1981: Kool Moe Dee
Credentials: Bodied Busy Bee at the Harlem World Christmas Rappers' Convention
Long before he became a solo star on the strength of Teddy Riley–produced joints like "Wild Wild West" and "How Ya Like Me Now," MC Kool Moe Dee was one third of the legendary Treacherous Three, along with Special K and LA Sunshine (not to mention DJ Easy Lee). Born Mohandas Dewese in Manhattan, Moe was a quiet character who channeled his passion into carefully crafted rhymes.
At age 19 he devastated the renowned party rapper Busy Bee Starski at the Harlem World Christmas Rappers' Convention in a performance that is often cited as the first hip-hop battle. The relentless routine opened with "Come on Busy Bee I don't mean to be bold/But put that bom-ditty-bom bullshit on hold." Things only went downhill from there as Moe Dee clowned Busy's formulaic rhymes and served notice that from this moment forward MCs would have to step up their lyrical game.
1981 also saw the Treacherous Three drop hits like "Feel The Heartbeat" and "Put the Boogie In Your Body," marking a creative apogee for the trio. Although the group broke up after appearing in the 1984 movie Beat Street, Kool Moe Dee's career endured until the early '90s and he never lost his taste for battling. His long-running feud with LL Cool J inspired some memorable lyrical exchanges.
Honorable Mentions: Love Bug Starski, T Ski Valley, Sha Rock
When he wasn't spinning records at Harlem's Rooftop Roller Rink, Lovebug was laying down raps. His record "Positive Life" with the Harlem World Crew set him head and shoulders above all comp not named Kool Moe Dee. T Ski Valley got his start DJing with the Erotic Brothers Disco and eventually became an MC; his classic 1981 single "Catch the Beat" can still rock any party. Sha-Rock was the not-so-secret weapon of the Funky 4 + 1. Every time she rocked the mix, the feisty Bronx femcee outshone her male counterparts. —Rob Kenner (@boomshots)