The Top Rap Battles From May

Our picks for best battles of May, featuring battles from URL, KOTD, Don't Flop, iBattle, WeGoHard and RBE.

Despite the ongoing YouTube ad crisis, May saw something of a return to normalcy after the barren landscape that was the month of April. For the most part, leagues are back to business as usual, dropping high-quality battles on a regular basis. Notably absent from this month's list are Dizaster vs. Serius Jones and K-Shine vs. T-Rex, high profile match-ups that look interesting on paper but have already been debated to death and, frankly, didn't turn out to be anything special. What remain are some exciting, competitive battles from small and large leagues alike.

Shox The Rebel vs. Soul

Who: Shox The Rebel (London, England) vs. Tony D (Fife, Scotland)
Where: Don't Flop's "Checkpoint 4" in London, England
When: April 30, 2017

It's probably fair to say that Don't Flop has been in a "rebuilding" phase for a while, but the quality of the league's title matches throughout has been pretty remarkable. Some of that may be thanks to Soul's consistency, and his unexpected loss to Shox The Rebel here feels like the end of an era, despite the fact that he's only officially defended the title a couple of times. Shox earned the win with an unrelenting approach, and the clash makes for an instant classic as one of the best battles of the year.

Like plenty of title matches out there, there's room for debate on this one (even though Soul feels that he clearly lost). At this point, the ex-champ is solidified as one of the best to ever do it in the U.K. and one of the best writers of all time, period. It's strange to think that it's the same dude who used to struggle a bit with his cadence and breath control. There are surely still others out there who are better in those areas, but these days no one element stands out as in need of improvement as Soul barrels through his extremely original material. The subject matter he covers ranges from jarring personal insults rooted concretely in reality to outright surrealist imagery. Admittedly though, his third round "welcome to hell" angle is a bit indulgent and kind of flops, leaving room for Shox to make off with the remaining momentum.

His ascent has certainly been quick, but Shox's success really isn't too difficult to wrap your head around. He's punching back-to-back with the best of them, and everyone, whether they'll admit it or not, loves that style at the moment. More importantly though, versus Soul, Shox proved just how closely he can tailor his punches to the man standing in front of him. Even still, the lines are packed in so tightly that fans might not notice just how particularized they are for Soul. With his buzz at critical mass, Shox may soon see even more crossover success with his upcoming battle in the U.K. versus Brizz Rawsteen.

Bigg K vs. JC

Who: Bigg K (Norfolk, Va.) vs. JC (Pontiac, Mich.)
Where: RBE's "Blood, Sweat and Tiers 5" in New York, N.Y.
When: May 6, 2017

As both battlers observed in their post-battle interview, this is one of those match-ups that's so stylistically logical that it's a wonder it hadn't already been booked. That's not to say that Bigg K and JC's styles are similar — not at all, really — but they both boast unbelievably strong writing in their own way, and neither are known for dry spots.

This ultimately comes down to preference, but you might have more ammo in your debate arsenal if you prefer K this time around. That's not to take anything from JC — his writing is just as layered and sharply structured as always — but K does manage to come across as a bit more versatile. If you're not into jokes, his recurring "he's just a baby!" motif might seem like wasted time, but that along with some well-placed critiques on battle rap more generally make for a highly engaging, relatable performance. JC definitely shares some insights on K's style and character as well though, and you'll probably go with him if you'd rather see a performance that takes arguably fewer risks but lands just about every line.

JC vs. Chef Trez

Who: JC (Pontiac, Mich.) vs. Chef Trez (Atlanta, Ga.)
Where: URL's "Born Legacy 5" in New York, N.Y.
When: March 11, 2017

It's pretty unusual for a sizable portion of fans to call a battle 2-1 for one dude with an equal or larger group calling it 3-0 for the other guy, but that's what we have here. The general consensus seems to be in favor of JC, and that's not too surprising given how masterful his performance is. The only complaint might be that he runs some lines back a few too many times for an opponent as fast-paced as Chef Trez.

Styles win fights, and the same mechanical precision that might have made JC's approach seem slightly one-note versus Bigg K carries the day for him here. Trez is energetic throughout the battle and his material is certainly well enough organized, but the "every word counts" aura of JC's rounds is still striking by comparison. JC is nothing short of methodical with it, slowly doling out haymaker after haymaker (I do wish he'd snap back into the faster flow he used to rely on every now and then) over the course of three rounds.

Even if he couldn't do enough to outclass JC here, Trez has really managed to propel himself lately. I know it's annoying to talk about battle rappers' personal "brands," but Trez has done wonders for his with "three of them thangs." That phrase is becoming his trademark, requiring him to rifle off three rebuttals in a row whenever possible.

Ness Lee vs. Pass

Who: Pass (Oakland, Calif.) vs. Ness Lee (Atlanta, Ga.)
Where: KOTD's "Blackout 7" in Toronto, Canada
When: April 15, 2017

Another one of the better battles of this year and certainly among KOTD's best releases in a while, Ness Lee vs. Pass was actually a happy accident. At "Blackout 7," Ness was slated to battle PNut and Pass was set to face Yung Ill. Both opponents canceled about two weeks before showtime, this spot-on matchup was thrown together, and now it raises the question of why it wasn't the original plan. As has already been said ad nauseam, in terms of pure "rap ability" (sorry), Ness and Pass are a perfect stylistic match.

Although this is far from a "style clash" in the traditional sense, the strength of each emcee's performance will force you to take account of the nuanced differences in their approaches and pick a side. That is, unless you'd rather just enjoy a dope battle without picking a winner, which is like, totally fine too. That's all that really needs to be said about this one. Pass and Ness weren't trying to take each other's heads off like they might have with their original opponents, but they were definitely bent on making a classic.

Joe vs. Holmzie Da God

Who: Holmzie Da God (Woodbury, N.J.) vs. Joe (Columbia, S.C)
Where: URL's "The Hunger 3" in New York, N.Y.
When: April 9, 2017

You've probably caught wind of this one by now because Joe's performance, for whatever reason, has been pretty divisive. He's undoubtedly the "star" of this battle despite a strong showing from Holmzie Da God, and he had the small-room crowd in the palm of his hand. Some are apparently frustrated with the willingness of a few fans to bet the house on him after only a couple of battles, but the sheer enthusiasm of the crowd toward his material seems to be the bigger point of contention.

There's plenty to be said for the idea that online-only fans don't truly appreciate the energy in the room during a battle, meaning that they should dial back their complaints of "gas." Still though, this battle does suffer from a bit too much crowd reaction. There's just no way around it. It's not that the material doesn't deserve it; it's that certain crowd responses can be disruptive. For example, it takes Joe minutes on end to get through his first four bars, and it really shouldn't be too much to ask for the crowd to be patient through what is *clearly just the set-up* before losing its shit at the punch. Try to bear with him though, 'cause he was definitely snapping. "Y'all seen Get Out? He thought it was good to see a familiar face... until I gripped the pound!" Got damn.

Oh and for real, don't sleep on Holmzie because he's fire too, I promise.

Showoff vs. Saint Mic

Who: Showoff (Brooklyn, N.Y.) vs. Saint Mic (Omaha, Neb.)
Where: WoGoHardTV's "Love Day 3" in Brooklyn, N.Y.
When: March 25, 2017

"Small Room Battle Of The Month" probably doesn't need to be its own sub-category, but if it were, this would probably be my pick for May. There's no apparent grudge between Showoff and Saint Mic — they evidently just wanted to put something highly competitive together — and it all comes down to Round 1.

Mic, who I feel compelled to call underrated every time I mention him (hopefully that won't be necessary much longer) has the standout round in this battle with his second, which will probably go down as one of the best rounds of the year when it's all said and done. His writing is ridiculously complex, but not in the "did you catch those 17 double entendres?" kind of way. It's a good thing Showoff managed to spaz in similar fashion in the third, or Mic would have walked out with a clear W away from home.

Craig Lamar vs Prez Mafia

Who: Craig Lamar (Tampa, Fla.) vs. Prez Mafia (Bronx, N.Y.)
Where: iBattle's "Bear Arms: The First Amendment" in Orlando, Fla.
When: April 15, 2017

iBattle has been on fire with releases lately, dropping battles at a borderline unheard of pace. This one was a particularly quick draw, finding Prez Mafia in prime form and Craig Lamar with his usual unorthodox finesse. The event went down in Florida, which is a first for the league, and it yielded some crisp footage.

As unhelpful as this commentary might be, Craig could be one of the most dangerous around if he got through a battle stumble-free. He always seems to run into trouble at some point (even in his famous "burn rubber/churn butter/concerned mother" pattern from him vs. Chef Trez) and it sometimes keeps what could have been a great round merely "good." He's on his shit here despite a couple little slips, but so is Prez, who manages to maintain a much more commanding presence even despite some minor imperfections on his end.

Shotgun Suge vs. Ave

Who: Shotgun Suge (Newark, N.J.) vs. Ave (Norfolk, Va.)
Where: URL's "Night Of The Main Events 7" in New York, N.Y.
When: April 8, 2017

Truth be told, this isn't exactly classic material for either Shotgun Suge or Ave, but it's still more than worth a watch. For one thing, it's already been intensely debated; Suge clearly took it based on live reception, plenty of fans stuck with that conclusion after the footage dropped, and now many are edging it to Ave. Unfortunately, there's a pretty major drop-off in quality on both sides during the second, and that's ultimately the deciding round.

You'd have to be pretty oblivious not to have noticed Ave's recent struggle: as a result of a couple of (clearly unintentionally) bitten lines, fans have started to turn on him and comically accuse him of theft at every possible turn. Remember when "Clips 3-0" was the YouTube comment you'd inevitably encounter on any video even loosely related to battle rap? This running joke is a lot like that, and it's hurt the hell out of Ave's stock. Jokingly starting with Arsonal's slogan ("Once again I'm here...") turned out to be the wrong move, and it made even more room for Suge to shine in his electrifying opener. While Ave clearly took the third, this is another memorable main-stage performance from Suge.

Marv Won/Quest Mcody vs. Chedda Cheese/Carter Deems

Who: Chedda Cheese (Calgary, Canada) & Carter Deems (Milwaukee, Wis.) vs. Marv Won (Detroit, Mich.) & Quest Mcody (Detroit, Mich.)
Where: KOTD's "Blackout 7" in Toronto, Canada
When: April. 15, 2017

Nothing about this battle should surprise you. Carter Deems and Chedda Cheese present themselves as the best of friends and clearly have the in-battle chemistry to go with it, and Marv Won and Quest Mcody are just as adaptable as ever. How many teams could whoop on Chess and Steams on URL and then do... this and still take it seriously? Pretty impressive.

You know how Carter really likes cats? Quest really doesn't, apparently, and that's just one of many examples of Detroit hilariously putting pressure on two of the least likely dudes in battle rap to be looking to rumble. That said, Chedda Deems proves to be a much meaner team than you might expect, particularly Carter, and that might be enough to edge it in their favor. It's a hilarious watch either way, and picking a winner is wholly unnecessary.

Rone vs. Head I.C.E

Who: Rone (Philadelphia, Pa.) vs. Head I.C.E (Harlem, N.Y.)
Where: KOTD's "Blackout 7" in Toronto, Canada
When: April. 15, 2017

You probably know all about this by now: Head I.C.E is the new champ, Rone had an... edgy third round, the (mostly) unanimous decision has upset some fans, all that good stuff. If you can manage to put any "controversy" surrounding the decision aside though, this is a rock solid battle. For whatever reason, KOTD title matches tend to harbor more spite than they probably deserve, and this is a prime example of that. Enjoy it for what it is.

Bonus: Red Flag vs. Bishop White

Who: Red Flag (New York, N.Y.) vs. Bishop White (Hartford, Conn.)
Where: iBattle's "Seis De Mayo" in Staten Island, N.Y.
When: May 6, 2017

I'm in this battle, which came out dope, but don't worry, nobody got bumped in order for it to make Battles Of The Month. Check it out if you've got time left over after familiarizing yourself with the rest of this list.

[Editors Note: Jackson is too humble to have included this battle, but it was without question worthy of inclusion in the Top 10. Red Flag continues what has to be one of the better beginnings to a battle career in some time with another great performance, but this was far from a one-man show. Bishop White turned in a very solid showing, including a dope third round, which may have been the round of the battle. Both battlers acquitted themselves very well, and could see bigger things on the horizon. — BD]

What do you think of our choices? Let us know in the comments below.