MLK Jr. and Gandhi

For my open topic blog post, I thought I’d do something a bit more fun. I’m sure some of you have heard of Epic Rap Battles of History, but for those of you who haven’t, they are a collection of videos made by YouTube personalities NicePeter and EpicLloyd and they center around “rap battles” between historic (and sometimes fictional) figures. There are rap battles between everyone from Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss to Bob Ross and Pablo Picasso, and everyone in between. Luckily for us, they also made a rap battle between MLK Jr. and Gandhi! I figured that we could always use a laugh, so here is the video along with a breakdown of the rap battle lyrics (focusing more on Gandhi’s references rather than MLK Jr.’s).

Martin Luther King Jr. vs. Mahatma Gandhi


You want to battle wits?

See who’s the better pacifist?

I fought the caste system

but you still cannot touch this!

Starting out, we can see an obvious reference to being a pacifist. We set the stage for a peaceful rap battle between two people who reject violence as a method of protest (whereas most of the other rap battles make violent references). Additionally, it is also mentioned that he “fought the caste system,” which is a clear, simplified reference to his political work. Lastly, “you still cannot touch this” is likely just an affirmation of dominance that is commonly used in rap battles (“you can’t touch me man!”). It is unlikely that it has anything to do with Dalits, or Untouchables – it is likely just a coincidence.

Slumdog Skillionaire,

First name Messiah,

Rap so hot,

I spit Yoga fire!

Here, we see a play on the words “Slumdog Millionaire” and “skills/skilled.” Slumdog Millionaire, of course, we all know is a popular mainstream movie about India (although our own analysis shows that it is not actually a Bollywood film). The skill/skilled reference is merely another dominance posturing technique used in rap battles. “First name Messiah” is in reference to the name Mahatma (as opposed to his given name Mohandas). Next, we see a reference to Yoga which is actually a great example of Orientalism, since this rap battle was written by Americans. They conflate Gandhi, an Indian, with the Eastern concept of Yoga, as if the very nature of being Indian means you do Yoga.

Everything you preach,

I said it first

You should jot down these words

plagiarize my whole verse!

This verse is more of a stab at MLK Jr. coming second in the pacifist chronological lineup.

Leave your thoughts on the door

Like the real Martin Luther

I’m not thinking you shall overcome this Junior!

Again, more MLK Jr. references that is not the focus of this analysis.

MLK Jr.:

I’m the king of civil rights

From the city to suburbia

No shoes, no shirt,

But I’m still gonna serve ya!

The first two lines are irrelevant, but “no shoes, no shirt” is in reference to a common sign that businesses use to encourage proper clothing wear in stores. Next, one can be “served” in a business aspect, relating to “no shoes no shirt,” but to be “served” also means to get your ass kicked in something like a rap battle.

Make you swallow your words,

So you can break the fast,

Then thank God Almighty,

You can eat at last!

These lines of course all reference Gandhi’s fasting, for which he is well known. They don’t necessarily reference any particular reason for his fasting, just that is perceived as a weakness purely in terms of rap battling.

I admire the way

You broke the British power

But I have a dream

That one day you’ll take a shower!

Here, MLK Jr. (as a fellow pacifist) is acknowledging Gandhi’s achievements, but then in the last line of the verse he takes a stab at the image of Gandhi dressed as poor Indians did at the time – and in terms of the insult “poor” implies “dirty.”

Like the “H” in your name

You ought to remain silent

Flatten your style like bread,

Naan violence!

In this, of course, we can see slight American ignorance at the “H” in Gandhi’s name. The “H” actually means that the “D” preceding it is aspirated, meaning there is a breath of air that comes out with it – something that English speakers do not differentiate in their consonants. Next, “flatten your style like bread” sets up for the next line, referencing naan bread, a staple of Indian diet (and really delicious!). It is also a play on the word “nonviolence,” a theme repeated throughout this battle of pacifists.


You would know about bread

Dr. Birmingham sandwich,

Boycott those grits,

Sit in with some Spinach!

These are jabs directed at MLK Jr.

With protests and women,

The same advice goes.

Always stay away from the hoes!

The significance for our purposes here only matter that by staying away from hoes (the tools, even though there is a double entendre of women here), we can peacefully protest (without hoes or other tools).

MLK Jr.:

I’ve got so much street cred,

They write my name on the signs!

I’d ring you for tech support,

But I’ve got a Nobel prize!

The part that applies to Gandhi here is the “tech support,” referring to the common stereotype that Indians work call centers for tech support.

Nigga we got more beef

Than one of your sacred cows

But I’m about to forgive you

So hard right now!

This, of course, references the cow that is sacred to Hindus, and is just connected to the previous comment about “beef,” which has the connotation of argument or disagreement in a rap battle. MLK Jr. is also about to forgive Gandhi “so hard right now!” because, again, it is a battle of pacifism, unlike other rap battles.


I am passively resisting,

The fact that you suck,

I am celibate because

I don’t give a fuck!

These last few burns of course reiterate that Gandhi is a pacifist and is peacefully resisting MLK Jr.’s propensity to “suck.” It also mentions his celibacy, a pretty well-known fact about Gandhi, and I have to say a pretty good burn.

I hope you all enjoyed this analysis of this Epic Rap Battle of History!


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