Notable battle rap leagues:
- El Oh Crew (1998)
- Ground Zero (1999)
- New Jerusalem (1999)
- The Chamber (2000)
- Sacred Society (2001)
- Let's Beef (2005)
- Grind Time Now (2008)
- King of the Dot (2008)
- Don't Flop (2008)
- Ultimate Rap League (2009)
- Queen of the Ring (2011)
- The Elements League (2008)
Legendary rap battles:
- LL Cool J vs. Kool Moe Dee. In 1987, LL Cool J was riding off the success of his double-Platinum album Bigger and Deffer, calling himself "rap's new Grandmaster". Kool Moe Dee, one of the first rappers of the genre, took exception to this, and decided to teach LL a lesson in respect. That same year, Moe released "How Ya Like Me Now", which accused LL (though not by name) of stealing his style. In response, LL released "Jack the Ripper", dismissing Moe as an "old-school sucker punk" and pointed out he had more sales than him. Moe then decided to pull the gloves off and released "Let's Go", which gave the world one of the greatest battle verses of all time: Kool Moe Dee destroying LL Cool J with only one letter.
- In the aftermath of "Let's Go", Moe won a Grammy Award in 1991, and was featured on songs with Ice-T, KRS-One, and Quincy Jones; while LL's album Walkng With A Panther got roasted by critics despite high sales, and got booed out of the Apollo Theater. Despite this, LL soldiered on, and released Mama Said Knock You Out in 1990, returning him into the good graces of hip hop fans, and delivering a one-two punch to Moe at the same time, dissing him on "To Da Break of Dawn" and the title track. Moe would respond with "Death Blow" in 1991, but by that time, the fans had firmly latched onto LL, and the song, along with it's album Funke Funke Wisdom, bombed. LL would continue to be a top-selling rapper for the rest of his career, while Moe would fall into obscurity after "Death Blow".
- Boogie Down Productions vs. The Juice Crew. Aka, "The Bridge Wars", a landmark battle between the Bronx and Queens neighborhoods of New York. in late 1985, MC Shan and the Juice Crew released a B-side called "The Bridge", which sung the praises of their Queens neighborhood. Bronx natives KRSOne and Scott La Rock took exception to the track, thinking the song was implying that hip hop started in Queens instead of the Bronx (In reality, they were pissed because one of the Juice Crew's DJ's rejected a demo tape they showed them). In 1986, The duo, now known as Boogie Down Productions released "South Bronx", which attacked the Juice Crew, and their "claim" that Queens was the birthplace of hip hop. KRS even went as far as to perform "South Bronx" at a live show immediately after MC Shan performed "The Bridge". The Juice Crew quickly responded with the track "Kill That Noise", which mocked Boogie Down for taking offense, with MC Shan making it clear he did not make any claims that Queens started the hip hop movement. KRS, however, refused to let the subject drop, and eventually, more artists from the Bronx and Queens got involved including Craig G, Rockwell Noel & The Poet, Roxanne Shantaé (who was already involved in the "Roxanne Wars" about a year prior), MC Mitchski, and several others, with Big Daddy Kane being the only member of the Juice Crew not to get involved in the wars directly. In the end, KRS-One emerged the victor, though this ended up being a Bittersweet Ending, as his partner Scott La Rock was murdered prior to the end of the Wars.
- LL Cool J vs. Canibus. This one started out with a healthy dose of ego on LL's part. While recording the song "4,3,2,1", LL asked Canibus to change a line from his verse in the song that LL perceived as a diss towards him ("Yo L, is that a mic on your arm, lemme borrow that", referring to LL's microphone tatto). Canibus complied, but later became furious when he found out that LL's original verse, which had subliminally dissed Canibus for the "mic on your arm" line, remained intact after LL promised he would rewrite it. LL had offered to record a song with Canibus to squash the beef, but the latter chose to record the diss record "Second Round K.O.", which featured Mike Tyson. LL, on the receiving end of a diss for the first time in almost ten years, released "The Ripper Strikes Back" and "Back Where I Belong" in response. Ironically, Canibus wouldn't make it past the first round, as his debut album Can-I-Bus was panned, and he was dropped from Universal Records.
- Kool Moe Dee vs Busy Bee Starski: On September 11, 1981, A series of rap battles took place at Harlem World in New York City. Starski, who was the headlining rapper that night, was challenged by Kool Moe Dee. Starski started the battle off with the typical battle rap of the time, hamming it up for the crowd and getting them on their side with his party rhymes. When Moe's turn came around, he utterly roasted Starski, making claims that he stole his rhymes from Spoonie Gee, a member of Moe's group The Treacherous Three. Not only did Kool Moe Dee win that battle, he changed the face of battle rapping forever. As the ''Dallas Observer'' noted in a retrospective:
"No longer was an MC just a crowd-pleasing comedian with a slick tongue; he was a commentator and a storyteller."
- Predating the Bridge Wars by a year was The Roxanne Wars. Much like MC Shan's "The Bridge", it all started with a B-side single, "Roxanne, Roxanne", performed and released by UTFO. Soon after, 14-year-old Lotila Shantaé Gooding was walking outside a housing project called Queensbridge when she overheard the Juice Crew griping about how UTFO cancelled an appearance at show they were promoting. Gooden then offered to record a single that would get back at UTFO, with her taking the name Roxanne Shantaé. The crew took her up on the idea and recorded "Roxanne's Revenge", which used an instrumental version of "Roxanne, Roxanne", and included a slew of profanities. Shantaé and the Juice Crew got sued by UTFO, but not before the single sold 250,000 copies in New York City alone. UTFO would release a response record with a girl they dubbed "the Real Roxanne" (Elease Jack, who was later replaced by Adelaida Martinez). But much like the Bridge Wars that came after, several other emcees joined in on the battle. According to popular lore, the Roxanne Wars has the most "answer records" in history, with the total ranging from 30 to 100 battle records produced between 1985 and 1986. Once the dust settled from both the Bridge Wars and Roxanne Wars, both Shantaé and the Real Roxanne retired from rapping.
- The East/West Coast Feud. Often cited as Hip-Hop's biggest battle, it began with an underground diss track, and ended with the deaths of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.. Here are some key events:
- 1991: East Coast rapper Tim Dog (no relation or affiliation to Snoop Dogg) releases "Fuck Compton", a scathing diss track that took shots at every major west coast artist at the time, with the exception of Ice-T. This led to responses from most of the names mentioned on the track, most notably "Way 2 Fonky" by DJ Quik, and "Fuck Wit Dre Day" by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.
- 1993-94: The "East Coast Renaissance" begins, with several landmark releases coming from New York (Illmatic, Ready to Die, Enter the 36 Chambers). In November of 1994, Tupac Shakur got shot several times at Quad Recording Studios in Manhattan. He publicly accused The Notorious B.I.G., Bad Boy Records CEO Sean "Puffy" Combs, and Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell of setting him up, which they all denied. Not long after the shooting, "Who Shot Ya?" a B-sidenote from B.I.G.'s singe "Big Poppa" was released. Despite B.I.G.'s claims that he had nothing to do with the shooting, as well as the fact the song was recorded long before the shooting, Tupac and the majority of the hip hop community took it as his way of taunting Tupac.
- 1995: Tupac is bailed out from jail in October by Suge Knight after serving time for alleged crimes that took place prior to the 1994 shooting. A month prior, Snoop Dogg and his associates Tha Dogg Pound released "New York, New York", a jab at the East Coast hip hop scene. Early the next year, Mobb Deep, Tragedy Khadafi, and Capone-N-Noreaga would respond with "L.A, L.A.".
- 1996: Tupac releases All Eyez On Me, his biggest release during his lifetime. Still bitter over "Who Shot Ya?", Tupac released "Hit 'Em Up", a B-side to his number-one single "How Do U Want It". It contained vicious insults aimed largely at Bad Boy Records and The Notorious B.I.G., with Tupac claiming that he slept with the latter's wife, Faith Evans. It also contained shots at Chino XL and Mobb Deep member Prodigy, who was mocked for having sickle-cell disease. Evans would deny sleeping with Tupac, and B.I.G. continued to claim innocence to the shooting, but did not release a response. B.I.G. affiliate Lil Kim, however, would respond with "Big Momma Thang", and Mobb Deep with "Drop a Gem on 'Em" (which got them serious heat as it was released just after Tupac's murder).
- In contrast to the Tupac vs. B.I.G. feud, Nas released It Was Written that same year, which contained the song "Nas Is Coming", a collaboration with West Coast producer Dr. Dre, signalling the beginning of the end of the coast-to-coast feud.
- 1997: Months after the drive-by murder of Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G. is killed in an eerily similar circumstance, signalling the end of the long-running feud between the two artists, and by extension, the whole East-West rivalry. But not without two last parting shots from beyond the grave: "Bomb First" and "Against All Odds", from Tupac's posthumous release Makavelli: The 7 Day Theory, which attacked Nas for a diss he made in his song "The Message".note
- The N.W.A. Saga:
- December 1989: Due to royalty issues and general distrust of group manager Jerry Heller, Ice Cube leaves N.W.A. and goes solo
- 1990: Ice Cube released his solo debut AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted and an accompanying EP, Kill At Will, to critical success and acclaim, but avoided mentioning his former bandmates. N.W.A. However, wasn't as kind, as they attacked him on their EP 100 Miles and Runnin' with the title track and the song "Real Niggaz".
- 1991: N.W.A. released Niggaz4Life, which contained insults aimed at Ice Cube in several songs, most notably the skit "Message to B.A.", where they compare him to the infamous American Revolution traitor Benedict Arnold. Ice Cube eventually had enough and responded with "No Vaseline", considered one of the most brutal diss tracks ever, from his album Death Certificate. He criticized Eazy-E for siding with Jerry Heller, and accused both of them of exploiting the rest of the group. There turned out to be some truth to Ice Cube's words. Dr. Dre would leave N.W.A. not long after the song's release for the same reasons Ice Cube left a year prior.
- 1992: Dr. Dre released The Chronic, one of the landmark albums that would create the G-Funk sound of the mid nineties, and launched the career of Snoop Dogg. One of the singles released from the album was "Fuck With Dre Day", which contained several disses towards Tim Dog, Luke Skyywalker (of 2 Live Crew), and former boss Eazy E. The song also featured some stealth insults towards Ice Cube, but they were kept at a minimum, as he and Dre were on friendlier terms by that point.
- 1993: Eazy E released the EP It's On
(Dr. Dre)187um Killa, which contained the diss tracks "Real Muthaphuckkin' G's" and "It's On", the former of which had a music video featuring pictures of Dr. Dre dressed in sequins and facial makeup from his days in the rap group World Class Wrecking Crew; prompting Eazy to make several homophobic remarks about Dre, and exposing that his claims he was a street gangster were entirely false.
- 1995: By this time, Eazy E had already passed away from AIDS, and all members of N.W.A. had made peace prior to his death. But the feud did not end quietly. On Eazy's posthumous release, Str8 off the Streets of Muthaphukkin' Compton, one last Dr. Dre diss entitled "Whut Would You Do" found its way onto the album.
- DJ Quik vs Mc Eiht. This one started a few years before DJ Quik hit the mainstream. On his 1987 mixtape The Red Tape, Quik's song "Real Doe" had a throwaway line that took a small jab at both N.W.A. and Eiht's crew, Compton's Most Wanted. Eiht and the CMW took the sight personally note , and proceeded to release what would become the first of two "Duck Sick" tracks on their debut It's a Compton Thang and again in 1991 with the first "Def Wish" song. Quik didn't respond on his 1991 debut Quik Is The Name, but proceeded to hit back with "Way 2 Fonky" from his 1992 album of the same name. CMW responded months later with "Dead Men Tell No Lies", from their album Music To Drive-bye. Due to label and music troubles, Quik didn't respond, and the majority of the hip hop community thought that Eiht had won the beef.
...Until 1994, when Quik came out of nowhere and roasted Eiht on "Dollaz + Sense", calling him a coward and mocking his role in the classic 'hood film Menace II Society, calling him a "movie script killer". Quik continued to fan the flames for a good part of the year, performing "Dollaz + Sense" live at the 1995 Source Awards, and dissing Eiht on the tracks "Let U Havit", "Get At Me", and the unofficially released "Boom". Eiht responded with another "Def Wish" song in 1996, but the damage was done, and his career went downhill since then. By 2002, both rappers mutually squashed the beef.
Battle rapping outside of hip hop:
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- In the series City Magic, demons summoned via a rap battle are more likely to respect the summoner. After all, if you've got the skill to out-rhyme a demon, you deserve their assistance.
Film - Live Action
- Eminem's film 8 Mile had battle rapping as a central point in the movies. Eminem's character, Jimmy "B-Rabbit" Smith, competes in Detroit's underground battle rap scene. He starts out as a choker who gets easily humiliated, to humiliating the same rappers who put him down in the beginning.
- In Drillbit Taylor, bullied kid Ryan challenges his aggressor Filkins to a battle rap in hopes that this would gain his respect. Ryan ends up definitively winning, but this only serves to make Filkins bully him more aggressively.
- The main climax of House Party has Kid and Play face off against each other in a rap battle. Kid, who was derided for his bad lyrics at the beginning of the film, ended up as the victor at the end of the battle.
- Adventures in Babysitting (2016) features a rap battle between Jenny and Lola in which each one blames the other for their current predicament.
- Straight Outta Compton dramatizes the real-life beef NWA had with Ice Cube after he jumped ship post-Straight Outta Compton. The group fires first with the track "Real Niggaz", calling him a sellout and a traitor. Ice Cube, upset at the unprovoked attack, promptly fires back with the absolutely scathing "No Vaseline", a diss track so nasty, Even the group admitted they couldn't top it and disbanded largely because of it.
Live Action TV
- In the That's So Raven season two episode "Hearts and Minds", Corey used rap lyrics ghostwritten by Eddie to impress a girl named Danielle, but ends up attracting all the other girls in his class instead. When the all the attention goes to his head and he starts giving Danielle the cold shoulder, Raven (who has been releasing rap albums since 1993 in real life) crashes his Valentines Day performance and lays into him with some genuinely clever battle raps. Corey attempts to save face by freestyling a rebuttal, but botches it horribly, revealing that he couldn't rap on his own.
- Horrible Histories featured three rap battles: One between two Celtic warriors, another between the major players of World War 1, and a "Manga Carta" battle between the Noble Men of England and King John.
- In the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend episode "Josh and I Go to Los Angeles!", Rebecca and her Sitcom Arch-Nemesis engage in a "JAP Rap Battle" (JAP standing for "Jewish American Princess"), where they diss each others GPAs and try to force each other to back down from their lawsuit.
- In Galavant, Isabella and Madalena get into a rap battle/catfight in the second season.
- The fifth season of Xena: Warrior Princess featured the Musical Episode "Lyre Lyre Hearts On Fire" that culminated in a rap battle/fight scene between Xena and recurring antagonist Draco.
- Back when he was the "Doctor of Thuganomics", John Cena used to compete in rap battles against a number of wrestlers. His memorable contests were against Rikishi, Kurt Angle, and The Big Show. This wasn't entirely forgotten in his face turn, as he did more battle raps against The Rock between 2011 and 2013. The gimmick was justified, as Cena is a legitimate rapper in real life.
- "On The Floor" Keating The Musical: Paul Keating and Dr. John Hewson debate Hewson's proposed GST via a rap battle. Note that most of Keating's insults are comments he really made.
- In Hamilton, rap battles serve as representations of cabinet debates. Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson have one on debt assumption and one on the nation's neutrality policy.
Hamilton: A civics lesson from a slaver? Hey, neighbor,Your debts are paid cuz you don’t pay for labor"We plant seeds in the South. We create!"Yeah, keep rantingWe know who's really doing the planting!
- But of course, they're really about dissing each other.
- On a certain hour in Tomodachi Life, Miis will engage in Rap Battles at the fountain. There are two competitors, chosen randomly, and each take turns giving the other a line to rhyme. If one of them fails to rhyme a verse, he or she loses. This had replaced the Japanese game of shiritori.
- Mega Man Battle Network 2 has a variant that's best described as parodied, and also overlaps with Getting Crap Past the Radar. Near the end of the game, Lan is flying home from abroad,and gets involved in an attempt to collect a runaway spider (which is incredibly venomous and about the size of the average human head). The insectologist aboard the plane has Lan collect materials for a trap, which includes whiskey. Lan heads for the first-class section of the plane where the whiskey is located, but is (justifiably) denied it by its owner; who tells Lan the whiskey is too potent for a young child like him and should instead "go suck [his] mama's milk". When Lan persists, the man agrees to give it to him if Lan can match him line-for-line in a rap battle, which is full of barely subtexual sexual imagery (e.g. "Chicky-chicky baby, make me go kaboom!"). It must be seen to be believed.◊
- Def Jam Rapstar invokes this trope with "Freestyle" mode, where players can pick any instrumental beat and throw down their own lyrics.
- Since the Parappa The Rapper series is centered around hip hop, battle rap is to be expected in the form of boss battles. But one memorable level from the first game features PaRappa, in a serious Potty Emergency, going through a Boss Rush against all of his teachers from the prior levels to use the bathroom first before he craps his pants.
- And It Don't Stop mixes rap battles with robot battles, with good rhymes powering up the robots.
- Epic Rap Battles of History: A comedy video series (2010-ongoing) that popularized Battle Rapping on YouTube and beyond, especially among people unfamiliar with the rap culture. An example of Nerdcore, it features historical and pop culture figures note Battle Rapping against each other, in anachronistic and fourth-wall-breaking combinations, similar in premise to MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch (but with less murder and more rapping). The raps contain a lot of witty references to real (and often obscure) facts related to the portrayed characters and personalities, making these videos not just funny, but also (in a sense) educational. While not being the first example of comedic Battle Rapping on YouTube (see below), ERBoH are definitely the most popular of their ilk, and have spawned lots of successors and imitators. Guest stars appearing on the show include both Real Life and YouTube rappers like Snoop Dogg, Chali2na, DeStorm Power, Dan Bull, Wax, George Watsky, Zach Sherwin, and a lot of other celebrities.
- Rhett & Link: Their 2010 video, simply titled "Epic Rap Battle!", is considered to be the inspiration for Epic Rap Battles of History. Since then, they've made several more comedic rap battles, including Epic Rap Battle of Manliness, Nerd vs Geek and I'm a Textpert. They've also guest starred on ERBoH a couple times (and had Nice Peter and Epic Lloyd cameo in one of their rap battles).
- Smosh first included a rap battle in their 2011 Zelda Rap. Recently they created Smash Rap, which featured MegaMan Battle Rapping against several other Super Smash Bros. characters. Like Rhett & Link, Ian and Anthony have also guest starred on ERBoH.
- Whitney Avalon's Princess Rap Battles series is the most popular of Epic Rap Battles of History's numerous YouTube imitators. The series is built on the same premise as ERBoH, except it mostly features fictional female characters (not necessarily princesses): Snow White vs Elsa, Mrs. Claus vs Mary Poppins, Galadriel vs Leia, Cinderella vs Belle. Like ERBoH, it sometimes features celebrity guest stars.
- Michelle Glavan started doing the same schtick a couple years before with her Ladies of Rap series.
- The Warp Zone turned The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies into a The Rap Battle of Five Armies, and have also included Battle Rapping in several of their other videos (e.g. Batman Rap, Batman vs Superman). Recently they've released a seemingly parodic rap battle between Hodor and Groot, which seems to go as well as you'd expect... unless you rewatch it with subtitles on
- IISuperwomanII produced a YouTube vs Vine Rap Battle featuring several YouTube and Vine celebrities dissing each others' favorite site.
- Dan Bull made several rap battle videos, and is sometimes featured in some other channels' rap battles, including Epic Rap Battles of History.
- KSI produced several animated Football Rap Battles between various football (soccer) personalities, in collaboration with YouTubers Randolph and Adsapaps; one of them featured Dan Bull as well.
- YouTuber MBest11x produces a series of rap battles between different branches of U.S. Armed Forces (Navy Seal vs Army Ranger, Special Forces vs MARSOC, Marines vs Army), other manly occupations (Police vs Firefighter), and also a parodic ISIS vs USA rap battle that's only 16 seconds long due to USA shooting ISIS right at the start
- Animeme features several animated rap battles between Internet memes.
- Star Bomb made a parodic animated rap battle between Ryu and Ken.
- Annoying Orange parodied Epic Rap Battles of History in the video Epic Rap Battles of Kitchenry, which guest starred Nice Peter as Orange's opponent. Later a sequel was made, appropriately guest starring Epic Lloyd as one of the characters.
- Econ Stories, a YouTube channel dedicated to popularizing economics, created two rap battles similar to ERBoH between John Maynard Keynes and F.A.Hayek, illustrating the main differences between their economic theories.
- Even a religious organization called The Crossing Church got on the hype, releasing a Christmas-themed rap battle between Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch.
- DashieXP created Mortal Kombat: Epic Rap Battle as a sub-series to his regular Mortal Kombat shorts. Most of of the voices are done by Dashie himself, with the exception of Jax, who is usually voiced by J.D. Witherspoon. Frequent running jokes include:
- Raiden constantly losing to Baraka in the first round.
- Baraka winning all rounds, only to get knocked out (or worse) by the last person he beat. The exceptions to this rule are the Sindel battle, where he and Raiden got blasted out of the building before he could spit his verse, and the Montaro battle where he lost for the first time but still got electrocuted by Raiden for insulting him earlier.
- Raiden's sexuality being questioned by Baraka during their battles.
- Baraka's ugliness (which is a common running joke in the regular MK shorts)
- And Raiden, along with a few other opponents, being sore losers.
- In 2010, Steam Punk "Chap-Hop" rapper Professor Elemental released "Fighting Trousers", a battle track aimed at fellow Chap-Hopper Mr. B., the Gentleman Rhymer. This lead up to a "chap off" between the two in Sussex. Currently, they've apparently squashed their beef now and even performed a song together.
- This 2009 rap batlle between Harry Potter and Voldemort is probably the first costumed rap battle on Youtube, and the precursor to ERBoH and its imitators.
- Dr Monster is a series made by LilDeuceDeuce that pits two pun-themed monsters (usually centered around a holiday) together in a rap battle.
- Econ Stories features rap battles in their videos "Fear the Boom" and "Bust".
- Epic Meal Time once had Muscles Glasses win a rap battle. You know, the guy who never speaks. His opponent goes first, then when it's his turn, he just flips off his opponent and the crowd goes wild.
- Red vs. Blue: Episode 20 of Season 14 is a rap battle between Church and Sarge with a sudden guest appearance from Felix and Locus.
- Pennywise Vs. Pennywise, a rap battle between the Tim Curry version from the 1990 adaption and the Bill Skarsgård version from the 2017 adaption of It.
- There's a rap battle (or, should we say, haiku battle) in Avatar: The Last Airbender's season two episode "Tales of Ba Sing Se". Sokka stumbles into a house that contains a bunch of female haiku poets. When one of them tells Sokka to get out with haiku, he then responded with a haiku of his own... with rap twist. It then escalates until Sokka accidentally uses 8 syllables instead of 7 in his second sentence (it's a rule in haiku) which gets him kicked outside by the house's bodyguard.
- The Simpsons: When Bart sneaks out of the house to go to a rap concert by Alcatraaz, the rapper accidentally drops his mic and Bart picks it up.
Alcatraaz: Yo, cuz, put down my mic 'less you know how to use itThis is old school, not preschool So don't Dr. Seuss it.Bart: Don't critique my technique I'm no geekI make the principal nervous My friends can confirm this I'll bust a spitwad in your epidermisYou can trace my remorse to its supersized source A hungry, hungry hypocrite named HomerOf course My old man's pathetic Damn, is his head thick The gas from his ass is carcinogenicEvery day I pray his DNA ain't genetic.
- In the Regular Show episode "Rap It Up", Pops accidentally gets involved in a feud with a rap group called the Crew Crew after mistaking their freestyle battles for a poetry recital. The members of the Crew Crew are voiced by real-life rappers Childish Gambino, Tyler The Creator and MC Lyte.
- In the first episode of The Powerpuff Girls (2016) Buttercup and Blossom try to have a rap battle to decide who gets a ticket to their favorite boy band. Bubbles stops them partway.
- The Robot Chicken episode "8 Carrot" parodies 8 Mile, with Bugs Bunny as B-Rabbit versus Elmer Fudd as Elmer Phudd.
- Not rap, but 17th-century opera singer and duelist Julie D'Aublgny (a.k.a. La Maupin) was known for singing insulting songs about her opponents before engaging them in duels.