Top 15 Best Fire in the Booths

Charlie Sloth’s Fire in the Booth is the most popular freestyle series in the UK. While you get Link Up TV’s Behind Bars, Westwood’s Crib Sessions and Blackbox, nothing compares to the height of a FITB. Receiving the chance to spit a FITB is practically the most prized achievement to add to your rap CV. Over the years there’s been over a hundred of them, but the never-ending debate is that who has the best Fire in the Booth? Of course, your whole top 10 is relatively down to your personal opinion, but if you analyse it solely based on lyrical ability and flow, there are some undeniable contenders that have to make that list. In addition to that I also got to consider situations like Akala’s, who has four FITBs. It would be unfair for him to take up four crucial spots across the list, so in those situations I’ll be picking the best two. For MCs with two FITBs I’ll only be considering their best one.

So with that said, these are the top 15 Best Fire in the Booths based solely on lyrical ability, subject matter and technical performance:

Honorable mentions: Dot Rotten (Pt. 1), English Frank, Squeeks, Potter Payper, Skrapz, Benny Banks, Yungen, Giggs (Pt. 2), Snap Capone, Chip (Pt. 2), Krept and Konan (Pt. 1), Nines (Pt. 1), J Hus

Top 15

15. Ghetts

The underrated Ghetts possesses the most diverse delivery in the scene. Not many British MCs use the chopper flow that he does. Sometimes that’s a downside because he delivery ends up going all over the place while he starts diverting his attention to energy. Nevertheless his wordplay and lyricism is often underrated and overshadowed by younger rap fans.

It’s the return of the prodigal son
Eve from Mission Impossible, hunt
My life’s a pronominal one
The only matrix and an oracle one
Rooftop, diabolical plunge
Pains, abdominal ones
Left home like say I had a horrible mum
Scarf over the bottom half of the face
My brudda, I don’t care if you got an army in place
Got a funeral hearse and a casket arranged
You’ll be left in a cubicle, curled up, half of your brain

14. Don Strapzy, Pt. 1

Strapzy was unique in the way he stretched his syllables in his delivery. That delivery is very clear in his first Fire in the Booth. He brings expected wordplay, aggression and references. His performance aside, this FITB contains one of the best beats ever used on a FITB. It is incredibly effective in enhancing the energy that Strapzy brings on the mic.

If it ain’t money, don’t phone my line
You don’t need a watch on your wrist, you should know the time
You should know the squad and the kind of lengths that we take it to
Just to get a hold of guap
I might roll up on your block, with a loaded Glock
Blue suit, blue mask, Robo Cop
Lewisham that’s a soldiers block
My breddahs grind hide, we don’t moan a lot

13. Joe Black

Of the most ‘simpler’ lyricists, Joe Black finds a way to shine from everyone else. He brings a gentle, nonchalant delivery to his freestyle. At times there’s a strong focus on cadence which results into a number of quotable bars. I never used to think Joe Black was an elite lyricist, but once I revisited this FITB I realised he can spit quite well. On top of that it’s one of the most catchiest FITBs out there.

I’m the man, the so-called competition was never near me
I get it popping from the cradle to the cemetery
The street’s talk, they say Black bad
I know my way around the streets like a black cab
I know my way around the beat, no SatNav
No red, blue, green, grey or black flags
We’re bout our money over here, cash in a black bag
Strap’s in a rucksack in case a nigga acts bad

12. The Movement

It’s almost unfair this one. The Movement consists of Wretch 32, Ghetts, Scorcher and Mercston, and it’s one of the only group FITBs. The combined lyrical talent of the four MCs is clear to hear throughout the 17 minutes, making it almost feel like a radio set on Rinse FM. Every MC comes through back to back providing punchlines, wordplay and suitable flow, particularly Ghetts who’s quick flow makes him stand out from the rest of the group.

[Wretch 32]
Run you round across the road and get written off
But what I’m saying? I’m Saint Jermine, I’ll never change
It’s a liberty that my statue isn’t in the states
I’m writing the book, my brother I’m on a different page

11. Dave

Although he’s still relatively new to the scene, it’s already clear that Santandave is one of the best British storytellers on the mic. In his FITB he cleverly weaves storytelling with wordplay combined with a steady flow. His subject matter and choice of production can’t be paralleled either. Every bar comes with an intent, so with all that said it’s not a surprise Dave’s managed to top some elite MCs that haven’t managed to make this list.

You don’t know about grinding
My darg I put my life in my art
My life on the line for my marge
Real rap, she put life in my heart, I give nothing less
If the truth hurts, I like being lied to
I can’t deal with issues in the ways that I would like to
It’s funny how, I’ve always got a text to reply to
That’s why I went and got, three lines, that’s a Haiku
Paranoia got me stressing
Man I’m thinking that they’re planning
SLR, I’ve got a cannon
I ain’t taking photos, I’m aiming at your bros and taking shots like Tenerife
Then I’m out the door like I just got a shot for 10 of each
Pride will be the end of me
I’ll just lose my cool and lose a tool over petty beef
You couldn’t comprehend it G

10. Akala, Pt. 2

So there were four FITBs to consider from Akala. In my opinion, Part 2 is his second-best freestyle. Part 1 is good subject and content-wise, but the flow and delivery was a bit all over the place. Part 2 tightens up on those aspects while also tightening his subject matter across the numerous verses. It’s his most personal FITB and goes hand in hand with Dave on levels of passionate spitting.

Then I pick my nephew up from school, and I look at the youths
And see the love that they show each other and I’m just so confused
Because they ain’t learnt yet what is their race or religion
So we’re put unconditioned but we learn to play our position in the system
Look what that does to our recognition of self
We grow suspicion of our own intuition

9. Bugzy Malone, Pt. 1

Out of Bugzy Malone’s two FITBs, Part 1 is the better one. Part 2 focused more on responding back to Chip, so Part 1 is free of that sort of matter (besides a couple shots). The first half of the freestyle is a great introduction to who Bugzy Malone is, while the switch-up to a grime-styled delivery in the second half results into one of the best grime performances in the Booth. His flow remains consistent start to finish, showing that Bugzy’s good at filling in syllables in each bar and making it fit the beat.

And why do I laugh at MC’s?
A king will always laugh at a Jester
A Porsche will always pass a Fiesta
You’re lookin at Manchester’s best
I’m from a place where nobody’s impressed
And don’t wanna see nobody progress
So they take shots at my ego but I got a built-in stab-proof vest
I’ve been stabbed in the back so much I’m like Jesus in the Passion of Christ

8. Kano

It’s surprising that it took 2016 for one of the best British MCs ever to be granted a Fire in the Booth, but its placement in this list shows that it was very overdue. Even though Kano isn’t rapping over grime in this FITB, he brings his signature skipping flow, chopping up the bars across the beat effortlessly. The Kano Flow is legendary and unique to only Kano. He brings unique, enjoyable Kano-styled delivery, occasional wordplay and shows that he’s incredibly experienced on the mic. In a similar vein to Ghetts, Kano is underrated by the new generation. Taking one listen to this FITB is proof that Kano is a lyrical genius.

Let bygones be bygones cause I’m from a time, don
Where pussyholes didn’t have a platform to type on
When mic’s on, I’m icon, when mic’s off, I’m icon
Probably in a yardie dance whining a gyal with white on
Stitchery knows what I’m on, I do not floss with diamonds

Lyrics, flow, show, that’s the three elements
Show a man your verse, that’s MC etiquette
Cîroc and ginger beer, that is street decadence
I’m a pie-and-mash eating, east side resident
What’s a grime renaissance save for my persistence?

7. Krept and Konan, Pt. 2

Krept and Konan are famously known for their punchline lyricism. Part 2 is their best display of that. Every other bar includes great wordplay. You spot a new one every time you listen to it again. Wordplay aside it became famous for spitting over the unorthodox beat choice, The xx’s “Intro”. It eventually became a trend, only being topped by Wretch’s. Both Krept and Konan bring forward passionate performances on the mic, and behind the wordplay there’s substance in what they’re saying at times (“I used to think if you’re weren’t a gangster you weren’t cool / And now I think if you wanna be a gangster you’re a fool.”) Wordplay aside they don’t bring a range of flow or internal rhyming, but nevertheless it’s still brilliant. Now on the topic of who had the best verse… that’s up for debate.

[Verse 1: Krept]
Listen carefully, to my bars mate
They say Audi do it? Listening to R8′s
Did I eat a dictionary? The way I muller beats
Well I must have, ‘cah they’re booking me

[Verse 2: Konan]
Free clothes, free kicks, all I do is talk foul
My ex says I talk bull, but she’s just a silly cow
Yeah, and I be smiling at my angry times
And at my lowest, still tryna be a family guy
And I don’t listen to these guys and their lies
Cos they don’t move big coke, they just fantasise

6. K Koke

K Koke’s only Fire in the Booth is nothing short of legendary. K Koke’s FITB is probably one of the best at painting a picture through the lyrics, especially on the minimalistic acoustic beat in the first verse. It’s the most quotable FITBs as well (“Cah friends turn to fakes / Fakes turn to snakes / Then the snakes haters start talkin’ to the jakes”). On the second beat he increases the energy and spits a very clever, metaphorical verse about his “Mrs” – his handgun (Nas did it first though). The extended metaphor technique is something that no other spitter has executed on Fire in the Booth, and K Koke pulls it off with flying colours. This is why it’s one of the best and most iconic FITBs.

Check my lifestyle, this little white child
Growing up hood, forced to live his life wild
Yeah I might smile on occasion
But look into my eyes and see the fire blazing
My heart is aching, life got me stressed fam
Been through enough still these youts tryna test man
Yes dan I’ll squeeze if it’s necessary
Please believe rude boy I’m forever ready
My head is heavy got too much thoughts
Overloading my brain still I do not talk

[Verse 2]
She’s thuggish, she only fucks with thugs
She don’t want my DNA so when we fuck I wear my gloves
Like trust, she’s mine and I’m proud
I got the type of girl who’ll have your head up in the clouds
I love it when we bang bang, I make her scream loud
She goes round after round, she makes sound after sound

5. Mic Righteous, Pt. 1

Out of three FITBs, it was hard to choose which one was the best. But I settled on Part 1 of Mic Righteous’ FITB series. I prefer this one because he brought an astonishing level of passion in his bars which transcended into his performance on the mic. Conscious lyrics can be boring to some, but Mic Righteous spits them in such a triumphant and emotional way that makes you listen to his words very attentively. Mic Righteous is very good at presenting his pain in this one. Content aside he also brings internal rhymes at times and a range of delivery. It’s the “realest” FITB of the whole lot.

We trapped in the slum, look what the manner has done to us
Brothers are undercut become another number stop judging us, I got love for every one of ya
We deny that we can only advance, and those that think they can’t are lost in they art
Mind lost in they heart, body lost in their mind
So go back to the start back to the passion the past
You are not gonna find the man that you are

4. Akala, Pt. 4

Akala is the only MC to reach four Fire in the Booths. Surely his performances are getting quite stale now and that he’s got nothing more to say? Unsurprisingly not. Part 4 is Akala’s best Fire in the Booth. Firstly, he switches things up by spitting over six, seven, eight beats in succession. It takes an Akala level of spitting to spit properly across such an array of beat styles (Panda by Desiigner to 3 Wheel-Ups by Kano, for example). The internal, multisyllabic rhymes are there, and he constantly switches up his flow. It’s also his most energetic FITB. Not to mention that the spoken word piece at the end is very effective and touching. One of the best MCs to bless the Booth.

Done that many times, got one too many rhymes
The London in my lines, a dungeon for these guys
Questioned them to find, a hundred at a time
Muster and define, the cusp of what is rhyme
Clutchin’ and I climb, I pop the level line
Was always at the top, but now they recognize
Trust if you recline, when I go double time
The flow is so ridiculous, I be prophesized
Guys are ill-advised to dive into a fight
With I, the wicked eye
You will never get a blight

3. Wretch 32 & Avelino

Wretch 32 and Avelino quickly became the best pair of MCs to bless a Fire in the Booth. Many people are quick to say that this is the best FITB. Maybe on a wordplay basis, it is, but it misses the technical and structural brilliance that the next two MCs brought to the table. Regardless of that, Avelino starts things off with his underrated verse, bringing a punchline in practically every bar. He serves a good warm-up to Wretch 32, who spits every single line with purpose. Along with that he brings amazing wordplay, like advanced punchlines and namedropping numerous Jay-Z albums in the space of two bars, which will have gone over many UK listeners’ heads. On top of that he manages to make the bars make sense outside of the wordplay. This consistency across his verse is incredible. One of the best FITBs.

[Verse 1: Avelino]
Made a lot of noise being silent
They labelled me remote, now I’m being scouted by Island
Beg you warn a brother, I’m universal, it’s timing
Hard work breeds success and though I’m in labour with her
Imma need a midwife, there’s so much pressure to deliver

[Verse 2: Wretch 32]
I’m, the people’s champ let me thank the people
Who, never got the point until they grabbed the needle
Niggas tried to minus my pluses just to divide my people
Who go from stepping on roaches to stepping by The Beatles
It’s progression at its finest
They say my weakness is kindness
I killed them with success, cause it’s timeless
Every verse is a verse from the chapter of writing

The Titanic ain’t going down because of me
See I can’t swim, but I’ll be the anchor for the scene
See how did they expect musicians to stay afloat
When all our sales keep going down the stream?

2. Devlin, Pt. 2

If I binned the criteria I’ve set, both of Devlin’s freestyles would be in the top 10. But because I have to pick one, Part 2 edges it for me. What a beast of an MC. This is how to rap. The technical ability that Devlin possesses is totally mindblowing. He is one of the best at merging all the key elements that make a great MC – wordplay, flow, lyricism, multisyllabic and internal rhymes, delivery and energy. If you don’t believe that or understand that, the best way to get it is to try mimic his bars. In a similar level to Eminem, it’s not easy to imitate him. This is why Devlin has the second-best Fire in the Booth.

If you ain’t be familiarised, my name’s Devs
And I’ve been on my grind a long time – in the fog, I’m Phileas high
I don’t die like spirit inside ’cause every lyric I write has got infinity life
I’m highly incredible, I’m making a circle spherical
More substance when I tell ’em all
You wanna ride with Devs, you’ll need a miracle
Bun your life for bling, it’s so unethical

Highlights from Pt. 1:

Broke the ground level, now like Luke, I like to sky-walk
I’m a dying rebel like Gaddafi, not compliable
I’ll stab you with a paint brush, there’s art in my survival
I’m like a cyclops with the all seeing eyeball

1. Lowkey

Seven years later and Lowkey still has the best Fire in the Booth ever performed. He brings insane levels of lyricism for 9 minutes straight – all in one take. Just read a sample of his lyrics below slowly to comprehend the amount of internal rhymes he’s able to fit into one bar, to the point where the line basically becomes a tongue twister (“I’m certainly burning these burglars verbally / Merking these merkers ’til mercenaries murder me / Burst in and turnin’ your Burberry burgundy / Guernsey to Germany, Jersey to Bermondsey”).

For the first few minutes he eases through acronyms line by line – all while still managing to make it rhyme. In addition to the internal rhymes there’s an abundance of multisyllabic rhymes, a range in flow and delivery, varying from fast flow to moderately paced, wordplay, punchlines, and straight savageness (“When there’s beef mandem are missing like Madeline.”)

Lowkey presents not just the best lyrical radio performance in the country, but in the world. Every American that reacts to this FITB on YouTube is blown away. It’s a genius installment in Fire in the Booth. And the best one.

A monster, a beast, when I stomp on the beat
If the nonsense you speak is not gonna cease
Unconscious but leave unconscious MCs
Don’t respond to the beef if your nonces or neeks

Get ill up on the rhythm when I kill ’em on a lyrical
Finish up my dinner then I drill ’em with a syllable
Don’t really care what you did and what you didn’t do
Little fools are minuscule, spitting isn’t difficult
You find your mind cause I’m out of mine
Fuck a pound sign, came for the crown of grime
I told you once, I told you a thousand times
I’m a fountain of acid, you’re alkaline
You alcoholics are out of line
Got a mountain to climb if your mouth is lying
Bow to his highness, I’m bound to shine
Let me coach you on vocals and how to rhyme

Think I’m vexed with your indirects
If I spit rhymes next I will slit five necks
I’m a big time threat, to your pissed sly vets
This guy lives life inside stress
I’m the best in the game, not impressed with the fame
I’m testing my aim if I send for your name
The successful are lame, they kept it the same
But whatever the weather, it’s destined to change
Couldn’t give a fuck for your creps and your chains
You slobber on the mic like a sket giving brain
I’m mental, deranged, crush temples and frames
My pencil will end you like petrol and flame

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