Bullpen: John John Da Don vs 40 BARRS Recap

4.0☆ Rating


BullPen’s Pendemonium event was set to be the first leg of a blockbuster October for the league, and while their Oakland Event “Dope In The Pen” still looks to fulfill that, unexpected circumstances hindered the ceiling of Pendemonium. 3 main card battles did not go down due to various travel and personal issues: JC vs Clone, Clips vs Chef Trez, and Superblack vs Eaze. With that being said, we were still left with a couple opening battles, and most importantly a very good main event between John John Da Don vs 40 Barrs. While very visibly and understandably upset, got to give JJDD all the praise in the world for running an event that took a big hit and going on to still deliver one of his better performances of his 2023. 

Round 1

With 40 winning the coin toss, she chose John John to set the battle off. He started off with a Makeup scheme, which while a bit outdated, led directly into a counter-writing segment about the domestic violence angle John has (and was about) to face. Questioning those who lie about domestic violence, he wraps it back around to an Adam and Eve / Why always take the women’s sidebar, trying to defuse a popular angle a bit early. 

The rest of his round is much more bar-over-angle based, with some wordplay re-arranging pairs of words into different bars back to back (ex: Hustle/Prep, 40/Loaded). Also had a Square Root/40 Simplified bar which in a round of fair or somewhat heard-before wordplay, stuck out as a great gem. Bottom of 40’s 1st she starts out by telling John John and her were making history as the “first 2 bitches to headline his event”, a pretty comedic bar to bring the momentum her way. From there 40 gets right into the pen work, which leaves a countless variety of small lines and wordplay all around the standout haymakers of the round which leads to constant good material scoring at various levels. Her Valyrian, Ageism, and Cleaning scheme all land but don’t stand out as much as her freestyle (or perfectly timed) Vegetarian bar in response to a heckler that shook the room. In my opinion, the clear separation was shown when 40 landed a late bomb:

“I realized we related after I gave your career a little run-through /Cause I’m like your grandmother after I had Surf, he sonned you”

Solid 1st from John John, but 40’s round was a little more complete and ultimately led her to a clear 1-0 lead.

Round 2

2nd round was back on John John who utilized some very smart misdirection to start his round. Starting with a segment that took a very drawn-out intergender concept, he starts rapping about sexual acts he wants to do with 40. This was just all done awkwardly, just to quickly bring it back into a hidden scheme which landed as a well-written haymaker, playing off the crowd’s hesitance to swing the momentum back his way. The rest of his round like his 1st is bar for bar, but this round takes a step back in terms of bar quality. His HHIR, Lyft, and Orgasm(Or gas ‘em)/Came to see the bar all were solid but nothing room shaking, just solid jabs. 

After a long lead up he did land a haymaker using wordplay with the word “Space”, giving a good end to an otherwise okay round, and probably his lightest of the battle. 40 started with a couple kind of rushed-through rebuttals in response, but the 2nd one landed with a John Hancock/Signature move bar that opened the start of her take on the DV angle. Landing a couple of good lines out of it with her elite pen, this was only the start of what would go on to probably being 40’s best round of the battle. Following this up, she does a Cards/Spades scheme that not only is the highlight of the round but maybe the highlight of the battle. 

Like her 1st, after she lands a definitive haymaker, she only gets better within the round and picks up steam, landing her Ben Simmons, Androgynous, and Jaundice bars all after. Worth noting on her round ending bar she clearly gets tongue-tied and kind of ends on an incoherent bar, taking a bit away from the cleanness of the round at the very end. Although not the best ender, it was not a choke by any means and the margin in content was still evident. I had 40 taking the 2nd and going into the final round up 2-0. This is the debatable round that determines the battle. 

Round 3

Final round-up and similar to most of his other battles of 2023, the 3rd would be John John’s best round. It started off with an angle punch about Remy changing Chrome from an all-female league, something 40 has commented on recently in public, this was probably my favorite angle he touched on up to this point and landed with a dope “Male Face/was an Eazy fix” bar. Another high point of this 3rd was a flip of 40’s trash talk towards John John leading up to the battle, with her saying “You don’t perform like Shine, you’re not popular like Surf, etc.”, doing his own rendition of 40 using female legends, very smart and went over as one of his better parts of the battle. Add in a couple more punches and a bad parenting angle towards the end and you easily get John Johns’s most well-rounded and complete round of the battle. 40 3rd is not bad but is a clear dip from her 1st 2. Always showing the pen’s ability, she still has highs like the BullPen roster scheme and even slept on bars like her legacy talk leading up to “John is just a common name”. But most of the punches were simply a bit lighter and didn’t connect as heavily. I found myself giving John John the 3rd clearly. 

Overall, a good battle, John John found himself writing uphill a lot this year and did so again in this battle. 40 1st 2 rounds are elite, as she tends to be against the top men and shows still how great she is this many years in, and how effective having “just” a pen can be when you one of the best with one. And once again, shoutout to John John for doing one of the hardest feats in Battle Rap by running an event and headlining it the same night. He looks to do the same on October 28th in Oakland, where his 2nd event of the month Dope In The Pen will take place.  

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