This week saw the release of Maybach Music Group's SelfMade 2 album. The Rick Ross-hemmed crew delivered their normal boasts about drugs, women, and money, all set to cinematic-sounding beats. However, the real action this week was elsewhere, as rappers both old and new spit a stunning variety of brilliant lyrics — in one case, right under the nose of MMG. Below, the lines of the week.
5. “Can't stop, in this to win this/Bad boy, Dennis the Menace” — Peedi Crakk, “M.O.R. Whatup” lyrics: We at RG have been supporters of Peedi Crakk (now back to his drug-inspired moniker after a short stint as “Peedi Peedi”) since his days with Beanie Sigel's State Property group. There's a reason that, despite his tough-guy persona, Peedi was briefly rumored years back to be joining The Roots — he's (almost) good and inspiring enough to hang with that group's Black Thought, one of the greatest rappers of his generation. In this comeback tune, Peedi sounds absolutely blazing — but that's not what got our attention in these opening lines. Mostly, we just think it's really funny to hear Dennis the Menace mentioned on a rap record.
4. “Ya boy flex like Hulk Hogan on the crapper/I spit super hot fiyah, but I am not a rapper” — Thewz, “Lyrical Exercise Pt. 2” lyrics: Thewz spits a great series of punchlines here. He puns first on the 24-inch-python heyday of the Hulkster in a graphic but hysterical way. Then he name-checks an absolutely hysterical rap battle parody video that has lately been our favorite thing on the Internet. For introducing us to that satirical masterwork alone, Thewz makes it onto our list.
3. “'Cause in a sense, Barack Obama's daddy was an immigrant/If he could be President, then you should be a resident/But Robert Bent' and Jan Brewer's too prejudiced” — Rhymefest, “Who's Illegal?” lyrics: Chicago's Rhymefest teamed up with Jasiri X (himself no stranger to our Lines of the Week list) for this powerful tune and video in support of undocumented immigrants. For his unqualified support of those folks, and for calling out the racism inherent in recent Alabama and Arizona laws dealing with them, Rhymefest deserves countless kudos.
1. (tie) “'Bad' mean good to her, she really nice and smart/But 'bad' mean bad to him — bitch don't play your part/But 'bitch' still bad to her if you say it the wrong way/But she think she a bitch, what a double entendre” — Lupe Fiasco, “Bitch Bad” lyrics: It was near-impossible to choose between the top two contenders on our list this week. Both are beyond superb, and are by far two of the greatest lyricists working today. Lupe brings us another in his recent long series of outstanding songs with “Bitch Bad”, a tune that deals insightfully and compassionately with the damage done to young psyches by the constant misogyny in popular music. The tune shows its long-term effects on a young boy and a young girl, and culminates in this line. In just a handful of words, Lupe deals with sexist double standards, internalized misogyny, and the difficult fight for self-respect in a culture dripping with hatred and contempt for women. In all of that, he somehow still manages to work in some self-conscious wordplay. You couldn't possibly get any better than this…
1. (tie) “Hell's fire, I never lie, you will never grind/I know the prior they running by us when we do crime/I know that Section 8 wanna discontinue my moms/When they heard that Ohio State gave us thirty racks in July” — Kendrick Lamar, “Power Circle” lyrics: …except for this. Maybach Music Group invited Kendrick Lamar to guest on one of their songs, and he obliged by completely destroying everyone else on the track. His verse on “Power Circle” is a lesson in imagery, phrasing, cohesion, and flow — especially in contrast to the one-dimensional tough-talk that dominates the other performances on the tune. This short excerpt gives some idea of the verse's scope. It moves from religious imagery to a nod to the vicious cycle of police racism and black over-representation in the prison system to a complicated brag — Kendrick worries that his newfound fame and drawing power won't do anything except get his mom kicked out of her house. But in true stuffed-to-the-brim K Dot fashion, there's one more hidden layer. The choice of Ohio State as Kendrick's venue is not an accident — OSU running back Terrelle Pryor got in trouble in 2010 for accepting illegal gifts from school boosters, thus Lamar's use of “prior” in this lyric as a homophone for the player's last name. Kudos to both Lupe and Kendrick this week for showing just how many multitudes a hip-hop lyric can contain.
Bonus: The “Float Like Gravity” Line of the Week
“The square root of a kilo is me, nigga/Do the math, I'm a motherf*cking G, nigga” — Rick Ross, “Power Circle” lyrics: Our second-favorite moment of SelfMade 2 (after Kendrick's verse, mentioned above) is this head-scratcher from MMG capo Rick Ross. The fact that it doesn't make any sense doesn't particularly set it apart from things a lot of rappers say. However, the fact that it's said in Ross' epic-sounding voice, with the utmost conviction, lends a touch of absurdity that we had to share with the world.