The Top Rap Battles From April

Our picks for April's best battles, featuring showings from URL, KOTD, Don't Flop, RBE, and LA BattleGroundz.

April was another busy month for battle rap (there's really no such thing as a not-busy month anymore), but it was a relatively quiet one for smaller platforms. The Big 3 — URL, KOTD, and Don't Flop — dominated the month for the most part, each putting out consistent quality and landing multiple battles on BOTM.

Check out this month's list for a Battle Of The Year contender, controversy, a disgraced legend making a big shot at redemption, and more.

Tsu Surf & Tay Roc vs. DNA & K-Shine

Who: Tay Roc (Baltimore, Md.) & Tsu Surf (Newark, N.J.) vs. DNA (Queens, N.Y.) & K-Shine (Harlem, N.Y.)
Where: URL's "Double Impact" in Manhattan, N.Y.
When: March 26, 2016

Even if you haven't watched the battle yet, you've surely heard that what was shaping up to a be a 2-on-2 for the books ended about half-way through following a scuffle between Roc and Shine. Still, even with the complications and some poorly received material from NWX, the quality of Gun Titles' two rounds simply necessitated inclusion on this months list.

The fire in Gun Titles' rounds, along with the quadruple star power on the bill and the controversy from the fight has helped push the battle past one million views in about 17 days, making it the first English-language battle to hit that watermark this year.

I wrote about this battle at length in our recap of URL's "Double Impact," and you can check out our post-battle interview with Tay Roc here.

Danny Myers vs. B Dot

Who: Danny Myers (Las Vegas, Nev.) vs. B Dot (San Fernando Valley, Calif.)
Where: LA BattleGroundz' "LA Beef 2" in Los Angeles, Calif.
When: March 5, 2016

If you still haven't seen this one, you're slacking. It's an instant classic featuring three impeccable rounds from both Danny and B Dot, with Danny winning if you like his constant punching and intensity or B Dot taking it as a result of his direct yet highly technical approach (and despite his style's noted resemblance to Loaded Lux's).

West Coast up-and-comer Emerson Kennedy reviewed this battle for the site, and you can check that out here.

Carter Deems vs. Chedda Cheese

Who: Chedda Cheese (Calgary, Canada) vs. Carter Deems (Milwaukee, Wis.)
Where: KOTD's "Blackout 6" in Toronto, Canada
When: Feb. 20, 2016

There are very few people in this world who understand how to battle Carter Deems, but Chedda Cheese is evidently one of them. Carter has a way of dictating the tone of all his battles with the sheer absurdity of his content (see his Illmaculate battle for a prime example), but Chedda's consistently irreverent style proves to be a perfect match.

For those familiar with these two, you know just what to expect here. For everyone else: prepare to see a different side of the culture. Whereas Chedda, despite his quirks, sticks mostly to the formula of insulting his opponent — you know, the basis of battle rap — there's really no telling what Carter will make a punchline out of. His frequented topics include microwaves, cats, friendship, and other weird stuff you'd never expect to make its way into a battle, but it all works. Aside from some minor stumbles — one of which, intentionally or not, he uses to reference his history of seizures and conclude that "it's okay if I start off a little shaky" — Carter delivers yet another bizarre gem.

It's a real shame that Chedda actually wrote to the time limit (presumably two minutes per round), because he was snapping despite his rounds' length being at least doubled. Is his content almost all humor-based and frequently self-deprecating? Yes, but don't sleep on his actual rapping and writing abilities. Round 2, which he takes fairly convincingly, is practically a clinic on dynamic flow patterns, and there's really not a weak moment in his performance.

E. Ness vs. Steams

Who: E. Ness (Philadelphia, Pa.) vs. Steams (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Where: URL's "Dead On Arrival" in Pittsburgh, Pa.
When: Feb. 13, 2016

The last time E. Ness was on URL, he threw a temper tantrum versus DNA in front of thousands of people and damn near ruined his legacy. This time, he puts on a great performance for a much smaller crowd with the same energy that made him famous way back when. Don't sleep on Steams though, as his material is lyrically far beyond Ness's.

This battle presents both emcees with a pretty remarkable opportunity given Ness's history with cheesecake and Steams' affiliation with the Cakes crew, and Steams capitalizes on it. From Round 1, he weaves punch after punch together with far more specificity than he's used to, and there's nothing at all shaky about his performance. If complexity is important to you, you could easily argue that Steams takes every round. Still, it's hard to ignore how Ness sets the (admittedly tiny) room on fire.

To be fair, this fully redeemed performance from Ness is not a huge surprise. He's a legend for god's sake, and anyone who paid attention to his last few battles knew that he wasn't about to get washed, having tested his style in the modern context several times (without the misguided tweaks he seemed to attempt versus DNA). Although there's an argument that the crowd gives him more credit than he deserves at times, it's a trip to see Ness arguably snag a 2-1 victory in his URL return.

Shuffle-T vs. Heretic

Who: Shuffle-T (London, England) vs. Heretic (Leeds, England)
Where: Don't Flop's event in Sheffield, England
When: March 5, 2016

There have been some (understandable) concerns that Shuffle-T is nowhere near as viable of a battler in the one-on-one format as he is with his right-hand man Marlo, but more performances like this will quickly put that idea to rest. As for Heretic, being clearly outclassed here won't hurt him much, as his high-quality content still shows that he's one of Don't Flop's most promising newcomers.

Since he's pretty new to the scene, the way Heretic has been able to cut to the core of most of his opponents with jokes and dense writtens is particularly impressive. He has plenty of substance for Shuffle, immediately laying into his gimmicky portfolio of battles and casting doubt on why exactly he's made it this far by doing things like battling cookies. He makes some pretty profound points in every round, but Shuffle's varied cadences and generally more comfortable demeanor largely overshadow them.

Anyone familiar with Shuffle knows he's downright obsessed with multies, and he makes phenomenal use of them here while rhyming nearly all of Round 1 with "Heretic." Beyond that, he makes some bold moves with a surreal Round 2 that gets unbelievably abstract. It takes the typical "so-and-so asked me about my next opponent" approach and turns it on its head. Be sure to check this out for something truly different.

Big Kannon vs. Xcel

Who: Xcel (Brockton, Mass.) vs. Big Kannon (Chigaco, Ill.)
Where: Rare Breed Entertainment's "Starting 5" in New York, N.Y.
When: Feb. 27, 2016

An extraordinary amount of shit was talked before this battle, and the level of competition is refreshingly high. This was 1/5 of RBE's "Starting 5," an all-judged event pitting Writers Bloque against Team Homi. Big Kannon's pre-battle arrogance turned out to be justified, as he earned one of Writer's Bloque's two W's in the event.

It's not exactly a surprise that Kannon out-performed Xcel, but this is actually one of Xcel's liveliest showings. You can see the turning point after Round 1, which Kannon dominates with his impeccable brand of name flips and an ease of delivery that allows him to switch readily between jokes and haymakers. From then on, Xcel is in full fight mode. His references are still a bit too heady for him to steadily build momentum while faced with Kannon's constant punches, but his performance translates strongly to footage and features the same aggression he started to show in his "Crown 2" battle with Heavy Half.

Despite running his own league, Kannon is completely at home on RBE. He's never clearly lost on the platform, and it's honestly scary how comfortable he is on that stage.

Cojay vs. Unanymous

Who: Unanymous (Plymouth, England) vs. Cojay (London, England)
Where: Don't Flop's event in Sheffield, England
When: March 5, 2016

After soldiering through some serious doubt from fans of the British scene, Unanymous has been on a wild streak for some time now. He's reinvented himself in many ways and, despite another great showing from Cojay, he arguably edges every round here and finds his way to the judges' decision.

Long gone are the days when Unan would spend an entire round describing himself as a variety of mythical creatures. Now, he spends much more time calmly deconstructing his opponents, which makes it that much more exciting when he allows aggression to take over. Besides that, though Cojay has some extremely well-crafted bars and angles to offer, the depth of Unan's experience is resoundingly obvious. When the battle gets close, you can see him pull away with far superior pacing despite Cojay's best efforts. This is far from one-sided though, and it certainly won't hurt Cojay's trajectory.

Gjonaj vs. Psycoses

Who: Gjonaj (Detroit, Mich.) vs. Psycoses (Santa Clarita, Calif.)
Where: KOTD's "Blackout 6" in Toronto, Canada
When: Feb. 20, 2016

Another judged battle, this one has had an interesting shelf-life. The 4-1 3-2 decision in Gjonaj's favor angered some fans live and even more on the PPV playback, but then the battle officially dropped. It's still a great performance from Psycoses (his first round in particular), but some rookie mistakes and a flawless performance from Gjonaj make it clear that he was outdone.

I wrote about this battle in our recap of KOTD's "Blackout 6," but be sure to check it out to see what it looks like when two of KOTD's top prospects clash for a $2,000 payout.

Reed Dollaz vs. Chess

Who: Reed Dollaz (Philadelphia, Pa.) vs. Chess (Bronx, N.Y.)
Where: URL's "Born Legacy 2" in Brooklyn, N.Y.
When: March 5, 2016

Although his return versus John John Da Don was nowhere near as catastrophic as E. Ness's versus DNA, Reed Dollaz had lots of room for improvement in this battle. It's no secret that Chess is one of Smack's top gunners by now, and he's reminiscent in a lot of ways of the Reed everyone was watching more than ten years ago.

Full disclosure: this is not a perfect battle by any means; it features a couple stumbles on both sides and it's certainly not a highlight of either emcees' career. Still, that doesn't mean it's not significant. For one thing, Reed has clearly figured out how to translate his notorious aggression to modern expectations, spitting updated bars that manage to maintain their golden-era essence. Chess, despite some minor pacing issues, delivers some gargantuan haymakers and arguably edges the battle with Rounds 1 and 3.

For more on this battle, check our recap of URL's "Born Legacy 2."

Cortez vs. Charron

Who: Cortez (Brooklyn, N.Y.) vs. Charron (Ottawa, Canada)
Where: KOTD's "Blackout 6" in Toronto, Canada
When: Feb. 19, 2016

Strictly speaking, Charron can probably still argue that he's undefeated against URL battlers. However, there's an equally strong argument that the constantly slept-on Cortez edged this battle away from home. This is a prototypical style clash with strong showings on either side, so your personal preference is the name of the game.

As far as second rounds go, Charron is right up there with Tay Roc (as in he never loses them), and this is no exception. That's really the only clear round of the battle though, so the rest is up in the air. Despite occasionally saying things like "penis shrimp" to set up bars, Charron demonstrates some strong writing and makes creative use of "Cor," which is no easy task at this point. As usual, his performance is clean and versatile, and he touches on everything from Cor's Total Slaughter experience to his habit of saying "wordplay" to signify when he thinks he's being lyrical. Cor attacks Charron on a much more fundamental level though, and it will be enough to edge him the battle for plenty of fans.

When it comes to truly breaking someone's character down, few do it better than Cortez. His takedown of Hollohan shortly after Bruce B's death is legendary, and here he makes a strong case for why Charron deserves every limitation he faces in his career. "How can a country stand up for a man who can't stand up for himself?" Damn.

Kaveman Brown vs. Troy Brown

Who: Troy Brown (Baltimore, Md.) vs. Kaveman Brown (Baltimore, Md.)
Where: Face Off Battle League's "Foundation" in Baltimore, Md.
When: April 2, 2016

Now that all the big-league battles are out of the way, let's take a look at this small-room clash. To fans of these two emcees, this was a dream match-up. Both guys have been around since the Grindtime era, showing flashes of brilliance but never really getting the major-league push. Lately though, Troy has been making big moves, reportedly winning against former Don't Flop champion Tony D at "Checkpoint 3."

The battle is just a one-rounder, but both emcees make it look easy to be dope, rapping tight patterns and landing huge haymakers in front of the small crowd. Definitely don't sleep.

What are your picks for the best of the month? Let us know in the comments below.