There used to be a notion that battle rappers could not make good music. However, this new generation of competition lyricists has learned from the mistakes of others. Jin and Canibus are not the names you should associate with battle rappers gone pro … Big time artists like Eminem, Joe Budden, Meek Mill, Drake, and Tory Lanez have all connected the origins of their rap careers to the low-level rhyme competitions based on the age-old rites of passage of battling.
Now, emcees in battle culture are more polished, the sport is more structured and commercially viable. The artists have more access to technology to work on making music and are studying the game. The divide between making dope music and verbally knocking someone’s head off is not as wide. This is evident by the huge fan base that these new artists have and their ability to connect via social media in ways that those “keeping it real battlers” from back on the block never could.
Check out the following projects that have dropped this fall that are proof that battle rappers make dope music. With these joints, they prove that they are not just competitive on a league, but can bang alongside your favorite rapper on radio and/or playlist.
Mickey Factz, Warped Collages
Bronx born Factz was born in the cradle of Hip-Hop at the birth of the Golden Age. His cloth was cut from an exclusive KRS One fabric where he prides himself on balancing lyricism, intellect, and responsibility in all of his projects. From penning commercially alongside respected mainstream artists to excelling in the battle rap world, he (as an artist) best demonstrates that there really is no distinction between battle rap and commercial rap’s origins and proves from project to project that they are a part of the same tree rooted in his beloved Boogie Down.
Warped Collages, with its exquisitely performed offerings, is a smart masterpiece that is socially relevant, genuinely thought-provocative, and lapped over some of the most beautiful production. The lead single “A- “ is would make Kris Parker feel comfortable that his legacy is was not lost on this generation of emcees.
Marv Won, Sooner than Later
A lot of fans know him as one of the emcees that battle Eminem in the 2002 hit movie 8 Mile, but Marv legend status extends far past the 2:27 minutes in the film. As one of the fathers of the Midwest battle rap movement, he has laid the groundwork for legions of emcees to flip verbal acrobatics and spar against each other. But also, as a producer and rapper, he has represented Detroit with top quality music (radio ready) for almost two decades. While pushing out fire projects, he is still killing people in the culture. Currently, he is in the finals of the King of Dot Grand Prix tournament, where the pot is over $50,000.
His new project, Sooner than Later, reminds us why J Dilla before he transitioned wanted to rock with him. His wordplay and song construction is mature without sounding old, is pimp-slick without exploiting one single person. The lead single “Clock On ‘Em” shows why he is “one of one.”
Frak, B- List Celebrities
While California rapper Frak doesn’t take himself too seriously, but his good-natured music deserves a serious look. Out of the legendary Zion I camp, his new project B-List Celebrities is distributed by Empire Records and is garnering over a million streams & views across platforms. As a battler, he has been ripping up events since he was 15. Now as an adult, he has used his gifts to attract the attention of real stakeholders in the culture who validate his unique style of rap and a brand that is half Pharcyde and half Mac Miller, with a potential of being one of the biggest stars to come out of battle rap without spitting about picking up a gun.
The Zion I cosign carries weight, but moreover his highly conceptual album B-List Celebrities is strong enough a project to stand on its own. Like Rapsody’s Eve album, each song is named after influencers, personalities or celebrities that we all love and know. However, his collection of song-titled-honorees are not necessarily the first to get invited to anyone’s hall of fame … much less that front of the awards ceremony audience (unless maybe as seat fillers or a guest of someone else), still their iconic status simply can’t be denied. In fact, it made so much noise that some of those who the songs are titled after responded. Actress and comedienne, Aubrey Plaza, and comic Gilbert Gottfried took to social to shout him out after finding out they had songs named after him. While the acknowledgment is fire, it pales to the heat the actual songs manifest.
Rain 910, Amber Vision
Amber, as a mineral, represents courage and has been called the “soul of the tiger.” Producer and lyricist Rain 910 seems to have incorporated the spirit of this form of fossilized tree resin into his latest project in efforts to give fans a type masterful example of art that courageously bridges classic Hip-Hop with more contemporary street themes. Think slick talk of AZ meets Dipset Jim Jones, the intellect of Nas unpacked through the intensity of Meek Mills, or perhaps the energy of expected of producers germinated out of the womb of Q Tip, J Dilla, and Havoc’s musical imaginations.
The NWX founder doesn’t battle but has been the go-to for music beds for the Ultimate Rap League and some of your favorite emcees’ projects. Which are a few examples of his extraordinary ear … but tracks like his title single samples Teena Marie’s “Portuguese Love” serves as an example of his extraordinary gift with words.
Shotgun Suge, Pray for the Streets
Shotgun Suge has put out just as much fire music in 2020 as the chart-topping rapper DaBaby. And just like the Charlotte rapper, his music has been as a soundtrack for his hood. A perfect follow up to his Fat Papi Tape 2 that dropped earlier in the year, the Newark emcee’s voice and perspective stand as distinctive markers —that takes a lyrical paintbrush and colors the landscapes of his life. It is true that on his project that he is asking for prayer over those in the streets, but it also humanizes those who call the streets their home.
Unlike his other projects, he is sharing the limelight with several other emcees. Each song features a different voice, communicating in their own language their prayer for the streets (or maybe their warning). Skidadal, Tally-Man Up, Tigg, and Allstardagreat step up like champs, complimenting him on this project.
Additional Track Not On The Album
Music is still being dropped by battle rappers who just simply crank out joints that demonstrate the skill and talents these artists have.
Loaded Lux (featuring Sa Roc), “Beautiful”
Tsu Surf featuring Jim Jones, “Careful Who You Love”
Ryda Ramone, “Introvert”
Cortez (Doza the Drum Dealer), “Lebron Interlude”
Arsonal da Rebel, “Peter & Paul”
DNA & Grafh, “Queens Sh*t”
Casey J, “Yo Bad”
Chess & Sha Ek, “No Hook”
The Horsemen (featuring Loso, A. Ward and Th3 Saga), “On the Move”