Battle Rapping (also known as "battle rhyming") is a type of rapping that includes a lot of braggadocio and insults, the latter of which is usually aimed at an opposing rapper. While battles between rappers can occur on recorded albums and/or singles, battle rapping is usually associated with live battles, though the verses are usually rehearsed or freestyled spontaneously in those cases.note
While battle rapping is still a relatively new phenomenon, its roots can be traced back as far back as the fifth century to Flyting, which is a contest of exchanged insults, usually performed in verse. The insults would be extremely provocative, ranging from cowardice to sexual perversion, not quite unlike the insults used in the rap battles of today.
In the early seventies, when rap was still in its beginning, freestyle battles were largely about playing the crowd—specifically, which rapper could get the crowd more hyped up from their performance. On September 11, 1981 Kool Moe Dee created the modern style of battle rapping that's known today. When it was his turn to take on his opponent, Busy Bee Starski, Moe took everyone by surprise by roasting Starski with complex rhyme schemes that were almost unheard of at the time. This battle would single-handedly end the original style of battle rapping and laid the groundwork for the modern battle rapping.
Between the early nineties and the early 2000's, the popularity of battle rapping started to decline and went underground, due to rap's ever evolving landscape. Battling started crawling back into the mainstream by 2002, spring-boarded by Eminem's hit film 8 Mile, which was based around Detroit's underground battle scene, and the various "Freestyle Fridays" rap battles hosted by BET on their show 106 & Park.
These days, there are leagues dedicated solely to battle rapping, and battle rap has been parodied many times in various media, Most notably by Epic Rap Battles of History.
Related to Freestyle Version, though in a more competitive sense. Compare Boastful Rap, which is a main component in battle rapping. Overlaps heavily with The Diss Track, though that trope isn't exclusive to hip-hop.
Note: Keep in mind that a battle rap doesn't necessarily have to be "diss" tracks, or just be restricted to live battles when adding examples. Artists such as Kool Moe Dee have put out several self-contained battle raps on their albums.
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)
- 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 Walking 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 its 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 tattoo). 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.
- Canibus's obsession with LL spiralled into a decade-long passive-aggressive beef with Eminem, starting in 1998. Bus thought Em had ghostwritten "The Ripper Strikes Back", which Eminem denied. Regardless, he offered Canibus a guest verse on The Slim Shady LP as a peace offering, which Canibus turned down, viewing the then overweight, dark-haired, bespectacled and acne-riddled Em as an unpromising novelty act. At first, they swatted at each other with backhanded complements, but after a slender, blond, contact-lensed and clear-complexioned Eminem became a generation-defining pop star and Bus got dropped from his label, Bus vented his frustration with C! True Hollywood Stories, a Concept Album where he rapped in character as Stan, which he was also convinced was about him. Eminem (with typical class) responded by imitating Canibus's gravelly voice and hyperlexic rapping style, or insulting him with playground jibes over beats that sounded like children's music (one of these, "Can-I-Bitch", was so goofy and borderline encouraging that Bus couldn't figure out if he was meant to take the diss seriously, and let the beef cool out of sheer confusion). In 2009, after Eminem's comeback, Canibus went back on the assault - first making the bizarre allegation that Eminem was the scion of the Hermetic magician Samuel Liddell "MacGregor" Mathers and using his occult powers to control the rap industry, and secondly by releasing a track called "Air Strike" that used Manipulative Editing to have D12 seem to diss Eminem. Eminem wasn't fooled, but made it apparent he wasn't interested in beefing with Canibus any more ("I am 37 years old"), so the whole thing fizzled out (with Canibus generally agreed to have been the 'winner' - though not by covering himself in glory, especially since the non-D12 portions of "Air Strike" are about blaming Eminem for his own childhood abuse and mocking the death of Eminem's best friend Proof). In 2021, LL Cool J was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Eminem, and, in his acceptance speech, made a special thanks to Canibus, so it's fair to say the beef has been squashed.
- 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 Songs" 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.".
- 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 decided to leave N.W.A. and go 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, weren'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.
- Common isn't widely known as a battler, though the few emcees who did test him on wax came out as the loser in battle:
- Thanks to a Mondegreen taken out of context in Common's landmark single "I Used to Love H.E.R."note , he was on the shit list of a few west coast emcees for a time during the East-West Coast feud, despite being from the midwest. Ice Cube in particular took the most offense, and him and his crew Westside Connection attacked Common and several other east coast rappers on the track "Westside Slaughterhouse"; going as far as to boldly (and falsely) declare "Hip Hop started in the West!" Common quickly responded with "The Bitch In Yoo", ridiculing Ice Cube and his crew for taking his song out of context, repeated hypocrisy, lumping him, a midwestern rapper, with the east coast, and pointing out that Ice Cube relied on east coast acts like Das EFX and Public Enemy to help put his first few albums together. Eventually, the emcees squashed the beef with the help of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farhakan.
- Around 2011 and 2012, Common and Drake were beefing heavily, with the center of the conflict rumored to be tennis star Serena Williams, who was romantically linked to both rappers at one point or another. Common first took subliminal shots with the track "Sweet", particularly in reference to comments Drake had made about him during a show. In turn, Drake responded with his verse on Rick Ross' track "Stay Schemin'", making fun of Common's age (he was almost 40 at the time), and implied Serena had told him some very nasty stuff about him during pillow talk. Common quickly came back with his own remix of "Stay Schemin'", accusing Drake of biting styles (an accusation that's plagued Drizzy to this day), trying to create a hardcore persona, despite being the total opposite and not being able to respond without hiding behind his associates' songs. Like Ice Cube before, the rappers eventually squashed their beef, but Common was widely considered the winner of the feud.
- Speaking of Drake, he's gotten wrapped up in a few battles post-Common, despite frequently being derided as "soft":
- In 2015, Meek Mill, apparently in response to Drake not helping promote his album Dreams Worth More Than Money, claimed Drake used a ghostwriter on their collabrative track "R.I.C.O.". Hot 97's longtime resident DJ Funkmaster Flex also chimed in on Meek's claims, leaking out reference tracks to support the former's claims. Drake quickly responded with the tracks "Charged Up" and "Back to Back", the latter of which was widely considered to have easily buried Meek by fans. Meek would attempt to clap back with "Wanna Know", but the rap community didn't take to it, and WWE quickly forced a copyright takedown on the song, due to the song illegally sampling The Undertaker's theme music. Drake would go on a victory lap with "Summer Sixteen" prior to releasing Views, and also dissed Funkmaster Flex while on tour. After Meek was unjustly imprisoned in 2017, Drake publicly squashed the beef, and helped campaign for Meek's release from prison.
- In 2016, not long after his feud with Meek had wrapped up, Joe Budden had given Drake's then-recent album Views negative reviews on his podcast. Drake would throw subliminal shots at Budden on "4PM in Calabasas", which Budden genuinely complimented, before retaliating with both "Making A Murderer Pt. 1" and "Wake". Drake would respond on French Montana's "No Shopping", but didn't name Budden in his verse. Budden would drop two more diss tracks at Drake, demanding a direct response, but the 6 God never did, and the beef eventually cooled out.
- Drake and Pusha T had been beefing on and off since 2012, stemming from the latter's feud with his mentors Birdman and Lil Wayne, but 2018 was when things truly kicked into high gear, and got Kanye West involved. Things started with Pusha T reigniting the ghostwriting accusations towards Drake on the track "Infrared" from his album Daytona. Drake quickly responded with the well-received "Duppy Freestyle", wherein he denied the ghostwriting accusations while questioning Pusha's past as a drug dealer, and insinuated he ghostwrote for Kanye while he visited him in Wyoming. Drake even went as far as to send G.O.O.D. Music a $100,000 invoice for "promotional assistance and career reviving". Unfortunately, Drake's fortunes would immediately turn sour with Pusha releasing "The Story of Adidon" a few days later. On "Adidon", Pusha revealed to the world that Drake had a secret child with a pornstar, accused him of being a deadbeat father, and mocked Drake's longtime producer Noah "40" Shebib for having multiple sclerosis. However, the most damning blow to Drizzy was the song's cover art, showing a photo of him in blackface with a goofy smile◊ which prompted mockery and condemnation from all sides. Drake later explained that the photo was part of a project he did with a photographer about racism in the entertainment industry. He also accused Kanye of telling Pusha about his son, but Pusha claimed he got the info from a woman Shebib slept with. Ultimately, Drake never responded to "Adidon" on record, and it caused his reputation among the hip-hop community to nosedive tremendously, though it ultimately didn't hurt his overall sales or pop chart success. The feud would also lead to a beef between Kanye and Drake (mainly instigated by Ye) that lasted into 2021, with the two of them regularly throwing barbs at each other on various songs.
- Eminem famously started out as a battle rapper, and the popularity of his battle rap movie 8 Mile led to a huge Newbie Boom in the battle rap community... which is still controversial, as many hold it reinvigorated the sport, but many others point out that a lot of the newbies shared Eminem's skin colour (and not his working-class background), leading to gentrification of the scene.
- His breakout album The Slim Shady LP is hugely influenced by his past in battle raps. It contains multiple songs derived from his battle rapping style ("Role Model", "Just Don't Give A Fuck"); "Guilty Conscience" is a novelty song based on the idea of a rap battle between a Good Angel, Bad Angel pair, which Slim Shady (as the bad angel) wins by doing personals on (good angel) Dr. Dre; and the shock punchlines of Breakthrough Hit "My Name Is" were written in an attempt to make Dre corpse, as he was so used to playing to a crowd that he needed to see an audience reaction to know if he was doing a good job. The outrageous, self-deprecating shock-humour content, in which he boasts about ridiculous things like having STDs or being abused by his mother - a style he developed to force a laugh out of audiences sceptical of his whiteness without coming across as a white supremacist - caused a moral panic from white, middle-class audiences who had no context to understand that verbal aggression and shock content is typical of battle rap. Even though his followup album abandoned the battle-rapping style in favour of more typical songwriting techniques (while maintaining the gimmicky humour), the controversy created an image of him as a corruptor of public morals screwing up your kids, which remains his signature to this day, although muted with time.
- Eminem has a reputation as a Memetic Badass due to his Diss Tracks being great at wrecking the reputations of his opponents even when he's going easy on them, though it's fair to comment that he rarely had a Worthy Opponent of anything close to his ability level. From 2002-2003, he tore through multiple careers, most notably Ja Rule (last seen as a Fyre Festival instigator) and The Source editor Benzino. While Eminem signed the death certificate of Benzino's career - albeit due to Benzino's all-consuming fixation on Eminem turning his own staff against him - Benzino inflicted a serious wound on Eminem by leaking some racist freestyles he did as a teenager. While Eminem did not face the same level of scrutiny for these freestyles as he likely would have today, they were instrumental in the accusations of racism Eminem faced for mocking Michael Jackson on his Encore lead single "Just Lose It", contributing to the mixed reception to Encore and ending Eminem's imperial phase.
Battle rapping outside of hip hop:
- Heaven's Design Team: Inspired by frogs' mating calls, Mercury and Jupiter try battle-rapping while trying to come up with a "heart-thumping mating ritual", with Pluto acting as the judge.
- Chapter 108 of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War ends up becoming a rap battle between Hayasaka and Kaguya, where Hayasaka gives Kaguya a piece of her mind for how Kaguya takes Hayasaka and her services for granted.
- Both episodes 6 and 10 of Ya Boy Kongming! feature rap battles, with the one in episode 6 being an extremely long battle that takes up most of the episode.
- The Story Between a Dumb Prefect and a High School Girl with an Inappropriate Skirt Length:
- Tougo lays into some freestylers for blocking the sidewalk, and ends up convincing them to return to school and start a rap club to express themselves, by rap battling them.
- Poemu's dad Raimu also used to be a battle rapper, and we get to see him rap battle with Tougo's dad at the school cultural festival.
- When Tougo's dad meets Poemu, he's tongue-tied and can't think of anything to say. Then he remembers the Totally Radical way to talk to kids these days is through rapping. He improvises a Diss Track, but everyone else thinks he's just insulting her. Poemu shoots back with her own diss, and both of them apologize profusely later.
- In the second episode of Zombie Land Saga, Sakura and Saki get onto an argument on stage. The moment Sakura accidentally pulls out a rhyme, Kotaro starts beatboxing, turning their argument into a rap battle as the other girls provide backup.
- The Way of the Househusband: In chapter 38, Tatsu and Goda have a rap battle on the sidewalk. Tatsu renders Goda speechless with an Armor-Piercing Response: "You dress weird!"
- 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.
- The Divine Comedy: Rap didn't exist in 1320, but that didn't stop humanity from engaging in vulgar, rhythmic insult contests. Dante engaged in tenzone, essentially battle-sonneting, in his youth and some of that genre makes its way into Inferno when the liars Master Adam and Sinon trade verses about how the other sucks harder.
- A one-sided example, but Twilight from Guardians Of Gahoole rarely fights without taunting his opponents in rhyme.
- As the page description mentions, the medieval precursor to the modern rap battle was called "flyting." One well-known example is The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy, two poets at the court of James IV of Scotland.
- In On The Come Up, main character Bri goes viral for a brilliantly-executed freestyle takedown of her opponent in the local rap battle venue, The Ring.
- Eminem's film 8 Mile had battle rapping as a central point in the movie. 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.
- The final scene of Let It Shine between Cyrus and Lord of da Bling, which many even considering similar to the above-mentioned film 8 Mile.
- 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.
- Scary Movie 3 features the battle between real rapper Fat Joe and the film's character, George, a hilarious parody of the rap battles in 8 Mile.
George: I wear khaki pants / My middle name's Lance / My grandma's from France / So maybe I'm whack / 'Cause my skin ain't black / But you can't talk smack / 'Cause whitey just struck back!
- 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.
- On Spanish show Hipnotízame ("Hypnotize me"), several celebrities were hypnotized by French illusionist Jeff Toussaint and thrown into random situations for comedy. On an episode, actor Edu Soto squared off in a rap battle against real-life world battle rapping champion Arkano. Soto would then be hypnotized by Toussaint into speaking with only the letter "a" and then into not being able to separate his lips, so Arkano scored the easiest victory of his career.
Arkano: I didn't beat you, Jeff Toussaint did!
- In Idol x Warrior Miracle Tunes!, the Miracle Tunes sometimes have to use the Hip-Hop Jewel to fight, and in such cases their fights with the Negative Jewelers are prefaced with a rap battle.
- The Panel Game between The Red Squad and The Black Squad of Wild N' Out always ends with a Tag Team battle rap. Unlike most tag team battles there is a loosely enforced "batting order" where each competitor goes to the back of the line after a bar. Attacks by and to those tagged out is also sometimes allowed, and this can easily make the tag team battle into a Golden Snitch that wins earns as many points as all other contests combined if not more than double.
- Legion (2017) has Oliver against Wolf in the Astral Plane.
- BET's former flagship show 106 & Park had "Freestyle Friday", where various battle rappers would compete weekly in a two-round battle format between videos for various prizes in front of a panel of three judges. Due to FCC regulations, cursing or using sexually suggestive lyrics was an automatic disqualification (which nearly got the segment banned from the show as a result of repeated violations). Unlike most battle rap leagues, there was a Game Show Winnings Cap: Any emcee who was undefeated for seven straight battles would be retired, and put into the segment's Hall of Fame. When Freestyle Friday was revived in 2008, the Hall of Fame winning streak was reduced to five battles. Among the most famous undefeated battlers to come from the segment were Jin (who got a record deal off his success on the show), Blind Fury, and Mahogany Jones (The show's lone undefeated female emcee.) When 106 & Park was cancelled in 2014, Jin and Blind Fury were brought back to close out the final episode with a cypher.
- Hypnosis Mic Division Rap Battle is a fictional and nearly literal version of the trope, where the rappers form teams representing their prefecture and then proceed to have team-on-team battles using microphones that can hurt through suggestion.
- Konnan and Ron Killings have dabbled in rap music before wrestling and even released an album together after wrestling. For the most part they are comedians and hype men, but occasionally a wrestler feels the need to prove he could be a better rapper(most famously William Regal) with predictable results.
- 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 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.
- Alyx Sky tends to promote shows by instigating battle raps with whoever she doesn't like that is scheduled to appear on them. She carries an oversized neo lit beat box to ring side just in case anyone takes the bait.
- Salina de la Renta and Alicia Atout had a battle rap judged by the Voros Twins when their feud moved away from MLW.
- "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. Theres also a cut rap where they discuss what to do about the slave trade.
- But of course, they're really about dissing each other.
Hamilton: A civics lesson from a slaver? Hey, neighbor,
Your debts are paid cuz you dont pay for labor
"We plant seeds in the South. We create!"
Yeah, keep ranting
We know who's really doing the planting!
- But of course, they're really about dissing each other.
- In the musical Something Rotten!, Nick Bottom and William Shakespeare do a tap dance while boasting about their accomplishments and insulting each other, in a combination of this trope and a Dance-Off.
- 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, but the Pal version has both games.
- Mega Man Battle Network 2 has a variant that's best described as parodied. 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.
- Stage 7 of the sequel is an even stronger example, where PaRappa's lines are rebuttals to the Big Bad's ideals.
- Randal's Monday: At one point, Randal engages a rap battle to get a mask from a Jay cosplayer. However, saying that Randal is bad at it would be a massive understatement.
- In WarioWare Gold 18-Volt's stage is centered around such a battle between him and a rival rapper named 13-Amp, with a kid's games that the latter took on the line.
- The Jackbox Party Pack 5: Mad Verse City is a party phone game in which the players rap battle each other as giant robots, creating their verses with Mad Libs-style prompts.
- No Straight Roads has the boss DK West, a famous underground rapper and Zuke's estranged older brother, whose boss battles, of course, involves rap battles between him and Zuke that act as a platform for them to voice their grievences at each other. However, their third and final rap battle is fought by Zukes partner Mayday, who isnt a rapper but was taking notes during the first two, acting as an intermediary so the brothers can reconcile.
- In Assassin's Creed: Valhalla Eivor can engage in flyting with NPCs for cash wagers, represented as dialogue options with a timer to force the player to act quickly.
- This is the basic premise of Friday Night Funkin'. The game's initial premise is set up as a rap contest between The Boyfriend and her parents over whether or not you can date your girlfriend. However, most of the game's "lyrics" are just Animal Crossing-style gibberish.
- Golf Story: During the Tidy Park arc, the young hooligans from Wellworn Grove get into a rap battle with the old geezers of Tidy Park over the right of the former to use the Tidy Park grounds and courses. The main Tidy Park proprietor does remarkably well with this for an old curmudgeon, impressing the Wellworn Grove hooligans enough for the two sides to hash out a truce.
- 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.
- In 2019, Dan and his friend The Supendium each made a video on behalf of 11 Bit Studios (who loved their earlier songs) as an advertisement for Frostpunk's console release. With Dan portraying Order and Stupendium as Faith. With the first verse setting up their ideology, the second showing their decent into tyranny and what they plan to do to their opposition. Finally the ending verse is based off the video watched and shows the rapper proclaiming victory but showing doubt about what they did (with both last verse's being deliberately similar).
- 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.
- Starbomb made a parodic animated rap battle between Ryu and Ken.
- The 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 organisation 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, Steampunk "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.
- Dungeons & Dragons: Gangsta Edition Part 2 sees one of the Player Characters, Lance, get into a rap battle and win it... after his player rolls a 24 on his "Perform (freestyle)" skill (his highest stat, no less) and proceeds to fully act out the result (after the Dungeon Master has previously acted out his NPC opponent's lines).
- Animation Rap League, ARL, Where Animation Meets The Mic. Being a live battle rap league, the competitors are more interested in dissing each other personally than staying in character like Epic Rap Battles Of History, but everyone nonetheless is challenged to take up some animated character every battle and tie that in in some way every round.
- The Infinite Source, initially one man's lower budget Epic Rap Battles Of History copy among a trifecta of music channels. The addition of more rappers and allowance of fan submitted content turned Infinite Source into a prerecorded, more character focused version of ARL.
- Episode 28 If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device features a rap battle set to synth music between the Captain-General of the Custodes and Fabricator-General of the Mechanicus over the Proteus Protocol.
- Verbal Ase's Cartoon Beatbox Battles are mainly centered around beatboxing, as the title implies, though battle verses are as much of a part of the fights as the beatboxing is. Everyone from Sonic to Thanos has shown up at some point or another.
- Kitboga is a scambaiter popular on YouTube and Twitch. In this video, Kitboga, as his character Viktor, manages to get a scammer boss to engage in a rap battle with him. The scammer claims that it's a tie, despite barely managing to rhyme and losing track of the beat.
- Animaniacs (2020): The short "Gift Rapper" is about a rap battle between a boastful rapper named JayPac and Yakko Warner. When one of JayPac's fans claims that he's bigger than Shakespeare, Yakko gets offended and gives the rapper an epic roast.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: There's a rap battle (or, should we say, haiku battle) in The 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 6 syllables instead of 5 in his last line (it's a rule in haiku) which gets him kicked outside by the house's bouncer.
- The Cleveland Show: In the episode Brotherly Love, Cleveland Jr. and Kenny West get into an argument over a girl and throw down. The battle starts as a competition but both are so impressed with the other that it finishes as a duet.
- Elena of Avalor: In Shapeshifters, "The Right Thing To Do" is a rap battle between Elena and Esteban regarding whether or not it's really right for her to go off and fight Shuriki.
- OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes: In "You Are Rad", Radicles loans his name-tag to K.O., but forgets about it and later accuses K.O. of trying to impersonate him with a Paper-Thin Disguise. This leads to Rad challenging K.O. to a "Rad-Off" that culminates in a rap battle.
- The Powerpuff Girls (2016): In the first episode 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 Simpsons: In "Pranksta Rap", 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.
- Regular Show: In the 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.
- Robot Chicken: The episode "8 Carrot" parodies 8 Mile, with Bugs Bunny as B-Rabbit versus Elmer Fudd as Elmer Phudd.
- Trolls: The Beat Goes On!: Trolls engage in rap battle contests, but being trolls the raps are all about complimenting each other the best. Poppy used to be a champion but quit in shame when she accidentally brought up something her opponent was embarrassed about.
- 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.
- Muhammad Ali is often cited as the modern Ur-Example of hip hop in general, but his witty and poetic trash talk at his opponents also made him an early - and literal - example of a battle rapper. He even released an album of disses aimed at Sonny Liston almost exactly ten years before hip hop was truly born, and it even featured both his most famous jab at Liston, and the earliest known example of a battle rap record: "Will The Real Sonny Liston Please Fall Down":
Clay comes out to meet Liston and Liston starts to retreat,
If Liston goes back an inch farther he'll end up in a ringside seat!
Clay swings with a left, Clay swings with a right,
Just look at young Cassius carry the fight!
Liston keeps backing but there's not enough room,
It's a matter of time until Clay lowers the boom!
Then Clay lands with a right, what a beautiful swing,
And the punch raised the bear clear out of the ring!
Liston still rising and the ref wears a frown,
But he can't start counting until Sonny comes down
Now Liston disappears from view, the crowd is getting frantic,
But our radar stations have picked him up somewhere over the Atlantic!
Who on Earth thought, when they came to the fight,
That they would witness the launching of a human satellite!
Hence the crowd did not dream, when they laid down their money,
That they would see a total eclipse of Sonny!