Earlier this year, Grantland ran an excellent piece on the oral history of 8 Mile. In it, we learn the crowd for the battles was filled with well-known local rappers, and one of them was invited to battle Eminem on stage. Since it was only for b-roll footage, they were told to pantomime, but this guy said fuck it and spit some bars that got the best of Marshall. Though he had a bad case of laryngitis and was told not to speak, Em felt compelled to answer, as the crowd began taunting him after the first guy’s rhymes. He turned on the mic and taught dude a lesson.
That dude was Marv Won.
Growing up in Detroit, Marv knows about getting scrappy. He started rapping because he wasn’t good enough to ball, and shit, he needed to do something to get attention from the ladies. He allegedly began battling when he was 14 and never stopped climbing, eventually showing up on MTV and at New York’s infamous Fight Klub. But while he’d cut his teeth against some of the D’s nicest MCs, it was his battle with Canada’s Pat Stay that gained him international notoriety.
The rivalry began, like many rivalries on the battle circuit do, during a separate battle between Marv and Loe Pesci. Pat Stay was in the crowd and Marv decided to throw a couple shots his way when Stay suddenly said, “Fuck a battle.” Things got tense as the battle was momentarily disrupted, but everything cooled down until the end of the bout, when Marv stepped to Stay and incredulously asked, “You really want to scrap with me over a line?”
The stage had been set for their 2011 King Of The Dot battle. They were, in ways, polar opposites—Marv was a calmer performer, setting up punchlines with patience and a veteran sense of showmanship, while Stay was more ferocious, sacrificing restraint for a nastier, pugnacious style.
In Stay’s very first verse, he crossed an imaginary line. He not only mentions Marv’s autistic brother (we’ll allow it), but also the late Proof (na, son) in a desperate demonstration of hubris. Marv keeps his cool, though you expect him to crack Stay in the face as his disrespect escalates. It’s a key moment in an entertaining battle—Marv never shows his emotions while Stay flails to keep from drowning. You can guess who won.
“I was furious,” says Marv when I ask him about the incident. “I think it was in very bad taste, but he did his job. I personally wouldn’t have done it, but I don’t dislike him because of it. [During the battle] I was furious because of who it was coming from. Pat was someone who I considered to be a friend, or a very close acquaintance through battle rap. To hear that coming from him, it was a little disheartening.
“Once you show somebody that their words affected you, you already lost the battle,” he continued, belying a key strength in his battle demeanor. Marv never flies off the handle. He doesn’t let his feelings get the best of him, but keeps them in check and channels them through the thoughtful rhymes he stitches up his foes with. He is the perfect mix of aggressive and composed, an intimidating combo for any opponent.
They say it’s the quiet ones you should watch out for. If that’s true, don’t take your eyes off Marv Won.