Two recently released rap songs. Which one is best? This is Rap Battles.
Angel Haze – “On The Edge”
Azealia Banks – “No Problems”
What better reason to restart Rap Battles, than an actual rap battle? Angel Haze and Azealia Banks have been sparring over twitter for the better part of a day, thanks to a jab from Banks that Haze believed to be directed at her (Haze is not originally from New York.) Anyway, after a volley of vicious, mostly depressing shade-casting and sycophant retweeting, Haze dropped her diss track “On The Edge” (a reference to Banks' hair or something) and goaded Banks to do the same and “say it in a song.” At 12pm today, Banks did just that. And while I'm sure this is not the end of the melee, let's see who won the first round.
You can tell from each rapper's Twitter accounts that both are clearly wounded, but you wouldn't think that from their verses and their eye-popping insults. Given the short turnaround, though, it's unfair to expect the lyrical virtuosity of “Hit 'Em Up” or “Name Callin', Part 2” from either of these hugely talented emcees; in fact, there's some corny lines in both tracks. But it's pretty shocking how winded Banks sounds. Her energy is at about half the level of “Nathan,” like she's timidly shouting her unremarkable barbs from around a corner. On the other hand, Haze gets deeply specific, blaring specific conversations and events both in verses and snarl-giggled interludes. While Banks' flow is usually fierce and bubbling with syllables, she falls behind here, despite having 18 hours to catch up on Haze's ethering (which allegedly took 20-minutes to record.)
On first listen, I thought it was a clean sweep. Machinedrum’s dubby bass and alarm siren squeaks sound tailor made for battle rapping, but Diplo’s beat blossoms from Super Nintendo fighter intro into thunderous chirpfest, like an imp on a sugar high, with a Biggie sample guiding the whole thing like DNA. And since I’m pretty uncomfortable with Machinedrum’s sampling of “Allahu Akbar” throughout his beat (she’s declaring jihad! Get it?), Diplo wins this one.
WINNER: ANGEL HAZE
EDIT: Angel Haze released another diss track, “Shut The Fuck Up,” recorded on GarageBand and unmixed. If Azealia responds, we'll go to round 2. Till then, check it out below. The rushed production (complete with on-board mic) is pretty charming, and the sparse mini-orchestral beat helps give it a mid '90s vibe. Lyrically, the hurt feelings are bleeding through a lot more, and when properly controlled can help give diss tracks a potent, uncomfortable energy. Haze keeps a handle on it, though, for the most part.