The week that was had more than its fair share of exceptional punchlines. However, there seemed to also be something a bit more serious in the air, as several of our top lines are concerned with topics more weighty than how many synonyms for a kilo you can fit into one bar. While Pusha T talks money, Saigon tells us about animal flatulence (no, really!), and Rockie Fresh shouts out Ed Norton, Black Spade and Joe Budden provide a glimpse of other, more bleak sides of life.
5. “Used to be a college girl eating Lunchables/Now your Phillip Lim sweats fitting comfortable” — Pusha T, ‘Untouchable’
Despite the “coke rap” tag often hung on Pusha’s group The Clipse, the Thornton brothers have always been comfortable talking about subjects other than drugs. For example, clothes. Pusha, a clothing magnate himself via his Play Cloths [sic] brand, is always up on the latest trends. Here, P promises his lady designer sweatsuits, while drawing a hysterical contrast to her Oscar-Meyer-eating days a poor student.
4. “And a couple white boys tried to tell me I wasn’t next/Then they learned to love a ni**a, American History X” — Rockie Fresh, ‘No Fear’
While we are certainly no fans of the long-played-out “Supa Dupa Flow” (basically a simile without the word “like” — “And I got her, grocery bag” was the Young Money-rapped nadir of the style), we give credit where it’s due. This callback to the 1998 film American History X, starring Ed Norton as a reformed white supremacist, single-handedly redeems the device (well, almost).
3. “S-A-I-gon, keep it funkier than a skunk fart/Blow the back of your face off the front part/I’m what they call a living contradiction/Why? Cause I’m dumb smart” — Saigon, ‘MTV RapFix Live Freestyle’
Sai-giddy absolutely rips this short freestyle — no small feat, given that he was standing right next to living legend Too Short at the time. While the pun on “dumb” as meaning both “not smart” and “extremely” is not new, it’s used well here, and the “skunk fart” line moves this section from pretty good to exceptional.
2. “She said all I ever made her feel was hurt and disgust/Which in turn hurt, cause that was my version of love” — Joe Budden, ‘No Church In The Wild’
While Joe Budden has long been a punchline machine and a font of Jay-Z disses (“Let’s get one thing understood, son/Every encore ain’t a good one” remains a favorite of ours), he also stands out for another reason. He has been unusually open and introspective since the beginning of his career, and continues the trend on this freestyle (over, pointedly, a Jay-Z beat). Here, he reflects on his own propensity to mix up love and hate in a way that feels shockingly intimate.
1. “Put your lighters in the air for the unsung/The sufferers, coal miners dying of black lung” — Black Spade, ‘Spand’
St. Louis rapper/singer/producer Black Spade releases a great political song for this election season. While we doubt any of the Republican candidates would like its references to Pat Tillman’s death, inner-city desperation, or the unfortunately resilient “Bush knocked down the Towers” meme, the tune provides a welcome reality check (again, excepting the 9/11 conspiracy nonsense). This couplet is especially poignant, adding victims of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, commonly known as “black lung disease,” to the list of the fallen mourned by hip-hop.