The Dawg Strikes Gold

2023 in Battle Rap was a mixed bag and left us with plenty of unexpected results. There was plenty of drama to overshadow the actual content, but we saw many battlers and leagues take leaps and have their strongest years yet. RBE took firm control of the year and their blue room series became the most intriguing and anticipated event. Chef Trez was at the height of his powers and fully displayed what a motivated version of himself can accomplish. Nu Jerzey Twork put together his best year yet and validated all the beliefs his biggest supporters have had in him over the years. But there’s only one who can reign supreme with the number 1 spot and on the 2023 COTY list, and that was Bigg K

First of all, the biggest congratulations to Bigg K. From his first battle of the year, it was very apparent this was different from Bigg K than what we have gotten over the last few years.

In a grudge match that had been eagerly anticipated since its initial scheduling in November 2022, Bigg K delivered a dominating performance against A.Ward that would become the pivotal moment of his year and catapult him into contention for Battle Rapper of the Year (COTY) as the year prolonged. The battle was initially delayed due to Ward’s illness and took place at a rescheduled date. The sliding door moment of this battle being rescheduled could’ve easily altered the year of 2023 in battle rap. Despite being labeled as a heavy underdog by fans, social media polls, and the majority of battle rap media, Bigg K emerged with an unmatched intensity and ferocity that he hadn’t displayed in years. Before their battle, both of them had been on the same RBE stage 6 times to be exact, and A.Ward had seen the latter and outperformed the reigning Champion in maybe 3 or 4 out of their six shared stages. 

Over the last few years, Bigg K had a well-known reputation for consistently rapping within the contracted time limits of his rounds. Seeing Bigg K unleash the wrath of his relentless 1st-round was the best round we have heard from K In years, almost mirroring (even arguably exceeding) his 1st round against Head Ice in 2016. The magnitude of this win, coupled with the rarity of seeing A.Ward lose by such a margin, made the victory a defining moment of not just his year, but in his career.

He’s another battler whose motivation level was the highest it had been in a long time and it reflected in his work. Something K himself pointed to as part of this renewed vigor was the unfortunate passing of Pat Stay and that situation changing his perspective on life. And you can even sort of see the influence Pat had on K’s 2023 when you look at his approaches to battles. K’s always been an extremely talented battle rapper, but 2023 came with an additional focus on angling and some of his best attempts at humor to date. To go along with that, K’s punching rhyme patterns were just as potent as ever and left us with several memorable sequences from his rounds. Material-wise, I thought he was the most complete battle rapper of the year for those reasons.


Following Bigg K’s victory over A.Ward, ARP, made a bold and strategic move by placing all his chips on Bigg K. While many may not have been aware, Bigg K had initially signed a contract to face Coach Coreleone, scheduling the battle after the A.Ward battle This contract was signed at the end of 2022. However, ARP, recognizing the immense momentum that Bigg K had built for himself, decided to call an audible and give Bigg K the perfect opportunity to capitalize on the energy surrounding his win. In a surprising turn of events, ARP booked Bigg K for a headlining match against none other than the legendary Murda Mook. Once again, Bigg K found himself in the role of a slight underdog, as many fans believed that Mook’s optimal setting was in a small room. Nevertheless, Bigg K defied expectations and emerged victorious in the high-stakes battle, solidifying his status as a COTY Front Runner.

This calculated move by ARP not only showcased his confidence in Bigg K, but also served as an indicator of his awareness that Bigg K had the opportunity and perfect timing to ascend into rare territory. He saw Bigg K tap back into his peak level and got him the biggest fish battle rap has to offer. It’s like when an NBA General Manager sees their team having a Championship window, so they take a leap of faith and execute the necessary transaction to put their players into a prime position to make history. ARP pushed all of his chips to the center of the table for this, knowing that a match like this would keep Bigg K inspired and motivated to sustain this level of production in the ring. This could’ve easily been Murda Mook vs Hitman, Murda Mook vs ill Will, but the decision to pivot and book a matchup like Bigg K vs. Murda Mook underscored the dynamic for the Champion Of The Year Race. As a result, from the second quarter of the year, and onwards, Bigg K had built a lead as a container that he sustained through various battles and the remainder of 2023.

Bigg K Continues The Show On The Road

It also can’t be understated that with RBE being the biggest story of 2023, Bigg K has a very strong argument for being battler of the year on that platform. Routinely leaving those events with the round of the night. When he was tasked with taking things on the road, he proved to be just as effective. We saw him make his way out west for Battle Of The Bay vs T-Rex, which for my money might be his best 3 round performance of the year. He made his debut in Canada at Blackout faced another legend in Charron and closed his year in New York battling Jaz The Rapper on Chrome 23. All these battles are closer to the debatable end than his RBE battles are, but once again we see him facing these high-level names and being able to argue confidently in his case for winning these battles. 

K’s one of the best battle rappers to ever live. That’s not something some people like hearing, but it’s the truth. His resume, accomplishments, and longevity all speak for itself. He’s a legend by every metric you want to consider. It’s no secret that maybe some of K’s work hasn’t been as consistent or was a little lackluster at points in the previous few years, but 2023 was the year of an all-time great reminding everyone why he’s regarded as such. To have a career year like this 10+ years in the game is remarkable and Bigg K is a more than worthy COTY.

There is plenty of chatter about how Nu Jerzey Twork should have won the award, and as I said at the beginning of this piece, he was one of the biggest highlights of the year. And this was a year where between Twork and K, I don’t think there was a wrong answer. With no agendas or biases in the way, I don’t think anyone who watches and critiques their years can say one was more deserving than the other. Furthermore, if anyone feels that strongly, literally 5 more votes for Twork from the FANS would have changed it. 

It Came Down To The Fans

This wound up being the closest COTY race of all time. I felt that way turning in my actual ballot and it reflects in the margin of victory here for K. I think we get so wrapped in the presentation and panel of it all that we only highlight what is said by the panelists. COTY has always had the most influence on the fan vote. Straight up, if you felt like Twork was COTY, putting your money where your mouth is was the easiest solution to making what you wanted to happen reality. And I get it. Times can be hard and maybe people don’t have 5 dollars to donate. But for the people who want to be extra loud in the aftermath of K winning: if you didn’t care enough to donate, don’t pretend to care now because your voice could have mattered months ago. 

Another big takeaway is finally being able to put the idea of COTY being a URL award to bed. That narrative has been following the process around for years now and even though it’s rooted in nothing factual, it persisted for a long time as a way to dismiss the efforts of Jay Blac and the other analysts. The people who have the mental capacity and dedication to spend their days looking over every minute detail in a battler’s year and then spend hours upon hours arguing about who should rank where deserves more respect than to claim any award winners come from biases towards a platform.

2023 was a year that left us with more questions than answers about battle rap, and who knows what’ll happen next. But we know one thing for certain…the dawg struck again. 

  • 1X RBE Headliner
  • 1x Chrome 23 Headliner
  • 3x Performer Of The Night (Divide & Conquer 1, Divide & Conquer 2, Battle Of The Bay X) 
  • 1x Battle Of The Night  (Divide & Conquer 2)
  • Battled on 4 Leagues (RBE, KOTD, GTX, Chrome 23) 
  • 2x Top 20 COTY Battler (2017 & 2023) 
  • LTBR Top 50 Battle Rapper Of All Time

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