Before the 2021-22 NBA season started, there was an NBA player who told legendary sports writer Jackie Macmullan that he was a big fan of Darius Garland and said he was going to be a star. This is coming off of 2 seasons in the NBA where Garland showed flashes, but nothing concrete enough to peg him as a future all-star. Fast forward to the 2021-22 season, Darius’ 3rd year in the league, and he lived up to all the praises this fellow player had of him. That player was Stephen Curry, you may have heard of him.
Imagine having the likes of Rum Nitty, Danny Myers and K-Shine, 3 of the best battle rappers of all time, all think a battle rapper is amazing. All think that a battler is a phenomenal writer and underrated talent. Based off those names alone, most of us would be inclined to check someone out and hype a battler up off the strength of that. The weight of those names all believing in a talent in most cases should mean something…except when you’re Drugz
Despite the constant praises of his peers and decision makers at leagues thinking highly of him, the fan perception has never really matched. You don’t have to go digging to find evidence of this, it’s everywhere. Any battle or interview on YouTube involving Drugz, the top comment is likely saying he’s trash. Open a Drugz battle on the URL app and the comment section is already saying negative things before the battle even starts. No exaggeration, Drugz is maybe 4 bars in vs Danny Myers before you see a wave of comments already dismissing his round. The relationship that battle rap viewers have had with Drugz for the last 6 years is strange to put it mildly. Disparities like this in opinion don’t happen often. Usually the fans and battlers are in lockstep on who’s dope, who deserves a look, etc, but Drugz is a rare case.
Timeline Of Conflicts
There’s a few reasons to try to point to as to why, but to be honest none of them make a ton of sense. Let’s start with Drugz’ reputation as a troublemaker/hothead. To be clear, I don’t claim to know Drugz or any battle rapper for that matter, enough to ascertain aspects of their personality outside of what they give us as entertainers. But let’s revisit a few of the conflicts that led to the reputation that still follows him today.
Drugz vs Cortez made the rounds, not because of the fire battle they had, but because of the pre-battle tension. There’s a conversation between the two gentlemen revolving around allegedly someone taking a chain that gets tense enough as to where the host for the event Nunu felt the need to interject. The viral clip that then spawns from this situation is Drugz being “checked” by Nunu.
While I do think it’s fair to say that Drugz was at least somewhat out of line, what’s not fair is the way the ordeal is entirely put on him. In the midst of this back and forth over the aforementioned chain incident, Cortez says something about the possible whereabouts (read between the lines here) of the alleged culprit and say’s that Drugz will be meeting him later. At this point Drugz asks Cortez if he knows where he’s at and you all have seen the rest. Again, this isn’t to say that Drugz is without fault here, but knowing what Cortez added in, I never understood why the only talk coming out of this was Drugz being a “clown” or “corny”.
You follow this up with Drugz vs Showoff and the situation Drugz got into with Tay Roc. The most famous of these probably and a funny one to look back on with how cool they are now. Drugz took the last part of his round to turn his attention towards Roc and questioned his place among the DMV area’s rising prominence in battle rap, saying Roc has never “repped” the DMV. Tay Roc doesn’t take it well and starts talking during Drugz’ round and it eventually escalated into an altercation where the battle doesn’t reach its entirety. Straight up, Drugz didn’t do anything wrong here.
Regardless of whatever petty tension Roc and Drugz may have had at the time, Drugz kept it battle rap and didn’t do anything extra. Yes, Roc wasn’t his opponent, but everyone takes jabs at other people when battling, Drugz didn’t commit some cardinal sin here. If you watch Drugz’ interview on the Battle Rap Trap podcast from 2018, Drugz says the only reason why he even did it was because him and Roc already discussed battling each other. But the reaction to the Cortez battle, followed by this and other situations like the “I got a gun right now!” during Spanish Harlem vs Prep, got the ball rolling for a stigma it would be hard for Drugz to shake and easier to gloss over his talent and importance to battle rap.
The Stigma of the Goonies
The Goonies were a breath of fresh air for battle rap. New faces who weren’t afraid to say what was on their minds and bringing a new energy and approach to the culture, but even with all the waves the original Goonies made on URL, Drugz was always the man left out. Jakkboy was a lightning rod for controversy and got plenty of URL plates, Ryda had one of the best PG battles of all time and a lot of possible opportunities in front of him and we don’t even need to talk about Twork. But once again, then there’s Drugz.
Not getting URL looks with any type of consistency and a lot of it probably due to the fan perception of him at the time. Leaving him in a place where he’s too accomplished and seasoned to be in the PGs, but not popular enough to get spots on your Born Legacy type cards. The face of the DMV movement didn’t get any traction on a league where his groupmates were thriving because fans already wrote him off, and that never sat right with me
Because Nu Jerzey Twork was the biggest star of the group, a general Goonies dismissal was the claim that they all sounded like Twork, but no one got it worse than Drugz. Stylistically, Drugz has evolved a lot from his days battling LJ Heiss but the knack for roomshakers and haymakers was always there. People take notice of his angling ability now, but go back to battles like Drugz vs Spanish Harlem or Eazy Da Block Captain, that dimension to his writing has always existed, even if rarely dabbled in. The comedic touches he adds in to his build ups to a punch aren’t new either. To put it bluntly, this version of Drugz that’s rightfully receiving all these praises in 2022, has always been there and while I do think he has improved in some areas, he didn’t become a whole new battler overnight.
That isn’t the only Goonies stigma that’s stuck to Drugz. By association, he gets lumped in with patterns of choking and stumbles in his battles, but that doesn’t apply to Drugz at all. If anything, he’s a model of consistency and one of the most consistent battlers over the last 6 years. He should be given the same reverence and credit names like Bill Collector and Dre Dennis get for the high volume of battles they participate in with no dips in material quality. Yes, he’s infamous for being able to prepare whole battles in hours, but it’s never affected him in a way of forgetting material or writing lacklusterly. If anything, it only shows how extraordinary of a talent he is.
Reflecting on Drugz's Trajectory 2019-2021
Drugz’ momentum has been stop and start on URL since he’s started to get booked more frequently. He had two breakout performances in the Banned Legacy series vs Bill Collector and Mike P and an Arsonal battle was supposed to happen on Banned Legacy 3 but didn’t go down and we don’t see Drugz on URL for the rest of 2019.
The Arsonal battle finally happens in January 2020 and it doesn’t do for Drugz what he and the people who booked it would have thought and Drugz has since mentioned regretting taking the battle when he did. The fans weren’t ready despite the good showings, to see Drugz’ name paired up with Arsonal. Instead of taking it as him putting in the work and finally breaking through, the general reaction was “why is he getting this battle?” and he “doesn’t deserve it”, asserting that the battle felt forced.
A Rum Nitty battle was next, someone who has sung the praises of Drugz for years. And it shows, Rum doesn’t show up light for him and Drugz delivers on his end of the deal too. For my money, this was a fantastic battle and really displayed the craftsmanship and knack Drugz has for punchlines. Still though, rather than give Drugz his credit for stepping up to that level competition and not looking completely out of his depth with another all time great, it’s followed with more dismissiveness from the audience.
He gets himself back on track with a great battle vs Riggz and a dominant victory over Mr. Wavy, but at the top of 2021, Drugz finds himself put on a highlight reel when he runs into Danny Myers and his “who am I?” 3rd round. I want to stress again, Drugz was not bad in this battle! In fact it’s honestly super underrated back and forth, Drugz rose to the occasion, but facing another fan favorite showed how far Drugz still had to go in terms of getting the audience on his side. Drugz had one of the best performances of the first round of UM3 vs Yoshi G.
This was some of the best writing Drugz has ever done. Ultimately however, he lost to Rum Nitty in the second round in a rematch. He would have a battle with Prep on Smack Saturday that was by far the best battle of the night and one of the best URL battles of 2021, but we would not see Drugz for the rest of the year on URL after that.
2022 is a Career high
Coming in 2022, Drugz had an unflattering 2-12 record on the URL app. His momentum back at a stalemate. But with a renewed vigor and motivation, Drugz came into his battle with former Goonies groupmate Lu Castro with something to prove. No longer fine with letting his peers breeze by him, he put his best foot forward and instead of waiting until the last minute to prepare because he can, pondered the question “how dangerous would I be if I took advantage of all my time?”. The result was, for my money, one of the best performances of the year.
Drugz was electric and rapped like a man possessed. Every punch felt like it was filled with dynamite, he wove in direct and effective angles while landing all these bars. The humor was shining and he even outperformed Lu. He was flawless,well maybe other than maybe the obnoxious “WOOOO”. Yes, there is the caveat that Drugz was doing this against a punching bag essentially as Lu stumbled and choked throughout his material, but it would have taken an amazing Lu to beat Drugz that night. And that momentum has maintained throughout 2022.
He lost, but Drugz vs Tru Foe was an excellent battle and my favorite from the first Midnight Madness event. Another great Caffeine performance vs Fonz, albeit in a one rounder and very good performance vs Franchise, with a highlight third round.
Big Stage Test
That leads us to this coming Sunday, URL’s Battle of the Bayou event that features Drugz facing veteran Shotgun Suge. Suge has been inconsistent over the last couple of years, not adapting well to the Caffeine rooms at the heights of the pandemic. But the Suge we saw at Volume 9 clearly beat Real Name Brandon showed the dangerousness of Suge back in his element on a stage. And that will be an even bigger venue for this New Orleans event.
Drugz did well vs Franchise at Civil War on a stage, but did express dissatisfaction and things he wanted to work on, which is a good thing going into a battle with a big stage master. This is also in the midst of 6 battle month for Drugz, which is off to a great start with his Mani battle from MLB. This is a daunting task for most battlers, but for Drugz, it’s as easy as riding a bike. And will further serve to prove his point that he belongs in the Champion of the Year list discussion.
This Shotgun Suge battle is a great litmus test for whether fans are ready to embrace Drugz or if he’s going to stay in this limbo between being revered by his peers and loathed by the audience. Suge has name value but his recent work has done enough to make this virtually an even playing field. He’s not an app dominator, it’s a battle in his grasp to win or at least take that next step. It won’t be easy if Suge brings his A-game, but with how Drugz has been performing this year, I wouldn’t put money on him losing. And if the stars align just right, this could be the flag planting moment for the face of DMV battle rap and when the fans learn to love him.