The Top 10 Greatest Mainstream Rap Battles (pt 1)
The Top 10 Greatest Mainstream Rap Battles
Having fortified a dog-eat-dog capacity since its fortunate start in the ghettos of New York City, the Bronx to be exact, Hip Hop has always held at its core an inclination instilled in its earliest of participants the desire to be known as ”the hardest” or in other words “the best”. Serving as an arena for young Black and Hispanic urban men Hip Hop has moderated some of the most aggressive and cutthroat environments throughout the world. This is can be clearly observed in early Rap Battles, with the emphasis being placed on creating and ultimately credited with the creation of rhyme styles that were to be unrivaled by the next competitor. Reputation was and still is the driving force behind the scenes propelling the Hip Hop culture forward, where one must constantly evolve and improve one’s skill set to remain relevant. In this testosterone driven Hip Hop culture where verbally attacking your peers will earn you accolades, and some degree of respect, depending on how precise the Battle Rap was delivered. We have been witness to many notable Rap Battles in the history of Hip Hop including, Kool Moe Dee vs. Busy Bee, the Bridge Wars, Roxanne Shanté vs. UTFO, and the all to tragic East Coast vs. West Coast Battle. In honor of these and many more Rap Battles, I’ve compiled a shortlist of Rap Battles in no particular order (other than chronological). These epic Rap Battles shook the Hip Hop world and help shape it into what it has become today. Here are the Top 10 Greatest Rap Battles of all time.
10. Kool Moe Dee vs. Busy Bee – Rap Battle
I would be remiss if I didn’t start with what many consider to be the first Rap Battle to take place. This Rap Battle took place in 1981 at the Harlem World Christmas Rappers Convention. Where Busy Bee being the cocky emcee he was, after winning the same competition in the past, and boasting about his superiority as an emcee claimed he was “knocking out all bums”, he bragged, “it don’t make a difference who’s in it, this is my trophy”. As soon as Moe Dee heard this, he rushed to put his name on the list, going from a co host to competitor. Busy Bee was the first to perform between the two, but it was Moe Dee who came out striking the first blow, picking apart and clowning Busy Bee’s entire style and rap ability. Moe Dee jumped onto the stage and wasted no time absolutely assailing Busy Bee, sarcastically employing Busy’s own go to “The ba diddy ba the dang da dang” catch phrase to huge crowd response and laughter. They went on to battle some say at least two more times, however there’s debate as to how many times they actually did battle, but the outcome was clear Moe Dee was declared the winner. This single Rap Battle caused a ripple effect that changed to tone of Hip Hop forever. Where the catch phrase, move the crowd party emcee framework was pushed aside giving way to the much more focused content driven, lyrical emcee. At its core, Busy Bee vs. Kool Moe Dee was a changing of the guard, it is from this point onward that the art form changed, from how to rock a crowd, to how to write rhymes and even battling. This Rap Battle is undeniably the most important battle in rap history.
9. Roxanne Shanté vs. UTFO – Rap Battle
The beginning of this Rap Battle in 1984 saw the release of a b-side record that arguably spawned the most response or answer records, with the possible exception of Planet Rock, in the history of Hip Hop. It was this b-side off the single “Hanging Out” released by UTFO, whom at the time were produced by the now legendary group Full Force. While “Hanging Out” the song marked as the lead single didn’t perform well, the b-side “Roxanne Roxanne” was an instant smash. Having gained momentum UTFO was now a group in high demand, and as fate would have it, upon cancelling a show being promoted by Marley Marl and DJ Mr. Magic. A young lady by the name of Shanté,over hearing the two disgruntled promoters, offered her services for a diss record. That record entitled “Roxanne’s Revenge” (Shanté having changed her name to Roxanne Shanté), produced by Marley Marl, took off like the original record, selling over 250,000 units in the New York area alone. This prompted an immediate response from UTFO, who brought forth a “Roxanne” of their own the “Real Roxanne”, and the flood gates open. This third record along with the previous two, caused everybody and their momma (there really was a momma record) to make some sort of a “Roxanne” response. We heard from Roxanne’s parents, brother, sister, boyfriend and even her doctor. All in all there were no less than 30 songs recorded in this saga, when this Rap Battle was all said and done it brought forth a sort of unspoken understanding among Hip Hop practitioners. No more 30 plus diss records covering the same material. This Rap Battle was definitely a learning curve and well learned lesson by a genre in its adolescence, beginning to spread its cultural wings
8. The Bridge War (Juice Crew vs. BDP) – Rap Battle
This Rap Battle in particular is probably my most favorite on many levels. First of all it introduced me and the rest of the world for that matter to arguably the greatest emcee to ever touch a microphone, the “Blastmaster” himself…KRS One. Secondly, not being a native New Yorker, I breathed everything Hip Hop, and had the utmost respect for MC Shan. When he and Marley Marl released “The Bridge” I loved every element that song embodied, the beat was bananas, MC Shan had unprecedented flow, a win-win in my book. At that time I must admit, I was ignorant of the origin of Hip Hop, but I was in tuned to its every movement, by staying up late and religiously recording the local college mix. This for me was the pulse that kept me alive, just waiting to hear that new beat or unique voice come across the airwaves and into my JVC Boom Box. Then one evening, there it was “The Bridge is Over” by BDP. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, a dude name KRS One whom I’ve never heard, dissing MC Shan’s “The Bridge”. I was in awe, KRS had such a delivery I had to pay attention, and pay attention I did. He had me stuck on every word he mouthed, and by the time I heard “South Bronx” oh my…say it aint so! This one Rap Battle started me on my quest to understand this Hip Hop culture to its fullest. Now at the time this Rap Battle took place, Run DMC and LL Cool J, both acts straight out of Queens, and two of the biggest acts in Hip Hop didn’t step up to defend MC Shan (at least not to my knowledge). So to me, it gave even more credence to KRS One’s claims that Hip Hop was indeed started in the Bronx. Over the years there were many more shots thrown at each other, but these Rap Battle songs in this particular Rap Battle left the greatest mark in my opinion on our community.
To be continued…