1. Q&A: Lord Finesse on the Greatest Rhyme Battle of His Life

    This Thursday we’ll be screening SBX! Holding Down the Tradition as part of our ongoing film series.

    Thursday, April 28, 2011 @ 7:30
    Maysles Cinema / 343 Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Blvd.
    (b/t 127th & 128th Streets) NYC, 10027

    $10 Suggested Donation. Tix at B.O. and mayslesinstitute.org

    This acclaimed 2005 short features several members of the Bronx’s almighty D.I.T.C. crew. But none more mighty than the one and only Lord Finesse, who reprises his legendary battle with Percee P in the film’s most famous scene. In advance of Thursday’s SBX! screening we caught up with the Funky Man to dig through his detailed memories of the single toughest rhyme fight of his life, and how it came to be adapted for the big screen.


    How would you rank your 1989 battle with Percee P amongst all the rhyme battles you’ve been in?
    Lord Finesse : Oh, this is the number one battle. Nothin’ else compares… This battle was the day before I entered the 1989 [New Music] Seminar [MC Battle For Supremacy]. So I’m goin’ into one battle with my mind set for another battle. I’m thinking the Seminar: I’m goin’ in there, I’m takin’ that. And I got this obstacle in my way before. But you know what I’m gonna run through him and then I’m a get ready for tomorrow. [ laughs ] And it wasn’t that easy. It wasn’t easy at all.

    Were you surprised when Jun Ohki, director of SBX! , asked you to revisit the battle for the film?
    Lord Finesse : Well, me and Jun-Jun – we go way back to some of my first times I ever went to Japan, before Jun-Jun came to live here [in New York]. Whenever I was out in Japan I used to hang out with him and DJ Muro all the time. That’s all I used to do. Every time I land: “Where y’all at?” We go and eat. Jun-Jun was the mediator.

    When he came to New York he said he was taking up [film] school and [told me] what he was working on. He said, “Yo, Ness, I want you to be a part of it.” I was like, aight cool! Did I know it was gonna magnify [the battle] to this [level]? Hell no. Shit, it’s crazy.

    It’s kind of miraculous that the original battle with Percee was videotaped.
    Lord Finesse : The craziest thing about that battle to this day is that a motherfucker actually had a camera to tape it. You know that’s when something is highly anticipated – when the camera’s on hand, especially back in those days. Because niggas wasn’t videotaping no rap battles. I can’t even recall somebody videotaping a rap battle from that era.

    Who actually recorded it?
    Lord Finesse : It was one of AG people.

    Take us through what happened step by step, how did it come to happen?
    Lord Finesse : It went down because me and AG was [rhyme] partners. And I think AG battled Percee’s partner, and beat his partner. So the ground was set for me and Percee to battle. The battle was supposed to take place a couple of times, but I guess we missed each other and it didn’t go down. Percee came to my block [when I wasn’t there] and really used some kid as a lyrical punching bag. He destroyed the kid. And when I got home everyone was like: “This Percee P dude came through. Yo, this nigga’s nice! Yo, Ness, man… I don’t know .” For real! That’s how it went down. I’m like, “Percee P – he came here ? Y’all just fuckin’ with me.” So I finally made my way down to the Patterson Projects [where Percee was from]. And as soon as I arrived on the block: “OKAY, IT’S GOIN’ DOWN – HE HERE! Okay, we gonna go get Perc right now!” Man went and ran and got the radio. And the camera. They call Percee P out the window: “AY YO, PERC. COME DOWN, YO. HE HERE!” It was some real anticipated shit.

    There’s a guy who introduces things, kind of joking around. Who was that?
    Lord Finesse : That was Tone, my cut up partner in class, man. The dude who was going, “ROUND ONE – my name is Anthony Webb.” We went to high school together. We used to be in school cuttin’ up . So I felt comfortable with the situation. With Tone introducing the battle I’m already laughing. And Perc comes up the block. And I’m looking at Perc like, This the dude everybody talkin’ about? ’Cause he had on slacks, Ballys, and a motherfuckin’ silk shirt. I was like, this can’t be for real. I’m gonna just do my thing real quick and get this little dude out the way, you know? Because I’m accustomed to just runnin’ through people. I went to many projects. I went to schools. I ran through many people. Ran through ’em. So I’m thinking this ain’t nuthin’. My confidence is through the roof! I’m like Eddie Murphy in The Golden Child : I’m the chosen one. It’s not gonna take long. Just show me where he’s at.

    But I kid you not. When them lyrics came outta his mouth and he started spittin’ I was like, what the fuck I just got myself into? I was fucked up. Like, wow. I never heard a style like that. I never heard a flow like that. I was stuck for a minute. It didn’t take away from what I was capable of doing. But it’s like you’re in a boxing ring and somebody throws a jab at you, and you feel the power of the jab without it hittin’ you, just the way the wind around that boxing glove felt when it was close to your face. You’re like, if he woulda caught me with that – goddamn! I was like, this ain’t gonna be no straight haymaker and I knock him out the ring. We gonna have to really box.

    Lyrically I’m a boxer. That’s what it was about for me, setting you up with combinations. The compound words were the combinations and the punchline is the wild left you’re not seeing that’s about to hit you.

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