This week found the release of some of the most anticipated albums of recent months. Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music and Ab-Soul’s Control System lived up to their considerable hype. Childish Gambino, last seen in the depths of offensive Trayvon Martin joke purgatory, wormed his way back onto our list this week as well. Otherwise, Jay Rock sticks up for his crew; Nitty Scott, MC juggles some elaborate wordplay; and Yasiin Bey drops a shady metaphor. Below, the lines of the week.
5. “On that s**t, take a whiff/Move in silence like a .gif” – Childish Gambino, “F**k Your Blog” lyrics
Leave it to Donald Glover to find the humor in what is perhaps the web’s most unfunny invention, those small, soundless moving pictures known as .gif files. Here, Gambino nods to all of the terrible _American Idol_, _Martin_, and _Twilight_ excerpts with “funny” captions that people try to pass off as amusing.
4. “I’m the silent assassin of the four-headed dragon/Black Hippy blasting a .50 out of the Benz wagon” – Jay Rock, “Black Lip Bastard (Remix)” lyrics
Jay Rock may not get as much credit as his Black Hippy brethren Kendrick Lamar and Ab-Soul, but he deserves his share of praise, too. He outshines his group-mates on this number, and this couplet is the best of the lot. Then again, maybe we’re just scared that he’ll turn his .50 caliber rifle on us unless we shout him out. Either way…
3. “Super Nitty, I’m a full-time juggler/Juggernaut aiming for the jugular” – Nitty Scott, MC, “Hands on the Wheel Freestyle” lyrics
Nitty Scott, MC has lately been a pal to the site, even joining us at a tony Yale University event. Here, she shows why we love her, finding appropriate use for three “jug” words in two lines.
2. “Cool frames don’t qualify as sunblock/The coolest shades ain’t never made the sun stop” – Yasiin Bey, “Chop Chop” lyrics
The artist formerly known as Mos Def has taken a more abstract turn with his lyrics in recent months, making the already brainy rapper’s lyrics more poetic than normal. Here, he speaks in metaphor so clearly and directly that you wonder why this phrase wasn’t already a folk saying. The inability of consumption to satisfy real spiritual cravings has rarely been more simply and beautifully stated.
1. “But thanks to Reaganomics, prisons turned to profits/’Cause free labor is the cornerstone of U.S. economics/’Cause slavery was abolished unless you are in prison/You think I am bulls**tting, then read the 13th Amendment/Involuntary servitude and the slavery it prohibits/That’s why they giving drug offenders time in double digits” — Killer Mike, “Reagan” lyrics
There is so much in Mike’s ode to our 40th president that is awesome — we could have chosen practically anything in the second verse. This segment in particular deals with the ugly and too-often-ignored dynamics of prison labor, and its unacknowledged but huge role in our economy. Reagan is often (and rightly) a sort of hip-hop boogeyman, but rarely have his crimes been so epically documented as in this number. For those interested in more about the relationship between rap and Reagan, check out our blog post on the topic.
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