Although he’s found acclaim and success recording with the likes of Talib Kweli and DMC, New York rapper Iron Solomon first gained notoriety for his impressive rap battle career. Now, in a recent interview with Forbes, Solomon spoke about his career and his decision to focus on recording music.

Solomon recalled his first official rap battle win at the age of 18 at End of the Weak’s MC Challenge against underground titan Immortal Technique. Although the contest didn’t initially begin as a battle, Solomon recalled that Immortal Tech disagreed with with him winning the competition and proceeded to challenge Solomon to a one-on-one battle.

“[Immortal Technique] went first and it turned into a battle,” Solomon said. “I was scared shitless because he was a beast, and still is. But somehow, I pulled out the win. That was the spark that set me off, and made me realize how successful I could be.”

Solomon also spoke about the intensity of actually being involved in a serious rap battle. He explained that while participants often research their opponents’ styles in advance, the battle itself is a very spontaneous and nerve-wracking affair. He also added that while he’ll never completely abandon the art of battling, he’s now ready to focus more on his solo career.

“I would definitely do a certain degree of research, watching footage of other rappers,” he said. “It’s a really tense situation because everyone is pacing and sizing each other up and mumbling like a crazy person…the second you know who you’re facing next, you’re thinking of the way they look and why that’s stupid.”

He added, “I don’t think I’ll ever fully move away from battling. I always want to have a presence and be able to jump in if it makes sense. But I feel I’ve put in my 10,000 hours, my Malcolm Gladwell expertise, and I’m ready to move on to the next thing.”

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