This week saw the unveiling of XXL magazine’s ever-controversial Freshmen List of the best up-and-coming rappers. But if we tear our eyes away from that blatant ploy to sell magazines and spark angry blog posts, there was plenty of amazing music happening. Bun B shows his superiority, Ras Kass shouts out television’s greatest comedienne, Common shills for the phone company, and Action Bronson gives us a grammar lesson. In addition, Ludacris, in a verse so filled with amazing puns that it could have been a top 5 all by itself, reveals more than we care to know about his movie-viewing habits. Here is the week that was:
5. “Know that I’m chosen, one of the few/Staying on top — at least, one up on you” — Bun B, ‘Problems’ lyrics
Bun B is at this point a well-respected legend. A member of pioneering Texas duo UGK, he’s been putting out superb music since 1988 and has several stone-cold classic albums to his name (1992’s Too Hard to Swallow is our oft-overlooked favorite). But sometimes his legendary status obscures what actually makes him great — the dry wit, the fatalism, the hidden smarts. This couplet has it all. It manages to be at first boastful, then self-depreciating, and finally wryly funny, all in the space of a few words.
4. “Plasma on the wall/Write my name on your heart like I’m Lucille Ball/But love changes, a thug changes/And best friends become strangers” – “Ras Kass, ‘I Wave’ lyrics
We at RG have a special fondness for I Love Lucy. The physical comedy, the songs, that “To the moon, Alice!” catchphrase…wait, that last one was The Honeymooners. Anyway, we adore it, and Rassy shouting out the show’s opening credits was enough to move him into fourth place.
3. “So when it come to this, yo, I don’t be amazed/We gon’ keep doing this for 28 days/And I’m a say love to all those that see/We rocking this for AT&T” – “Common, ‘Sweet Freestyle (Live in Chicago)’ lyrics”:http://rapgenius.com/Common-sweet-freestyle-live-in-chicago-lyrics
Rap is certainly no stranger to product placement. As far back as 2000, Jay-Z was reportedly receiving money for his “Motorola two-way page me” line, to say nothing of the old-school’s Adidas and Kangol shout-outs. But here, Common is actually at a “28 Days” event sponsored by AT&T. As the featured performer, he goes into a freestyle and drops off-the-top-of-the-head references to the previous speaker, the girl in the front row with a camera (he amusingly stops the freestyle midway through to pose), and ends by working in the sponsor’s name and the name of the event into his closing rhyme. If this rap thing doesn’t work out for Common, a career as an ad exec seems a natural fit.
2. “Speak in the third person, he don’t like it when he overlooked/Last year he was a cook, always been a crook” – Action Bronson, ‘Nothing to Worry About’ lyrics
Bronson worms his way into the hearts of grammar nerds everywhere by self-consciously using the third person masculine singular in a rhyme. Strunk and White would be proud.
1. “I’m popping plenty bottles, like I got plenty bricks/Call me Mr. Marcus, I’m in this b*tch” – Ludacris, ‘We in This B*tch’ lyrics
As we mentioned up front, this entire verse is incredible, and contains a virtual encyclopedia of punchlines — we especially love the “X-Box” joke. However, this opening rhyme takes the cake. It’s on point thematically, referencing the title of the song almost immediately. Also, said title serves as a rather graphic double entendre due to the lyric’s mention of porn star Mr. Marcus. Luda, who seems very concerned with his legacy these days, should rest easy — he’s still the king of the scene-stealing guest spot.