there weren't good battles released though, as this month's list should let you know.
Dunsh vs. E. Farrell
Who: Dunsh (Queens, New York) vs. E. Farrell (Manchester, Conn.)
Where: iBattle's "Defiance 3" in Brooklyn, N.Y.
When: April 1, 2017
One of the best battles released this year, this is an instant five-round classic. Yes, you read that correctly, five rounds. While the idea of that structure probably (and rightfully) scares the shit out of you, rest assured this is no Murda Mook vs. Iron Solomon. Each round is only 16 bars, and the length of the battle ends up being perfect, bringing the best out of both sides.
As is the case with most great battles, this one comes down to personal preference and damn near every round is debatable. If you've seen a couple Farrell battles, you already know what to expect from his primarily "bars only" formula, but it's at its absolute peak here as he delivers a flawless five rounds packed with far too many quotables to count. "If he on board to take off after ours like a red eye flight, I got the green light to swing like a Jedi knight!" Christ. Dunsh is undoubtedly a bit more versatile, taking more risks with his performance that give it higher highs and lower lows (which are still like, really high) and some truly unforgettable moments like his ingenious take on the "so-and-so-hit my phone" trope. "16 bars? That's an abomination. He said, 'Yeah, whatever you do don't waste your first four recapping this conversation.'" Too good.
If it wasn't already obvious, this battle makes a pretty compelling case for bringing back shorter, more numerous rounds. It worked out particularly nicely here since Dunsh and Farrell were already cool before the battle, but it will be interesting to see who else might be able to keep their writing tight enough to shine in this structure.
Matter & P Solja vs. Shuffle-T & Marlo
Who: P Solja (Leeds, England) & Matter (Leeds, England) vs. Marlo (London, England) & Shuffle-T (London, England)
Where: Don't Flop's "North vs. South 3" in Birmingham, England
When: March 19, 2017
Are Shuffle-T and Marlo ever going to lose the 2-on-2 title? Probably not, honestly, but Matter and P Solja do as good a job putting on a good show versus them as the next team. That said though, and even considering the more-than-a-couple stumbles from Shufflo, it's still not particularly close. While Matter is good for one-liners all day and P Solja brings some excellent dry humor to the table, just about every standout moment comes from the opposing team. The highlights from Shufflo here include some absurdly thoroughly choreographed parts and the closest they'll ever get to a grime verse.
Big Kannon vs. Craig Lamar
Who: Craig Lamar (Tampa, Fla.) vs. Big Kannon (Chicago, Ill.)
Where: Rare Breed Entertainment's "Lift His Soul 3" in New York, N.Y.
When: Feb 4, 2017
In a battle that RBE were promoting as a Bar Battle, Big Kannon took on Craig Lamar in a matchup of two of the stronger writers in the world of battle rap. This battle really delivered on everything it promised, with both guys crafting some strong material for each other and showing why it is that their pens are regarded as highly as they are.
While fans of Craig Lamar really can't be disappointed with this outing, it does feel like he was outperformed on this night. Craig's pen was as strong as usual, but Kannon just seemed to command the stage like the vet that he is. His third round in particular is seen by many as the clearest of the battle, (when it's not being interrupted by an incredibly loud audience member) with the first two generally more debatable.
Overall, it's a good watch, and really not something that will lower either guy's stock. Between this and his battle with JC, Craig has had an impressive couple of showings on the RBE stage, and should be someone to keep an eye on. As for Kannon, more performances like this can help him shed the "one of the most underrated" label, and earn that "undeniably top tier" label.
Bill Collector vs. Genocide
Who: Bill Collector (Norristown, Pa.) vs. Genocide (West Florence, S.C.)
Where: Carolina Barrs' event in Darlington, S.C.
When: March 18, 2017
Despite some struggles and inconsistency that have plagued his career over the past few years, when Bill Collector is on, he's one of the most enthralling battlers in the game, and is capable of incredible showings. In this performance, we see much of what makes Bill special: bars, jokes, delivery — Bill at his best is really capable of doing it all.
This was nothing like a one-man show though, Genocide is one of the most talented emcees that it seems nobody is talking about. If the comment section is any indication, this appears to be many viewers first time seeing Genocide, and the consensus seems to be that URL should be recruiting the South Carolina emcee to the platform. (Even though he actually had a PG against Ave back in 2014 that never dropped).
He's drawn comparisons to Ave, and there are definitely similarities. Genocide comes through with hard hitting punch after hard hitting punch in this battle and a powerful delivery that instantly resonates with the viewer. If you've seen Genocide before, this is a battle that is par for the course with him, but for a first-time viewer, they're bound to come off incredibly impressed and wanting to see more from him.
Nu Jerzy Twork vs. Qleen Paper
Who: Nu Jerzey Twork (Trenton, N.J.) vs. Qleen Paper (Detroit, Mich.)
Where: URL's "Born Legacy 5" in New York, N.Y.
When: March 11, 2017
The only URL battle that was released in April features one of the culture's fastest rising stars, Nu Jerzy Twork taking on Qleen Paper, in Qleen's return to the URL platform. This battle was a total clash not only in terms of style, but just overall demeanor. If you've seen Twork before, you'll know what to expect. He's one of the most energetic battlers in the game, bouncing all over the stage from his very first word. Qleen on the other hand, is generally one of the more laid back battlers.
Twork's energetic style isn't just for show, he uses it expertly to accentuate his bars, and it really does have an infectious quality. It really shows in this battle, where no matter what you think of his bars, you can't deny that he's able to get far more reaction out of them than most others. That's an incredibly impressive skill, and virtually guarantees that if you're a fan of his style, you'll find something to like from him every time out.
In his best moments, Qleen delivered bars with conviction and intensity, even if not with as many theatrics as his counterpart. Qleen's charisma and stage presence are undeniable, as the guy literally got a huge ovation for simply removing his jacket. (Not kidding). Unfortunately, the quality of the battle is marred by a fairly significant choke from Qleen. He was able to recover from it, and delivered solid material after that, but it still happened, and was a fairly large negative on what was otherwise an entertaining watch.
E. Farrell & Laugh N' Stalk vs. Esem & Carter Deems
Who: E. Farrell (Manchester, Conn.) & Laugh N' Stalk (Clovis, Calif.) vs. Carter Deems (Milwaukee, Wis.) & Esem (Oakland, Calif.)
Where: Ruin You Day's "Hotel Battles" in Toronto, Canada
When: April. 15, 2017
Like I said, this was a weird month. In all seriousness though, this all-freestyle 2-on-2 clash taking place in a hotel room will surprise you with its replay value. It probably helps to have a room full of off-duty battle rappers as the crowd, but each team easily pulls off the chemistry required to maintain momentum.
While Farrell might not strike you as much of a freestyler, he's apparently able to quickly glance around the room for punchline fodder and then deliver lines almost as well-crafted as his written verses (the process just takes a couple seconds). Laugh N' Stalk goes decidedly more left with it, but the jokes land more often than not. The same goes for Esem, who's actually a little quieter here than you might expect. That only makes room for Carter Deems to shine though, and this serves as a glowing reminder of his Grind Time roots.
Verce vs. Kyd Slade
Who: Verce (Pittsfield, Mass./Chapel Hill, N.C.) vs. Kyd Slade (Hartford, Conn.)
Where: iBattle's "Remasstered in Brockton, Mass.
When: Apr. 22, 2017
Ever since its relaunch, iBattle has put out a number of incredibly impressive battles from a number of different events. In this match-up, which pits two talented New England based emcees against each other, the league continued this trend with a low-key style clash.
Kyd Slade's approach to the battle was strongly wordplay focused, and when he was on, he had the crowd reacting to pretty much every punch. As is the case with this style, a couple of bars that don't quite hit as the emcee would want are superseded by the sheer volume of quality material in his rounds. By writing punches back to back Slade is able to ensure that there are few if any genuine dry spots in his rounds, as he's always giving you something to react to.
Verce took an approach that wasn't totally dissimilar in terms of plenty of quality content, but he seemed to make a concerted effort to display his rap ability. Throughout all of his rounds he expertly switched cadences. At some points he rapped fast, other times slow and deliberate, some aggressive, some parts less so. In an era where there's so many battles coming out, this sort of versatility will help Verce stand out from the pack, and if you felt he won, this was likely a large reason. None of this is to discount his bars, as he had several room-shaking lines, but it was how well they were performed that may have tilted the battle in his favor.
Like the Qleen vs. Twork battle, this features a choke, though not nearly as significant. Near the end of Kyd Slade's second, he seemed to forget his material, took a couple of seconds and ran it back. Slade recovered, but his round ended soon after, with very little momentum. It wasn't a major issue, but did hold back what was otherwise a very strong showing.
Big T vs. 40 B.A.R.R.S
Who: Big T (Chicago, Ill.) vs. 40 B.A.R.R.S. (Boston, Mass.)
Where: IGrind Entertainment's "Respect My Grind 2" in Revere, Mass.
When: Apr. 16, 2017
To keep it real, this was a bad look for Big Terrance, but that doesn't mean it's not entertaining to watch. It was a seemingly impromptu street battle, and 40 B.A.R.R.S evidently had more in the clip than T did. As we all know, T has the potential to shine in small room environments and the like, but it appears that preparation is key. While it's pretty uncomfortable to watch someone choke in this format, it's still worth it to see 40 easily get through her bars with a chip on her shoulder all the while.
Ruin Your Day's "Watch" Series
Yeah yeah, this doesn't really count as a battle, but am I lyin'? If you've paid any attention to it, you know that Avocado's "Ruin Your Day" channel has proven to be one of the most refreshing aspects of the culcha lately (along with Jay Blac's "Champion" series and Jimz turning on a camera and being Jimz).
If you're not familiar, the "Watch" series on Ruin Your Day consists solely of Avo and a couple guests, usually battle rappers or recording artists, kicking back and watching battles. It's a great way to revisit classic battles, and the guests frequently drop jewels you'd never otherwise hear. Highly, high recommended.
Editor’s note: Jackson submitted this column two weeks ago, but delays with editing forced its release back. Criticism over the late release should be directed at the editors, not the author.