Vibin' to the Black Album today in the whip, I noticed something that's been bugging me for a while about hip-hop lately - no one cares about lyrics anymore. Today it's all about hooks and beats, while lyrical content has been sacrificed as the music expands to a mass audience.
Now don't get me wrong, I love wildin' at the bar to some guilty pleasures (Ying Yang in this thang!). Plus, today's music serves a purpose - dumbed down lyrics mean it's easier for more people to get down.
But, aficianado that I am, I want to bring the focus back to rhymes real quick. So here it is, dom corleone's look back at 10 of hip-hop's most exquisite, tongue-flippin' displays of diction. Here are the first five and explanations - Feel free to comment and add to this list!
This is the one that sparked this list. When Jay starts from the jump with "Lord forgive him, he got them dark forces in him/ But he also got a righteous cause for sinnin," his bargaining with the Creator to understand his actions instills chills. Continuing "On permanent, hi-atus as I skate/ In the Maybach Benz flyer than Sanaa Lathan" a slightly younger Hov shouts out my future wifey AND car in the same line - props! The Kanye-produced chorus complete with signature sped-up, scratchy sample leads into Jay rockin' again "Spread love, to all of my dead thugs/ I pour out a little Louis, til' I head above/ Yessir, and when I perish, the meek shall inherit the earth/ 'Til that time, it's on and poppin, church." Jay's swag and flow is unmatachable. Threatening lines like "The more you talk, the more you irkin us/ The more you gon' need memorial services/ 'The Black Album' second verse, is like/ Devil's pie, save some dessert for us" alongside tributary momentos to his fallen friend "Curse the day that birthed the bastard/ Who caused your church Mass, reverse the crash/ Reverse the blast and reverse the car/ Reverse the day, and there you are," reveal why this Brooklyn boy-turned-mogul is a definite top 5 G.O.A.T.
Not only could I have picked material from any 'Kast album, but almost any track on Andre 3000 and Big Boi's most consistent disc ATLiens (okay, maybe Aquemini too). I went with the title track on their '96 rap classic for two reasons - first, it's got two of the smoothest lines ever and secondly, the Atlanta duo's fast-paced wordplay showcase their inherent lyrical prowess, way before the shine. The aforementioned rhymes are as follows: Big Boi's "Well it's the M - I - crooked letter, ain't no one better/ And when I'm on the microphone you best to wear your sweater/ Cause I'm cooler than a polar bear's toenails" is laced with ultra swagger. 3Stack's "Now, my oral illustration be like clitoral stimulation/ To the female gender, ain't nothin' better" shows an unusually structured speech pattern that flows like lava - the perfect compliment to Sir Luscious Left Foot's country-fried pimp game.
On their own, these three lyricists are among the best. United, the product is epic. Nas rips into the mic early with "Through the lights cameras and action, glamour glitters and gold/ I unfold the scroll, plant seeds to stampede the globe/ When I'm deceased, by then the beast arise like yeast/ To conquer peace leaving savages to roam in the streets" and finishing it off with street scripture, "From the womb to the tomb, presume the unpredictable, Guns salute life, rapidly, that's the ritual." Rae's Staten Island imagery then comes to the front, as he rhymes "Police questioning, rooftop cats invested in/ Tradin' in they Lexus' GS's, sendin messages/Two and two makes four, Cristal's crazily pour/ Gun wars, my crew phantom like swords." Ghostface's bugged-out, dust-laced rants dazzle, like "What I strive for is what I live for/ Infatuated by material things, and it's wild like for war/ Like somewhere over the rainbow, I see a big pot of gold/ Future stacks, yo, I hold." All in all, you can't ask for much more.
This one's a no-brainer - hence the name. The undisputed lord of Latin-American hip-hop was in the upper echelon as far as lyrics were concerned. It's no wonder he recruited Roots leadman Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter for a guest verse on debut LP Capital Punishment, track #3. The tandum didn't disappoint. The ever-proficient Pun pushes the limits of verbiage with "Just call me Baby Jesus cuz lady niggaz be praisin' me/ Just for the way I blaze the beat crazily, tape to CD lasery/ It pays to be amazingly flavery/ Daze 'em to my rhymes that basically hypnotize you occasionally." Tariq ices the cake as he schools his peers, rapping , "My instrumental's the Renaissance, no resem-ba-lance/ To nothin' you come across, lyrical holocaust/ The crowd pleaser emcees freeze then catch seizure/ They praise the Lord of rap thesis, true believers." 'Nuff said.
Christopher "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace was arguably the best lyricist to ever hop on a mic. With a combo of street narrative, fierce battle raps and existential poetics, Biggie was a natural. Teaming up with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony on this lead track from Life After Death disc 2, Frank White transcends first with, "Armed and dangerous, ain't too many can bang with us/Straight up weed no angel dust, label us Notorious" and effortlessly maneuvers through "Fuck the luck shit, strictly aim/ No aspirations to quit the game/Spit yo' game, talk yo' shit/Grab yo' gat, call yo' click/Squeeze yo' clip, hit the right one/Pass that weed, I got to light one/All them n*ggaz I got to fight one/All them hoes I got to like one/ Our situation is a tight one/Whatcha gonna do, fight or run?" Whew. The fellas from Bone Thugs hold their ground in the great one's shadow, creating memorable verses. Bizzy sounds off with "Test me now, contender never no surrender, no pretend/Pick up my pen, in my hand/One of my trusted friend friend, hey/Open it, let's see if we're real, we all suited/Beg my pardon to Martin, Baby we ain't marchin we shootin" and Krayzie eases the stress with "Now let me get done with the grime/Gotta go purchase a dime/Put in a state to get done with the crime/Smokin the reefer to ease my mind." But, rarely does anyone out-rhyme the best that ever did it and this here is no exception.
Stay tuned for Part II, coming soon to a theater near you!
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