This past week was a great one for the freestyle. Common, long a master of the art, reeled off a five-minute-long live one in front of an Illinois audience, complete with breaks for picture posing, blunt passing, and book signing. In addition, veteran Skillz and newcomer Kendrick Lamar both dropped sick new verses of their own. On a more serious note, this month marks five years since the murder of rapper Rayquon “Stack Bundles” Elliott. Some of his unreleased songs are finally seeing the light of day, a sad reminder of a burgeoning talent cut down in its prime. Our top five is rounded out this week by Freeway hearkening back to the glory days of the WWF and Crooked I letting us know what his “C.O.B.” catchphrase really stands for. Below, the lines of the week.
5. “I swear motherf*ckers better back off/Jim Duggan motherf**kers with a hacksaw” — Freeway, ‘With or Without’ lyrics
Any fan of prime late-1980′s pro wrestling is sure to have fond memories of the all-American wild card “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. Freezer brought a smile to our face with his nod to the wrestler, and also gave us a sudden urge to find and feud with Nikolai Volkoff.
4. “Catch me in L.A., back room of Crustacean’s/You somewhere smelling like the bathroom at the bus station” — Skillz, ‘Good Evening (Freestyle)’ lyrics
Skillz, long an underground favorite, here baits his opponent by bragging about being in Beverly Hills’ finest restaurant while said antagonist is not only somewhere far inferior, but also literally stinking. It’s great to have some noteworthy music from Skillz long before his annual year-end roundup song.
3. “That’s C.O.B. — it mean cash over bitches/Crip or Blood, conducting organized business/Circle of bosses, cartel of ballers/Cussing out broads and we crossing over bridges” — Crooked I, ‘F**k U Pay Me’ lyrics
Crooked has always been somewhat squirrely about what his often-used “C.O.B.” abbreviation really stands for, sometimes giving several different answers in the same tune. Here, he takes this device to its comic extreme, spending four bars giving us pretty much every likely answer, and some unlikely ones as well.
2. “I walk down the street with no heat and run into beef when I’m just a vegan/Reeking the scent of a saint — sinner smell it, then start squeezing” — Kendrick Lamar, ‘”The Backroom” Freestyle’ lyrics
Compton’s Kendrick Lamar is something close to a deity over at our RG office. His lyrics are full of the kind of stuff we fiend for — wordplay, multi-layered meanings, assonance, internal rhymes, and more. This short excerpt from a recent B.E.T. freestyle contains most of the above. The “beef”/”vegan” pun has been extremely overused in hip-hop, but K Dot rescues it here with the “s” sounds and intense imagery that surround it.
1. “Gucci rainsuit for the jewels that I’m drenched it/Fifth got a slick kickback like it’s flinching/Slide the clip in, start spitting/And I shoot clumsy — bystanders be thinking I’m tripping” — Stack Bundles, ‘My Grind’ lyrics
We end this week’s list on a melancholy note. Stack Bundles was a talented rapper who was on the verge of moving from mixtapes to the hip-hop big leagues when he got killed in the lobby of his apartment building in June 2007. For a good summary of his life and work, listen to his pal Joe Budden’s touching tribute song “Send Him Our Love”. This tune, from the new Pros & Cons DVD, shows Stack at his best, spitting tough talk and punchlines with his unique, humorous flair.
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