On Sunday, the team at Verzuz debuted a battle that showcased the culture that birthed the careers of Timbaland and Swizz Beatz, the Verzuz Founding Fathers.
Although the event does not declare a victor, there are always inevitable discussions of who actually won. To settle the debate, we decided to use the scientifically proven method known as “here’s what I think,” to judge the various elements of the face-off between the two legends.
KRS-One: Lawrence “Kris” Parker, known as KRS-One (Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone) burst on the scene in 1987 with his “South Bronx,” a response to MC Shan’s “The Bridge.” Boogie Down Production’s 1987 debut album “Criminal Minded,” remains a part of the canon, ensuring that Boogie Down productions will always stay paid because they take the wackest songs and make them better.
Alternately known as “The Teacha,” “The Poet,” and “The Blastmaster,” KRS is considered one of the standard-bearers for hip hop culture. Although he is not considered a mainstream artist, anyone who can’t recite the first verse of “My Philosophy” is disqualified from ever being called a “head.”
Still, emcees act like they don’t know.
Big Daddy Kane: Antonio Hardy rose from prominence as a battle rapper and member of DJ Marley Marl’s hip hop collective, the Juice Crew. After his appearance on the legendary song “The Symphony,” Kane quickly became known as one of the purest lyricists in hip hop, mastering a fast-paced style that many purists juxtaposed with Rakim’s slower, deliberate rhymes.
Although Kane was considered a pioneer, his showmanship and heartthrob persona catapulted him into mainstream success, eventually garnering the Brooklyn rapper a large female fan base and movie roles.
A decade before Cash Money Records took over, Big Daddy Kane’s flat top ruled in ‘89.
After the initial announcement that the Blastmaster would be battling the Smooth Operator, hip-hop purists and Vegas oddsmakers gave KRS the advantage. Like those who underestimated the battle between Lox and Dipset, many forget to factor in showmanship, strategy and song placement. And, although KRS-One claims South Bronx, both rappers hail from Brooklyn, so the Barclays Center gave neither rapper a clear home field advantage.
While both artists gave a master class in the emcee tradition, they approached live performance in different ways.
Kane was definitely more charismatic and engaging, while KRS wanted to let his collection of classics speak for him. The essential difference between the two performances boiled down to Kane trying to prove that he “still got it” and KRS tried to show the audience “this is how real emcees do it.”
KRS performed many of his songs in a variation of a Caribbean dancehall cadence and seemed to try to compete with the size of the venue. Kane, however, stuck to the basics, showing his remarkable breath control and the ability to perform rapid-fire lyrics from songs like “Wrath of Kane.” Kane’s dancing and stage performance were reminiscent of his heyday.
Advantage: Big Daddy Kane
KRS-One stuck to his fan favorites and Kane seemed to forget his advantage with his female fan base and tried to match KRS as a pure lyricist, attempting to outdo the Blastmaster with his technical emcee skills and degree of difficulty. In a few rounds, Kane actually spit great verses, but they didn’t always land because the audience wasn’t familiar with them.
Few rappers can come “off the top of the dome” like KRS-One. His freestyles are actually freestyles, so it would be fruitless for most emcees to try to challenge him in this way, which is why Kane came armed with a few pre-written freestyles.
Therein lies the problem.
Jadakiss has ruined Verzuz freestyles. Ever since Jadakiss’ brutal bodying of the entire Dipset crew, staff and record label, anyone who tries to freestyle during a Verzuz battle isn’t competing against their opponent, they are actually competing against Jadakiss. So, when Kane spit an admittedly hot verse that even Dylan would call “hot fire,” everyone in the audience was comparing it to Kiss. And, with no familiar track and no familiar lyrics, Kane’s flames barely scorched the crowd.
This was clearly an attempt to highlight four of the five elements of hip-hop (Emceeing, B-boying, graffiti, DJing and knowledge/history). Kane teamed up with DJ Scratch, a producer and turntablist, while KRS One was joined by DJ Kid Capri, one of the most famous DJs in hip hop history.
Before the rappers took the stage, Capri showed off his unrivaled ability to rock a party. However, during the battle, KRS shut down any talk of a battle of technical skills between Scratch and Capri. Still, Scratch showed why he is considered one of the purest turntablists in the game.
Advantage: Big Daddy Kane
KRS One brought out dancehall great Mad Lion to perform “Take it Easy” as well as Das EFX to perform “They Want EFX”; Buckshot for a rendition of “How Many Emcees”; Channel Live’s Hakim for a performance of “Madizm”; and the Rock Steady Crew.
Meanwhile, Kane welcomed Nice & Smooth to explain why “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy”; Craig G and Masta Ace helped with “The Symphony”; and a trio of dancers showed off the evolution of B-boying. Scoob Lover also showed off a few dance moves.
But Roxanne Shanté was not only the only woman to grace the stage; she spit a few bars after Kane thanked her for being one of the few female rappers to “put on” male emcees by introducing him to the public.
- Big Daddy Kane’s fedora: 1 point
- KRS-One’s reminder that “If you ain’t bout our people, then fuck you: 2 points
- DJ Scratch’s Jason mask: 1 point
- Kid Capri’s freestyle: -400 points