It’s been a year of ups and downs for the URL. They took battling to a mainstream audience with their Ultimate Freestyle Friday competition on BET and had a solid crop of talent emerge from their Proving Grounds battles. Their main-stage battles, however, were mostly atrocious. By our count, neither SM3 nor NOME3 produced a single classic and most battles were rendered unwatchable by an unruly crowd, excessive sound effects or weak bars.
The PGs were where it was at, with modest events and crisp, clean footage and some new MCs who showed a lot of potential. Hopefully that’s an indication that URL will be back on its A-game for 2014.
Honorable mention: TSU SURF VS HOLLOW DA DON
Sure it’s bloated and 95 per cent of the hot lines were spoiled by people tweeting on the night of the event, but what makes this battle worthy of inclusion is how endlessly debated it was. Everyone had an opinion on it, and thoughts on who won ran the whole spectrum from Surf 3-0 to Hollow 3-0. When Kevin Durant and Drake are arguing about a battle over Twitter, we’ve got to give it some credit. It may not have been one of the best battles of the year, but it was certainly one of the biggest.
Honorable mention: DOSE VS MATH HOFFA
Math Hoffa had a volatile year in the 243 battles he did in 2013. This performance, where he is at his coolest and most confident, was our favourite. The battle had history and when it was over it felt like the chapter was finally closed on URL’s most infamous punch … until Math reopened it at SM3 by clocking Serius Jones mid-rap.
Dose’s material kind of peters out by the end but to many viewers he effectively redefined himself as more than that guy Hoffa punched.
5. TONE MONTANA VS LOTTA ZAY
It’s been a big year for Lotta Zay. He finished 2012 with an incredible PG battle against Syah Boy and kept the momentum high with three quality rounds of name flips against Daylyt while wearing a grim reaper mask.
In this battle, his bars are light-years ahead and his performance earned him a whopping 14 Don Demarcos. Loaded Lux only netted 12 in his battle against Calicoe. Tone has a wild first round, but the momentum shifts by the third and he seems to realize that there was no beating Zay that night.
4. ANUBIS VS HA DOUBLE
Two new guys on the scene put on a near-perfect display of incredibly dense wordplay. There’s so much going on in this battle that after watching it twice I just wrote an #AccidentalMulti in that last sentence. We’ve seen a lot of people calling this the best URL battle of the year, and as good as we think it is, it’s still fairly one-dimensional. We won’t know the true potential of these guys until they get bigger-name opponents who allow them to be more direct and personal. Anubis’s JC impression is one of the few points where either of the guys shows any personality. It’s a pretty great impression though.
3. B-MAGIC VS TAY ROC
This is a master’s class in street battle rap. Both guys draw deep on references from all over the world of sports, movies, history, geography, hip hop and battling and somehow manage to bring all of it back to shooting each other.
We’ll break down just one of B-Magic’s bars so you get a sense:
“I’m hella sick, boy/you get turned down the wrong road/I bet these 3 16s will leave him Stone Cold/So try again like you typed in the wrong code/I’m Shock G/I’ll leave you underground with this long nose.”
2. SNO VS TY LAW
Here’s our favourite PG battle URL put out this year, between two talented guys who’ve been bouncing around small leagues in the U.S. Northeast for a while. Law’s writing is at a level of sophistication usually unseen in URL. We don’t pretend to get all his references, and the majority of the crowd doesn’t either. But he gets a face-melt reaction out of at least one person with almost every punch.
Sno’s intensity is off the charts, especially for such a small venue. We hope to see him clash with Cadalack Ron sooner rather than later.
1. DANJA ZONE VS ILL WILL
This battle was the first and our favourite release from BET’s Ultimate Freestyle Friday, which pitted URL talent against each other for mainstream TV viewers. Though the tournament did have its controversies, it brought URL and battle rap as a whole to a new audience and proved that the format is marketable. What’s best is that it didn’t feel as though the culture had been compromised in an attempt to popularize it.
But even without its symbolic importance, the battle itself is pure fire. It features two MCs who had a breakout year in 2013, and they are both animated and bring heavy material throughout. It’s a great introduction for a new audience, as long as that audience can figure out what the hell these guys are talking about.
Stay tuned for the rest of our Best of 2013, featuring:
Top 10 biggest bodybags
Top 5 URL battles
Top 5 DF battles
Top 5 Ground Zero battles
Top 10 KOTD battles
Top 10 battlers of 2013
Final thoughts on 2013