Do you remember what it was like before battle rap gained commercial success with shows like Wild n Out and Drop The Mic? Do you remember that scene before Smack DVD was all over YouTube with it? For those that are younger than me you most likely do not, but my peers should be picking up a little of what I’m putting down. There was a time when rap battles were actually fought by not just up-and- comers but by mainstream artist as well. It was usually some legendary account passed down and shrouded in mystery. You would hear about amazing cipher’s at baseline studios, or how every borough would put up their best rapper’s up against each other I.e. DMX vs. Jay-z.
That was the scene I grew up to listening to hip hop. I felt like that particular underground scene reached its pinnacle and came to and end with the Ja Rule-50 Cent feud. It felt like after that the mainstream saw the potential of revenue streams from dueling artist and was ready to cash in. I built all that up to basically say this; there were some great battles from great artist you may have forgotten about. While finding myself in the deepest 6 degrees of separation hole that is YouTube, I stumbled upon one of my favorite rap battles.
Enter Freeway vs. Cassidy. This was such a classic that had every element of a dope battle. Let me try to set the scene. Supposedly, it all started from when Hov and Swizz Beatz were working togethere and Swizz had his new artist, Cassidy, by his side. He told Jay that he had the hottest boi in the streets. This was coming off the heels of the infamous Roc-a-fella Hot 97 freestyle series, where the Roc basically took over the airwaves for hours with all of their artist going back and forth on various beats. Jay knew he had the hottest commodity and told Swizz that Cassidy wasn’t touching any of his team. Seemingly, no time was wasted to set up the battle, and before you know it we were given footage from a packed dark studio shot on an old handheld VHS camcorder.
From the rip Cassidy was going in with bars on bars on bars. Up until this point I really had a vague idea of who Cassidy was, I may have heard a freestyle or two from him if that. Freeway on the other hand, in my eyes was a beast and I was more than anticipating his rebuttal. Much to my dismay he took a swing and completely missed. He started dropping verses we already heard before and frankly didn’t really have anything to do with battling. Cassidy comes back with more dangerous bars and it was pretty clear this was going to be a lopsided victory. It all culminated with a scathingly destructive last verse from Cass and Freeway half begging for someone to put a beat on, but to no avail. I was instantly a Cassidy fan after that and he never really disappointed me, showing how easily he could transition from battle to mainstream success was something that eluded many an artist still to this day. So I definitely have to tip my hat to the underdog who effortlessly ate another rapper for lunch.
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