Battling never technically left rap, but the way Busta Rhymes has been hypin’ his latest song “Calm Down” featuring Eminem you’d think that it had gone completely extinct. And in some ways it has, at least for the mainstream. Because for the underground it’s always been a part of the come-up, a place to test your skills in the harshest of conditions.
Kendrick Lamar did his best to bring it back and there were a few solid responses, but it didn’t take long for the roaring fire to die down to a few stubborn embers. Busta and Eminem wanted to change that so why not take a closer look to see who actually came out on top in this battle of the titans.
Busta’s voice is a jab within itself so when he gets to battling his verses can come at you fast and without warning. He opens with: [LISTEN]
Lower the casket down
Sprinkle the ash, you’ll get your ass kicked, pow!
Frown while I shit on your crown, skip town
Ground zero appear on the king cash cow
A solid punch, enough to send a shock wave through most lyricists. But the key to battling Busta is like the key to battling Mike Tyson: withstand the flurry, drag him out to sea, and then just pummel away.
Eminem’s opener was soft, he went inward and relied on his self-actualizing to do the talking. But that’s Eminem’s style – warm up with a little angry ranting and then – go to work:
There’s a light contagiousness to this tirade
It just might make you sick
So irate with this my brain is just like a fucking fried egg
Is my mind scrambled? (Cause I’m lit) narrow minded
There’s no back and forth, so in that sense it’s not really a battle. Neither MC gets personal and they’re relying on the ‘us’ against ‘them’ mode to avoid any real confrontation. Nevertheless, in the heart of each verse is where it gets a little feisty. Busta takes a big swing, inflating his aggression to a primal level:
It’s going down like she was a basement fuck
Swell up this shit like I’m sticking sticks in their gut
So gracefully, ungraciously, I painfully wake niggas up
Ragdolling these niggas and attack them like apes in the cut
I’m waiting for the taking
While I break niggas neck like a bracelet, fuck
Eminem finally loosens up and lets the tongue twisting superlatives fly. A nimble, light-footed counter to Busta’s show of aggression. But still no punch from Em, just some crafty dodging:
Changed the whole complexion of the game
But just in case you was thinking
An inkling of replacing the kingpin
You’re crazy, you’re wasting your ink then
So if this is any indication of what you may be facing
You better make a distinction cause you fake imitations
Are leaving a bad taste, fuck making a bad impression
As predicted Busta loses a bit of steam towards the end
Nothing in the way of a finishing move, just a meager goodbye:
Back to the hood and off to the whylin’
I’m hoping you protect your child
And I been blacking out so long
Niggas is asking if the hook has died, naw
But the beat is fried!
Eminem surprisingly falters too, resorting back to his Emineminisms. Lyrically it’s solid, but nothing that would classify it as supreme battle cut:
More afraid of success than I am of failure
So what does that tell ya?
That on a grand scale I don’t give a fuck about nothing
Like Stan mailing his last piece of fan mail
Before he ran straight into the damn railing
Neither brings the ruckus on this, and in the end what does it matter? It’s just an exhibition, and no more. What does matter is that they’re still rocking the mic after all these years, and what they’ve brought to the game collectively is enough to speak for itself.