This past week was a good one for politically engaged rap. Lupe Fiasco returned with “Around My Way,” taking on everything from the war in Iraq to the framing of Leonard Peltier, and El-P’s Cancer for Cure prepared us for the dystopian future. It was a fantastic week in other areas, too. Birdman engaged in reincarnation, Ludacris claimed a new landing strip, Maffrew Ragazino gave us a geometry lesson, and the always amusing MF DOOM told us a little more than we ever wanted to know about his underwear. Below, the lines of the week.
5. “Uptown swagger life, live it like we live it twice/Point blank aim, ni**a — give a f**k about the price” — Birdman, ‘Dark Shades’ lyrics
Bryan “Birdman” Williams has had a long and storied career in the rap game. He’s turned Cash Money Records from a label only known in New Orleans to an international pop powerhouse. While we prefer the earlier stuff (we’re big fans of his “lost” — read: just do some Googling — 1993 album I Need a Bag of Dope), his output over the years has contained more than a few gems. On this tune, he sounds engaged and amused, nowhere more so than on this verse-ending couplet.
4. “That girl hella bad, I wanna pop hella tag/The way that booty propels, it needs a helipad” — Ludacris, ‘Jinglin” lyrics
This song, the first single from Luda’s upcoming Ludaversal album, is an update of/ode to LL Cool J’s 1990 hit song “Jingling Baby”. The ATL veteran manages to bring his own unique and playful style to the old classic, never more than on these lines, made all the better by his patented wide-eyed delivery.
3. “My seat obtuse, peep the way that I lean/Yeah, just me, myself, and my team/My life’s a nightmare, but I’m living my dream” — Maffrew Ragazino, ‘Who Should I Be?’ lyrics
We at RG have held a variety of jobs before taking a vow of purity to devote ourselves to the temple of hip-hop. One of those was teaching SAT prep classes to bored teenagers, so this reference to obtuse angles completely made our day, and reflexively gave us tons of now-useless lesson plan ideas.
2. “It don’t match the decor, the duty-stained drawers/Give a round of applause for Rudy Ray Moore” — MF DOOM, ‘3 Dollars’ lyrics
This song will appear on producer/rapper Oh No’s upcoming album Ohnomite, for which he had open access to the archives of comedian Rudy Ray Moore. Thus, this song is filled with references to and samples from Ray Moore’s work. We can never resist DOOM’s bizarre sense of humor, even when it deals, as here, with bodily functions.
1. “I go as left as the heart in the chest/’Cause the Horn of Africa is now starving to death” — Lupe Fiasco, ‘Around My Way’ lyrics
In a political climate where even the word “liberal” is a boogeyman, we at RG thank all that is holy for Lupe Fiasco. Agree with him or not, the man has made substantive points about U.S. foreign policy, the perils of consumerism and planned product obsolescence, the history of Native Americans, and colonial legacies in Africa — and that’s just on this song! Here, he proudly claims the political left’s traditional place as the fighter of oppression with a reference to the recent famine in Somalia. This being Lupe, the “Horn of Africa” reference also ties back obliquely to themes of Native Americans earlier in the song by ironically referencing the Horn of Plenty, the traditional symbol of Thanksgiving.