There was a time in battle rap when every match felt like a grudge match.
During the scene’s formative years, MCs were carving out their spots in the pecking order and the hunger for a clear win was palpable. Then as the scene exploded in popularity, many top tiers became complacent, over-saturating themselves with watered-down performances, or resting on their laurels and relying on their devoted fanbases to support them regardless of the quality of their output.
With events happening almost every week across dozens of leagues, and multiple battles dropping every day, a matchup that means something and that has lasting consequences has become a rarity.
That’s not the case for the headline battle between Shotgun Suge and Hitman Holla at U Dubb’s appropriately titled “High Stakes 2” event going down in Elizabeth, New Jersey today (January 22).
The matchup pits two guys who’ve been going back and forth so long that there’s no way they’re bringing anything but their best. Both are known for their intensity: Suge for his aggression and gritty street lyrics and Hitman for his dynamic performances and crowd control.
Hitman has become one of the most popular battle MCs over the course of his career, appearing in four of the five most-viewed battles on URL’s YouTube channel (with the #1 spot still being held by the legendary matchup between Calicoe and Loaded Lux).
That popularity launched him onto MTV2’s Wild ‘n Out, where he’s steadily increased his fanbase.
He hasn’t battled on URL since his clash with Tsu Surf in September 2014, but he’s occasionally popped up on other leagues, taking on U.K. top tier Shotty Horroh on King Of The Dot in February 2015, and joining fellow St. Louisan Aye Verb for a 2-on-2 for Don’t Flop in June 2015.
He’s also had some lower-profile battles against mostly unknown opponents recently, but those are typically seen as non-canonical to his legacy.
Newark, New Jersey battler Shotgun Suge, on the other hand, has been around about as long as Hitman, but has hit his stride more recently.
Suge has been steadily climbing toward the top tier in recent years, taking on names like Charlie Clips, Tsu Surf and Big T, and regularly calling out Hitman along the way.
Shotgun Suge vs. Hitman Holla is a matchup that would’ve been unfathomable just a few years ago, but what with Suge’s steady ascent and the growing rivalry between the two, it became the hottest ticket in town.
Long considered one of the hottest possible matchups in battle rap, leagues had been trying to book the bout since 2015, to no avail.
Now that it’s only hours away from going down, many fans are wondering what will happen when two unstoppable forces launch headfirst into each other. Despite the endless threats of violence that battle rappers shout in each other’s faces, real confrontations are a (highly publicized) rarity. That said, Suge has all but trademarked the aggressively physical “pocket check” in battle rap, while Hitman’s brother Showwoutt is known in battle rap circles for his propensity to lump up anyone who gets in his or his brother’s way.
Still, an official faceoff between Hitman and Suge ahead of the battle, though electric, never moved beyond raised voices and confident posturing.
The video has done 250,000 views in just under a month — more than many battles can ever expect to get.
The back-and-forth in the faceoff is a solid precursor to the themes that will come up in the battle.
“You the worst in your city and you bottom 20 in your class,” Hitman shouts.
“I’m the reason he getting the check,” Suge responds.
Going into Sunday’s battle, Hitman still seems to be the heavy favorite. Numbers from a BattleRap.com poll are giving the match-up clearly to the St. Louis rapper, even with the battle going down in Suge’s home state.
The main event is just part of a mega-card that also features Tay Roc vs. Charron, DNA vs. Pat Stay, Arsonal vs. Chilla Jones, Serius Jones vs. O-Solo and Rad B vs. T-Rex.