The Top 5: Heavy with 80's references

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Boots Riley

This week featured the release of new music by some of our long-time favorite artists. We've been following J.R. Writer since his jaw-dropping 2005 nine-minute freestyle, and he returned this week with the mixtape E.T.: Extra-Terrestial Muzik. Oakland stalwarts The Coup have been on our radar for well over a decade now, and a standout track from their must-get new record came out this week as well. In addition to that, Freeway runs several different kinds of blocks, Kool G. Rap takes us dancing, and Curren$y is, as usual, smoking a little something-something. Below, the lines of the week:

5. “Shows on liz-ock, hope they get the message/In the hood, they call me Tetris, run a block on the bliz-ock” — Freeway, 'Jungle' lyrics
No matter your circumstance — hood or suburb, city or country — everyone knows the experience of waiting for just the right Tetris shape to fall from the sky. Freeway taps into these feelings while working in one of the few recent uses of the so-called “izzle language” that doesn't drive us up a wall.

4. “Wolf in sheep's clothing, eyes scoping a tender lamb/Spin you bitches like a ballroom dinner dance” — Kool G. Rap, 'Rivers of Blood' lyrics
Only a rhymer as brilliant as G. Rap could come up with an amazing juxtaposition like this. The threat here — shooting someone enough times that they are forced to spin around in the air — mixes jarringly put somehow perfectly with the image of ballroom dancing.

3. “Baby girl a rider, concealed half a pound of that fire/Saint Elmo, sticky icky velcro/Can you get a hit? Hell no, what you ask for?/On the seashore, stoned in my shell toes, holmes” — Curren$y, 'Eagle City' lyrics
This song as a whole is a warmed-over Postal Service retread, further ruined by an out-of-nowhere Jay-Z quote. Luckily, the gods of cameo appearances made sure that Curren$y came through to rock the party. The fact that he rhymed “Saint Elmo” and “velcro” made our eighties-nostalgia-filled hearts happy and actually caused us to laugh out loud.

2. “Who got a swag as excellent as me?/I should put you in a bag, you'll never be a g” — J.R. Writer, 'Here I Am' lyrics
This line had us puzzled at first. A bodybag? That's a pretty lame punchline for someone as superb as Writer. We thought about it for a while, and then it dawned on us. “Be a g” also sounds like “B.A.G.” — as in, “I should put you in a BAG.” Props to J.R. for (temporarily) stumping even this RG writer, who has been closely following his career for years now.

1. “My flow is wet, it's like they shut off my water/I got the sheriff after me for what I said 'bout Obama/My flag is red like a period, comma/I'm a piranha” — The Coup, 'WAVIP' lyrcs
“WAVIP” is one of our favorite songs of the past six months. The final track from The Coup's upcoming (and amazing!) album Sorry To Bother You, it features guest spots from Killer Mike and Das Racist. But Coup leader Boots Riley steals the show with his verse that manages to turn a famous Beastie Boys line into a powerful comment on the surveillance state and the criminalization of dissent — something that Boots, who has a long history of activism, including a prominent role in Occupy Oakland, certainly knows about first-hand. He follows that up with a clever reference to his own Communist proclivities, while playing with the long rap tradition of speaking punctuation marks, a trick we have long admired.

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