The Top 10 Rap Battles From December

Standout battles from SMACK/URL, UDubb, King Of The Dot, Don't Flop, Bullpen Battle League and RBE.

The best battles of December are a nice encapsulation of what you'd expect 2016 battle rap to have looked like as a whole. In reality, 2016 was a bit of an odd year, with fewer mega hits from the biggest leagues and quality content constantly popping up in unexpected places. This month's list, though, is a typical outing featuring top tier match-ups from the big leagues, some small room goodies, and a continuing influx of talent from Bullpen Battle League.

Chess vs. Ave

Who: Chess (Bronx, N.Y.) vs. Ave (Norfolk, Va.)
Where: URL's "Night of Main Events 6" in New York, N.Y.
When: Nov. 20, 2016

Take two of Smack's top prospects, add the element of surprise, and you just might get a near-classic battle between an established sophomore and one of the most promising freshmen in the game. Chess vs. Ave was planned as a secret battle for URL's NOME6 all along, but the news that it was about to go down hit particularly hard when Beasley took the stage to announce it following the unexpected cancellation of Daylyt vs. DNA.

If you've so much as skimmed our NOME 6 recap, you know that Chess and Ave both made a big impression with this one. After Chess rapped for close to seven minutes in Round 1, Ave just about tore the roof off with haymakers that landed so often that the crowd reaction probably at least tripled his round length. Believe it or not, there are still creative ways to for "Chess" wordplay and Ave's constant barrage of name flips and references was absolutely deadly.

Chess' first round was solid too, but it featured one too many dry spots to compete with Ave's. His second round was phenomenal though, and you might even give him the third if you're an avid fan. Still, unless going at other battlers on the card is a disqualifying move in your eyes, Ave takes this 2-1 and his third is likely to impress you just as much as his first.

A. Ward vs. Real Deal

Who: Real Deal (Pittsburgh, Pa.) vs. A. Ward (Kansas City, Mo.)
Where: King Of The Dot's "Ganik vs. Gully" in Toronto, Canada
When: Nov. 12, 2016

The standout clash from KOTD's "Gully vs. Ganik," this is exactly what a rookie vs. vet battle should look like. A. Ward is clearly hungry and brings three rounds packed with wordplay and personals, but Real Deal delivers an equally impressive performance with a presence that helps to set him apart as the more experienced emcee. Each round has its highlights on either side, and there are too many damn quotables to count.

A. Ward has a few battles online, but to many fans he probably seemed to come out of nowhere. After killing his GZ debut versus Franchise, Ward was looking like a worthy investment, but RD is no stepping stone (you can ask Sno about that). It takes a pretty damn strong performance not to get smoked by RD's angles as a rookie, especially when you wear them on your sleeve as a Christian battle rapper like Ward does. Ward's complex punchlines and schemes manage to hit hard enough not to be overshadowed by RD's one-line haymakers, and his strong delivery and presence certainly don't hurt.

It's been said a thousand times, but RD really is a master of taking angles on his opponents and boiling them down to genius one-liners. "You took my style and holy-watered it down," is one of the many lines in that category this time around, and it's refreshing to see a vet fully cognizant that he'd better be on his A-game or risk losing to an up-and-comer looking to take his head off.

Arsonal vs. Tay Roc

Who: Tay Roc (Baltimore, Md.) vs. Arsonal (Newark, N.J.)
Where: U Dubb's "Every Bar Counts" in Elizabeth, N.J.
When: Oct. 23, 2016

When you battle Arsonal, you have to decide whether you'll try to beat him at his own game of disrespect or take a different route. Not entirely surprisingly, Tay Roc can talk that disrespectful shit with the best of them, and he makes this battle highly debatable by taking the low road, even with Ars being completely comfortable on his home stage of Udubb.

Roc sounds ever so slightly off his game in Round 1, starting off with a bit less energy than usual, but he only gets better from there. Ars takes Round 1 decisively with explosive delivery and an air of confidence that makes it sound like he already knew the first round was his.

Second-round-Roc is in full effect though, and he more than matches Ars' level of disrespect with some truly savage material. He probably (definitely) takes it too far for some tastes, but the crowd absolutely loves it. The third round is a bit of a tossup where, again depending on your preference, Ars spending much of the round going at people like Tsu Surf and Shotgun Suge might edge the battle to Roc 2-1.

Tsu Surf vs. T-Top

Who: Tsu Surf (Newark, N.J.) vs. T-Top (Fuquay Varina, N.C.)
Where: URL's "NOME6" in New York, N.Y.
When: Nov. 20, 2016

Again, if you've stumbled across our NOME6 recap or used the internet at all recently, you probably already know the deal with this one. Although it features a pretty nasty, round-sacrificing choke from Tsu Surf in the third, the first two rounds are top notch from both emcees. Better still, T-Top manages to give one of his best all-around performances yet. It comes down to Round 1, which is truly something to see from both.

To be sure, the first round of this battle is one of the best collective rounds of the entire year. After Surf's electrifying opening that only slightly leveled off toward the end, it seemed like Top had his work cut out for him. Somehow though, he managed to take Round 1 in the building by throwing personal haymakers all over the god damn place and delivering a room-rocking closer. Round 2 clearly goes to Surf, and the third clearly goes to Top due to Surf's choke (which was extra-unfortunate because he was cooking in Round 3 until it happened). Regardless of who you have edging the first, it's clear that Surf has still got it after all and that 2017 is going to be a massive year for Top.

Tony D vs. Pat Stay

What: Pat Stay (Dartmouth, Canada) vs. Tony D (London, England)
Where: Don't Flop's "8th Birthday Weekend" in Leeds, England
When: Nov. 19, 2016

This match-up would have been even more exciting in 2015, but it's still quite a big draw as it pits the former champion of KOTD, Pat Stay, against the former champion of Don't Flop, Tony D. This is quite a style clash, with Tony known for his layered writing and Pat known for his versatile skill set and commanding presence.

It hasn't been a great year for Pat, but this is the type of dominant performance we're used to seeing from him. He makes very little attempt to out-write Tony, instead opting to clown the shit out of him (e.g. "You look like an old, wise chihuahua"). His performance isn't all jokey though, and Round 1 in particular features some heavy material explaining why Tony can never be considered a champ outside of England. While still not a perfect showing, this is a very nice return to form for Pat Stay.

This is an all-around dope performance from Tony, featuring slick wordplay as always and a few pages out of Pat's book with some grade-A clowning ... until Round 3. Getting choked up against an international opponent directly after he finishes telling you how you always shit the bed against internationals is not a great move, but it happens. (Also for the record, the choke was significantly longer live.)

Pat takes this battle 2-1, with an overall product that's more than worth a watch.

Bad Newz vs. Shotgun Suge

Who: Bad Newz (Rocky Mount, N.C.) vs. Shotgun Suge (Newark, N.J.)
Where: Bullpen Battle League's "Close Range" in Atlanta, Ga.
When: Nov. 5, 2016

Make sure you're far away from your grandmother's porcelain and other fragile objects before watching this, because this is the type of battle that will make you want to break shit and punch holes through walls. Definitely check this one out to see Bullpen up-and-comer Bad Newz and one of battle rap's biggest bullies, Shotgun Suge, bark on each other for three rounds.

Rather than try to kill Suge with just bars as so many have unsuccessfully attempted, Newz opts for the "beat him at his own game" approach. He has plenty of clever lines of course, like, "You know it's paper wherever you see Newz stand," but his more aggressive moments are where he really shines. Setting the tone early, Newz goes for a quick pocket check in Round 1, and Suge actually seems to appreciate the pressure, delivering a haymaker of a first round himself. Admittedly, Suge's third is weak, but the energy is so high and competitive for the rest of this battle that you might not even care all that much.

Craig Lamar vs. JC

Who: Craig Lamar (Tampa, Fla.) vs. JC (Pontiac, Mich.)
Where: Rare Breed Entertainment's "Validation 5" in New York, N.Y.
When: Nov 12, 2016

RBE has been a bit quieter as of late, but you can still depend on the league to drop small-room classics from time to time. This is definitely one of those, probably even among the best battles of the year. It's a rather random match-up, but you'll quickly see that JC and Craig Lamar are both incredible writers.

Remember Craig Lamar? His buzz has died down considerably, but he's the dude who came up on Spit Dat Heat and who you've probably inadvertently quoted with, "You gon' learn brother... When I approach you with that big barrel, I'm not tryna teach you how to churn butter." His style is rife with unorthodox punches like that, and they are absolutely overflowing in his rounds for JC. The sheer constancy of Craig's punchlines is his own worst enemy at times because he doesn't always get them all out cleanly, but his agile flow makes every round unpredictable and memorable. In comparison, JC looks like a minimalist, but that's by no means a bad thing.

Everyone who's anyone knows that JC is one of battle rap's best writers, period, but you may not have noticed just how methodical his approach is. Craig's haphazard style is a great foil for him, and his rounds sound unbelievably polished and meticulously thought out in comparison. Rather than rifle off four quick punchlines, JC will slowly deliver one in the same amount of time, more than likely with a set-up so well molded to the punch that it will make your head spin. Although JC definitely comes off as the vet, everyone's a winner with this one.

Gjonaj vs. Raptor

What: Gjonaj (Detroit, Mich.) vs. Raptor Warhurst (Manchester, England)
Where: Don't Flop's "8th Birthday Weekend" in Leeds, England
When: Nov. 19, 2016

2016 has been a great year for Gjonaj, becoming a heavy fan favorite on KOTD and going up against bigger and bigger opponents. Raptor, on the other hand, had a bit of a rough year when inadequate preparation got the best of him on a couple occasions and handed him some tough losses. Thankfully, both battlers are in prime form here, and it makes for a hell of a style clash.

Gjonaj clearly went to the UK to make an impression, and that he did. Even only a week after facing off against Daylyt in Toronto, his first round is on some other shit, taking his brand of cold wordplay to the next level with plenty of yelling and not much personal space for Raptor. The crowd can't get enough of it, and his first round rightfully tops Don't Flop's Rounds of the Month list. "Sure, he's a little cold, and it's a bit contagious, but I'm cancer ... I'm even deadlier on the biggest stages!" Sheesh. There are really no dips in quality from Gjonaj here, and DF would be wise to fly him back out ASAP.

When Raptor is on, he's really on, and it can be difficult to keep up. That's part of what makes his style so exciting to watch, just to see how many rapid-fire punches he can fit into a quick pattern, and he has plenty to offer here. Aside from the first round (which just has to go to Gjonaj) the battle is pretty debatable, but some small slips from Raptor arguably edge it to Gjonaj. Still, although his relentless delivery is his main strength, Raptor's bars are far better written than you might expect from someone who's known for rapping really fast, and you'd be wise to run back the ones you don't initially catch.

Jakkboy Maine vs. Fettuccini 20

Who: Fettuccine 20 (Harlem, N.Y.) vs. Jakkboy Maine (Richmond, Va.)
Where: URL's "The Hunger 2" in New York, N.Y.
When: Nov. 6, 2016

You know how people always complain about "gas" in small rooms because the crowd freaks out too often? Fettuccini 20 hilariously pulls out a gas mask the second people start to react to Jakkboy Maine. That should be enough to make you want to watch this on its own, but there's some nice rookie talent on display here in general.

Full disclosure: Fettuccini kind of does the most in this battle. People tend to get understandably irritated when newcomers decide to go all-in with the theatrics, but the crowd actually loves Fettuccini's second round gimmick where he tags in his boys. It's extremely impressively coordinated and works way better than similar approaches done before, and Fettuccini's homies manage to get their lines out forcefully. Still, you might find all that annoying and prefer Jakkboy's more straightforward approach. Although he could stand to get to the punch a bit quicker, Jakkboy delivers some memorable lines in every round.

Loso vs. DNA

Who: Loso (Tampa, Fla.) vs. DNA (Queens, N.Y.)
Where: Bullpen Battle League's "Close Range" in Atlanta, Ga.
When: Nov. 5, 2016

DNA is battle rap's Mr. Reliable, but this battle is really all about Bullpen Battle League's top gunner, Loso. Referring to himself as the "PG killer" for a while now, DNA is often called in to knock rookies down a few pegs, and even promising new voices are often drowned out by his consistency, but not this time.

One thing DNA does not do often is get 3-0'd, but Loso arguably walks away with the thirty piece here. It's clear that his home crowd was ready to see him spaz, but you still can't take anything away from him. DNA's rounds are decent, but non-specific punchlines (even if they're back-to-back) and lackluster freestyles can't always carry the day. Loso really wrote for DNA, and his performance is startlingly on point (again) for a newcomer. Loso does a lot more yelling than most Christian battle rappers do, but his pen is extremely dangerous as well. Use this battle to get familiar if you haven't yet.

What battles were your favorites from December? Let us know in the comments below.