Last month, I put together a list of the ten greatest rap battles of all time for our sister paper, LA Weekly. Included on that list was Twin Cities hip-hop icon Eyedea's unforgettable 1999 Scribble Jam finals with Freestyle Fellowship member P.E.A.C.E. My inclusion of it led to something of a debate as to which Eyedea battle was truly his best. While the late Eyedea was much, more more than just a battle MC, his legacy of utter domination within the battle circuits cannot be overstated or ignored.
With Soundset this coming weekend -- a stage that he loved and that loved him back -- is in remembrance of his accomplishments that we look back at Eyedea's five greatest freestyle battles.
5. Eyedea vs. RK 2000
HBO broadcasted the Blaze Battle across worldwide premium cable airwaves back in 2000. At the tender age of 18, Eyedea faced the champions of various individual regions and took home top honors. While his showdown with RK isn't the best overall battle of the night, it did birth one of the top three most-revered battle moments of all time. Earning Eyedea a favorite spot within circles who aren't the fondest of battling, it's impossible not to be impressed by Eyedea's infamous "back-up dancer" comeback, a line so flawlessly executed that even opponent RK had to give him props.
4. Eyedea vs. Mic T. 2001
Before King of the Dot, Grind Time, Smack or even 8 Mile, the rap battle circuit wasn't nearly as organized as it would become a decade later. As a result, anybody claiming to be a "battle MC," especially a noted champion like Eyedea, would have to be on-guard 24/7 in the event a challenger called him out. One such instance occurred in the Bay Area in 2001 when Mic T. challenged Eyedea for a duel after a show. Undeterred, Eyedea answered the call and, while things started out fairly even, he eventually showed the endurance and creativity that made Eyedea a master. This was a frequently traded MP3 in the Kazaa/Limewire days, so getting to finally see the actual footage over a decade later really captures what a spontaneous rap battle was like at the time.
3. Eyedea vs. PackFM 2000
Being Eyedea's battle career pre-dated the YouTube-era, it's surprising how much footage of his battles exist. Sadly, footage for all these classic encounters haven't surfaced, but the fiercely traded audio remains. Lucky for us, since half of this battle consists of Eyedea rhymes, hearing him is really the next best thing. Proving how off-the-dome his extemporaneous rhymes were, hearing to Eyedea describe and dis all of QN5 member PackFM's movements and attire paints the perfect picture of what transpired on-stage.
2. Eyedea vs. Immortal Technique 2000
One of the main reasons that Eyedea was at one point "the man" in battle circles was because he actively sought out and emerged victorious at every major rap battle tournament in the country, often beating some of the best in the world in their own hometowns. Eyedea did just that in 2000 when he won in overtime at New York's Rock Steady Anniversary against a red hot Immortal Technique whose boisterous shock-laden method of battling led to an entertaining styles clash. It's telling what a venerated figure Eyedea's been since these days, seeing as MP3s of these battles have been in circulation going back to the Napster era.
1. Eyedea vs. P.E.A.C.E. 1999
Finally, we come to the unforgettable 1999 Scribble Jam finals that pitted Eyedea against P.E.A.C.E. in a passing of the torch that changed the course of battling. P.E.A.C.E., a veteran of California's Good Life Cafe scene that valued the act of freestyling as something of a jazz-influenced act of MCing, whose battles were as much about disses as they were outshining your opponent through endlessly impressive spontaneous rhyme schemes and innovative flows. Eyedea held P.E.A.C.E. in high regard, and the influence is never more clear than here. While, according to New MC/Big Zach Combs' book Headspin, Headshots & History, Eyedea himself had his own issues with accepting a victory here, the fact that the result is still disputed over a decade later speaks volumes as to how both MCs absolutely brought it for a classic showdown.
Soundset is Sunday, May 26 at Canterbury Park. Get your tickets here.