My Personal Rank: #2.

FB: Not shown: Scipio’s rap vs. Sundar, which consisted of Scipio saying “Nah” and leaving before Sundar could get a word in.

Cons: The only reason that I (reluctantly) downgrade this from my top pick is Shanna’s “God, complex much?” stanza, which I think flies a too close to the sun. It’s meant as a response to Carol’s “hey, we’re building God here, we’ve got to bend some rules to save all humanity.” Shanna’s point is that there is no provable “God” worth calling God, man-made or otherwise. In the absence of Heaven, she argues, what matters is leading a good life on Earth. And Carol is definitely not doing that when she’s burying Ferris on orders from her maniac murderer boss, who is also the only man and the only anyone in her life.

Carol fumbles her first line in response, her guilt stirred a bit. So she gets it. But did you? I think the rhymes and structure I picked were too restrictive there, pushing me into a labored metaphor about pallbearers and desecrated tombs. Shanna can do some abstraction, but she needs at least one foot in the realm of the concrete. And no matter how free-associating they get, rap battles need the actual disses to be clear.

Much as I loved getting to use that “Human Resources” pun for HR at long last, I think the lead-in rhyme should have been stronger. “My sole recourse is,” “consume my courses,” “with no remorse is,” “plume and G-forces”? Something.

And “(c)harmless” is cute, but I always stumble over that when I try to “hear” this one in my head.

Pros: We pulled out all the stops in terms of sailing through the visions of various Shannas, HRs, and their allies! When I first became an ERB fan, I didn’t really understand why their raps tended to be more popular if they strayed from the two combatants they advertised or did mid-song transformations. But now I get it. It’s all about performance, in the end.

That bit with purple crazy HR interrupting his most dignified self still makes me snicker. “Bad guy/pad Thai” is probably the rhyme highlight, and finding an unforced rhyme for “universes” was a happy moment.

The giant clusters of rhymes are both very tricky to do and appropriate to the characters: HR’s manic energy, Carol’s prim orderliness. JJ’s pretentious douchery: he’s got an aaabcccbdddeffe pattern! And then there’s the methodical two-rhyme alternations of Shanna (and her allies), which in the end just outlast HR and company. Shanna’s final stanza succeeds where the similarly-structured “God, complex much” failed. It resonates with Shanna as a character and with one of Guilded Age‘s main themes. A shame people barely remember who Matt Lauer is anymore, but that kind of proves Shanna’s point.

I feel like I was finally getting an instinct for when and how to deploy slant rhyme, too.

Yeah, overall, I still like these. I did a love sonnet in Episode 45 of Traveler, but I’d like to do some more with rhythm and rhyme in upcoming projects. Feels like I’m not too bad at it.

Next…the final chapter! And the final everything.