Immortal Technique vs. Iron Solomon (2002)
Iron Solomon: “So basically, there’s this open mic in New York City called End of the Weak. It’s every Sunday night at The Pyramid at 101 Avenue A, and it’s the longest running open mic in New York City. I think now it’s like thirteen years without missing a Sunday. And they have all these satellite locations on almost every continent. There’s one in South Africa, West Africa, Paris, Spain, London—they have all these locations. And it’s evolved into a crew, and it’s something I’m affiliated with.
“So they developed this competition that’s kind of the antithesis of a battle, where you’re competing against other MCs but you’re never going head to head. You’re never actually dissing anybody else. There are five categories, and everybody competes in each round.
“First round is the written round, spitting punchlines over a beat, and you get points. Then the acapella round where you do something more heartfelt and show that you can captivate the crowd. The next round is a freestyle grab bag, where you pull items out of a bag and rhyme about them as you’re pulling them out. That’s like the ‘prove you’re freestyling’ round.
He was upset, and wasn’t in the right mindset to be focused in the battle. And he looked at me, and didn’t know who I was, and took my appearance for granted, and assumed I was not going to be able to hold my own.
“Then the fourth round is beat juggling, where the DJ will just throw the most left field beats at you, like something East Coast boom bap, then some Dirty South, then some Britney Spears or Michael Jackson, and you gotta just keep going without ever missing a step.
And the last round is cipher skills, where you trade off with all the other rappers in the competition, and that shows your ability to play off another rapper’s energy, count bars, and all that stuff.
“So overall, it’s a little more well-rounded assessment of skill rather than just a competition. I’ve been in it a bunch of times, and won it. And at the end of the year, there’s like a championship of all the winners, and whoever wins that goes to an international competition with all of the other locations around the world. They have multi-lingual judges, and it’s pretty cool to see [rappers] competing in German and French and an African language and English. It’s dope.
“Immortal Technique, that’s my man. He’s good peoples, and a great force on the music scene, and someone that I have a lot of respect and appreciation for. I was really young at the time, and Technique was someone I had seen making a come up. He was coming off of winning Rock Steady and all these huge battles, and selling a shitload of CDs independently. And he was still humble enough to jump in the competition.
“He was clearly favored to win, because he was the most notable name in the competition. But the way the judges added it up, I won, which is kind of the way the MC challenge is. Sometimes you never know who’s gonna win. It depends on who’s judging that night.
“He was pissed, and the crowd was on his side. So I was up there just nervous as hell. I’m this young kid, Technique is someone I know that’s just a monster when it comes to battling specifically, and I wasn’t too into the battling scene yet at the time. I loved it, and I was doing Bragging Rights before that, which was this battle they used to have at Nuyorican and then at Wetlands, but I hadn’t been as gung ho about it.
“So he [grabs the mic saying], ‘Yo, if you think I won....’ So I’m just shitting my pants up there like, ‘Okay, now I got second place. This joyous moment of me winning this competition is over, and clearly he’s going to destroy me in this battle. And I’m gonna have to walk away with second place. This sucks.’
“But it didn’t pan out that way. He was upset, and wasn’t in the right mindset to be focused in the battle. And he looked at me, and didn’t know who I was, and took my appearance for granted, and assumed I was not going to be able to hold my own.
I had that, [‘Only time you get five mics is in a gay orgy’] line for a while. That was my first time using it. People criticize that [I’ve used that line a few times], but back in the day when the freestyle battle thing was super-duper heavy, and everything was supposed to be freestyle, everybody had little lines in their pocket.
“Me, I’m a well-rounded MC, and it’s important for me to be able to write a song, and be in the MC challenge, and be in an MC battle. So I always had little lines in my pocket, and I was freestyling like every day, all the time, so that wasn’t a difficult thing for me.
“That moment, when I felt like the crowd was on my side, and I kept gaining momentum with each punchline, was an incredible feeling. It was probably the [moment] that sparked my run through the battle scene. At that moment I was like, ‘OK, that felt good. That was fun. Immortal Technique is the king of this, and I just beat him. Let me go out and see what else I can do.’
“I was only seventeen or eighteen at the time. It was like early 2000s. I was barely old enough to be in the club. I was such a young kid that my whole family was there. My Pops was there, my brother was there. My parents are musicians, so they love that type of thing. I was my own independent person, but the idea of them coming to see it was still exciting to me.
“I had the footage for years, but I just didn’t release it because I respected Technique, and he was salty about the situation. At that time, he was so poppin’ that I probably could have released it and got more of a buzz for my name. But I was like, ‘You know what? I’m just gonna keep this for myself and let it be what it is.’ And then years later, someone else released it.
“The footage that’s online is not my footage. I have it from another angle, and I have all the rounds too, which I could probably put out and let people assess whether or not I won in the first place. I’m sure Technique would love that too. [Laughs.]
“The final line didn’t even rhyme [where I say, ‘How are you gonna fuck my girl? That’s your Mom!’] [Laughs.] And yeah, I had that, [‘Only time you get five mics is in a gay orgy’] line for a while. That was my first time using it.
"People criticize that [I’ve used that line a few times], but back in the day when the freestyle battle thing was super-duper heavy, and everything was supposed to be freestyle, everybody had little lines in their pocket. And that was one that I was like, ‘This line is great!’ But I never had a chance to use it because Braggin’ Rights had died down. So at that moment, I was like, ‘I’ve got this little trick I can pull out of my bag.’
“And in that era, shit wasn’t always filmed, so people used a punchline more than once and it wasn’t a big deal. Now, you can’t even say the same word twice without being criticized. In any situation, a freestyle can beat a written, or a written can beat a freestyle. It’s about being able to adapt. I would never be like, ‘Yo, that wasn’t a freestyle, so he doesn’t deserve to win.’ If it’s dope, it’s dope.
“He was pretty pissed, and still salty about the whole thing, and was like, ‘Yo, we’re gonna battle outside after this.’ But that didn’t happen. I think that he cooled off. Since then, we show each other respect, and it’s super cordial.
“But yeah, I got a couple hundred dollars, and was going off that high, and it definitely sparked something in me that had me going for a while.”