What do you get when you take two famous figures from history and pit them against each other in a rap battle to the death? You get Epic Rap Battles of History, an incredibly entertaining series of videos that will surely put a smile on your face and maybe even leave you impressed. Okay, so maybe the rap battles don’t end in death (with a few exceptions), but they’re just as wacky, insane, and fun all the same.
If you’ve never listened to ERB before, you’re missing out. YouTube channels don’t always have to be about educational learning videos and you don’t have to be a fan of rap to enjoy these battles. In fact, you might even enjoy them more if you aren’t familiar with the genre since you can focus on the characterization rather than the technicalities of rap. If it were up to me, I would include ERB in every list of YouTube channels worth your attention.
Last year, I compiled a list of what I considered to be the five best-written Epic Rap Battles of History. Since then, the ERB team has produced quite a few more battles and they continue to produce more. Between the prior list and this one, there will not be any duplicates, so be sure to check those out as well.
Warning: The language and content in these videos are Not Safe For Work. The characters utter swear words, sometimes liberally, and some of the content can be suggestive or vulgar. If you are easily offended, do not watch!
#5: Mario Bros vs. Wright Bros
While most ERBs pit one famous figure against another, this one is a battle between two pairs of brothers. On the one side, you’ve got the Mario Brothers, who are arguably the most famous faces in gaming. On the other side, you’ve got the Wright Brothers, who revolutionized the world with their planes. As expected, there are a lot of references to old school video games, the Italian heritage, and flight.
Although I’m a fan of the beat production in this battle, the lyrics left something to be desired. I mean, they weren’t bad by any means, but other than the occasional gem (“addicted to shrooms”) they weren’t anything to run home about. The fun concept and the great line deliveries are what put this ERB fifth on this list.
#4: Cleopatra vs. Marilyn Monroe
This ERB has a lot in common with the Brothers fight above. The concept is unique (who would have thought of putting Marilyn up against Cleo?) and the actresses definitely have a lot of fun playing their roles, but the lines could have flowed better in some parts. I did like the lines involving barbiturates and one’s inability to read, though, so thumbs up there.
This battle leans a little more towards the adult / mature side of the content spectrum, which isn’t surprise considering the actual histories of both Marilyn Monroe and Cleopatra. Still, it’s a great watch and deserving of fourth place.
#3: Moses vs. Santa Claus
When I first saw this ERB, I got halfway through before I realized I hadn’t heard a single word — mostly because I was trying to figure out how the producers managed to find an actor who was apparently a Snoop Dogg clone. As it turns out, that’s actually Snoop Dogg in the video. If that doesn’t prove ERB’s popularity and legitimacy in your eyes, I don’t know what will.
I was further surprised when I actually listened to the words and the beat and found myself having a lot of fun. Moses versus Santa Claus? This battle could have been filled to the brim with boring clichés (to be fair, there were a few predictable lines) but the writers did well to inject some new angles to this holiday rivalry.
#2: Gandhi vs. Martin Luther King, Jr
If you’ve ever watched the sketch comedy show Key and Peele, you’d know how hilarious the two actors are. Fortunately, ERB managed to sign them on for this particular battle between the soft-eyed Gandhi and the vigilant orator Martin Luther King, Jr. They bring a level of enthusiasm and commitment to their roles that distinguishes this battle as something special.
I’m especially impressed by the wordplay and conceptual connections made between the two historic figures. Yes, they were both proponents of non-violence (or was it “naan violence”?), but it’s interesting to see the subtle differences between them: subdued vs. fiery. Plus, the ending gets me laughing every time.
#1: Nikola Tesla vs. Thomas Edison
The Tesla versus Edison battle is probably my favorite ERB so far. First of all, the rivalry between these two historic figures has a boat load of drama packed behind it. Edison eventually beat out Tesla in the real world, but this battle is Tesla’s chance to fix the incorrect history that Edison wrote.
More importantly, this ERB has it all: clever lyricism, a catchy beat, lines that flow well, great production values, all topped off with a history lesson. Most ERBs have good entertainment value but this particular battle actually leans on good music. There’s a lot going for it, which puts it at number one on this list.
The Epic Rap Battles of History channel has the complete volume of ERBs split into seasons. There are currently two seasons — the first with 15 battles, the second with 18 battles, and a third season is set to debut this upcoming autumn. A lot of the ERBs that weren’t listed here are still funny and entertaining, so why not go give them a watch?