We all love going to the movies — sitting in the dark alone or with friends or loved ones, getting transported to far-away, impossible places where magic rules the land or Craig Robinson can date Kerry Washington. Rappers seem to love films as much as the rest of us. This week, Common comes out to pla-ay, Kendrick watches classics in the back of the tour bus, and Jon Connor goes for the superhero blockbuster. In addition, in verses worthy of movies, Sean P takes us to an island ruled by a mad scientist and Crooked I…well, you'll just have to wait and see. Below, the lines of the week.
5. “The victorious, thinking big like Notorious/The story of the warriors, gets so glorious” — Common, 'Victorious' lyrics
While this couplet may at first seem like nothing special — we know, “big like Notorious” is not especially clever — there are subtleties that move it on to our list. First, the Big reference does not come out of nowhere. The word “victorious” leads the astute listener to think of Biggie's classic work on the song “Victory.” Also, the song as a whole is about Common's travels to New York City — thus, the “warriors” has a second meaning as a reference to the classic NYC-set movie — one, to bring things full-circle, that Diddy used to frequently reference in his ad-libs.
4. “Black folks, crack smoke/Big-head scientist, island of Patmos” — Sean Price, '21 & Over' lyrics
This rhyme is about Yakub, who in the theology of the Nation of Islam and its offshoot, the 5% Nation of Islam, is said to be a big-headed evil scientist who genetically bred the white race on the island of Patmos. We love this lyric because it reminds us of Sean's hilarious reminiscences of his youthful encounters with 5% Nation members, which he shared with us a while back.
3. “Immunity to scrutiny, that's just how the world turn/And Alfred taught me some people just want to watch the world burn” — Jon Connor, 'Rise Up' lyrics
Movie references are nothing special in rap. Seemingly every song will mention Scarface or New Jack City. But rarely does a nod to a film have as much specificity as it does here. Connor mentions a classic monologue from The Dark Night in a way that melds perfectly with the overarching themes of the song.
2. “Already in the booth going batshit and apes/Like I'm asking a bitch if her carpet matching her drapes/It's curtains for you pussies, hair trigger clap in your face” — Crooked I, 'Wake Up Show Freestyle' lyrics
Leave it to Crooked to take a tasteless dirty joke and turn it into a dense, wordplay-packed series of puns. Note the use of “drapes” and “curtains”, as well as an intended joke on “hair” trigger.
1. “Stuck on a tall-ass bus, like fourteen bunks and I can't even sleep/And I hate getting drunk so I don't got a cup, but I got James Mason on repeat” — Kendrick Lamar, 'Looks Good With Trouble (Remix)' lyrics
Non-musicians often think that touring is glamorous. And while it certainly has its moments, much of that life consists of crushing boredom. Rarely is this captured as directly as in this superb Kendrick cameo. Even in the midst of attempting to sweet-talk a girl, our narrator gets distracted and starts thinking about the tour bus that awaits him when the night is over. The image of a rap star hidden away in his bunk, watching North by Northwest while everyone else parties, is one of the most striking we've experienced in a long time.
Groaners of the Week:
“I keep a dime on my side, her booty big as an onion” — YP, 'Black Sheep' lyrics
While it would have made sense to say that a girl's backside is shaped like an onion, knowing a woman with a posterior the same size, unless it's some kind of giant onion we don't know of, is nothing to brag about.
“I fucked a bitch with a broomstick/Same broom that I didn't clean my room with” — Lil Wayne, 'We Outchea' lyrics
Wayne's 2005-8 run was untouchable — a span of hundreds of songs and verses, most of which were great, and a staggering number of which were truly exceptional. At some point after that, though, he simply stopped caring, and now we're left with lines like these, where misogyny and carelessness combine to form a truly toxic combination.