In a week of tremendous sadness, uncertainty, and tragedy on many fronts, we in the hip-hop world could take comfort in at least a few certainties. Slick Rick references are still cool, Ab-Soul still loves both his mysticism and his weed, Eminem's name carries a lot of weight, and Hov is still capable of blowing our minds. Below, the lines of the week.
5. “Listen, haters best get on your job/They can't seem to keep up with all the shit I'm doing, nigga/My family organization is like the mob/Keep one eye open, just call me Slick Rick The Ruler, nigga” — Ludacris, 'Disappointed' lyrics
As big Luda fans ever since we saw him open for Outkast back in the “What's Your Fantasy” era, we were relieved to see him appear on this King Los number. His nod to the eyepatch-wearing Slick Rick easily gets him on our list this week.
4. “Flow aquatic how I got it, neurologists can't spot it/When I rhyme like King Tut soon before his flesh rotted/Frank Matthews in rhyme form, Osiris/Verbal carnivore, we marauders and riders” — Tragedy, 'Stand Up (Remix)' lyrics
In addition to putting the word “illmatical” on a record back when Nas was still worrying about getting to homeroom on time, Trag has a long list of accomplishments in the game. He absolutely tears up this verse with violent imagery (we particularly love the “verbal carnivore” appellation), as well as the Egyptian imagery. Also, referencing a real-life drug kingpin NOT already mentioned in a million songs was a huge plus!
3. “Got throwaway bars that could go invade Mars/And I hang with the kind of Marshall that don't tow away cars” — Joell Ortiz, '5 AM in Brooklyn' lyrics
Joell is a regular fixture on this list for a reason. Every time he hops on a beat, he absolutely lays waste to it. This take on Drake's “5AM in Toronto” is reliably great, but this section of wild four-syllable rhymes is above and beyond, as is the pun on Eminem's government name.
2. “I got to be the greatest on this land/I spell high with 3 'i's and I'll never never land/The rap Mike Jack, Peter Pan with 28 grams” — Ab-Soul, '2013 XXL Freshmen Cyphers – Episode 1' lyrics
Soulo marks his well-deserved inclusion on XXL's Freshmen list with this multi-layered rhyme. The “Never Never Land” wordplay is great, and leads beautifully into his rumination on MJ's life-long obsession with Peter Pan. But before we even get there, his pun on the “hiiipower” catchphrase, bringing in his beloved “third eye” concept, is absolutely killer. There's a ton of wordplay in a short space — more than we've seen in a while…
1. “Einstein, my mind/This MC move white squares with my relatives” — Jay-Z, '$100 Bill' lyrics
…Except for this! Our number one choice this week manages dual meaning of “MC,” “squares,” and “relatives” in just a few seconds. Leave it to Hov to make even the Theory of Relativity seem hip!
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