Epic Rap Battles of History is a YouTube video series created by Peter Shukoff (a.k.a. Nice Peter) and Lloyd Ahlquist (a.k.a. EpicLLOYD). The series puts famous historical and pop culture figures, real and fictional, against one another in a rap battle format. As of January 2017, it is the 30th most subscribed channel on YouTube with over 14.1 million subscribers and over 3.3 billion total video views.
Although early episodes of the series featured only Nice Peter and EpicLLOYD, later episodes have regularly featured guest appearances, and other internet celebrities such as Lisa Donovan, Timothy DeLaGhetto, George Watsky, DeStorm Power, Jesse Wellens, PewDiePie, Jenna Marbles, Lilly Singh, Ray William Johnson, Rhett and Link, and Smosh. Media celebrities like rappers Snoop Dogg, Chali 2na and T-Pain, parody artist "Weird Al" Yankovic, and the comedian duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have also appeared in the series.
On July 3, 2013, Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney, became the first of its singles to be certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in the United States. Ten other singles, including Adolf Hitler vs Darth Vader, Albert Einstein vs Stephen Hawking, Dr. Seuss vs William Shakespeare, Master Chief vs Leonidas, Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates, Justin Bieber vs Ludwig van Beethoven, Mario Brothers vs Wright Brothers, Mr. T vs Mr. Rogers, Abraham Lincoln vs Chuck Norris and Hitler vs Vader 2, were subsequently also certified Gold.
The idea for historical figures rapping against each other was conceived by Ahlquist, who gave the idea to Shukoff as an improvised show, which was titled "Check OneTwo"; as the two worked on improvisation skits, along with Zach Sherwin, who has appeared on the series. They were met with lots of difficulty at first and decided that it would fare much better as a YouTube series than an improv show. The first three rap battles were each shot on a $50 budget. On September 26, 2010, the first rap battle was uploaded to YouTube, featuring Shukoff as John Lennon and Ahlquist as Bill O'Reilly.
Before the web series even existed on YouTube, Nice Peter and EpicLLOYD recorded the very first song, which was a battle between Child's Play antagonist Chucky and actor Michael J. Fox. The song was freestyle and poorly made; as a result, it was not released to the public. Instead, Shukoff and Ahlquist recorded their first official song for the first episode John Lennon vs Bill O'Reilly.
The 15th episode, called "The Final Battle", marked the end of the first season. This battle pitted EpicLLOYD and NicePeter against each other with cameos from all of the characters they had played over the fifteen episodes. Epic Rap Battles of History later returned on December 8, 2011, hosted on their new channel (moving from NicePeter's personal channel), ERB, with behind-the-scenes videos on their second channel, ERB2. Nice Peter and Maker Studios also created the official website for the series, where fans could vote on winners for each video, and read short comical first-person biographies by each character.
On September 27, 2012, following a four-month pause after the Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates episode, a video was released on the series' YouTube channel where EpicLLOYD (voicing to an animation of Theodore Roosevelt) announced that new episodes would be released every two weeks until the Christmas holidays, starting with the 22nd episode Frank Sinatra vs. Freddie Mercury (aired on October 1, 2012). Moses vs. Santa Claus, aired on December 10, 2012, was the last battle before taking a break for the holidays.
On February 17, 2013, Epic Rap Battles of History was nominated for five Streamy Awards, winning four of them. Shukoff and Ahlquist also performed part of the Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates battle live.
On September 9, 2013, ERB uploaded a trailer video on their channel announcing that Epic Rap Battles of History would return on October 7, 2013 for a third season. On October 14, ERB released a second video with EpicLLOYD voicing Theodore Roosevelt, who announced the upcoming season's schedule. The third season went on hiatus after the release of Donald Trump vs. Ebenezer Scrooge on December 19, 2013. In March 2014, an episode of Nice Peter's weekly show The Monday Show, published on March 11, and a third announcement video of Epic Rap Battles of History News, published on March 18, confirmed that Season 3 would continue on May 5, 2014. "Weird" Al Yankovic, Smosh, and Rhett and Link were also confirmed as guest appearances. The third season concluded with the release of Artists vs. TMNT on July 14, 2014.
On September 30, 2014, a teaser video for the fourth season of Epic Rap Battles of History, featuring the Ghostbusters and MythBusters, was released; the series returned on November 10, 2014 with its 46th episode, Ghostbusters vs. Mythbusters. On December 15, 2014, when Steven Spielberg vs. Alfred Hitchcock was released, the fourth season went on hiatus. The season continued on May 25, 2015 and concluded with the release of the season finale, Jim Henson vs. Stan Lee, on August 3, 2015.
It was confirmed in a podcast by NicePeter that there would be a Season 5, with pre-production starting in November 2015 once they came back from the world tour.
On December 16, the first ever off-season battle was released, entitled, "Deadpool vs. Boba Fett".
On February 26, 2016, it was announced that Season 5 would begin on May 2, 2016, and on March 22 it was announced that production had begun.
Season 5 officially began on May 2, 2016, with the release of the first battle of the season, George R.R. Martin vs. J.R.R. Tolkien. ERB releases battles every other Monday as of the first half of Season 5. On July 12, 2016, Alexander the Great vs. Ivan the Terrible was released. This marked the midseason break. EpicLloyd later confirmed they were planning to return mid to late October. Filming began for the second half of Season 5 on September 23rd. On October 26, Season 5 resumed with Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton. The final episode of season 5 was released on January 9, 2017, where EpicLloyd and NicePeter battle against each other once again, as it is a sequel to the Season 1 finale. It is unconfirmed as to whether or not ERB will be renewed for Season 6 or if Season 5 is the final season.
In 2016, Epic Rap Battles of History was nominated for an Emmy Award in the newly initiated category Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Short Form Variety Series at the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards.Peter "Nice Peter" Shukoff
Lloyd "EpicLLOYD" Ahlquist