Ask Max Bell about Cella Dwellas.
Let’s talk about Battle Raps — the ones that stick with you long after the record is over. I’m thinking of songs that manage to move me sonically and offer something new, lines you marvel at, and lines you laugh about with your friends. The songs with one liners that you want to say to the waiter when he doesn’t bring you your croissant in a timely fashion.
Songs that I see as I scroll through the A’s of my Itunes are those like Aceyalone’s “The Guidelines” and Atmosphere’s “One of a Kind.” Two seemingly disparate songs, definitely. But they are are, at their core, songs with great Battle Raps.
The former is contemplative and dense, disses to the nameless and faceless rappers and bombastic bragging simultaneously obscured and illuminated by things like inordinate amounts of complex diction and alliteration. Lines like, “As real as the flesh that you’re embodied in/To the skull cavity your mind is rotting in,” I’ll be riding in” aren’t run of the mill. Not now, not ever. The latter is a raw and explicit, albeit self-aware, shot at finicky fans, other underground MCs, and labels. “I still say fuck a major label till it limps/Put your deal up our table and we’ll show you who’s the pimp,” is still one of my favorite Slug lyrics.
The mark of a great Battle Rap line is that it’s often directed at no one in particular and still seems like it was delivered with a gun to the head of the MCs worst enemy who, by extension, becomes your own. Another man responsible for Battle Rap lines that find their way into my brain all the time is Open Mike Eagle. He is the rap game “Marc Maron, a dark skinned art baron.” He “eats fair trade cheese and fart[s] fairness.” He has Brian Coleman’s Check the Technique next to Vonnegut on his bookshelf. That’s not exactly relevant or from any of his lyrics, but it’s nice to know.
His latest single is the piano-driven, Quelle Chris produced “Middling.” It might be Eagle at his most irate, his most cutting and his most hilarious. This is no holds barred, capital ‘D’ Diss stacked upon another and another. You will laugh, you may cry laughing. With “Middling,” Mike might have cemented himself as the funniest of all Blowedians. He is also, of course, anything but middling. Though that’s kind of the point.
My personal favorite line is, “Your whole style is all butter knife/You make Jack McBrayer look like a guttersnipe.” There are so many more that are equally comical and worth your time, and all bode well for his upcoming release, Sir Rockabye. If you don’t like your Battle Rap served this way, then you must be Dagwood or Dilbert and as edgy as Bob the Builder.