Math Hoffa vs. Iron Solomon (2007)

Iron Solomon: “I remember again not wanting to focus on the battle stuff too much, but being open to opportunities. I grew up watching Smack DVD, of course. I’ve always been so hungry for the culture. I would buy it on 125th Street and just watch it, and eat that stuff up.

“I live in Brooklyn, and I was in the bodega on the corner getting a drink out of the cooler, and I get a call from Eric Beasley, who was Smack’s partner, and he was like, ‘Yo, we want you to battle on Smack.’

“Again, obviously I’m chasing opportunities in my life because I’m trying to achieve something, but most of these big opportunities just came my way because I was in the right position or showing and proving myself enough [to be in demand]. The Jin battle, like I said, I didn’t ask for it. And this one, they called me.

 

To be on Smack was super dope, and a big honor and achievement. And I’m the first white kid to be on it, which is kinda cool. I don’t focus on the race thing too much. Obviously I’m aware of it. But to know that it was a more street DVD, and even though I grew up with all types of people from street guys to college guys, I’m not a tough, gun shooting, drug dealer rapper. To have Smack feel like I was viable on their DVD was dope.

 

“I was excited. To be on Smack was super dope, and a big honor and achievement. And I’m the first white kid to be on it, which is kinda cool. I don’t focus on the race thing too much. Obviously I’m aware of it. But to know that it was a more street DVD, and even though I grew up with all types of people from street guys to college guys, I’m not a tough, gun shooting, drug dealer rapper. To have Smack feel like I was viable on their DVD was dope.

“At that time, Murda Mook and Loaded Lux and the guys who were really big on Smack weren’t really trying to be active. And Math Hoffa was the current contender. He had just battled on the last Smack, and he punched a kid in the face, and he was the tough guy from Brooklyn.

"He had battled at Fight Klub a lot, and I saw him once I think against my boy Nems, but that battle where he punched the guy in the face was the only thing I really knew of him. From those couple bars, it was clear that he was dope at rapping, but it was also clear that he was a tough guy.

“That type of stuff doesn’t concern me, just because of the way I carry myself. I’m not worried about things erupting into [violence]. But a lot of people were like, ‘Word? You’re gonna battle Math? You didn’t see what happened the last time? That guy’s crazy.’ But also, at that time, he was kind of the underdog, and people were like, ‘Don’t underestimate him. He’s dope.’

“But for me, it’s never really about the opponent. It’s more about me, and my performance. I feel like you can lose a battle by a landslide, but if you still performed to the best of your ability and represented yourself, you can still win fans, even if you got outdone that night. So for me, I was like, ‘This is a dope opportunity. Smack is a big DVD with a wide reach and a different demographic that I might not be totally exposed to. Let’s do it.’

“I had already stopped talking about someone’s girl, and using profanity. And it wasn’t because I was like, ‘Oh, this is potty mouthed.’ It was that I would watch a battle and feel like it was such an easy crutch to rely on. It’s so easy to call somebody gay.

 

I’m not worried about things erupting into [violence]. But a lot of people were like, ‘Word? You’re gonna battle Math? You didn’t see what happened the last time? That guy’s crazy.’ But also, at that time, he was kind of the underdog, and people were like, ‘Don’t underestimate him. He’s dope.’

 

"I know gay people that are tougher than a lot of straight people I know. It’s just an easy way of trying to emasculate somebody. If you’re an MC, you should be able to destroy somebody without having to talk about their girl or their Mom. Not that you can never go there, but you should try to take it to the next level.

“So for this battle, I wanted to go a little further, and take it to that Jay-Z double entendre, New York–style wordplay. And with Math, there’s obviously a lot to work with there. So I really wanted to go with the math theme, and also the Five Percent terminology, you know, incorporating a lot of street stuff that people would not expect a white kid from the Upper West Side to be privy to, like the gods and the earths and supreme mathematics.

“I wanted to take it there. I feel like in that moment, it might have been a little too ahead of its time, because people weren’t listening for that type of wordplay. These days, every single bar at every battle is double entendre, multi-layered references and stuff.

“The battle was dope. I mean, Math is incredible, and I think he was in peak condition that night, and was obviously gunning for me. He had the charisma, and the comedy. And he’s there with like five or six of the toughest looking dudes you’ve ever seen. There was definitely high tension.

“It was in Fat Beats, which I thought was really dope. RIP Fat Beats. That was dope for Smack. Obviously, they were bridging boundaries by having me in the battle, period. And putting me against Math was a big juxtaposition. And then putting the battle inside Fat Beats, which is more associated with a sort of backpack-y, underground thing.

 

It’s so easy to call somebody gay. I know gay people that are tougher than a lot of straight people I know. It’s just an easy way of trying to emasculate somebody. If you’re an MC, you should be able to destroy somebody without having to talk about their girl or their Mom. Not that you can never go there, but you should try to take it to the next level.

 

"It was a dope battle to have all those worlds colliding. And it set up what’s happening now, where you have the guys from Grind Time battling the guys from URL, and more street rappers battling backpack rappers. I credit Smack and obviously Math and myself as being a part of that moment.

“There wasn’t money involved. There were no judges. It was, ‘Let the people decide.’ And it was an online thing. They only put the first round on the DVD, because Smack was working to transition to having more of an online presence.

"So they put the first round on the DVD, and all the rounds on their YouTube channel. I think Math felt like I won the first round, so I think he was salty that they only put that round on the DVD, especially since the street audience didn’t necessarily log on and see the other rounds.

“He killed it, and it was such a good battle. He’s hilarious. It was a great moment for me to be a part of. And Math is a good dude. He and I are definitely peoples. We’ve done music together. When somebody is that talented, and cares that much about something that you also care that much about, you have more in common than you have against each other.

"It only makes sense to link up with those kind of people. We [talk shit to each other about the battle] all the time. He calls me Shlomo when we talk on the phone, and I call him Matthew.

“Yeah, [that battle particularly gave me a huge amount of exposure]. My YouTube videos had started getting up there, and I was already getting noticed on the street and getting a little more attention. It’s tough to know from the Internet what your exposure actually is.

“I didn’t even know the DVD was out, because it didn’t come out until a month or so afterwards. And some face-tattooed, super Brooklyn dude came up to me on the street and was like, ‘I just came home from jail Tuesday, and I got the DVD yesterday, and I saw you on the DVD. I never heard of you before.’ That sort of thing started happening more and more.”