Battles of the month: January

Stealth-mode Tantrum - Photo by @Lemme_Kno
Stealth-mode Tantrum – Photo by @Lemme_Kno

[Here’s our latest edition of Battles of the Month, penned by Adam “Mos Prob” Felman.]

The guys at T.O. Battle Blog have very kindly passed the rounding-up-good-battles mantle to me this time. These are, in my opinion, the five best battles that the first month of 2014 EVER could possibly muster worldwide. Rhymes were said. Feelings were hurt. Ninja masks were worn. It’s all simply a month in the life of battle rap.

TANTRUM VS A-CLASS

The more ignorant among us will simply see Asian MC vs Asian MC hosted by two prodigious Asian MCs. The reasonable human beings and battle fans will see two established heads with different yet complementary styles – aggression vs punchline count – and get more excited than is reasonable.

As far as hosting goes, Dumbfoundead’s easy-going candour and good-humoured intro made me miss him a great deal as a battler. His clash against PH was the first battle I ever watched. Sniff.

The battle itself is great - not so much as a missed syllable, furious back-and-forth interplay and hilarious jokes (largely from A-Class). Tantrum raps dressed as the least stealthy ninja in recent memory, albeit only long enough to slit the throat of antics in battle rap.

SOUL VS LOE PESCI

Soul is making the murder of Canadians something of a habit. No sooner had he dispatched Wize Guy than Loe Pesci, the MC to whom most feel Soul’s style is indebted, came knocking for a socking.

At the end of 2013, Don’t Flop had a spate of battles that pit MCs against “their makers,” (starting with Unanymous taking on Diz) and in both cases the Don’t Flop MC clinched the upper hand. Soul is in apocalypse mode here, and has Loe clenching his face for the majority of the battle. When you get a battle that references Japanese armoured Mechs, that battle wins forever.

Unless you’re Loe, and you choke horribly. Oops. The bars he got out popped off, but it was his third Don’t Flop battle in two months. And Soul is an ISSUE.

MARK GRIST VS KNAMELIS

This battle stands out as Grist’s international debut (excluding Zain Azrai, who never counts) and Knamelis’ virginal sojourn to Don’t Flop – which he uses to add a neat twist to the recent Don’t Flop vs KOTD “beef” narrative.

This battle is also noteworthy because the fifth judge was, well, Knamelis.

Grist has one of my favourite openers in recent months: “I’m impressed by your face.” Knamelis keeps it surprisingly chilled and humble compared with the usual intensity of his battle persona. It’s neck and neck until Knamelis essentially forfeits by turning on Eurgh and very directly addressing some international issues in Round 3, then giving Grist the battle (along with the other four judges) for being more direct.

It’s not the most frantic battle of all time, and there’s a lot of sleeper material – plus Grist’s first round, funny as it is, is a little lazy for him – but it’s two of the nicest people in battle rap being horrible to each other. There’s nothing I can’t recommend about that.

CHARLIE CLIPS VS DIRTBAG DAN

As a whole, this battle is patchy. Its inclusion is down to Charlie Clips, who is simply unstoppable at the moment. Clips treads the line (or whatever it geometrically ends up being) between aggressive, direct, self-deprecating, guns-y, chilled, a skilled freestyler and a tight writer all at once.

This versatility is on full display here. Credit where credit’s due; Dirtbag Dan exhibits how you smooth over a choke. The freestyling wasn’t the best, but there’s no slack-jawed grimacing or staring at the floor trying to find his spot. People can learn from this, myself included.

You’ve got an even more dominant Clips performance to look forward to from Blackout 4. But this should more than carry you through for now.

B MAGIC VS ILL WILL

There isn’t an awful lot to say about this matchup other than it being one of the better URL battles in recent memory. Packed with punchlines, and bereft of gun noises and Don Demarcos, it’s also incredibly close – it seems like a battle Ill won on the day but B Magic’s writing is not to be underestimated either, and he may well get the YouTube vote. I’m as yet undecided.

It also makes me sad that Ill Will vs Real Deal wasn’t a thing at Blackout 4. It would’ve been really, really good.

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