Included in the line up for KOTD's April 18 "Back To Basics" event (from which you can read our live updates here) was a match-up straight out of Roald Dahl's imagination and dropped on an unsuspecting audience with no warning whatsoever. I would've thought we'd need a solid two weeks to ready ourselves for a reality in which this battle exists. It doesn't make any sense, until you've watched it (which you can — and should — do on the PPV right here and right now).
It's clear from the outset that the motive for the battle was 100% pure fun, and from all reports it was very much in line with the atmosphere of the whole event. That this undercover clash was jokingly rumored to be Michael Jackson vs. Batman now seems laughable. This is far weirder.
It aligns pretty neatly with the "Rookies vs. Vets" theme for the start of 2015 — both are well seasoned, but Illmaculate has remained active on a higher tier for longer. Though originally from the Grind Time era of West Coast rap, Carter has only really broken into KOTD throughout the past year, and it's fantastic that the mentality has shifted to allow these kinds of matches to happen.
Carter Deems begins by choking (on purpose) in the middle of one of his characteristically overstretched intros, and his first round, while very funny, was not his best. He did seem visibly nervous, which no doubt fed into his bizarre shuffling persona, but it hampered his delivery a little in the first. Illmac follows with an introduction to his different approach for this battle — a light, humorous bent, delivered with knowing laughs between bars. The first was hugely engaging but not spectacular from either. Still, on one week's notice, pretty good.
The second, however, was where Carter delivered maybe the strongest round Illmaculate has received in a year. For a round that opens with "I got a microwave the same color as a microwave. That's light blue" and focuses mostly on his own ponytail in his high school years, he veers off into some grin ear-to-ear braggadocio that culminates in a hysterical NOME 5 reference that itself ends a gnome-themed haymaker that got one of the biggest reactions of the year. It was a refined example of absurd writing and pinpoint comic timing that suited the event perfectly.
Other notable Carter-isms during this round included "You can’t handle my thighs, dude" and "I’ve always wanted to meet you, so hi." Not until Illmac's inevitable Shuffle/Marlo face-off (partnered with The Saurus, of course) will he be faced with such off-the-wall material again, and his clear enjoyment of the content only fed the fun.
Illmac responded with a sarcastic barrage of hyperbole relating to Carter Deems' overwhelming coolness during his formative years. It's commendable just how much he eased into the spirit of this battle, in much the same way Pat Stay did against Rone for their exchange of pleasantries last year. Lines like "Your yearbook voted you most likely to pass away Death by Cougar" just don't normally come from Illmac and it was great to see him limber up.
Carter's shoddily constructed Daylyt ski-mask was the talking point of the third round and he used it to waver between half-hearted aggression and self-deprecating patter. A choke took away from his third round, but the crowd jumping in with cheers to fill the silence long enough for Carter to find his place again shows how beloved he is. He's always great to watch and inventive with his comedy, but he raised the bar for himself in a way only he knows how to do.
Illmac's third played more to his strengths — still tongue-in-cheek, and mostly about cats, but he got to rap a little and had the crowd in stitches by slipping the word "cat" into well-known rap verses. It's not such a bold statement lyrically, but it personified the "Back to Basics" ethos. He fired off some heavy bars at the end to round up, but it felt a little misplaced. It didn't remove the lightness of the battle and the mutual respect between the performers was infectious.
In a strange way, it's the most even battle Illmac has been in since his classic with Bigg K. He took the accelerator off for it, and it could've gone a different way with a different mentality. But it would not have been as enjoyable for it. This is a fine showcase of the comic side of battling, and Carter Deems is bringing that home for the U.S. this year.
Some photos courtesy of Michael Marshall.
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