August 21, 2017

SHOOK ONES: Ranking the “8 Mile” rap battles

Nuclear physicist. Computer programmer. Middle school teacher. Battle rapper. Historically, these are the most difficult professions known to man. With apologies to nuclear physicists everywhere, battle rap requires the most advanced skill level of any job in America. When the movie “8 Mile” was released in November 2002, it was promoted as a dramatized take on the early life of rap superstar Eminem. But beneath that superficial plot synopsis, you’ll see a near-documentary style look at the world of freestyle battle rap. Flow, delivery, punchlines, swagger—although the verses were scripted, each battle within the movie had something special to offer. But in the years since the release of the film, the question has remained—which battle was the best? Which of Rabbit’s (yes, Eminem’s character’s rap moniker was ‘Bunny Rabbit’; the boldness of that young man was staggering) opponents put up the best fight? Which mid-90s era rhymer from the movie would make Nas circa “It Was Written” the proudest? I’m here to answer those questions. Without further ado, I present the definitive ranking of the “8 Mile” rap battles. Let’s dive in.

**NOTE** These rankings do not include the lunchtime parking lot cypher at Rabbit’s job at the auto plant. While necessary as a plot device for Rabbit’s increasing confidence as a rapper, that scene was random and just plain weird. People don’t spontaneously start freestyle rapping about how much they hate their jobs. Even if Xzibit works at that particular place of employment.

4. Rabbit vs Lil Tic

First things first—RIP Proof. Eminem’s childhood friend/fellow rapper plays the character who gets the first battle against Rabbit at the beginning of the movie. Tic has some nice lines here, especially with the play on Rabbit’s name and Playboy (“Rip the Rabbit’s head off, toss it to Hugh Hefner/cause I don’t play, boy, now tell me who’s fresher?”). Ultimately, what makes this battle last on the list is Tic’s overreliance on Rabbit’s whiteness for punchlines (I unofficially counted five jokes aimed at Rabbit’s Caucasian heritage), plus the fact that Rabbit himself chokes and walks off the stage without managing a single word. Also, the “he faker than a psychic with caller ID” line is CORNY. Props to Lil Tic though—he’s the only rapper to give Rabbit an L.

Best line: Lil Tic’s “Hugh Hefner/Playboy” line referenced above

8-mile-13. Rabbit vs Lyckety-Split

Mr. Split gets points deducted off the bat for spelling his name in such a ridiculous manner. In hindsight, Lyckety has to be feeling good about his chances going into this battle. He’s the first representative of the Free World crew, whose members had executed a thorough physical beat-down of Rabbit earlier in the movie. Also, Rabbit had choked his last time up weeks (Months? Am I the only one unclear on the timeline of this movie?) earlier against Lil Tic. Perhaps it was overconfidence that spelled Lyckety’s doom, as his rhymes were easily the weakest of the Free World music collective (besides Papa Doc, more on that later). He takes two obvious shots (see what I did there) at Rabbit’s associate/habitual screw-up/failed rapper Cheddar Bob, who at the midway part of the film accidentally fires a round into his own leg, a full decade and a half before Plaxico Burress. Lyckety also goes overkill with the “trailer trash” jokes. After Split’s thoroughly underwhelming verse, Rabbit proceeds to destroy him, calling him a generic Eric Sermon (of EPMD fame) and clowning the Free World crew on the sidelines. Rabbit gets bonus points for using Lyckety’s “up shit’s creek” line against him, and also for mooning his opponent.

Best line: Rabbit: “So I’m a German, eh?/That’s ok, you look like a f—-n worm with braids.”

2. Rabbit vs Papa Doc

Plot twist! Perhaps the most famous battle from the movie comes in at number 2 on the list. You may not have recognized Papa Doc when this movie came out, but take a closer look now and you’ll see that he’s played by none other than Anthony Mackie—the future Falcon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sadly, he gets his ass kicked worse than he did in that scene in “Ant-Man” during this round. Over Mobb Deep’s famous “Shook Ones Part 2” instrumental, Rabbit raps like a man possessed during this battle. He hits Papa Doc on his legal name, where he went to school, and his lack of creativity as a rapper. I saw an interview with Eminem once where he admitted to using Rabbit’s tactic of self-deprecation in real life in his early years as a rapper. The premise is, if you diss yourself, you take away your opponent’s ammo against you. Rabbit executes this game plan to perfection in this battle, calling himself a piece of white trash who lives with his mother while also admitting to the crowd that Wink (traitor) of Free World slept with his girlfriend. But let’s take a step back for a moment. If you deconstruct Rabbit’s lines, he essentially clowns Papa Doc for growing up in a structured two parent household and attending a good school? Doesn’t matter. Papa Doc still takes a massive L in this battle. Rabbit raps with such ferocity that the line “This guy’s a gangsta? His real name is Clarence!!” elicited a response from me that was basically “Yoooo!! ‘Clarence’ lololol what a WACK name!!” And my name is Arnold. Salute Rabbit, who goes so hard that this time it’s Papa Doc, the Free World leader, who is unable to muster a response.

8-mile-2Look at that face. That’s the face of a defeated man. Sorry Falcon.

Best line: Rabbit: “Here, tell these people something they don’t know about me.” *tosses mic to Papa Doc* GOAT EMOJI

8-mile-31. Rabbit vs Lotto

At last, the best of the best. Lyrically this is the most impressive battle and it’s not close. Both rappers are in top form, with Lotto proving to be the only Free World rapper able to go toe to toe with Rabbit, and also the only one of his adversaries with a semi-coherent name. Lotto deploys the “good guy” strategy, using clever lines about how he actually likes Rabbit while simultaneously making fun of him (“On some real shit though, I like you/That’s why I didn’t want to be the one you have to commit suicide to”). Lotto doesn’t lean too heavily on the obvious “white rapper” jokes and is still brutally effective. Unfortunately, he goes up against a juggernaut in this round. Rabbit is in 2007 regular season Patriots mode against Lotto, firing off verses about how Lotto’s athletic physique actually makes him lame, and it somehow works. He also goes in about Lotto’s struggle for original lines and invites him to go home and write some better material before he decides to rap again. I doubt Rabbit’s “Leave it to Beaver” opener would get as big a response in real life as it did in the movie, but regardless—this was a phenomenal effort by both involved. Faux movie battle rap at its very best. At the end of the day, it’s the audience that’s the real winner.

Best line (and line of the century): Rabbit: “Tank top screaming, ‘LOTTO, I DON’T FIT YOU!’”

Arnold Woods 21 Articles
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Arnold is a Des Moines, Iowa native by way of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. One of the many Iowa State University graduates that contributes to the site, Arnold is a big fan of Prince, the NBA and food. As a child, Arnold wanted to grow up to be Dwayne Wayne from “A Different World" and according to him, that's exactly what happened. Never one to shy away from controversial topics, Arnold would like you to know that he is firmly against holograms of dead celebrities.

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