It's not often that our monthly lists are dominated by any particular league, but June was a huge month for both KOTD and Don't Flop. Four battles making the cut is pretty rare, but both leagues' output was undeniable. While KOTD's success on YouTube this past month doesn't come as much of a surprise considering the all-around positive response to "Massacre 2," three out of four of Don't Flop's hits coming from a U.S. event that nearly fell apart the day of is pretty remarkable.
URL's big-name output slowed down in June because of venue issues leading to the unfortunate postponement of "Unfinished Business 2," which has been rescheduled for July 9. The next Born Legacy card is in the works too, and is expected to drop soon.
There's no minor league talent on display this month, but that's only because the big leagues had that aesthetic on lock (all but one of the battles on this month's list took place in a relatively small room). Here are our picks for the month's best battles, featuring the usual suspects plus a Russian bonus.
Let us know your favorites from June in the comments below.
Bigg K vs. Head I.C.E
Welp, here's my monthly "if you haven't seen this, you're bugging" pick. The only catch this month is that there's a couple of those. Regardless, this battle is everything you could ask for from both Bigg K and Head I.C.E, which most fans know adds up to a hell of a lot.
I.C.E goes first, and it instantly becomes clear that he's prepared to talk to K like few others have. His first round seems to go on for ages, but that's by no means a bad thing. With every setup, he picks up more and more momentum, and his sheer conviction creates some incredible moments throughout the battle. I.C.E's Round 2, featuring some crazily specific personal angles and electrifying delivery, is especially heavy. And if you haven't noticed by now, damn near every line I.C.E spits is some kind of reference, and this battle is a great example of that. If you don't catch it all, that's pretty much on you.
With all that said, K was on some other shit in this battle. His Round 1 is especially absurd; he's hardly able to get through two bars without the crowd losing it, and he doesn't lose much steam throughout. His second seems a bit short next to I.C.E's powerhouse performance, but by the third he's back to stealing the show. Much like I.C.E talked to K in ways few others have, K did the same thing in his third round.
See for yourself, and enjoy this all-around slugfest.
E. Ness vs. Ness Lee
Right after it went down, this battle had people talking. In the middle of his hot streak, E. Ness had reportedly been stopped short by a near perfect showing from Ness Lee. In typically cheeky fashion, Don't Flop dropped the battle almost immediately, and it lived up to the hype. E. Ness was far from trash despite a couple slips, but Ness Lee was truly in a different zone.
At the risk of sounding painfully cliché, fully original styles are hard to find in battle rap. Ness Lee has always been the type to keep fans guessing, and his delivery and flow are as expertly unpredictable here as ever. His ability to structure unorthodox punches — written or spontaneous — around specific aspects of his opponent's character makes him incredibly dangerous, and that's exactly what let him clearly beat E. Ness. Like I said, this is not at all a bad showing from E. Ness, but even his off-the-wall performance couldn't overshadow Ness Lee's substance that day. There are quotables in every round, but Ness Lee's third round rebuttal, though simple, is just too perfect.
Qleen Paper vs. Ty Law
One-round battles are always a gamble in terms of replay value, especially when they're thrown together on short notice, but this is a rare exception. Ty Law was actually scheduled to battle Aye Verb at Don't Flop's "Resurrection 2," and Qleen Paper was set to battle Chef Trez. Somehow, this style clash came together instead and exceeded everyone's expectations.
Like many one-rounders, there's really no point in debating winners here, but that doesn't mean you won't be entertained. Even on short notice, this is a pretty bar-heavy performance from Qleen, and his energy keeps it interesting even when his prepared material is evidently wearing thin. As for Law, some overlaps in substance between Verb and Qleen seem to have worked in his favor, but you really can't complain considering how well he tied his material together at the last minute.
Oxxxymiron vs. ST
If you haven't heard about what's happening in Russia in terms of battle rap, you're in for an interesting read. Check out the non-English battle that did more than four million views in 24 hours.
Iron Solomon vs. B-Magic
This is another one of those "what's wrong with you if haven't seen this yet?"-type picks. Fans are rightfully calling this an instant classic, featuring a revitalized B-Magic and an increasingly impressive Iron Solomon. B-Magic recently pulled himself out of "retirement," and with a performance like this, it's not hard to see why.
You can read about this battle at length in our review of KOTD's "Massacre 2," but the short version is that, if you like style clashes at all, you won't be disappointed.
Lu Cipher vs. QP
Admittedly, this battle features a pretty bad choke from Lu Cipher in Round 1 and some questionable moments from QP throughout, but both emcees' penmanship is seriously on another level and definitely worth your time.
I realize how annoying it is to go crazy over someone's writing "especially because it's freestyle," but QP's sharpness can't be ignored here. As for Lu, he does an incredible job of blending personal attacks and dense wordplay to some haymaker reactions.
The entire battle has a certain looseness to it, largely as a result of both battlers' unusual approaches, but the last two rounds are especially debatable and competitive.
DOT vs. Young X
You may have heard this described as the tragic fall of the Reach Gawd (DOT), but realistically, that's probably not the case. It's definitely a clear win for the hilarious Young X, but both these dudes' trajectories have been fascinating on URL if you think about it. DOT was coming off an in-the-building W versus Bill Collector, and X had been bodied by Uno Lavoz, who then got bodied by Cortez in his next URL battle, and then this happened. Strange days.
To read more about this battle, check out our review of URL's "Born Legacy 2."
Carter Deems vs. Head I.C.E
This turned out to be just as strange as people hoped and probably much more competitive than they expected. That's not to say that either battler was particularly favored to win ahead of time, but the clashing styles really do complement each other.
Rather than me drone on about why this battle actually makes sense and why you should watch it, check out our review of KOTD's "Back To Basics 4" (where I talk about why this battle actually makes sense and why you should watch it).
Danny Myers vs. Gjonaj
This may be the biggest leap in quality between pay-per-view and YouTube that I've ever seen in a battle. And that's not just in reference to visual quality; this battle was a technical mess live. Mics were cutting out all over, especially terribly in Danny Myers' third, and the lights even went out in Gjonaj's second (that incident was kept in the footage because, frankly, it made his bar that much more epic).
The amount of substance at play here is a testament to how much fans can miss when battles aren't organized properly. That's not to say that the live difficulties in this particular clash were anything more than bad luck on KOTD's part, but no one was talking about this battle after "Massacre 2."
On camera though, it's clear that Danny had an electrifying Round 1, Gjonaj a phenomenal Round 2, and that Round 3 was extremely close despite the pay-per-view footage making it look like Danny got washed due to his mic issues overshadowing his round. Check out this battle for some typically heady content from Gjonaj and energy through the roof from Danny.
Dialect & Double L vs. Izzie Gibbs & Villain
This is a highly entertaining 2-on-2 featuring some veteran talent. There's a ton of international buzz around grime these days, so impress your friends by showing them this surprisingly intense back-and-forth.
As even North American fans know after seeing him on KOTD, Dialect is incredible with the rapid-fire stuff. Unsurprisingly, he flows perfectly on beat, and even if you can't always understand him (it's legitimately hard for a lot of people, including some Brits), he will still impress you with his cadence. Double L is by no means the weak link though, and their chemistry as a team is on point.
What really makes this doubles match stand out is the intensity, and although Izzie Gibbs and Villain might take that a bit far — talking during opponents' rounds is never fun to watch — it makes the battle as a whole very entertaining. There's a ton of room for debate here; Dialect and L are a more cohesive product, while the more haphazard Izzie and Villain earn a few more thunderous reactions.
What were your picks for the best battles of the month? Let us know which ones and why in the comments below.