(A knobkierie, also known as an iwisa, is a wooden club used as a throwing spear. Shaka Zulu jokingly introduces the iwisa to Caesar, similarly to the idiomatic action of one "introducing" their weapon to an opponent, thereby meaning he will physically attack Caesar with it. He mockingly labels Caesar a commander, or someone who just gives orders, which would be seen as an insult from Shaka's perspective as he used to fight alongside his men.)
Who thinks he can dance with Conan of the Savanna,
(Shaka calls Caesar inferior to him by comparing himself to Conan the Barbarian, a fictional warrior. While Conan lived in a location similar to Caesar's own home during the fictional Hyborian Age, Shaka lived in the South African savanna during the late 18th and early 19th century, making Shaka the "Conan of the Savanna". Conan was also styled as 'the Barbarian', a term also used to describe the goths of Germanic areas, a group of people that Caesar couldn't conquer.)
But when I go hand-to-hand with you, I go hammer!
(Zulu warriors were masters of hand-to-hand combat, since the previous Native African Tribal tactics of throwing spears were inefficient. Shaka Zulu changed the strategy by fighting enemies at close range with weapons like the knobkierrie. Since knobkierries have a similar shape to a hammer, Shaka Zulu makes a pun with this by "going hammer", as in "Going 'HAM'", meaning to go "Hard As a Motherfucker". In doing so, Zulu says he is stronger than Caesar in a fight.)
Knock off his dome, wrap it up in his own banner!
(The Pantheon in Rome is known for having the world's largest concrete dome. Shaka says he will knock down the Pantheon, showing disrespect of and victory over Caesar, and he will wrap up the remains of the broken temple using a Roman Empire banner, as was customary with the remains of dead Roman soldiers. Dome is another word for head, so Shaka will knock off Caesar's head and wrap it up in a flag.)
Send it back to Rome with a message from the Zulu!
(After defeating Caesar, the Zulu will send his head back to his homeland of Rome with a message, just like how Pompey the Great's head was sent to Caesar after he was assassinated. It also references the senates led by Pompey's message to order Caesar to go back to Rome in 49 BC during the triumvirate, which later led to Caesar's Civil War. This line and the one above may also refer to how when the Romans lost to the Germans at the battle of the Teutoburg Forest, Roman general Publius Quinctilius Varus' head was chopped off and sent back to emperor Augustus, Caesar's adopted son, who took over as leader of Rome after Caesar was assassinated.)
If you battle Shaka, this what happen to you!
(Caesar's head will be sent back to Rome as a warning from the Zulu, demonstrating that Shaka is a very powerful man who shouldn't be messed with and can beat Rome's own powerful leader.)
If you cross that Equator, you'll head straight into a massacre
(Whilst the Roman Empire was known for controlling a large proportion of the world, they never expanded south of the Equator, the area where the Zulu lived. Shaka says that if Caesar leads his men to Zulu territory, they will all be killed in battle. This could also reference Caesar's historic crossing of the river Rubicon into Rome, the start of his Civil War. In crossing that line, as it would be if he were to cross the Equator, many lives were lost. This may also be a reference to the line separating the two rappers, saying if Caesar crosses that line, he will be massacred by Zulu.)
And get fucked by more than just Cleopatra in Africa!
(Cleopatra was Ptolemaic Queen of Egypt at the time Caesar was in power. During his conquests in Northern Africa he had a prolonged relationship with her that lead to the birth of their son, Caesarion. Whereas Cleopatra, who also ruled over a Kingdom in Africa, "fucked" Caesar in the sexual meaning of the word, Shaka will "fuck" Caesar as in "fucking him up", or defeating him badly.)
You talk a lot of shit for a man wearing a diaper.
(The Zulu wore loin cloths, which Caesar compares to diapers. He is amazed that the said "diaper" isn't holding all the shit Shaka says, as well as ridiculing him for wearing something associated with babies.)
I heard you had poison spit. Where was it in this cypher?
(Shaka was known to mix poisonous herbs with saliva and spit it out to blind his opponents. Caesar also makes a reference to the Caesar cipher, which is a cipher used and presumably invented by him to protect messages of military significance. This is a play on words, as a cypher is a term in which several rappers contribute a single verse. Caesar says that Shaka cannot spit out a poisonous, or harsh-worded, rap as it does not show from his skill.)
'Cause all I hear is threats from a brute with no discipline,
(Caesar isn't intimidated because he claims that Shaka only gave empty threats. He also calls him a brute, meaning Shaka depends on sheer strength while Caesar is more strategic in comparison, as well as undisciplined, and unable to match up to Caesar and his armies. This is also a play on words, since Brutus, one of the assassins responsible for Caesar's death, is written as "Brute" in Latin when in the vocative case, as in the famous alleged last words of Caesar—"et tu, Brute?", meaning, "and you, Brutus?".)
And I'm ruling over you like a boot full of my citizens!
(Caesar, the dictator of the Roman Empire, says that he can rule or dominate over Shaka as if he were one of the citizens in Italy, a country famous for being shaped like a boot.)
You should take your cow skin shield and hide under it!
(The Zulu are known for their unique shields made of cow skin, which Caesar pokes fun at and tells the Zulu to hide behind their shields. This is also a pun as a 'hide' can also refer to the skin of an animal, which the Zulu used to make their shields.)
You're fucking with the most triumphant third of the Triumvirate!
(The Triumvirate was a political agreement between Caesar, Marcus Licinius Crassus and Pompey the Great that established them as the leading political force in Rome. Crassus died in the battle with the Parthians and Pompey was assassinated, so Caesar claims he is the most successful of the trio for becoming a famous Roman general.)
I'm first of the empire and last of the republicans,
(Caesar marked a new chapter in Roman history by contributing to the ending of the Roman Republic in 27 BC and the establishment of the Roman Empire. It could also be a reference to a Caesar quote about preferring to be the first in a village than second in Rome.)
And hunting you, accompanied by legions of my countrymen!
(Caesar refers to the Roman Legion and the saying, "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears," threatening to hunt Zulu like an animal with the many men he commands. Hunting was also the main way for African tribes to acquire meat; Caesar says that the Zulu will be the hunted and not the hunters for once.)
(Ooh!) Ask my kidnappers if I'm just a shit talker.
(Caesar was reportedly once kidnapped by pirates and put up for ransom. During this kidnapping, he told them all that he would return after he was released and crucify them, a promise he did go on to fulfill. However, he did have them killed kindly before being put on the cross as a symbol of how well they treated him. In this line, he shows Shaka that he shouldn't be someone to mess with and how fighting him would lead to consequences. This line might also be a reference on how Caesar said that Shaka did "talk a lot of shit". Caesar therefore says that he isn't like Shaka in that regard.)
Doc J dunk on you like Boom Shakalaka!
(Julius Erving, sometimes known by the nickname "Dr. J", was a professional basketball player and thought to be one of the greatest "dunkers" in basketball history. Caesar, sharing his first name, compares himself to him by saying that he will dunk like "Boom shakalaka", a line of celebration after a player dunks a basketball with a similar word to Shaka's name, and win the rap battle.)
So don't go rattling your sticks at me!
(Caesar tells Shaka not to rattle, or make menacing gestures with, his spears, mere sticks in comparison to the blades of the Roman Legions, at Caesar, or he will fight back.)
If I wanted to shake spears, I'd waggle my biography!
(William Shakespeare famously wrote the play Julius Caesar, a biography of Caesar's last days. Caesar makes a pun out of Shakespeare's surname; in doing so, he also references the previously suggested action of Zulu shaking spears. Caesar also claims that he is more famous, as he has a world-renowned play based on himself, whereas the Zulu do not. His mockery of the Zulu spears may be a reference to how the sword-wielding Romans defeated many spear-wielding opponents.)
Right, I've heard of your play. Tell me, how does it end?
(Shaka says he has heard of the aforementioned play Julius Caesar and mockingly asks Caesar to tell him how it concluded, as a build-up to the next line.)
Oh yes! You get stabbed many times by your friends!
(While Caesar's assassination actually occurs in the third of the five acts of Shakespeare's play, Shaka points out that the most noteworthy event in Julius Caesar is his assassination by Gaius Cassius Longinus and close friend Brutus the Younger, who not only literally stabbed him 23 times, but also "backstabbed" him, being hitherto trusted acquaintances of his. Ironically, Shaka met a similar fate, being assassinated by a conspiracy led by two of his half-brothers.)
So whatcha gonna do with your Roman swords?
(Shaka then asks Caesar what he will do with the swords he brags of, retorting to Caesar's previous comparison of his spears to sticks and builds up to the next line.)
When the lines of your legions get gored by the horns
(Shaka Zulu was famous for using dual envelopment tactics, in which the flanking elements were likened to the "horns of a bull." Following this metaphor, when a person is killed by a bull's horns, they are "gored." Thus, Shaka says he and his army will kill Caesar's legions, whilst mocking his plain army formation.)
Of the Zulu warriors! Trained on thorns
(Continuing on from the last line, Shaka says that his warriors will kill the legions. Zulu warriors would train by running on thorns barefoot for hours on end, which he claims makes them tougher than the Romans. In addition, the Romans punished Jesus of Nazareth with a crown of thorns to cause both pain and mockery; Shaka says their punishment is nothing to his warriors.)
To dismember any emperor's pasty white hordes!
(Shaka says that his warriors will cut to pieces, or dismember, the legions, or hordes, of Caesar, an emperor, and calls his army pasty white, suggesting that they don't get much sunlight to tan because they don't get much action or practice and are therefore inexperienced in battle. It is also stereotypical for a darker-colored person such as Shaka to mock a Caucasian like Caesar and his fellow Romans for being "white" by calling them pasty or other similar words. Also, the Zulu initially repelled the British Empire in the late 19th century, the soldiers of which might also be mockingly called "pasty white hordes".)
I got the strength of a lion and the speed of a cheetah,
(Shaka implies that he has the noted abilities of animals native to his homeland, such as a lion's strength and a cheetah's swiftness, and Caesar is weaker in comparison.)
And everyone knows you're just a chicken, Caesar!
(Shaka finishes his verse by calling Caesar a chicken, meaning he is easily scared, weak, and a prey to stronger animals like the previously mentioned lion and cheetah. This is also a play on words of chicken Caesar salad.)
Oooh, can I be a hyena? 'Cause I'm going to laugh!
(Caesar continues Shaka's trend of calling himself and his opponent animals, in this case calling himself a hyena, an African relative of felids known for their laughter-like calls. In saying this, he calls Shaka's raps laughable.)
I'll pave roads with the bones of your goat-herding ass!
(The Romans were known for having straight paved roads. Caesar says he'll use Shaka's bones to pave them, implying his total domination of Shaka. On top of this, one of the most famous roads in Rome, the Appian Way, is said to be paved with the bones of dead enemies to Rome. Romans also used to crucify criminals and enemies alongside their roads, so Caesar could be saying that this will be Shaka's fate. The Zulu herded goats on the plains of South Africa, for use as food and in rituals, and Caesar says that Shaka is merely a harmless shepherd compared to Caesar, a great military leader.)
First, my front lines will drop back and spank you in the chest,
(Caesar explains exactly how his army will fight the Zulu, ordering his front lines to fall back then strike the Zulu in their chests. This also refers to the "chest", the front lines of Shaka's "bull horn" formation.)
Then I'll decimate your horns; you can't outflank the best!
(This returns to Shaka's earlier line about the Zulu "bull horn" formation. Caesar claims that Shaka's formation will be prove to be inferior to Caesar's own military prowess, as he is the greatest in battle. To decimate in a modern sense is to "kill, destroy, or remove a large percentage or part of". However, in Caesar's time, this referred to the killing of one in every ten of a group of soldiers or others as punishment for the whole group, something Caesar threatened to do to the 9th Legion during the war against Pompey, but never did.)
Let your reserves come at me. My ballista's cocked and ready!
(Shaka had reserve men outside his ordinary bull horn formation, called the 'loins', and Caesar says that now as he decimated the bull horn, he invites Shaka's reserves to come fight, as he is prepared with another piece of his superior military technology, a ballista (similar to a catapult), to shoot at them.)
When I take aim, I always keep my whole crew steady!
(Caesar brags that his Roman Warriors' fighting formation is more organized than the chaotic Zulu tribe, and this does not change when he prepares his attack. Steady here has a double meaning. First, it shows how he keeps his men consistent and on point. Second, he tells his men to hold on their attack, the reason why he explains in the following bar.)
Because there's no use in murdering you and your heathen.
(Caesar claims murdering Shaka Zulu and his men would be useless and explains why in the following line. He also labels Shaka a heathen, or someone who doesn't believe in the correct gods. This references Caesar's spell as Head Priest of Jupiter.)
You can grow my wheat for me after you're beaten.
(In the Roman Empire, it was typical for emperors to conquer new lands, which then became suppliers of wheat and other grains for the city of Rome. For example, the emperor Augustus conquered Egypt in 30 BC, and Egypt later became an important source of wheat shipped to Rome. Also, in Shaka's time, the 17th and 18th century, many Africans were captured by white settlers and taken as slaves, and the vast majority of these slaves worked as farm laborers. Caesar may suggest that he will enslave the Zulu in either manner. The word "beaten" has multiple meanings: slaves were commonly beaten by their masters with clubs and whips, but "beaten" could also mean defeating Shaka in the rap battle or in a military battle, much like Caesar intends to do. This also references to Shaka's banning of wheat after his mother's death, one of the many events that led to his assassination. Caesar tells Shaka that he is doomed to an ironic fate.)
Mad rhymes are doper than any verse you ever kicked,
(Caesar claims his raps to be better than Shaka's.)
Strangle you like Vercingetorix!
(Vercingetorix was the king and chieftain of the Arverni tribe who led a revolt against Caesar during the Gallic Wars. After defeating Caesar in the Battle of Gergovia, Caesar subjugated Vercingetorix's country and defeated him in the Battle of Alesia, after which Vercingetorix surrendered himself to save his men, where he was captured and executed by strangulation.)
Haven't left anyone more featherless since Vercingetorix!
(Featherless is used here as a term meaning shamefully defeated, as Vercingetorix's surrender is commonly cited as being very humiliating. Featherless is also used in a literal sense, saying he'll take the feathers off of Shaka's headdress.)
Jettison your feathers from your head like Vercingetorix!
(Caesar again insinuates that he will jettison, or throw off, the feathers from Shaka's head.)