Jae Millz received critical acclaim as a battle rapper when he was first introduced to a national audience on MTV’s “Making the Band 2: Da Band” (circa 2002). He battled up & coming Philadelphia rapper E-Ness in an exchange of rhymes in the hallway of the “Making the Band 2” house. Both MCs brought their A game but when the smoke cleared everyone was talking about this guy named Jae Millz from Harlem. Although Ness did an amazing job in the battle it seemed as though Millz’s career benefited more than Ness’. In 2003 Millz released his debut single “No, No, No” that peaked at #89 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Billboard Charts. Shortly thereafter, Jae Millz became a name in Hip-Hop that fans knew of from coast to coast.
In the mid-2000s record labels started to take more notice of the emerging underground culture of Battle Rap (that’s always existed in Hip-Hop). So much so that there were some battle rappers who managed to ink record deals from battling. To name a few, O-Solo, Reign, Meek Mill, Jae Millz, and more. This was the precursor, the advent of what was to become the Battle Rap business. SMACK DVD, a DVD magazine focusing on Hip-Hop culture, along with other battle rap leagues, Grind Time, Fight Klub, & KOTD, was one of the first to capture these talented MCs rhyming uncensored rounds of verbal ammunition. This is something that would never happen on mainstream TV or mainstream radio. YouTube became a vital component in the growth of Battle Rap and the Hip-Hop community progressively turned their interest away from mainstream Hip-Hop to Battle Rap’s viable roots.
Jae Millz vs Murda Mook
(Image via BET.com)
SMACK DVD set up a battle with Jae Millz and a young hungry MC with no name at the time, Murda Mook (circa 2005-2006). The battle took place in front of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building on 125th Street in Harlem. The battle was aired on YouTube, at the time, to 10s of thousands of viewers. Jae Millz was the seasoned Harlem veteran that we were all familiar with from “Making the Band 2” & his music. “Yo! Your best 3. Give me your best 3 rounds, man!” Millz says to Mook at the beginning of the video. We expected a clear and concise defeat.
“You a phony homie/ It’s time you get executed/Somebody tried and failed but I’mma be the best to do it.” Mook’s first line. Big talk coming from a no name. As the battle continued for 5 rounds each MC came with their best rhymes. Mook was lyrically impressive against the seasoned vet. When it was all said and done Murda Mook had made a credible name for himself. Mook’s victory in this battle was not the outcome but the fact that he garnered respect from an esteemed class of battle rappers and fans alike as someone who was a force to be reckoned with.
After that battle Murda Mook’s name was the name you looked for when searching for battles on YouTube. He went on to battle legends, such as Loaded Lux, Party Arty, & Serius Jones. There is still debate whether Mook actually won any of these battles. Nonetheless, they are all considered classic battles by Battle Rap standards. From 2005-2007 Mook became the face of Battle Rap (particularly on SMACK), quite like Jerry West is the logo for the NBA. A great feat when you consider that Murda Mook seemingly popped out of nowhere. When you thought about SMACK & battle rap you thought about Murda Mook. He became this in large measure due to his presence & believability in front of the camera. Mook actually talked to the camera as if having a conversation with YouTube viewers. He wasn’t the first to do it but he was the one that stood out from the rest. This may seem insignificant but it was actually quite ingenious because it took Battle Rap from a detached experience with two MCs battling each other to an inclusive experience, as if you were there at the battle. Mook brought an entertainment value to Battle Rap that no one else did at the time. As a result of this, performance became a vital part of winning a battle and other battlers followed suit & started to incorporate more of a performance value into their sets. This helped to propel Battle Rap to new heights.
As Mook’s name became increasingly popular more & more battlers challenged him to battle. His self-proclamation as the greatest battle MC led to battlers discrediting that title. These braggadocious claims to be the best coupled with the way Mook seemed to keep potential battles at bay by leveraging his purse amount didn’t sit well with fellow battlers and fans, especially, his claims of getting offered $25,000 for the Young Hot battle, an amount that people felt was both astronomical and undeserving. This caused disdain & extreme criticism almost to the point of hatred. Even today fans still bring that up when discounting Mook as a legend.
I have no facts to back this up but in my opinion Murda Mook’s shrewd business tactics are probably one of the reasons battlers can now demand what they’re worth today. If this is true then he’s had a great deal of influence on the fact that battlers can make a living off Battle Rap. On the other hand he has also dug his Battle Rap career an early grave. There is a fine line between businessman and artist and most Battle Rap fan’s feel as though Mook has crossed that line. From the young hungry MC who battled Jae Millz and called out Cassidy just for the love of MC’ing, to the shrewd and calculating businessman who wants battles only for the sake of the almighty dollar.
As Battle Rap evolved SMACK re-focused and created the URL (Ultimate Rap League). There were a new generation of battlers and a wider audience. Though Mook had signed to Ruff Ryders by this time and hadn’t been an active battle rapper for a few years his name had been & still is the most mentioned in URL history. Although most of those mentions are challenges to battle and insults to his character, his crew the Dot Mob, and his credibility as a battle rapper, his name is kept alive.
Loaded Lux – “You gon get this work!”
(Image via nahright.com)
Summer Madness 2
August 19, 2012 made Hip-Hop history. The URL hosted Summer Madness 2 at Webster Hall in New York City, an event that featured some of the most anticipated rap battles, and also an event that I had the opportunity to shoot video for. The event drew out big names in the music industry like P. Diddy, Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip, Lloyd Banks, & JR Writer. Ciroc Vodka was a sponsor. This was major for Battle Rap. The theme of SM2 was to bring back the “legends” of the Battle Rap game. These legends consisted of Murda Mook, Iron Solomon, Loaded Lux, E-Ness, T-Rex (an active legend), & Serius Jones. For a long time it had been debated if the legends can hang with the new generation of battlers. SM2 was the platform to prove that.
Loaded Lux stole the show that night in his battle against Calicoe. That battle single handedly pushed the URL into the mainstream. Murda Mook, whose battle with Iron Solomon was the main event that night, failed to meet fans’ expectations. Although, Mook clearly won the battle he was heavily lambasted for his performance. The only bad battle he had in his career became the measuring stick for his career. This happened for a few reasons. The first reason is that an atmosphere of hatred surrounding Mook had been created long before this battle. Mainly, instigated by fanatics who for whatever reason decided to jump on the “I hate Murda Mook”bandwagon. Secondly, the battle should have never been 5 5-minute rounds. That’s way too long, especially, for a crowd that was standing for over 8 hours. Lastly, fans didn’t feel like his performance was worth the $20,000 he was paid. They felt that his love for the money tainted his love for the culture.
Recently, I’ve been reading comments on Twitter that Murda Mook can’t beat Tsu Surf & that Iron Solomon was never a worthy opponent & that’s why Mook won. I’ve even heard people say that after SM2 Mook is no longer a legend. Anyone who says that Murda Mook is not a legend or that he wasn’t one of the best in his prime has checked out to lunch. It’s absolutely absurd to discount him as a Battle Rap legend or a dope lyricist.
Anyone who is a true fan of Battle Rap is a fan of the purity of Hip-Hop music. Fans logon YouTube to watch battles & purchase tickets to events to listen to great bars and to leave with something to ponder and debate with their friends. The love of Hip-Hop, substantial bars, and competition to be the best is what fuels Battle Rappers. On the flip side the need to survive in this world, provide for your family, attain some sense of financial freedom, and to expand business interests fuels the business of Battle Rappers. These two diametrically opposed motives cause sharp disagreements and conflicts. As for Murda Mook the question from loyal fans to his antagonists is “Where’s the love?” for this man and his legacy. For the latter, the question for Mook is “Where’s the love?” for the Battle Rap culture.
Written by: Eddie Bailey of The Savoy Media Group