On Sunday night (Oct. 18) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Big Daddy Kane and KRS-One had their Verzuz showdown and it was everything a Hip-Hop head could ask for. As fans rabidly debate who came out on top, the culture itself came home with the W.
While DJ Scratch and DJ Kid Capri (more on them later) held down Kane and KRS on the wheels of steels, respectively, it was Fat Joe who introduced the start of the battle. Fat Joe represents the Bronx, but he showed reverence for both legends. KRS hit the stage first, and he wasted no time as Kane was slower to enter, blasting off by performing “Criminal Minded.”
Kane rolled up unbothered sporting a mean fedora and when it was his turn started things off by saluting the late, great Biz Markie, and performed their collab “Justing Rhyming With Biz.” From there, it was pretty much a slugfest with both supa MC’s dipping into their bag of classics with deathblows and counterpunches that would have leveled lesser rappers. For example, KRS would return fire with “I’m Still No. 1,” Kane countered with “Nuff Respect,” Kane hit “Lean On Me” from the eponymous movie’s soundtrack, KRS answered with “Jack of Spades” from the I’m Gonna Git You Sucka soundtrack. King Asiatic dipped in his bag with “Mortal Combat,” The Teacha retorted with “Superhoe” and “Jimmy.” This was the stuff of Golden Age Hip-Hop legend.
Then the two Rap Titans start tapping into guests. Kane set it off, no pun intended, by bringing Nice & Smooth out to perform “Pimping Ain’t Easy.” The move was crafty considering the duo is from The Bronx, but ain’t no friends in battle. But KRS was unfazed by the uppercut, coming back with “Black Cop,” which seamlessly led into a surprise appearance from Mad Lion, who performed “Shoot To Kill” and his own “Take It Easy.”
But soon after is when the vibe got a little janky with DJ Scratch calling for a freestyle section. Kane obliged but KRS wasn’t really with it, choosing instead to bring out Das-EFX, who performed “Real Hip-Hop” and “They Want EFX” but respectfully held on to the mics for way too long. But the ship was put back on course after KRS performed “Step Into A World.” The classic track is perfect for B-Boys, and the Bronx rapper welcomed several to the stage including Popmaster Fabel. Kane in turn brought out Crazy Legs to make the breakdancing intermission cipher complete.
Soon enough fans got blessed with more classic bars like Kane’s “Wrath of Kane,” “Ain’t No Half Steppin” and “Another Victory” while KRS hit “Sound of Da Police,” “Loves Gonna Getcha” and “The Bridge Is Over,” where he also brought out DJ Red Alert. But also around this point, DJ Scratch and DJ Kid Capri starting going at it, and it was just unnecessary. At one point Scratch basically asked if he could battle Capri and KRS-One said “Nah, this is called Verzuz” and then added “Y’all are running out of records.”
Eventually, Kane acquiesced and let Scratch get off a DJ routine aimed at disparaging Capri, who responded by displaying his own scratching skills. Scratch wanted to keep it going, but Kane deaded it, saying it was time to move on. Throughout the night Kane commanded respect and was a class act. Another dope moment was when he made sure to salute Shante (after KRS got off his infamous line from “The Bridge Is Over”) by making sure the world knew she was who ushered The Juice Crew into the game, not the other way around.
Kane winded down his time with performances of “The Symphony” (with Masta Ace and Craig G, but Kool G. Rap was AWOL) and “Warm It Up Kane.” But KRS wasn’t kidding, he had more records—he spit a medley of “9MM Goes Bang,” “Ah Yeah” and “Self Destruction” and after he and Kane gave each other their flowers, closed with “Mad Izm.”
But who got the decision in the title bout? This writer is leaning toward KRS-Won (see what we did there?) but will readily admit that he has a Boogie Down bias. Throughout the night Kane demonstrated otherworldly breath control, never missing a bar. KRS depended a lot on the crowd helping him out by punching in lyrics, but his command of the stage is still insane at 56 years old.
While the “we all won” rationale is cool, Twitter may actually be too busy appreciating the blessing than debating the winner? Probably not, but peep some of the more poignant reactions in the gallery.
So, who’s next on Verzuz? [Looks at Busta Rhymes]