Rounding out a stellar year, SMACK and his band of winners have pressed forward with one more event to satisfy the battle rap fan. Doing it almost better than any other league, they have mastered big stages, talent scouting, small rooms, artistically experimental (just think about the way you felt the first time you saw to a BANNED performance) and innovative concert/ sporting experiences that are comparable to any event that AEG could ever produce.

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It is hard to believe that their modest official staff consisting of less than ten people (20 if you include those that support on a need to need basis). Star-makers, this 10th year of industrialization has been neck-breaking as they have attempted to out due themselves card after card. Clearly, they are their own measuring stick- which is obvious by the pending Volume 5 Card coming up this weekend.

Volume cards are closed to the public and extremely intimate. Maybe 30 people in attendance, two-star status-ed emcees are stripped down to put lyric and brawn to the test. Classic battles are made on the Volume stage and it is here in this exposed environment that you really get to see the chinks in your favorite rappers battle armor. Legends are made, but legends have also fallen. This weekend, Volume is on steroids, leaving people scratching their heads overwhelming as big boss Beasley has added another day of contest.


As if the programming of the first-day card did not shake the rooms with some really interesting battles, the next day looks like a “Rookie vs. Vet” card. #LooksLikeThatButItsNot

First Day of Volume 5: Ace Amin and Swamp are the newbies on the card. Both emcees are two of the most exciting battlers we’ve seen in a couple of years. Ace, the Holy Shit saying Goonie, has mastered crowd control with his raw street aggression. Son simply smells like “don’t f*ck with me,” and after epic shoulder bump against Snake Eyez we’re pretty sure no one will. Despite his rough acting persona, lyrically he is sharply manicured – as manicured as his intentionally lined beard. And then you have Swamp. Swamp is battle rap’s T.I. His grand hustle (all puns intended) has tsunamied him into the eye view of the culture’s most coveted personalities (again the puns are intended). His drawl is unique. His posture is confident. And what’s most attractive about him as an artist is that he is not about the hype and cemented firmly in his fight. Swamp is a different type of battler- super comfortable whooping ass all year like somebody’s “I ain’t gonna say it no mo’” granddaddy. No idea who will take it.

Geechi Gotti and O-Red are set to spar on this card. Both former “Champions of the Year,” one might expect them to be the top billers of the night. BUT THEY ARE NOT! Not because they are not fire enough to fill the slot, it is just that the star power of this particular Volume supersedes even this crown champs. #whatinthenameofJayBlac

We know what they came to do. It would seem to be redundant to roll out stats and history on these two. After all, when the shark-like Geechi steps on that stage- it is a fact- that he is going to punch heavy stone-handedly like Thanos (not making you dissipate, but knocking you the f*ck out) in every f’cking bar! But Red… Psychologically, like the color, approaches the art of battle rap with dangerous energy, a spirit of war, strength, power, and a determination that out-balances the passion, desire, and even the love of his opponent.

Nu Jerzey Twork vs. Ave is a battle that has been brewing all summer… all year. Beast against Beast. Monster challenging Monster. Twork brings the gutter of the Trenton to his performances, energetically and creatively in a way this arena has never seen. The leader of the notable crew ‘The Goonies,’ if he is on… and lately there have been few times that he has not been that scary-ass fully-prepared dude to take the ‘w’… Twork devastates. #TrentonMakesTheWorldTakes

And Ave looks like he wants to take. 

If Tay Roc is a General in Cave Gang, then Ave is probably a Major (not equal but a star or two away from the top guy). And like a Major, he moves with authority and commands like a boss. Street-laden in his approach, Ave is a shit talker. Southern like Swamp, but he is not someone’s granddaddy. As he likes to say, he is people’s “Daddy.” He schools them. He makes them stand straight and get uncomfortable. He becomes larger than life and his words- this negro’s words- are like a big leather belt that whips up on these young and older whippersnappers that try to talk back. And people be talking back to Ave… we are not forgetting how K-Shine made us forget is emerging star power… but at the same time… we are NOT going to forget how he made the VET and arguable a battle rap god, Arsonal da Rebel, seem ordinary… transparent… PGish even.

This is going to be something crazy to watch- PLEASE LET THIS BE WHAT WE THINK IT WILL BE.

Rum Nitty and Chilla Jones are smack dab in the middle of the card. This is probably going to be the most lyrical battle of the night. Content withstanding, these brothers are going to try and take each other’s heads off. WRITERS BLOCK is in the name of the group that molded both of their styles.

Rum Nitty’s performance value is getting better… and despite coming off that ‘L’ with Th3 Saga… he remains one of those guys that you simply can’t go in and “beat.” Chilla Jones is the same.

Sure… Chilla is not as electric as other dudes and he kinda sounds like Droopy Dog when he raps, but homeboy pen is fire. That’s why he ain’t dead nowhere. He can rap rap. He can scheme scheme. He actually holds Beantown on his back– and let’s not forget he is a former King of The Dot champion.

And so, the question is if they know each other’s weakness and glitches… are they relational and if so does that add or hinder the contest. Will we get the bigga-nine-wrist-bent-jumping-like-a-monkey Nitty? Cause that dude is fire (which is why he was one of The Source‘s “2017 Unsigned Hype” frat brothers. Or will we get the Chilla that been cleaning up those Canadians, hoping to return to URL to fight with the culture’s elite? We will see.

The next battle is Arsonal Da Rebel vs. Chess. The Old Head vs. The Young Buck. New Jersey vs. The Bronx. Experience and Prestige vs. Hunger and Fearlessness. The two will meet as a war against disrespectful words. Neither of them cares about anything… much less the other. They see themselves as diety in this culture. They both gonna just say the God-goodness- most horrible things that they can to each other… and because it is in a closed and small room their vile projections will sting just the more.

Arsonal will not be able to lean on his laurels, because Chess is not Cassidy… they just have the same “C” and two “S’s.” And Chess has to stay focused on solidifying himself as a top tier emcee. This will be interesting to watch, but it might also be dangerous. Chess is hot-headed and drenched with the spirit of don’t f*ck with me. Arsonal is a clinician, and his experience will kick in- lending to a strategy to win with posture and aggression. While it might not be the battle of the night, it will be the one with the most nuclear potential.

The card gets incredibly more dense with the last two battles.

Tsu Surf will battle Reed Dollaz. If you saw the face-off, you see that there is a history between the two. There has been a shift since the very first time a battle between them was ever engaged. Back in the day, Tsu Surf was the young buhl on the streets. He was getting in the game throwing rocks at an already established spit-fire legend. From Philly, Reed put in substantial enough work that not just Surf but his whole class was looking up- itching for a chance to knock him over. But that was then.

Now, Surf is probably battle rap’s most popular talents (outside of the three or four lyricists on Nick Cannon’s show).

He has had substantial recording success, with his critically acclaimed Seven 25 charting and still accumulating streams across multiple digital platforms, one of its single’s “What Changed?” featuring Cascio included on HOT97 regularly, he appeared in the inaugural “Future/ Unsigned Hype” issue of The Source magazine, as one of the heads you have to keep your eyes on, an Amazon best-selling book (#1 on African American Urban Literature Charts) entitled House in Virginia and his new mixtape Blood Cuzzins with West Coast rapper Mozzy doing 5 Million streams between Spotify, Apple, and YouTube in less than 2 months, it is impressive that he is even still interested in battling. And he is… he is interested in battling names that matter and will continue the trajectory of elitism that has made him… well Tsu Surf.

“Reed is a LEGEND,” Surf says. “Whether or not you are familiar with his work, or fond of it, he still is a LEGEND. I also believe that he is perfect for my resume. And that’s what I care about. My resume and my catalog… that’s all you leave.”

Reed is… but he still has to prove something on the stage that matters. And if you speak to people who are familiar with his body of work, they are convinced that his giftedness will speak volumes over all that Surf brings to the table. This is clear that like the Chess vs. the Arsonal battle and the Chilla vs. Nitty battle, this tango is more about legacy and historicity than murder and body catching. This will be a great match up.

The headliner of the card is DNA vs. Aye Verb.

Easily both of these titans could be on anyone’s Battle Rap Mt. Rushmore. Standing alone on their investments into the culture, they are marathons away from almost everyone on the card. Still, neither one has achieved the success that either of them believe that their gifts should warrant.

DNA is one of the most brilliant freestylers that has ever graced the stage. He is paced. He is clear-minded. He thinks quickly on his feet. Aye Verb is a warrior, and he not a warrior because he tells us that he is one. He is hardworking and courageous. Arrogantly constituted to lift the entire midwest movement from marginality to the forefront, and still humble enough to take the gods as well as the newbies.

This battle has the potential to be exciting, as few really know what to expect. These are big room superstars. These two are the ticket sellers with “GTFOHs” and “Showtimes.” Moreover, they represent something critical to a 10th anniversary year, closing card: THEY HAVE HELPED BUILD THE HOUSE WHERE SMACK SITS!

The second day of this Volume card will feature a series of other battles with the next class itching to get their chance to be invited to the V6.

Kid Chaos will take Craig Lamar. Lotta Zay will go against Duce. Prez Mafia will spar against Lucas Castro. Also, fans will get to see Pass and Don Marino, while Jerry Wess and Glueazy (same class) will duel.

Shotgun Suge (aka “The Gatekeeper”) will be paired up against Snake Eyez, Big T vs. Franchise and rounding everyone out is Swave Sevah and The Goonies’ Ryda.

Card gonna be fire. Exhausting trying to give an opinion on it, and moreover excited to get to check it with friends. #Didyougetyourpayperview