And let me make clear that these are just my opinion. Obviously, this is a subjective matter.
Again, no particular order, here are the next 11 in my series...
Formatting Note: Again, the formatting on this site makes me nauseous. I put these in a word document to try to make them all single-spaced, so the first two copy into this space single-spaced, and the next nine don't? Wow. Totally beyond me.
So, again, I apologize for that. Since this site is so comically un-user-friendly formatting-wise, after Nas, take " / " to mean <enter> (i.e. a new line).
Nas, "Hero" (Verse 3; 2008)
This universal apartheid
I'm hog-tied, the corporate side
Blocking y'all from going to stores and buying it<o:p></o:p>
First L.A. and Doug Morris was riding with it<o:p></o:p>
But Newsweek article startled big wigs<o:p></o:p>
They said, “Nas -- why is he trying it?”<o:p></o:p>
My lawyers only see the Billboard charts as winning<o:p></o:p>
Forgetting -- Nas the only true rebel since the beginning<o:p></o:p>
Still in musical prison; in jail for the flow<o:p></o:p>
Try telling Bob Dylan, Bruce and Billy Joel they can't sing what's in their soul<o:p></o:p>
So “Untitled” it is<o:p></o:p>
I never change nothin'<o:p></o:p>
But people remember this<o:p></o:p>
If Nas can't say it, think about these talented kids<o:p></o:p>
With new ideas being told what they can and can't spit<o:p></o:p>
I can't sit and watch it – sh--, I'ma drop it<o:p></o:p>
Like it or not; you ain't gotta cop it<o:p></o:p>
I'm a hustler in the studio<o:p></o:p>
Cups of Don Julio<o:p></o:p>
No matter what the CD called, I'm unbeatable, y'all…
Comment: I have never "gotten" Nas' supposed genius. Maybe it's just beyond me; maybe it's that I'm white. (Maybe it's a combination of those two things.) But this song, which features a somewhat mind-blowing, futuristic Polow Da Don beat (that I can only describe as reminding me of mirrors), is fantastic, and the lyrics don't fall short of the beat.
Fabolous, "Breathe" (Verse 2; 2004)<pre><pre>I see em on the block when I passes / Lookin like they need oxygen mask-es / I make it hard to BREATHE / But I keep the glocks in the stashes / Cuz the cops wanna lock and harass us/ And make it hard to BREATHE/ They has to react/ Like havin' a asthma attack / When they see the plasma in back /You dudes are wheezin' behind me / My flow is like a coupe, breezin at 90 / That's the reason they signed me / It's quick metaphors and hard punches on the cuts / Feels somethin' like hard punches to the gut / I address the haters and underestimaters / And ride up on 'em like they escalators / They shook up and hooked up to respirators / On they last breath talking to investigators / I'm a breath of fresh air in fresh pair / Face it boo and do it till your face get blue / And then breathe.</pre> </pre>
Comment: Unlike with Nas, the cleverness and skill possessed by Fabolous is painfully obvious to any rap fan. In fact, it's SO obvious, it almost makes him hard to listen to. (That, and his beats usually suck.) But I thought I had to have one from him, because in terms of ploysyllabic rhyming and metaphor-dropping, he is one of the best.
Akil, "Future Sound" (Verse 1; 2006) (song by Jurassic 5ive)<pre>Provoke emotions when I'm boastin and braggin / Just imagine gun clappin' linguistic assassin / ‘Bout to…shake the world up, slam it from the floor up / You heard of us -- real n----s we blow the world up / And bump the planet / Take it for granted when I manage / With that home team-advantage, / Automatic rhyme bandit, ‘bout to hand it, / Cause you cram to understand it / When I land it open handed / I'm a transatlantic slave with that old black magic / Got to have it, from the demo to the master / Some brothers try to strike but light the fire of disaster / I'm the chainsaw massacre; / [I] rain raw acid dust / Down-shift, pump your brakes, ease off the clutch / We f--k it up, when we conduct, load your pistol up / Put this verbal d--k in your mouth, until I bust a n-- / And let this jam tell you who the f--k I am / Original black man from the Billali Sudan...</pre>
Comment: Akil is, in my opinion, tied with "Mark 7even" as the worst rapper in Jurassic Five. (#1 is Chali 2na. #2 is Zaakir.) But he really impressed me with this verse, over a beat that, I just realized recently, impressively samples "One" by Three Dog Night. Jurassic Five's members, most of the time, do little more than abstractly and obstensibly brag within their lyrics. But sometimes they get pretty impressive with the word play, as Akil does here.
Tupac, "Changes" (Verse 2; 1998)<pre>I see no changes, all I see is racist faces / Misplaced hate makes disgrace to races / We under, I wonder what it takes to make this / One better place, let's erase the wasted / Take the evil out the people they'll be actin right / Cause both black and white, is smokin crack tonight / And the only time we chill is when we kill each other / It takes skill to be real, time to heal each other / And although it seems heaven sent / We ain't ready to see a black President / It ain't a secret don't conceal the fact / The penitentiary's packed, and it's filled with blacks / But some things will never change / Try to show another way but you stayin in the dope game / Now tell me what's a mother to do / Bein real don't appeal to the brother in you / You gotta operate the easy way: / "I made a G today" / But you made it in a sleazy way / Sellin' crack to the kids... / "I gotta get paid..." Well hey...that's the way it is.<o:p></o:p></pre>
Comment: I have never bought in to Tupac being the best rapper alive. I have heard better from Talib Kweli, Eminem, and Lupe, among others, than I have from Tupac. But this song was brilliantly written, and this verse was the best of the three. I only wish it had been inserted over something other than a cheesey Bruce Hornsby sample...
Eminem, "We Ain't" (Verse 2; 2004) (song by The Game)<pre>Only Dre can, / Judge me for the mistakes I'm makin / If I'm fakin, I'm Clay Aiken / You ain't 50 and you ain't Game, you lame, you tame b--ch / You're mild sauce, you ain't ready to make that flame switch / You'll end up in the same situation, same sh-- / Different day, just with different gangsters in your face, which / Way do you wanna face when your brains hit pavement? / Think of what you'll say to Pastor Ma$e and save it / For the day that they got them affadavits wavin / In my face lookin for answers. “Rap sensation, / Eminem, battles to ward off, accusations / That he had somebody blasted, the mask of Jason / Was found at the scene of the task with masking tape and / The victim's p---s up his a--,” a basket case and / They ask him to clean up his act, you bast--ds wastin / Too much time, me no kiss a--, and if that's the case then / We ain't goin… </pre>
Comment: As LJHugeFan will likely point out to me (again), Eminem does his share of mindless rhyming. He also has his share of very deep and brilliantly written rhymes. Then he has verses like this -- immaculately well-rhymed, and basically insane in substance. This verse in particular is so impressive to me because of the combination of the extremely poly-syllabilic rhymes with the breathless (literally, I don't think he takes a breath after "Aiken") nature in which they're delivered. You really have to hear this to understand.
Ludacris, "Oh" (Verse 3; 2004) (song by Ciara)<pre>Southern-style, get wild, old school’s comin' down in a different color whip, whip, whip / Picture perfect, you might wanna take a flick flick flick flick flick / Call up Jazze tell him pop up the bottles cuz we got another hit, hit, hit / Wanna go platinum? Im who you should get get get get get / Ludacris on the track, get back, trick switch on the 'Lac, Im flexin steel / Same price every time, hot song, jumped on cuz Ciara got sex appeal / And I keep the meanest, cleanest, baddest spinnin on stainless wheels / Could care less about your genus, I bump ya status, I keep the stainless steel / Trunk-rattlin' what's happenin', huh? I don't even think I need to speed / Bass-travelin', face-cracklin', huh? Turn it up and make the speakers bleed / Dirty south we ballin' dawg / And never think about fallin’ dawg / Ghetto harmonizin’, surprising’, run it back cuz the song is called…<o:p></o:p></pre>
Comment: Anyone who knows anything about rap music and Ludacris knows that he is at his best when he guests on other artists' songs. This is the preeminent example of that phenomenon. He doesn't say a whole lot, but his delivery is flawless and his rhymes are clever. That's really all I'm looking for.
The Game, "Red Bandana" (Verse 2; 2006)<pre>I'm a gangbanger don't get it f---ed up / You ain't never bang, you ain't never lace chucks up / So how the f--k you gonna criticize me? / I ain't the reason n----s is bangin’ the NYC / Makin bullsh-- threats on the M.I.C. / I don't wake up in cold sweats when I sleep / I live comfortably / With a red rag tied around the 4-5 in case n----s come for me / Mad cause I started my own company / I don't know what the fuck n----s want from me / Except something for free / Before The Documentary dropped, you b--ch n----s wasn't bumpin’ me / And to some degree, / I gotta keep that 4-5th under me / I don't run from beef / It's either cock back-squeeze, or be underneath / Cause I'm from the streets of (Compton-Compton) / And my grandmother died before I was mul-TIE / Wasn't raised right cause my parents was both high / High off cocaine / My introduction to the dope game came in 85 watchin Soul Train / Mama told me I was the future, and one day I'd be high like Soul Plane / “Just don't bang…” / But back then, I'd do anything for a jheri-curl and a gold chain / N----s always got something to say / Like they ain't never bumped N.W.A. / Punk n----s talk sh--…but when they need hits, they swallow they f---in’ pride and come runnin’ to Dre / N----s come to LA when they need to talk / Cuz Kanye told everybody Jesus Walks / Bush killed more n----s in the towers then gangbanging ever did -- that's why they need New York.<o:p></o:p></pre>
Comment: I feel about Game very much the same as I do about Big Boi -- he is consistently good but rarely great. This is an example of greatness. The rhymes are as good as he's ever had, and he rhymes with a speed few rappers can attain. Plus, the guitar-laced beat sounds pretty menacing and goes well with the lyrics, and that doesn't hurt the effort.
Common, "Forever Begins" (Verse 2; 2007)<pre>Ashes and snowfalls / I wonder when the roll call for heaven gon' come / Forever gon’ come / It's a cold world, and I can never go numb / Look fear in the eyes, say, "I'm never gon’ run" / Sooner than later…I know the cheddar gon' come / For now I write the world letters to better the young / On tree-by-jury…together we hung / Now we let our chains hang / And gang bang to maintain / ‘Ghanistan goin' through the same thing / It trickles down; at each other we aim pain / I shoot for stars, grease and exclusive cars / Through the ride, I learned to earn hard / Watch gangstas turn God in the midst of war / No matter how much I elevate, I kiss the floor / It was in the wind when she said Dilla was gone / That's when I knew we'd live forever through song.<o:p></o:p></pre>
Comment: Common is too hippie for me, generally. And I don't really like his voice. But I can't honestly deny his lyrical ability, so I won't. On this song, he rhymes very thoughtfully about a myriad of problem-solution combinations over a soulful Kanye keyboard beat. This is another one that can't truly be appreciated unless heard.
Talib Kweli, "Hostile Gospel, Part I (Deliver Us)" (Verse 1; 2007)<pre>I call these rappers baby seals, cause they club you to death / I could call 'em Navy SEALs, cause they government-fed / What become of the vets? / They drugged up, they f---ed up, they in debt / There ain't no love and no respect; it's like a gang; it's like a club or a sect / Hip-Hop's the new WWF / What -- do you rap or do you wrestle? N----s love to forget / We got til it's gone; you think you on -- you still hustlin backwards / Your topical norm a tropical storm, it's a f---in disaster / Back to the…topic we on, it all started at Rawkus / They couldn't find the words to describe me so they resort to the shortcuts: / “Is he a backpacker?” “Is he a mad rapper, / An entertainer, or the author of the last chapter?” / We livin’ in these times of love and cholera / Synonymous with the apocalypse / Look up -- the clouds is ominous / We got maybe ten years left say meteorologists / Sh--, we still waitin’ for the Congress to acknowledge this!<o:p></o:p></pre>
Comment: Talib Kweli, as recognized by Jay-Z (among others), is a lyrical genius. The problem many -- including myself -- have with him is patently weak beats. (Of course, for many this is also a great strength of his music.) So the best thing he could have done, from the standpoint of people like me, is take a militant Just Blaze beat over which to rap. And apparently the beat inspired him, because in terms of relevant subject matter, emotional display, and lyrical skill, this is one of the best verses I have ever heard.
Andre 3000, "Rosa Parks" (Verse 2; 1996)<pre>I met a gypsy and she hipped me to some life game / To stimulate, then activate, the left and right brain / Said, “baby boy, ya only funky as your last cut -- / Ya focus on the past, your ass'll be a has-what.” / That’s one to live by or, either, that’s one to die to / I try to just throw it at you / “Determine your own adventure, Andre” / Got to her station; here's my destination / She got off the bus, the conversation / Lingered in my head for hours / Took a shower kinda sour / Cause my favorite group ain't comin with it / But I'm witcha cause ya probably goin through it anyway / But…anyhow, when in doubt, / Went on out and bought it / Cause I thought it would be jammin’ / But examine all the flawsky-wawsky / Awfully…sad and it's costly, but that's all she wrote / And I hope I never have to float in that boat: / Up sh—‘s creek; “It's weak” is the last quote / That I want to hear when I'm goin down, / When all's said and done and we got a new joe in town / When the record player get to skippin and slowin down / All yawl can say is them n----s earned that crown / But until then...</pre>
Comment: This has to be the verse that created the legend that has become Andre 3000. (Eminem lists him as one of the best rappers alive. Lil Wayne and T.I. both strive to be compared with him.) Before this verse, he was an amazing lyracist. Since it, he has become almost untouchable in terms of style and cerebralism. (I know that's not actually a word.) Aside from two purposeful pauses, Andre flows in a flawless stream of consciousness about how he (and OutKast) must progress in order to remain great. Apparently, he followed his own steps.
Jay-Z, "Crazy in Love" (Verse 3; 2003) (song by Beyonce)<pre>Young Hov, y'all know when the flow is loco / Young B and the R-O-C, uh oh / O.G., big homie, the one and only / Stick bony, but the pockets is fat like Tony… / Soprano / The ROC handle like Van Exel / I shake phonies, man you can't get next to / The genuine article I do not sing though / I sling though, / If anything I bling yo / Star like Ringo / Roll like a green Co’-vette / Crazy…bring ya whole set / Jay-Z in the range / Crazy and deranged / They can't figure him out, they like, “hey’s he insane?” / Yes sir, I'm cut from a different cloth / My texture is the best fur / (Chinchilla) / I been iller than chain smokers / How you think I got the name Hova? / I been realer; the game's over / Fall back Young / Ever since the label changed over to platinum / The game's been a wrap, one.<o:p></o:p></pre>
Comment: Yes, I know this song is by Beyonce. Yes, I know it was a radio hit, and it didn't do much to help Jay-Z's street cred. But this is an example of Jay-Z trying to impress when he knew legions of people would hear the song he guested on. (He likely also was trying to impress his, at the time, relatively new girlfriend.) He succeeded, dropping some of the most clever and well-rhymed lines I have ever heard from him.
And just FYI...There will be a Part III...