The KRS v. Big Daddy Kane VERZUZ was the matchup of two of the most influential rappers of the Golden Age. It was indeed a night of hip-hop, a celebration of the elements, B-boys (OG B-boys no less) demonstrating their craft, DJs serving scratch battle disses, freestyle acapella raps, and of course bars; more bars than the French Quarter and Austin’s 6th Street combined. The guest list alone was extraordinary.
Joey Crack served as the announcer. He paid homage to Swizz and Tim for holding “us” down during the pandemic and creating a space for the culture. He then introduced the legendary DJs who would be spinning Kid Capri and DJ Scratch. Fat Joe then brought out the legendary MC, the Blastmaster, the Teacha, the legend KRS-One. KRS-One appeared, and Brooklyn showed love. Fat Joe then introduced Big Daddy Kane, who didn’t make an immediate appearance. Crack informed the crowd that they were having a technical difficulty, “it ain’t hip hop without a little technical difficulty.”
KRS wasn’t having any of it, and with a dismissive, it ain’t no technical difficulty he’s hiding in the dressing room. With a “F*ck this sh*t” KRS starts out with “Boogie Down Productions will always get paid; we’ll take the wackest song and make it better; remember to let us into your skin, Cause then you’ll begin, to master….” The beat to Criminal Minded dropped, and KRS started the first verse just as Big Daddy Kane made his appearance on stage. “Criminal Minded you’ve been blinded . . . “and it was on and poppin’. The Arena was rocking, DJ Capri cutting the audio and letting the crowd handle “Cause girls look so good, but their brain is not ready, I don’t know”..
Kane took the mic after the initial salvo and responded with a cut I wasn’t familiar with, and in my humble estimation, didn’t seem to match the energy of KRS. However, his voice was strong, the tone identical to the records from which he’s known, and while not as energetic as KRS (who is), he definitely was spitting bars.
KRS followed up with Still #1, the crowd went nuts. Kane shines on Young, Gifted in Black…a hip-hop moment is happening, it is clear to all that experience it; if you were there then and you are here now, it was All The Way Live.
KRS follows up with the iconic intro of an acapella recorded voice asking “Are You A Philosopher” and the Scott La Rock scratched response of “yes, yes, I think very deeply.” I’m immediately transported to the highest of 7 hills, a tape cassette playing this eternal classic as I cruise, music on full blast and in the bliss reserved for youth, an actual moment of nostalgia.
Kane then went to work!
KRS drops Step Into A World and dawns on me that this song, so reminiscent of the craft’s early going days, is actually from 1997. The stage turns into a display of the dance element of the culture. BBoys make an appearance, including the OG of popping. Younger dancers are doing no-handed windmills and move so fresh and athletic they damn near seem unreal. KRS exits the stage with the crew in tow.
Not to be outdone, Kane introduces the legend himself, Krazy Legs from the Rock Steady Crew. At the conclusion of the breakdance battle, Kane absolutely torches the Mic with Wrath of Kane. Kane’s hat is literally off, and the crowd is anticipatory and hyped. Hearing the track’s frenetic pace, the quickened samples in the production, and Kane’s rapid-fire delivery, it’s hard to fathom the precision required to pull this track off live. But the energy it generates is undeniable; the Barclays is on fire, and Kane is wielding the flamethrower and torching the mic.
KRS returns from his backstage respite and perfunctorily states, “I’m not doing that fast sh*t.” The beat drops, and it’s the intro to the classic South Bronx. A bold choice; I mean, the battle is in Brooklyn, after all. The audience is not as rambunctious as it had been, but the song is banging.
Ain’t No Half Steppin drops. Kane spits pure molten lava. DJ Scratch starts to do his magic. He lowers himself behind the fader, his hands the only thing in sight after cutting the track into ribbons. A moment later, he rises into full view with a Jason mask and beat juggles the catchphrase “It’s Friday the 13th and I’ma play Jason” to the delight of the crowd. Kane turns to Capri and taunts, “what you wanna do with that” and, hearing no reply, turns back to his DJ and says, “ain’t nobody f*ckin with you, Scratch.”
Undeterred Capri drops. That’s the Sound of the Police. “Overseer, overseer, overseer, officer,” the slave patrol lyric that remains as politically powerful now as the day the teacha first dropped it.
Scratch is itching (see what I did there) to battle Capri and issues another challenge. This time KRS responds with “I’m here to battle Kane, F*ck that” and drops Loves Gonna Get Ya.
This is followed by extraordinary performance freestyle acapella. KRS goes right at Kane for a solid 16 bars, and “When I spit next to Big Daddy Kane, I become his cocaine” is the final freestyle punch.
Kane comes to the mic and raps a quick 4 bar response stating that he never backs down from a battle “I don’t do that seldom, but I stayed outta you and Shan’s shit, You’re Welcome” the Arena and the internet exploded.
Kid Capri attempts to respond to the niceness that was DJ Scratch, attempts being the operative word. He drops a few bars that literally fail to move the crowd, then feels as if they were lost. Capri’s a DJ, one of the greatest to ever work a hip hop audience. I’ve been to multiple private parties where he was the DJ, and you can’t ask for more. Nonetheless, he should stick to the ones and twos where few mortals can do what he’s done.
The Bridge is Over comes on, and I can only imagine Queens is feeling some kinda way. The roof has definitely been raised.
Roxanne Shante makes an appearance. Kane gives her roses, acknowledging that she is the mother of the Juice Crew and that it was Roxanne who brought out Masta Ace, Biz Markee, MC Shan and Kane.
Symphony drops, and Craig G and Masta Ace make an appearance.
KRS does a shortened medley, taking the best bits of Golden Era Classics. The audience gleefully participates KRS shouts, “if my train jumps off the track,” the audience responds, “pick em up, pick em up, pick em up.” KRS then hits the “friends how many” and switches to “emcees must be dissed, how many emcees must be dissed, before somebody says don’t f*ck with Kris” and drops the iconic battle anthem.
Bucktown joins him, shows love to Kane via freestyle, and Kane comes back with “Warm it Up Kane.” The Barclay’s roof explodes.
At this point, DJ Scratch is bullying…and is beautiful. He’s cutting “Sucker DJ” “Kid Capri” folding the cuts into a taunt that Capri, to that point, does not seem willing to engage. Kane cuts it short, and Capri uses the classic “it’s time” from Al Naafiysh cutting, scratching even moving into a transformer, it’s not as clean as DJ Scratch, but it’s an energetic answer. Scratch breaks out a shoe; Grandmaster Dee from Whoudini style, but Kane cuts it short and stops what’s about to be a full-on DJ Battle. The only disappointment of the night is that KRS didn’t do his verse on Self-Destruction, but that is the literal equivalent of complaining that the deluxe chocolate banana Sunday with a cherry on top came with a spoon and fork did include a spork as well.
This battle was summed up best by @krareemslick and @michaelharriot