Fresh off the conclusion of its third “season,” the ongoing YouTube production of Epic Rap Battles of History has established itself as an online phenomenon. What began as a clever collaboration between two musically inclined friends has ballooned into a prime example of how to produce viral videos. YouTubers Nice Peter and Epic Lloyd have created an interactive platform which has attracted the participation of fellow YouTube celebrities and even some mainstream stars. It’s been so successful that they were tapped to market the latest Assassin’s Creed video game and promote hit AMC television shows. They even got to meet with the president.
If you haven’t come across Epic Rap Battles of History before, here’s your chance to check them out. Personalities from pop culture, politics, and history collide in rhythmic battles to boast and belittle. The results are often hilarious. Here’s the Top 10 Epic Rap Battles of History.
#10. Moses vs Santa Claus
This had to be a big moment for Nice Peter and Epic Lloyd. Having Snoop Dogg (or Lion, or whatever he’s calling himself these days) featured in an epic rap battle lends a legitimacy which could not be acquired in any other way. He steps naturally into familiar territory. It would have been easy to let his presence overwhelm the project, but this back and forth between Moses and Santa Claus delivers enough laughs from each to succeed on its own merit.
#9. Rasputin vs Stalin
The season two finale begins mediocre but builds steadily to a crescendo worthy of a curtain bow. Character cameos in these battles were not unprecedented when this one was produced. But they were never better executed than here. A tour of Russian leaders spanning different musical styles in keeping with each man’s personality, this particular rap battle proves uniquely epic.
Verdict: Vladimir Putin
#8. Adam vs Eve
A little more raunchy than most of their entries, Adam vs Eve was born from requests to pit man against woman. Choosing the first human couple as representatives of their respective genders proves an expert creative move. Playing Eve is YouTube celebrity Jenna Marbles who steps outside her comfort zone and adds rapper to her resume.
Verdict: Eve… of course
#7. Michael Jackson vs Elvis Presley
The King of Pop vs the King of Rock n’ Roll. It was only a matter of time before this happened. The key to both these stars’ enduring work was their willingness to reinvent themselves again and again. But that makes it tough to pick a particular point in either career as definitive. This battle wisely walks the stars through stages of their lives, and reminds us of their easily forgotten connection.
Verdict: Michael Jackson.
#6. Rick Grimes vs Walter White
This one proves a little spoilerish if you haven’t caught up with both shows. But it’s worth it. Nice Peter’s impression of Andrew Lincoln as The Walking Dead’s Rick Grimes is uncanny.
Verdict: Rick Grimes
#5. Barack Obama vs Mitt Romney
A fairly even-handed political spoof which President Obama has reportedly seen, this election season rap battle between 2012 presidential candidates proves much more entertaining than a moderated debate. Perhaps this should be how we resolve political contests from now on. I’d put my money on any Republican frontrunner over Hilary Clinton in a 2016 rap battle.
Verdict: The Eagle
#4. Batman vs Sherlock Holmes
Until you take in this rap battle between the Dark Knight and literature’s most famous detective, it may never occur to you how similar these characters are. Both are detectives consulting to various degrees with the police. Both roll with sidekicks. Both retain conflicted relationships with their respective criminal nemesis. And both have a high opinion of their own ability.
#3. Bruce Lee vs Clint Eastwood
While most of these rap battles pit characters against each other while leveraging some similarity, this battle takes place between polar opposites. One fights with his hands, the other with guns. One prides himself on speed and finesse, the other on blunt decisive force. The mix may be counter-intuitive, but the results pay off.
Verdict: Clint Eastwood
#2. Michael Jordan vs Muhammad Ali
With all due respect to Nice Peter and Epic Lloyd, the top two spots on this list belong to the outstanding guest appearances of Key and Peele. This one pits two legendary athletes against one another. You forget how much muck these two have to rake. For all their accomplishments, each man has endured plenty of low points, mined here to comic effect.
Verdict: Michael Jordan
#1. Gandhi vs Martin Luther King Jr.
This is as good as it gets. Key and Peele as icons of non-violent revolution, protesting each other with passive aggressive digs that seem oddly in-character. It’s tough to judge who comes out ahead, but I have to yield to a man so street they put his name on the signs.
Verdict: Martin Luther King Jr.
Enjoy more Epic Rap Battles of History with the YouTube playlist below: