Chess vs Shotgun Suge — Unfinished Business

Embracing the Style Clash

In battle rap, I think we place too much stock in creating match-ups that “make sense.” Personally, the most interesting battles have always been ones where each battler is taken out of their comfort zone and forced to operate in ways that aren’t traditional. Of course in this battle, familiarity will play a large part; these two know exactly what the other will bring to the table strategy-wise.

Chess, for those who may not be familiar, is one of the most creative lyricists that battle rap has seen in recent years. He specializes in using short bursts of wordplay to weave punches and schemes together. These attacks are connected through his signature flow and his rhyme schemes that can extend for longer than most battle rappers. At such a young age as well, he exudes a youthful exuberance on stage that builds an admirable presence on stage. Despite having a smaller frame, Chess also makes a conscious effort to be physical with his opponents which also contributes to the dominant presence.


Suge, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. With a larger frame, he has spent his battle rap career being battle rap’s bully. Shotgun Suge is equipped with an arsenal of pocket taps, what-ya-life-likes, and dunks that function to completely nullify his opponent’s presence on stage. Suge has also been in his bag recently in terms of punching as well, his vocal projection delivers haymaker after haymaker as of late and his stature and energetic theatrics solidify these dominant performances.

From a bird’s eye view, this is a battle that’s going to involve two completely different strategies, but, as I will elaborate on, these two aren’t as different as we may think.


What's At Stake?

I think that, for many people, the immediate question that comes to mind is “Why should I care about this battle?” And honestly, that’s a fair question. Rematches in general have a weird spot in battle rap because, while they aren’t necessarily hated, nobody really jumps for joy either. To have a rematch on a Summer Madness card, at that, is also something we don’t see super often. However, I think there’s more below the surface for why this battle means more than you might think. To begin, recall 2018, where a fledgling star Chess first faced the grizzled veteran Shotgun Suge.

The Reinvention of Chess

Throughout a large portion of his career, Chess has always had the burden of proof over his head. Like many a battler, he was known for having the “If” factor: “If Chess brings three full rounds,” “If he brings fire material…” And despite being, in my opinion, one of the most creative battle rappers in the scene, his name has always been mired by questions of stumbling, chokes, and somewhat subpar material at points. Because of this, there was a period of time, especially during the pandemic, where it felt like Chess was struggling to find his niche.

Slowly though, through battles such as his match with K-Shine, we started to see a glimpse of the newer iteration of Chess emerge, one that took battle rap by storm in 2021. Only recently has he been able to break free from that old stigma through transcendent performances versus people like Eazy Da Block Captain. However, there is still one obstacle that stands in his way. It’s easy to be impressed with recent performances, as the newest thing will always attract the most attention. Long after the event concludes, though, what we remember in conversation is the summation of a battle rapper’s performances. For Chess, battles like his 2018 bout with Shotgun Suge stain his reputation in the eyes of many. This rematch not only continues his run that started a year ago, but it also puts to rest old business that has yet to be rectified. You can even see Chess express himself that the Suge battle was not satisfactory for him.

The Reinvention of Suge

Make no mistake though, Shotgun Suge has also seen some turbulent times. 

The pandemic had massive ripple effects throughout battle rap, the most notable being the forceful removal of crowds at events. Not only was this a major change from a viewer experience perspective, but it also changed the dynamic of battles themselves. Many battle rappers rely on crowd reaction to build momentum, and crowd control itself is a skill that’s been mastered by few. Removing that tool created a substantial shift in the optimal way to win battles. We began to see more lyricists emerge during this time period; the B-Dot’s, Kid Chaos’s, and JC’s all took the scene over by storm, many of which racking up notable performances during this time. Meanwhile, as the Caffeine era began to bring battles at higher frequency, battlers like Suge suffered from the change in setting.


Needless to say, I think Shotgun Suge found himself in a uncomfortable spot. Being one that excelled using performance and physicality, it was a lot harder for Suge to impose his will against his opponents in a setting that didn’t reward that strategy very much. During this time period, there seemed to be a particular sentiment revolving around Suge, one that created a slightly negative connotation around his name. It’s more than likely that none of this way a result of any lack in quality from Shotgun Suge himself, the circumstances just weren’t correct. 

Fast forward to 2022, however, and Suge has almost completely transformed himself. We recently see him putting on performances that hearken back to a vintage era of battle rap that seems to be all but lost to time. Some people’s minds have surely already been made about Shotgun Suge and his spot in battle rap, but for many including myself, this reinvention presents questions to the culture about his future that I think get answered in this battle. 

Win Conditions

For Chess, the win condition is relatively simple: He needs to get through his rounds clean.

If you re-watch any amount of older Chess battles, you’ll see how much of his momentum is built up throughout his setups. He’s one who has made great use of flows and rhyme patterns as a way of extending his punches throughout multiple bars. You might notice that often he’ll use the end of one punch or scheme as a connecting point for the next, all the while abruptly transitioning his flow. This technique is something that’s nearly exclusive to Chess and has become an integral part of his style. Along with that, Chess has noticeably improved in his writing; the double entendres are much more subtle and hard to catch, but they are unlike anything offered by any other battle rapper in the game at the moment.

But once again, questions of consistency loom on the horizon. Even if the bars themselves are well-crafted, if they aren’t delivered properly, they’ll never land.


For Shotgun Suge, the win condition relies on physicality.

Bullying the opponent is a weapon that has proven to be one of the most effective ways to take your opponent out of the battle for battle rappers of larger stature. This is put in even more focus vs someone like Chess who, despite being one of the less physically imposing battle rappers, is not afraid of barking in his opponent’s face. Of course, Suge is no stranger to that physicality and performance as one of the progenitors of the style itself, which is going to make this battle feel very tense. Along with the performance, Suge has also seen a very noticeable improvement on his pen in recent battles and I anticipate that having a substantial impact on his performance in this battle because that’s not something we’ve come expect from Shotgun Suge. Make no mistake though, that trademark aggression that has tenured his name will be instrumental in how Suge can win this battle.


The more I consider the surrounding context, the more Chess vs Shotgun Suge seems like a likely classic battle, one where both rappers perform near their best. It’s a battle I’ll be watching attentively because, regardless of any narrative available, battle rap is an unpredictable sport; everything is different on that stage. Join the rest of the culture on September 24th 3PM ET live on Caffeine for free to watch what could easily be the battle of the night!

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