When you hear about the come-up stories of any legendary rapper, it's likely that battling played a key role in their artistic development. Everyone from Raekwon to Eminem, Conway to Busta Rhymes, the list goes on -- spent time plying their trade on the battle circuit (peep this footage of Jay-Z tearing it down in his first recorded battle).
As such, there remains no shortage of anecdotes stemming from some of the iconic formative battles, with DMX's tilt against Jay-Z standing tall as one of the classics. And for Kareem "Biggs" Burke, who helped co-found Roc-A-Fella Records with Jay-Z and Dame Dash, it was that very same battle that made him a Hov fan in the first place.
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"When I heard Jay early on, I wasn't even, I wasn't necessarily a fan," admits Biggs, speaking on Kevin Durant and Eddie Gonzalez's The ETCs podcast. "It wasn't until Jay battled DMX and I became a fan. And he started to talk more. Before that he was real lyrical and had a different, you know, talked about different content. And then, there he was talking about things that resonated with us, you know. I became a fan then. And then he was able to put both of those things together which, you know, made him who he is today."
As longtime fans might know, Jay's formative style was quite different from what it eventually became. Far more dexterous in nature, Jay was known to employ the triplet-flow, a trick he picked up from the Originator Jaz-O, his former mentor. "The raw talent was already there," explained Jaz, during an interview with HNHH. "It was really about some of the logistics of rhyme structure. I was making beats from way back then so I familiarized him with bars."
A glimpse at Jay-Z's early style
Circling back to Biggs, he went on to outline a little bit more about the battle, revealing that he was more familiar with DMX going into it. "DMX I knew as an artist because he used to come uptown and rap for us when he had first come home from jail," he reflects. "So I knew about him maybe three or four years before Jay. And I knew about his talent level and how good he was, so even Jay stepping in to that, I didn't think that it would have been a win for Jay."
"But what Jay said at the battle, how it went and then, you know..." he continues. "People there with DMX could say he won. We say, you know, Jay won, but it was amazing to see that and then what he was talking about."
For those interested in hearing a little more about the Jay-Z / DMX battle -- where no cameras were allowed -- you can't go wrong checking out the account stemming from the BET Docuseries Ruff Ryders: Chronicles. As the Ruff Ryders founders tell it, that very battle ultimately went on to spark animosity between X and the Jigga Man. In the meantime, check out Kareem Biggs' full appearance on The ETCs here, and sound off in the comments. Who would you have bet on -- a young Jay-Z, or a young DMX?