by Belle Waring on June 2, 2016

Epic Rap Battles of History can be uneven but is, at times, amazing. My favorite is MLK vs. Gandhi with Key and Peele. Eastern philosophers vs. western philosophers is awesome– it deviates from the usual “who won, who’s next” close, ending instead with “what is winning?” Ten points to Ravenclaw. And “you don’t want to stand in the path of Laozi today; move, bitch, get out the way” is inspired. However, some effort should have been made to pronounce the Chinese philosophers’ names. Any effort, smdh. Finally, the philosophers on each side end up turning on one another, exactly as Schopenhauer would have it:

On the other hand, hardly has any system of philosophy come into the world when it has already begun to contemplate the destruction of all its brothers, like an Asiatic sultan when he ascends to the throne. For just as there can be only one queen in a beehive, so can only one philosophy be the order of the day. Thus systems are by nature as unsociable as spiders, each of which sits alone in its web and sees how many flies will allow themselves to be caught therein, but approaches another spider merely in order to fight with it. Thus whereas the works of poets pasture peacefully side by side, those of philosophy are born beasts of prey, and even in their destructive impulse are like scorpions, spiders, and the larvae of some insects and are turned primarily against their own species. They appear in the world like men clad in armour from the seed of the dragon’s teeth of Jason’s and til now have, like these, mutually exterminated each other. This struggle has already lasted for more than two thousand years; will there ever result from it a final victory and lasting peace?

Aaaaaanyway my actual plan was to post this Epic Rap Battle of History: Thomas Jefferson vs. Frederick Douglass.



oldster 06.02.16 at 4:07 pm

Those are GOOD! Really good. Ending the Jeff/Douglass debate by saying that we need to put an asterisk next to Jefferson’s name is excellent. (Douglass won).

Key and Peele’s is the shortest, but extremely funny. Key’s Gandhi is a thing of beauty.

Is Schopenhauer’s rap about the rivalrous nature of philosophy really that damning, or surprising? It seems to follow from the philosophers’ favorite self-conception as scientists. We don’t expect scientific theories that disagree to pasture peaceably together; why should we expect philosophies to do so. My point is not that the scientistic conception of philosophy is *right*, only that it is *flattering,* so that Schopenhauer’s criticism winds up more like a humble-brag.

Great to see you back and posting, Belle.


Abigail 06.02.16 at 4:49 pm

I assume the Cabinet Battles from Hamilton go without saying? Plenty of Jefferson-bashing there.

My most recent favorite rap battle is Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s “JAP Battle”. Rachel Bloom is a freaking treasure.


J-D 06.03.16 at 2:03 am

As one of the Youtube commenters notes, the Jefferson-Douglass ERB has clearly been tilted in a way that the ERBs usually aren’t; I take it the creators felt the stakes were different.


xaaronx 06.03.16 at 3:06 am

Kinda disappointed that “Eastern” turned out to just mean “Chinese”. No love for my boys Nagarjuna and Dogen?


Belle Waring 06.03.16 at 6:48 am

X. A. A. Ronx: ya, fair. More like Europe v China. Laozi is a sick beatboxer though.


ZM 06.03.16 at 8:20 am

These are very funny Belle. They would be great to use in high schools. I don’t know if I agree with Schopenhauer or not. Poets don’t necessarily pasture peacefully, the epic rap battles are structurally similar to pastoral lyric poets having competitions in old books. And I have seen philosophers with quite different philosophical positions speaking and being interested in what the other is saying, if not agreeing with it.


MPAVictoria 06.03.16 at 4:26 pm

Awesome post Belle!

Anyone who likes this kinda thing or has any interest in Philosophy should do themselves a huge favour and check out

It is just great and funny plus educational!


jake the antioshul soshulist 06.03.16 at 5:43 pm

Some ERBs are pretty good, but some are WTF? Miley Cyrus vs. Joan of Arc?
And it should have been Stephen King vs H P lovecraft rather than Poe.
Or, Lovecraft comes in at the end and disses both.
So, I wrote a HPL rap.

Stephen King, your career does surprise me,
Since you couldn’t write a book, if you didn’t plagiarize me.
Try as you can, you won’t match my word craftin’
At your best, they say you’re Lovecraftian.
You may think your scarier than anything foreign,
when I finish rappin’ you’ll be deader than Warren,
You think you’re great when your typewriter is tappin’
I write better shit, when I’m just nappin.
I have to admit that you wave a green pen,
But without me, you’d be a never-been.
I don’t understand why so many overrate you,
When I’m though you’ll need Herbert West to re-animate you.
In the future, when they say Stephen who?
They’ll still make movies about Cthulhu.


magari 06.04.16 at 5:53 am

Awesome videos, thanks.


jake the antisoshul soshulist 06.04.16 at 3:44 pm

Belle, I had a comment that went into moderation and was, apparently, deleted.
I am just curious as to why? It was not abusive to anyone, at least not outside of the
parameters of the the rap battles, certainly not to any commentor or blogger.


Lisa 06.05.16 at 2:12 am

I’m happy to see more parents getting into this–it was a favorite thing for my kid and then I saw one and we had to sit and watch them all. Somehow my child has managed to memorize most of them–which makes me think history via rap is the way to go for the younger set. The absurd pairings are also great–Moses v. Santa Claus, e.g. with Snoop as Moses.

The rhymes on Hitchcock v. Spielberg are also excellent. Kubrick “Every single frame a painting/Exactly how I want to make it/Do another take, get it right 127 times/I’ll make you learn to love me, I’m the bomb, drop ultraviolent rhymes.

Thanks for that Schopenhauer quote. It’s a keeper.


OSweetMrMath 06.05.16 at 2:15 am

After Hamilton, it’s legit disorienting to see a rapping Jefferson who is white.


sillybill 06.06.16 at 9:42 pm

ERB is great after a couple beers. My favs are Santa vs. Moses, Mr. Rogers vs. Mr. T, and Adolph Hitler vs. Darth Vader – be sure to view a version that has all 3 Vader v Hitlers (the original plus two rematches.) But really, drink a couple beers first.
The creators have some weird thing about Stephan Hawking – he keeps popping up in unrelated rap battles.

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