Rakim vs. Big Daddy Kane
Match-Up: Although Rakim and Kane were involved in a fierce subliminal back-and-forth, this dream face-off never officially got off the ground. The story goes Kane bristled at Rakim with the line “Rap soloist...you don’t want one of this” on his blazing track “Set It Off,” a clandestine shot at the Long Island, New York rhyme giant who referred to himself as, yep, you guessed it, the “rap soloist.” Rakim then dropped “Microphone Fiend,” a classic that gave a hidden slap to Kane’s own single “Smooth Operator”: “E-F-F-E-C-T, a smooth operator, operating correctly…” But before the rap battle could really find its legs and become a public exhibition, Rakim removed stinging verses directly aimed at Kane on the cut “Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em,” following a beef-ending phone conversation with the Big Daddy.
Winner: If this battle really came into fruition, Rakim would have been victorious. While Kane was a superior live performer, the R’s otherworldly lyrical arsenal (check out the startling “Follow The Leader” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95gP3m-uBHA for proof) would have helped him to the W, bolstering his status as arguably hip-hop’s greatest MC.
Nas vs. The Notorious BIG
Match-Up: Another secret war that never caught fire. Nas himself detailed his behind-the-scenes squabbles with the late, great Christopher Wallace on the 2002 track “Last Real Nigga Alive.” “Y'all know about my Biggie wars/Who you thought “Kick In The Door” was for?” the Illmatic legend recalled of the song that questioned the celebrated MC’s status as the king of New York.
Winner: The slight edge goes to Nas, but it would have been thisclose. Considering that the Queens, New York spitter was involved in (and won) perhaps the greatest rhyme battle of all time against Jay-Z, Nas’ huge heart pushes him across the finish line even against the iconic Notorious BIG.
Eminem vs. El-P
Match-Up: As a member of the groundbreaking Rawkus Records flagship act Company Flow, El-P became the reluctant face of the late 90’s back packer hip-hop movement. But while the Brooklyn, New York native struck a serious, avant-garde tone on record, Detroit’s Slim Shady went straight for laughs, albeit in a sardonic, pill popping, self-effacing, kill-my-baby-moms fashion. Both soared as boundless wordsmiths as future best selling rap giant Eminem displayed his underground credentials appearing on 1999’s Soundbombing II compilation alongside El-P and the likes of Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch, and R.A. The Rugged Man. But as the two most gifted white MC’s to ever drop bars in a recording booth, comparisons, however unfair (at this point Em and El accomplishments on the mic go beyond race), have always surfaced.
Winner: Considering that Eminem has gone after some pretty soft targets over his decade plus career, El-P would easily represent his most challenging opponent (peep his mind-numbing 2012 release Cancer 4 Cure; the alternative rap hero is in a different weight class than Em when it comes to pure conceptual output). But somehow you get the feeling that the laugh inducing, punch-line master would squeak this one out. Slight advantage one-on-one—Eminem.
Lil Wayne vs. 50 Cent
Match-Up: As much as 50 Cent has tried over the years to draw Weezy into a verbal smack down, the Young Money general has for the most part sidestepped such obvious traps. Indeed, it takes self control when your would-be foe has thrown such poisonous darts as, “Acting like a white boy bored/Now you want to jump a flight of stairs on a skateboard/Nigga, why the fuck is your pants so tight?/You trying to show niggas your A$$ your alternative life.” Well, damn.
Winner: Wayne currently is way above Fiddy on the rap food chain, but the ruthless Queens rhyme bully is well battle tested (see Ja Rule, the Game, Jadakiss, Rick Ross, ect…). 50 Cent in a blowout.
Kanye West vs. Drake
Match-Up: When G.O.O.D. Music’s Pusha T declared war on YMCMB head Lil Wayne, fans began gearing up for a full-blown rumble between the two powerful camps. But as mildly entertaining as it was to hear Common and Drake go at it, rap followers were really anticipating a showdown between the latter Canadian ladies’ man and global superstar provocateur Kanye West. After all, it was Yeezy who gave birth to the unfiltered Emo rhyme style that has propelled Drake to platinum headliner status. And there was some smoke to the fire. Was the Take Care lyricist throwing rocks at Ye and The Throne partner Jay-Z on the DJ Khaled single “I’m On One” (“Hate the rumors, hate your bullshit/Hate these fucking allegations, I’m just feeling like the throne is for the taking/Watch me take it…”)? Did Kanye answer back on The Throne’s “Otis” with his own crafty jab (“Niggas talking real reckless: stuntmen/I adopted these niggas, Phillip Drummond ‘em…”)? It was all speculation, but not at all far fetched.
Winner: A draw. Let’s just keep it ratchet. This battle would have been as soft as the Cottonelle variety.
T.I. vs. Young Jeezy
Match-Up: The two Godfathers of Atlanta’s Trap Music genre have managed to keep a pretty amiable relationship over the years. Both T.I. and Young Jeezy have spoken about the prospect of joint album project, and the two forces recently turned up on Trinidad James’ "All Gold Everything" remix alongside fellow A-Town representative 2 Chainz. But wouldn’t a spirited, good ol’ fashion battle for ATL rap supremacy between the Trouble Man and the Snowman be vastly better and far more entertaining than the incoherent ramblings of Gucci Man incessantly attacking Jeezy?
Winner: While Young Jeezy has made an effort to become a better MC across the board, Tip, the superior lyricist, comes out on top.
Nicki Minaj vs. Remy Ma
Match-Up: Maybe Remy would have been able to keep Nicki Minaj’s ambitions to be the biggest pop star on the planet in check if she wasn’t currently serving prison time for shooting an associate in the abdomen in Midtown Manhattan in 2007. All reports have the no-nonsense, former Terror Squad femme fatale getting her release in June of 2014. Can’t wait.
Winner: While it’ been cool to witness hip-hop earning a seat at the American Idol table (Nicki gets mega props for such a game changing move), the Young Money queen’s total transformation from mixtape darling to Britney Spears 2.0 has been a bit unsettling. The hungrier (and more lethal) Remy Ma scores the knockout.
Jay-Z vs. Big Pun
Match-Up: Another otherworldly what-if. Big Pun’s untimely 2000 death from obesity overshadowed any notion of a bubbling face-off between Brooklyn rhyme deity Jay-Z and the Bronx-bred lyrical wonder. But make no mistake about it. The beef between Jigga and Pun was real. There’s the story of a meeting that spun out of control between Jay’s Roc-A-Fella camp and Fat Joe’s/Big Pun’s Terror Squad. And the “Still Not A Player” heavyweight was never at a loss of words with it came to Mr. Carter, even once proclaiming on video, “Brooklyn niggas is hardcore, except for Jay-Z.” (Watch this at 0:45 mark.)
Winner: This would be have been a glorious, bloody 12 rounder, down to the ringing of the bell. Again, the close victory goes to man who once dropped this tongue-twisting show of force: “Dead in the middle of Little Italy little did we know that we riddled some middleman who didn't do diddily…”