A classic matchup from 2007.
Written by Vinny Guarino
Battle-rap is one of my favorite things in the world. If you know a little bit about it, we can talk for days on end — I promise you.
Nowadays, rap battle videos can be over an hour long so I won’t waste either of our time analyzing one of those epics.
Instead, let’s look at Iron Solomon vs Jin, a short and vicious battle that took place almost 10 years ago on Fight Klub — a battle-rap platform that is now defunct, but used to get some airplay on MTV2 late at night.
This battle is great for so many reasons, but let’s focus on the first round. Rounds 2 and 3 are not close in my opinion, but there is a ton to unpack from Round 1.
First off, beginning rappers trying to hone their writing skills NEED to study Iron Solomon’s first verse. He rips Jin by using his own name against him over and over. This tactic called nameplay is now common in battle rap, but at the time, Solomon was one of the first to use it so successfully.
Every single line uses “Jin” or a word that has the “jin” sound in it like “oxygen,” “collagen,” “estrogen,” plus a number of others.
He also uses wordplay to add another creative element to his verse. Not only is he repeatedly using the ‘jin’ sound but check out how closely his rhymes match: “origin/aura, Jin,” “call her Jin/collagen,” “Jin’ll tell ya/genitalia.” Point being, this isn’t just cat/hat/bat kind of stuff here. Solomon’s thought process was very intricate.
But the best part about this verse is Solomon’s opening line. It’s one of the most repeated and referenced lines in all of battle rap: “I ain’t gon’ rap bout your background or origin…”
For some perspective — Jin was a star in battle rap. He had won street battles all over the world and even became a freestyle champion on BET’s 106th and Park show by winning battles 7 weeks in a row on their Freestyle Friday segment. He got signed to DMX’s Ruff Ryder’s label and even had a song called “Learn Chinese” that was produced by Kanye West.
Then, in 2005, Jin lost horribly to Serius Jones, a battler from New Jersey who also made a name for himself on the 106th and Park stage. Jones clowned on Jin mainly for his Asian heritage, and Jin went silent for two years after the embarrassing defeat.
2 years after that battle, Solomon opted for a more creative approach against Jin. He omitted saying anything about Jin being an Asian rapper. Give him credit because racist jokes typically result in great reactions from battle rap crowds — but Solomon decided to skip the cheap laughs and win the battle lyrically.
Seriously though, the best ‘jin’ combination Iron comes up with in that verse is “my syringe injected her lips like collagen” — that fact that he got “jin” from “syringe injected” is pretty wild.
Let’s not forget though, Jin is a champion in his own right. He comes right back and flips Solomon’s entire concept in his first few lines:
Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. Shout out to Thoreau.
Complex lyricism is great. It’s wonderfully intricate. But there is an undeniable beauty to simplicity. In just two bars, Jin breaks down Solomon’s whole approach and does it with a classic ‘yo mama’ joke. Love it. But wait, it gets better.
The first two lines in this section are so philosophical. Jin is saying that battle rap shouldn’t be rehearsed. It should be completely impromptu. Jin is saying Solomon wrote and practiced his rhymes beforehand and that alone should disqualify him from winning.
How is he so sure that Iron rehearsed? Solomon’s complex approach gives it away. No matter how good a rapper is at freestyling — there’s no way anyone could rap a verse as complex as Solomon’s off the top of his brain without writing beforehand.
There are too many double-meanings and intricate concepts involved in that verse for it to be a freestyle. Essentially, when something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Look at how Jin reacts to Iron’s first verse. He throws his hands up and makes shocked faces because it’s so obviously written. Jin is a traditional freestyler and anyone watching can tell because he goes off-topic sometimes, and he doesn’t always rhyme perfectly.
I scored the first round for Jin.
Unfortunately for him, freestyling led to his downfall in this battle. He simply could not keep up with Solomon’s calculated approach. Jin had flashes of brilliance in the next two rounds, but Solomon provided steady punchlines throughout the whole battle that kept the crowd on his side.
Iron won rounds 2 and 3 decisively giving him the clear victory. Clearly, the crowd preferred Iron’s prepared and organized material over Jin’s sloppier freestyle.
Nowadays, most rappers prepare extensively for battles like Iron did here. This ensures that the quality of the rhymes will be as good as possible.
In my opinion, and probably Jin’s, the best battle rappers are the ones who can write well and also mix some freestyling into their verses, too.
Next week, I’ll cover a battle featuring two rappers that possess this rare ability.