You know what the difference between a rap nerd and a rap fan is? A rap fan watches this classic Mos Def x DMX x John Forte x Mic Geronimo x Big Pun x Canibus cypher and goes, "yo, that's dope." A rap nerds hunts down the origins of every emcees verse. I think you all know what camp I fall into.
As a quick note before we get started, most of these verses ended up on albums but it doesn't look like anyone recognizes them, meaning we're quite possibly witnessing the first time they were said in public. In all likelihood most of these verses probably didn't have homes yet - they were just free standing verses they were waiting to place on the right beat, which is fucking cool.
Mos Def - The second verse on Black Star's insanely dope "Redefinition" (which officially dropped in '98). I always thought this was one of Mos' best verses ever, and if he's busting it out among such exalted company I'm guessing he agrees.
DMX: The closing verse of "Ain't No Way". Hearing the a cappella is a great reminder of just how unique the man's flow was. The lyrics aren't going to blow you away but no one ever rhymed like this, and on one ever will again.
John Forte - You know what's crazy? About two years after this video Forte was arrested for picking up a briefcase filled with over $1 in liquid cocaine from an airport. Now that's some real shit. Oh, and I can't find another example of him using this verse. I'm sure someone out there even rap nerderier than me will provide us with an answer.
Mic Geronimo - You know what would be ill? If I was just like, "It's well known that this verse ended up on the B-Side of Mic Geronimo's '99 single 'Look Out Below'. Unfortunately I'd actually never heard of him before this video. He's kind of ill though, in a too-many-words-per-line kind of way, and he's one of the few emcees who actually freestyles here.
Big Pun - It isn't verbatim, but several lines from this ended up on the opening verse of Pun's posthumous "The Dream Shatterer" in 2001. If you're looking for proof that Pun was one of the best ever here it is. He's sitting with some heavyweight emcees and he gets the biggest reaction by far.
Canibus - First of all, ballsy move by Canibus insisting on the "I'm the best rapper here, I'm going last" move. Second, this is obviously the classic "Second Round K.O.", but everyone seems to react like they've never heard it before (or are they reaction to lines they already know?). Could this actually the first time anyone heard Canibus' LL Cool J diss? "Second Round K.O." came out in '98, and while I'm not entirely sure, we've already established that this was filmed around the same time. I don't think we'll ever definitively know, but it's fascinating to ponder.
On a closing note, we need more of this kind of thing in hip-hop. Let's just sit everyone down at a table, give them 16 bars and we'll be able to determine who the best rapper alive is pretty quickly. It'll never happen, but can you imagine the ratings?