Since the start of the pandemic, the Timbaland and Swizz Beatz-backed Verzuz series has become the perfect squared circle for our favorite artists and producers to both deliver their best career hits and receive their well deserved flowers. Today (Oct. 17), hip hop legends Big Daddy Kane and KRS-One became the latest to step into the proverbial ring to entertain, and both artists took little time to prove why they’re still two of rap’s greatest of all time. Before we get into the trenches, let’s revisit some of their biggest achievements.
Both artists are stalwarts in regards to the golden age of rap. Big Daddy Kane made his biggest waves with his first two releases, Long Live The Kang and It’s A Big Daddy Thing, both of which earned the Brooklyn emcee a couple of Gold certifications and contained timeless collaborations alongside the likes of Mister Cee, DJ Red Alert, Nice & Smooth, Blue Magic, and the late Biz Markie. Meanwhile, KRS-One took over the game as a part of Boogie Down Productions with D-Nice and Scott La Rock (RIP) — his first solo release, Return of the Boom Bap, arrived in 1993. It didn’t take long to confirm his standing amongst the greatest, thanks to the top three Billboard effort I Got Next arriving four years later.
Here’s the best moments from the heavyweight matchup:
1. That DJ competition
Before the battle began, DJ Scratch announced what would be the first round of a DJ competition that would leave the victor with a million dollar salary. Let’s keep it real — this is a major move for hip hop and music altogether, and it created some dope spins from some up and coming DJs, without question. Shoutout to DJ Midnight.
2. DJ Scratch and Kid Capri
Immediately following the competition, DJ Scratch decided to get the fans ready for the big event, spinning records from what’s arguably the greatest era in hip hop — classics from The Notorious B.I.G., Lil’ Kim, Nas, Mobb Deep, Pharoahe Monch, and more made its way to the packed venue. In the words of Scratch himself, “transitions matter.” Following Scratch’s quick run, the equally legendary Kid Capri arrived to keep the turn of the century hip hop vibes going, ensuring that all in attendance — in the building and virtually — would be ready for the Verzuz to come thanks to curveball instrumentals from Phil Collins and Soul II Soul. We know you saw that Kid Capri freestyle too!
3. The “Chucky” promo
Don’t act like you didn’t enjoy the promotional adverts for the “Chucky” television series, which kicked off last week and looks to continue the legacy solidified by the Child’s Play film franchise. The inclusion of that horrifying doll alone certainly kept everyone watching on their toes.
4. Fat Joe
It’s becoming apparent that Fat Joe will be one of the most important factors of the Verzuz series moving forward. This go ‘round, he played host to Big Daddy Kane and KRS-One’s battle, and — as we’ve seen via his social media — he made sure to keep the party going with his unintentionally hilarious punchlines and non sequiturs (“Today’s price is not yesterday’s price!”). You could not help but laugh at Big Daddy Kane’s delayed entrance and the jokes that ensued from both Joe and KRS.
5. Biz Markie
It’s hard not to get emotional over the fact that one of our rap legends are no longer on this earth with us. Immediately after taking to the stage, the well-dressed Kane made sure to pay homage to Biz Markie, making for a moment that’s impossible to forget.
6. The hits, the freestyles, and more
Of course, this Verzuz would not be one of the best if not for the hit records that both artists have created throughout their decades-long careers. Tracks like “Lean On Me,” “I’m Still #1,” “Raw,” “Mortal Combat,” “Step Into A World,” “South Bronx,” “Ain’t No Half‐Steppin’,” “Sound Of Da Police,” (Big L’s) “Platinum Plus,” and more brought the crowd to its feet — both artists made sure to provide rewind-worthy acapellas and freestyles over more current instrumentals to add to the overall divertissement.
7. KRS-One’s breath control (or lack thereof)
We’re all getting older, and so are our legends. What was unavoidable during the show was KRS-One’s inability to get all of his words out — a surprising turn of events giving his penchant for bringing a high level of energy to the stage. Regardless, a quasi-exhausted KRS was still a memorable one, complete with the Jamaican-style call-and-response tactics that make him one of the best to rock a crowd.
8. Big Daddy Kane’s dance moves
Just as KRS tried to keep the party lit with his vocals, Big Daddy Kane looked to remind the crowd why he was considered one of hip hop’s biggest sex symbols. In addition to busting out some suggestive dance moves, Kane even “jumped” into the crowd to bring the adults-only vibes to the concert-goers themselves.
9. The cameo appearances
During Big Daddy Kane’s “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy” performance, Nice & Smooth came out to assist with their parts of the Scoob Lover and Ant Live-produced cut, much to the delight of his fans. Given the lower-than-expected cameos, this was definitely one of the bigger moments during the event — the Jewel of the Nile duo even stuck around to perform the Gang Starr classic ”DWYCK.” Not too long after, Mad Lion popped up to assist KRS with a rousing rendition of “Take It Easy.” Influential group Das EFX also blessed the masses with their unique, fast-paces flow to add a point or two in KRS-One’s favor. Added to the aforementioned was an impressive display of breakdancing that reminds us how there’s more to the culture than just rocking the mic — Rock Steady Crew’s own Crazy Legs and others even made sure to bring out the unbelievable dance moves throughout. Towards the end, Masta Ace and Craig G joined Kane for a rendition of Marley Marl’s “The Symphony,” followed by a Buckshot appearance for “How Many MC’s…” and Channel Live’s Hakim for “Madizm.”
10. Roxanne Shanté
At one point, KRS-One broke out “The Bridge Is Over,” an iconic diss track that was aimed at the Juice Crew. Without missing a beat, Kane brought out Roxanne Shanté in response, who kicked off an ill freestyle of her own. Kane made sure to let the viewers and listeners know of Shanté’s prowess before she left the stage, making for an emotionally charged moment that no one will soon forget.
11. The overall celebration between two pioneers
At the end of the day, we bared witness to two artists that are largely responsible for a lot of the raps you hear today. And, despite the obvious competition, it’s more than clear that these two have a lot of respect for each other’s creations, and all who love the artform benefited from their back-and-forth as a result. All-in-all, the ceiling has been raised for future Verzuz episodes to come.