Despite the unusual premise of the series and its surface entertainment value, the lyrics of its raps are actually very well thought out and contain many hidden references for each rapper that may be easily missed by the casual viewer. The wiki for the series even has a section for each installment which dissects the meanings of the lyrics.
Adolf Hitler vs. Darth Vader
- Vader off-handedly referring to the stormtrooper clones being superior to Hitler's.
- Hitler saying he prefers Vader's counterpart from Spaceballs. On top of being a dig about liking his parody better, said character was written and played by a pair of very openly Jewish men.
Kim Jong-Ill vs Macho Man and Hulk Hogan
- In the remake, while Macho Man says the line "So spend less time rapping and start feeding your people!", a "Mac-homans" fast food restaurant falls from the sky behind Kim. This is a reference to the real-life discussion of a McDonald's opening in North Korea and a reference to "Mac-ho-Man" himself.
Albert Einstein vs. Stephen Hawking
- P-brane (pronounced the same as pea-brain) is a vital element in string theory.
- "Relatively blown" and "Albert E equals MC square" refers to Einstein's best known theory (relativity).
Dr. Seuss vs. William Shakespeare
- The entirety of Shakespeare's first verse is in iambic pentameter. Minds will be blown. It's complete with Flowery Elizabethan English phrases, pronunciation and theatrical gestures.
Wright Bros. vs. Mario Bros.
- The line "You might fly like a hawk, but you fight like a kitty!" is a reference to Kitty Hawk, the town in North Carolina where the Wright brothers made the first controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft.
Bill Gates vs. Steve Jobs
- There's a delicious double pun in the line "I think different from the engine of the days of old" - simultaneously playing on Apple's old slogan and Charles Babbage's original computer, the Difference Engine.
Mahatma Gandhi vs. Martin Luther King
- Gandhi's advice telling MLK "With protests and women the same advice goes, always stay away from the hos" isn't just a fun play on the word 'hose,' which MLK's followers got hit with a lot in protests, but also a reference to the lesser-known allegations of adultery often leveled at him.
Skrillex vs. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- The battle is full of awesome music in-jokes—musical terms relevant both to composition and synthesizers, references to several famous electronic musicians, and even a reference to Mozart's tendencies to wax scatological.
- Skrillex introduces himself at the start as a "scary monster stomping this sprite in frilly pants", referencing his Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites EP.
- Mozart's line "I'm a prodigy, Sonny, and I'm about to smack a bitch up" references the hit song "Smack My Bitch Up" by The Prodigy.
- "Sonny" also happens to be Skrillex's real name.
- At one point, Mozart tells Sonny that he "reeks of dead mouse". This also refers to the fact that Skrillex once found a dead mouse inside his computer.
- The start of Skrillex's second verse seamlessly references five music production techniques: attack, decay, sustain, release, and sidechain.
- Mozart's line "Why don't you put down your Cubase and pick up a real bow?" references the music production software known as Cubase.
Rasputin vs. Stalin
- Joseph Stalin's right hand was reportedly withered, which is directly referenced by Lenin.
- This is even more clever when you realize Lenin's line referenced Stalin's atrophied right hand... only it was Stalin's left hand that was withered (and his left arm was shorter than his right) after a childhood injury to his left arm and shoulder stunted its growth somewhat and made the muscles prone to atrophy... so when Lenin claims that Stalin's right hand was shriveled up, Stalin looks confused and actually looks at his perfectly normal right hand, while keeping his left hand out of view. That's some deep level stuff.
- Stalin's boast about taking Leon Trotsky "out of the picture" is both literal and figurative, as Stalin orchestrated Trotsky's exile (and possibly assassination), and later altered photographs to remove Trotsky from Lenin's side.
- Lenin's "hip-hop chowder red over white, 'cause the Tsar's wife can't do shit tonight" is a reference to both the assassination of the Imperial family and the triumph of the Communist Red Army over the Tsarist White Army.
Bob Ross vs. Pablo Picasso
- "My technique will make your mistress weep / put her to sleep, elbow drop a dream, I go deep" is an extended reference to Picasso's "The Dream". Dora Maar, Picasso's mistress, posed for the painting, and it tore a bit when someone pushed his elbow into it.
- Bob Ross's line: "I keep it mellow, like I'm cadmium yellow. I'm a bright like titanium white kinda fellow" is a reference to the fact that cadmium yellow and titanium white were two of the most consistently used colors in his paintings. (while cadmium yellow would be a matter of taste, the techniques of regular oil painting require the consistent use of large amounts of titanium white)
Donald Trump vs. Ebeneezer Scrooge
- The two kids Kanye West ends his verse with aren't random homeless children, they're Ignorance and Want, two children who serve the same function in the original Dickens novella.
Rick Grimes vs. Walter White
- Grimes referring to himself as "A grade-A MC" is a subtle reference to the fact that both The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad aired on the AMC television channel.
Stephen King vs. Edgar Allan Poe
- Similar to Shakespeare above, Edgar Allan Poe's first verse is in trochee, the inverse of iambic. It even contains a modified line from The Raven.
- Poe starts the battle with the first few words ("Once upon a midnight dreary...") of that poem, and King ends it with the last word of it ("Nevermore").
Bill Nye vs. Isaac Newton
- Much like Einstein vs. Hawking, the battle has plenty of Genius Bonus, particularly when Newton brings out an equation from one of his works.
Zeus vs. Thor
- The battle is packed with obscure details from both Classical Mythology and Norse Mythology, on top of comments about the Greek philosophers and the oft-forgotten Viking discovery of the American continent.
- Thor's line to Zeus: "We'll flyte it out." It's not just a pun on "fight". Flyting was a common Norse custom involving a rapid-fire exchange of insults, usually in verse and sometimes set to music, essentially, ancient rap battling. While old Norse poems do make it clear that Thor engaged in flyting, he was never as skilled in it as Loki, which means Zeus is likely correct when he says "Loki must have written your lines!"
Jack The Ripper vs. Hannibal Lecter
- Just like in Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter never blinks on-screen.
- Hannibal Lecter calls himself "the bon vivant of violence". "Bon vivant", translated literally from French, means "good liver".
Steven Spielberg vs. Alfred Hitchcock
- Alfred Hitchcock's line "I squeeze screams out of chocolate syrup!" would sound out of place for anyone who isn't familiar with Psycho, in which chocolate syrup was used as fake blood in the iconic shower scenenote , which was a rather shocking scene to viewers at the time of its release.
Eastern Philosophers vs. Western Philosophers
- Nietzsche going absolutely ballistic at the end of his last verse is this. Confucius said the Nazis were inspired by his work. However, Nietzsche was vehemently against antisemitism, proof being letters he wrote to his sister, where he lambasted her for her backwards views on the Jews. Also, that very same sister appropriated his work for the Nazi cause.
- How Nietzsche says "They call me Ubermensch!" He doesn't say "I am the Ubermensch!" because in Real Life he actually said he wasn't.
- When Nietzsche said he will drop "A Tao of Pooh", he didn't just tell a poop joke, he also referenced a real book intended to introduce Western audiences to Eastern philosophy.
- Confucius mentioning society and descendants is this because his work was all about how society should function, along with descendants paying respect to those before them. The Eastern philosophers also mention discipline, when it provided a huge part of their philosophies.
- Socrates' line "I'll be picking apart your Wu with my method, man" (directed to Sun Tzu) is a brilliant double-sided pun; on one side, it's a reference to the Wu-Tang Clan, of which the rapper Method Man is a member. On the other side, it's a reference to Sun Tzu being from the Wu state of China, along with being a reference to the Socratic Method. It may also be a reference to Sun Tzu's birth name, which was "Sun Wu".
- Sun Tzu's proud declaration that "Their chaos is our opportunity" is referencing one of The Thirty-Six Stratagems ("Disturb the Water to Catch a Fish"), but more subtly, the Eastern Philosophers subsequent in-fighting is another ("Let the Enemy Spy Upset His Own Camp"). As an added bonus, that second one is one of the desperate strategies, meant to be used only under particular circumstances because of how likely it is to backfire.
Julius Caesar vs. Shaka Zulu
- The way the Epic Rap Battles banners move at the end mimics the respective standard strategies of the Zulu (left, showing the chest/horns/loins formations) and the Legions (right).
- The tactics described are all quite accurate. Caesar's wedge would probably run into Zulu's "loins" reserve and find itself in trouble.
Boba Fett vs. Deadpool
- When Deadpool starts, he mentions not knowing enough about Boba Fett to diss him. Compared to most Star Wars characters, Boba Fett has very little backstory and information regarding him.
- During one verse, Deadpool mentions that Boba Fett has two different voices, which is referencing how in both Star Wars and ERB Boba Fett has had different actors, as in Star Wars Boba Fett was voiced by Jason Wingreen in the original movies, and after the re-releases was voiced by Temuera Morrison (the actor of Jango Fett and the clones); in ERB he was voiced by Ray William Johnson in his first appearance and in this video is voiced by Peter Shukoff.
- In the subtitles, when Deadpool mentions the prequelsnote , it uses "canon" instead of "cannon". This is referring to the fact that prequels gave a canon backstory to Boba Fett, who until the prequels was Inexplicably Awesome with no given backstory. At the time the movie was released, there was a bit of a fan outcry regarding Boba Fett getting a backstory in the manner he did. Additionally, after the prequels, Star Wars was bought by Disney, who made the Expanded Universe non-canon to the new movies, essentially taking all of Boba's backstory and throwing it away.
Frederick Douglass vs. Thomas Jefferson
- "This ain't Louisiana, man, I ain't buying it", referring to the purchase of the Louisiana territory (not the state which now bears the name, but the central US and the western half of the Midwest) during Jefferson's presidency.note
James Bond vs. Austin Powers
- The line "Maybe they should cast a Bond who's actually English" has a few layers to it. Ian Fleming deliberately kept Bond's background vague for most of his run on the series, but considered English actor David Niven the ideal choice to play him when Eon Productions bought the film rights. He was initially quite disappointed when Scottish Sean Connery was cast, but admitted it worked very well when he saw the results, and even made Bond canonically of Scottish ancestry before his death a couple years later. This carried into Daniel Craig's Bond, who was revealed to be fully Scottish in Skyfall despite Craig being English, adding some Hypocritical Humor to the line.
- Austin Powers does the two-finger salute, the British equivalent to Flipping the Bird, during the "Thunderball two bloody times" line.
Alexander the Great vs. Ivan the Terrible
- The first three Greats all (well, sort of) die from their historical causes: Alexander note took poison, Frederick was discovered sitting in an armchair, and Pompey was beheaded. And then Catherine doesn't take Ivan's offer of a horse, as the story of her death while having sex with a horse is considered apocryphal.
Ash Ketchum vs. Charles Darwin
- Ash's line about Darwin being "a glitchy old man best left out at sea" could be seen as a jab at Darwin's famous voyage aboard the Beagle. However, it is also likely a reference to the infamous glitch in Pokémon Red and Blue, where talking to an old man in Viridian City, and then flying to Cinnabar Island enables a player to encounter the glitch Pokémon MissingNo. in the seas around said island.
Wonder Woman vs. Stevie Wonder
- Stevie's line about DC being a "whole step down" also applies to music notes (D and C being a whole step apart).
Tony Hawk vs. Wayne Gretzky
- "You've been going downhill since Pro Skater 3!" is not only a diss to Tony Hawk's career in the 2000s, but also the video game series. Some fans of THPS feel the series reached its peak at the third game with the following installments having varying quality.
Theodore Roosevelt vs. Winston Churchill
- The whole fight is given an extra layer as these two really did meet once...and hated each other.
- Roosevelt makes a dirty pun with Churchill's initials: "TR will give WC the full deuce." While Roosevelt is commonly called by his initials (though not as often as his cousin), Churchill is almost never referred to as such, because in England, WC stands for water closet, i.e., a bathroom.
Elon Musk vs. Mark Zuckerberg
- Elon brings up the Russian bots plaguing Facebook, whereupon Zuckerberg immediately goes "Ooh, bots!" and starts pointing out something about them. This is actually a tell for bot behavior online - they latch on to certain words in your replies and go into pre-programmed responses rotating just around them.
Jacques Cousteau vs. Steve Irwin
- Cousteau's line "Contain yourself, like my underwater breathing apparatus!", is a reference to scuba (an acronym for "Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus") gear. In particular, Cousteau designed the first successful and safe open-circuit scuba, known as the Aqua-Lung, alongside Émile Gagnan.
The Joker vs. Pennywise
- The Joker's line that "a Phoenix" was cast to play him is a direct reference to Joaquin Phoenix, the actor cast in the role for the eponymous film released in 2019. However, it can also reference Fire Lord Ozai, who later crowned himself the "Phoenix King", and was voiced by Mark Hamill, who also played the Joker across many voiceover roles.
- Pennywise references Edgar Allen Poe's short story The Cask of Amontillado in his last verse. The story follows the tale of Montresor luring his friend Fortunato into catacombs under the promise of finding the aforementioned cask and instead sealing him behind a wall to kill him. What makes this reference significant is also that Fortunato is dressed in jester attire during the story.
Thanos vs. J. Robert Oppenheimer
- The line "After your raps, I am become deaf" is a pun on Oppenheimer's famous statement that after the Trinity test he thought about the line from the Bhagavad Gita "I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
- Oppenheimer's line, "Now I'm here to split you like two and three from five." references the Uranium-235 isotope, which is commonly used in nuclear weapons, and split to create the destructive effects.
- Oppenheimer's line "You wanna talk about Death? How 'bout the one that looked at you and swiped left?" refers to the fact that Thanos' motivations, including wiping out half the universe, involve trying to impress Mistress Death, whom he is enamored with. However, she remains uninterested in his advances. The line also further references the Tinder dating app, on which user swipe left on other users that they are not interested in.
- Similarly, Thanos did lose to Squirrel Girl in a 2005 comic.
- Oppenheimer refers to a popular crackpot theory to explain Ant-Man's absence from the MCU films with his line "I'll finish this like Ant-Man: all up in your stinky!". Fans jokingly theorized that Ant-Man would ultimately defeat Thanos by shrinking himself, crawling up Thanos' anus, and then growing to a gigantic size.
- Thanos calling Oppenheimer "Doctor Manhattan" isn't just a reference to Watchmen but a reference to Oppenheimer's leading role in the Manhattan Project, which created the first nuclear bomb. The Manhattan Project's Trinity test site, where the first nuclear bomb was tested, is also one of Oppenheimer's backgrounds. In other words, Oppenheimer is the original Doctor Manhattan.