The “pinnacle of UK battle rap” was summitted last Saturday. It’s been a hard climb for live events this year, so what would have been a packed-out weekender was scaled down to a production-only pay-per-view. Yet, some of the best battles on UK soil were fought that day.
Premier Battles put on an incredible show against all odds, with no MC compromising their style. We’ve seen the stream and so should you – Shotty Horroh‘s post-clash interviews and all. In order of appearance, here’s our breakdown of the day’s insane proceedings, including two title matches among multiple nail-biters. Content warning…
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Bizzo Bond vs Sam Hypes
The event begins with a Lancashire derby. Both battlers are Academy 2018 alumni, with this being their first ‘mainstage’ performance. Sam Hypes starts, he’s very much an MC in the traditional sense, where he’d look comfy in a dark rave with a mic in his hand. He comes with a lot of Bond name-flips, with a highlight being: “You’ll see me break down bond like the friendship’s over”. Bizzo takes a slower pace, letting bars ruminate and land with the audience. He punches more frequently than Sam, with more wordplay and variety in rhyme schemes. This is where we hear the first proper reactions from the small crowd.
Sam starts his second by flipping the fact that Bizzo is wearing a shirt with his name on, which earns a good laugh. There’s a nice The Boys scheme and another decent name-flip in “Briggzy hit me up like, ‘Yo, you’ve got Bond to body’, like symbiosis”. He also shifts to incorporate humour, mocking Bizzo’s TikTok cover songs. Bizzo’s second was his lightest, (as he admits), but still has plenty of solid bars. He takes the piss out of Sam’s many appearances in video battle tournaments, even acting a fake phone call to Sam’s wife.
By Sam’s third, his structure and pacing has got a bit repetitive, although he’s really firing with some of his best lines. He rebuttals the video battle angle by stating his pay-out but it doesn’t quite come across as a rhyme, though proving he can think on his feet. His hardest bars are in this round, such as: “Before you ask, Rorschach’s mask / I’m represented by the ink”. Bizzo fights back, saying Sam’s real surname ‘Freeman’ would be more fitting because he has “no bars or conviction”. There’s also a great line “When I kill you there won’t be a lonelier sight, it’s known as a fact / Schrödinger’s cat, when I put you in a box they won’t even know if you died”, though it sounds familiar. Bizzo ultimately came with a bit more variation and control, taking rounds one and two.
Reverb’s result: Bizzo (2-1)
Best bar: “You say the same shit every battle, crowd starting to snooze / Ironic a hotel manager can’t take charge of a room” Sam Hypes, R2
Jester Black vs Slester
Next up is the Academy 2020 final between Scotland’s Slester and Jester Black, (aka The Villain), who travelled over 20 hours from Ireland. Two teammates in the tournament now facing off for the crown. Slester in fact competed in last year’s competition too, being brought back as a wild card. The sarcastic Scotsman starts things off with multiple consecutive punchlines, claiming that Jester receives favouritism from the management: “They’re tryna make Black star in their final like Bowie dying” and “I just knew the staff would protect the villain like Saruman”. Jester has a unique structure to his rhyming and goes through Slester’s resume by incorporating a long school scheme in reference to the Academy.
Round two sees Slester clown Jester with a hilarious impression, parodying his voice and use of schemes. He uses multis well, while showing his confidence by interacting with the camera and open space. Jester chokes and forfeits his round after about 16 bars. Slester jumps in unphased for a final savage round playing on their friendship and the fact that there are no Englishmen in the decider.
Jester’s third is his best, reverting Slester’s first by saying he actually had the harder path and Slester got a leg up from Premier Battles. He calls out Slester for imitating Soul, and even makes his opponent smile with “I’ve got all you bitches fucked, Bang Bros”. Jester then rushes his own slogan, indicating his thoughts on the result. Slester takes the win convincingly but both these young battlers have firm places in the scene’s future.
Reverb’s result: Slester (3-0)
Best bar: “You’re here because of potential / I’m here because of credentials” Slester, R1
I-Kid vs Deviant
Another two Academy 2018 prospects facing off: I-Kid in a Barbarian utility vest versus Deviant in a Utah Jazz jersey. Speaking of which, I-Kid Jerseys his first, cutting the round mid-flow. But his hood style works well and he addresses Deviant’s BLM rounds against Karni by saying they meant nothing now that they’re battling black on black. Deviant pulls up lots from I-Kid’s past, including his misogyny against Loxy and the fact that he lost to newcomer Major Concerns: “You thought you were the daddy until the results from that test proved that he sonned you”.
I-Kid’s second starts strong with “The kid brings metal together like beating cymbals / African London boy, loves to slice, so either way you’ll meet akimbo (a Kimbo)”, though overall he doesn’t seem 100% confident with his material, and many of his punches pull from mundane themes. Deviant’s second isn’t too direct, taking shots at phony gun-bar rappers in general. But, he lists the many leagues he’s battled on, stating he’s been active when the scene was struggling and that old heads only come back for clout.
Into the third, I-Kid’s rebuttal flops, but he steps up the gear which puts more power into his punches. He counters Deviant’s previous round by saying that he’s been on TV, BET and other leagues. Then comes Deviant’s final round. It was meaningful and emotive, but not a battle round. There’s no attack on I-Kid, instead he attempts a B Dot-esque speech. Despite being well written, this cost Deviant the battle. It was the Mancunian’s best showing to date, with improved projection and variation, but I-Kid left with the win in a close clash.
Reverb’s result: I-Kid (2-1)
Best bar: “Dog fighting like Hong Kong Phooey” I-Kid, R1
Raptor Warhurst vs Rivers
Former champion Rivers returns to battle Raptor in another London vs Manchester clash. A lot of respect is shown between the MCs especially as this is Raptor’s final battle. He opens the first with a parody of Tali‘s slogan, mocking Rivers’ failings with No Loose Chat and The Platform. He executes his bars with serious passion, talking about Rivers leaving the league, “How’re you saying you’re from the manors (manners) when you leave without saying thanks?”. Nice name-flip too referencing Rivers making financial demands, rapping “What? Because Rivers had a little rise did you expect them to break the bank?”.
Rivers comes back with his cold style, hidden behind shades. He claims he gave the title away because “Self-respect is worth more than shine / That’s why I’m looking past Briggzy like anyone over 4ft 9.” Raptor’s second is more humorous, doing a good impression and clowning Rivers for tweeting his appreciation for Raptor stepping up to the battle: “The audacity / I’m stepping down to battle you, you’re stepping up to me / Absolutely fucking fax machine”. Another great name-flip in “Have you even read the script? / There’s a gap between us Rivers and it’s one you could never bridge”. Rivers then points out that he won the title after one attempt whereas Raptor lost both of his. He airs a lot of Raptor’s bad behaviour including a dispute with UNILAD and “I spat fire at Unan, you spat in his face”. The round’s final line earnt a big reaction: “Stack your bread, economise / You’re out here bragging about views that someone else monetised”.
In the third Raptor is super-charged, emotions coursing through him. He opens with the unique wordplay of “D’ya think I’m fronting with my words / Well, I’ve got a knife, I’ll back it up and put it in reverse (Rivers)”. He goes in hard on people reusing tired angles against him without being criticised, in a powerful display which gasses up Rivers to shout “Talk to them bro!”. Intensity is high and Raptor bows out with a famous Soul line. Rivers returns to his swagged composure, using his more measured pace to contrast with his opponent. His ‘Lil Pump’ scheme is layered with double meanings, and utilises Raptor’s susceptibility to interject, (like during his title match against Soul). Rivers remixes Raptor’s famous ‘courtroom’ scheme but it falls flat. Perhaps an indication of Rivers’ time out. However, his round and Raptor’s were both phenomenal, making the whole clash anyone’s game. The judges give a slight edge to Raptor for his conviction and fire.
Reverb’s result: Rivers (2-1)
Best bar: “If he mumble, I’m using a little pump, I’ve come to destroy Rap’ / I called you Lil Pump cos you’ve got all the tats and energies but you’re not bossy / Nah, it’s a triple punch, a lil pump means… a sawn off shotty” Rivers, R3
Shuffle T vs Soul
It’s the headline battle between two of the UK’s best. Soul is masked up and in a grey hoodie so you know it’s a war. He sets the scene with a line he’ll reuse throughout the battle, summarising their differing tones by saying Shuffle T never raps unironically. He draws the contrast with close rhymes, telling the audience to pick either “‘That’s fire!’ or satire, detail or summary / Iron Mike Tyson in his prime or Butterbean / The guy who broke the fourth wall or the guy who built the other three”. He plays on Shuffle’s penchant for The Office lines, giving him the quote “You’re fired Adam”. Then he rips off the mask and keeps firing, showing how seriously he takes the sport: “I’ve gone insane like Dr Crane, that fear gas me up”. The roomshakers don’t stop this round, with Soul spitting “Write ambidextrously / Left handed punchlines, right hand to set up schemes / Nicest there’s ever been / Synapses sensor beams / Write everything I hate about him and rhyme accidentally”. Shuffle’s first is hilarious, claiming the room is empty because Soul bought all the tickets so the crowd wouldn’t interrupt with their cheers. He claims their compliments battle was actually sarcastic, and has the audience in pieces with “Leaving Soul as an anagram of ‘lose’ if you spell it wrong”.
Soul comes back by calling Shuffle a sell-out for his commercial ventures, firing shots at his podcast, sponsorships and rhyming dictionary: “You know what rhymes with ‘Fuck your book I could rap before it?’ / You don’t need to anymore, just check the chapter for it”. The jokes switch to rapid multis, intricately weaving in mythology and space schemes. Shuffle T’s second instantly breaks Soul’s intensity with humour. He’s pre-recorded his own voice as crowd reaction and plays the comments off his phone after each line, until ‘Coping with erective dysfunction’ plays and he blames it on his dad. Then, he digs into Soul punching Caustic, rapping “Couldn’t smash a prawn cracker with Thor’s hammer”.
Round three sees Soul launch into a detailed cheat code scheme using wordplay related to videogame controller buttons. He drops multiple film/TV bars, including: “Take the head clean off him, I’m Highlander with his Zweihänder”. Things get playful for a moment with “Rain on him like cats and dogs / Beat on him like boots and cats”, but there are a few tiny stumbles that hinder his performance. He closes with an extended remix of the soul singer scheme Illmaculate used against him. In each round Shuffle breaks the fourth wall with self-aware comedy as Soul predicted. Here, he pauses to make it easier for viewers to find his round once they’ve skipped Soul’s. He then uses a racism angle but in a comedic way, ironically making Scottish jokes and saying, “You can’t even say something racist without being called a racist these days”. Shuffle switches to seriousness, building up multis and tight rhyme patterns much like Soul does. He takes the judged victory in one of the event’s best battles.
Reverb’s result: Shuffle T (2-1)
Best bar: “I promised when the contract was written I ain’t scrapping him / But there’s a clause (claws) / If Adam anti (ante) I’m (Adamantium) showing them these hands are different” Soul, R3
Matter vs Unanymous
Defending his title belt, Leeds veteran Matter takes on a hungry Unanymous, who also ran for the Don’t Flop title this year. Energy is high. Matter starts by showing how he effortlessly got the title while Unan has been trying for years. There are plenty of appearance jokes, saying he “looks like someone drew a sad face on a slab of ham” and “like Quasimodo got chased by angry villagers through River Island”. Then, (using Street Fighter moves), he plays on Unan’s reputation for Twitter disses and apology inboxes. Matter goes on to say, “The fact that you haven’t been beaten ’til you’re crippled and lifeless / Is honestly a testament to British politeness” and also delivers a funny impression of Unan’s West Country accent. Unan’s first round takes aim at Matter’s reliance on Lunar C and P Solja, a theme he carries through the battle. He refers to Matter often being compared to a feeble owl, then roars “I came prepared to skin a werewolf, since you’ve been basking in Lunar’s light”. Staring into his opponent’s eyes, he’s more about hard rhymes and a beastly performance, but doesn’t quite take the round.
Matter puts down his San Miguel and starts taking the piss out of Unan’s history of poor rebuttals. He briefly touches on the typical ex-girlfriend and drug addicted mum angles then brings in many more impressions. The round’s highlight is Matter’s mimicry of Unan stringing together unrelated multis, like picking random words from a dictionary. The crowd loves the imitation, especially the line: “Why don’t women respond to my combination of aggression and lyricism?”. Unan jumps straight in on Matter using comedy as a crutch. The round is chock-full of bars, like “Since when have we been making champions out of parody rappers? / It’s about to look like one of his two-on-twos, somebody’s carrying Matter”. There’s an impressive space scheme, culminating with: “Fuck your clique (click) fam / A big bang can turn Matter to atoms”. Unan’s writing is surgical in both content and structure. He raps “Pass the scalpel, hand the wastebin / The face of the league’s getting amputated”. Clinical and fierce throughout.
Matter responds by clowning Unan’s fans but the energy isn’t in his favour. His Plymouth incest angle is nothing new, though the line “Note the deep-set brow and the neck where the jaw should be” gets a solid laugh. Matter moves to address Unan’s verses about mental health, saying, “You can’t talk one minute about getting depressed / Then diss someone’s dead family members the next”. In Unan’s final round he calls Matter’s girlfriend crazy and suicidal, which seems poor following Matter’s previous comments. But he changes, (as if a direct reply), into explaining his own suffering and turning the sights on Matter, who he calls insecure himself and wrong for making jokes about people’s mental health. It’s a powerful performance, dramatically concluding with the Bender quote: “The title’s only as respected as the man that holds it.” This is Matter’s best recent showing, who’s clearly better suited to smaller rooms in comparison to his Big Kannon battle. However, Unan’s quality doesn’t dip and his impressive patterns keep punching. Every judge gives him the win with raw emotion and clever craftsmanship.
Reverb’s result: Unanymous (2-1)
Best bar: “Every milligram of whatever he thinks makes him champ gets snatched in the ring / I’ll step on his chest, wrap the belt around my head, like ‘What’s the champion to the king?'” Unanymous, R2
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Written by: James Wijesinghe