This past week, hip-hop made headlines, though sadly not for anything musical. The Drake/Chris Brown spat was the top story in tons of news outlets, with the associated feverish speculation — was it over Rihanna? If not, then what? We can say with confidence that this is the first time we’ve ever been on Drake’s side, about a rap beef or pretty much anything else.
In addition to all the tabloid headlines, though, some great music came out this week. Ras Kass rewrites history, XV disses the voice behind “Gucci Gucci”, Joe Budden big-ups Eminem, Supernatural defends one of the sides in the Summer Jam controversy, and Joell Ortiz shows us how to do this, son — if by “this”, you mean cook crack. Below, the lines of the week:
5. “Hey yo homeboy, I know you tried/It didn’t make no difference, they tried to crucify/But Hot got behind you, stood in the hood/’Cause the statement that you made, homeboy, was all good” — Supernatural, ‘Freestyle With Peter Rosenberg’
Supernatural appeared on Peter Rosenberg’s Hot 97 radio show only a week or so after the controversy over Nicki Minaj’s set, or lack thereof, at Summer Jam. Since Supernat was on the air with the man who started the whole mess, Peter Rosenberg, he delivered a defense of the DJ’s conduct. While Supernat’s brief in favor of the defense is not particularly substantial, it is actually improvised, and that on-the-fly cleverness, which Supernatural does better than pretty much anyone else alive, moves this lyric onto our list.
4. “And labels don’t come around, but what can they say?/They give one-hit wonders one million — that sh*t cray” — XV, ‘Andy Warhol’ lyrics
XV’s new mixtape, Popular Culture, came out this week. Of all the stellar punchlines on it, this one stands out for its directness. The “one million” figure is a direct dis to Kreayshawn of “Gucci Gucci” fame, who rode one hit single to a rumored $1 million record deal with Sony Records. The “cray” — a homophone for “Krea” — makes the insult even more direct and, more to the point, clever.
3. “I was boot camp in that pot/Go in there soft, come out hard as a rock” — Joell Ortiz, ‘Iron On You (Exodus 23:1 Remix)’ lyrics
Ortiz is on the verge of big-time stardom now, with his group Slaughterhouse signed to Eminem’s Shady Records. However, he still regularly and vividly reminds us of his days at the bottom, as a low-level, struggling drug dealer. Here, he takes a more boastful tone regarding his crack-cooking prowess — appropriate, since this song is over a beat to a song by the Martha Stewart of crack, Pusha T.
2. “This fine-tuning don’t pertain to you/It’s not attainable, this rhyme schooling/So after my latest, he’ll be labelled the greatest/And if not, I’m signed to him” — Joe Budden,’Mood Muzik The Box Set Intro’ lyrics
Another Slaughterhouse-r takes a place of pride this week. Budden is releasing all four of his superb Mood Muzik mixtapes as a box set, and this new song will appear only in that collection — well, there and every hip-hop website in the blogosphere. The complicated internal rhymes and polysyllabic words made our inner rap geek happy, and the nod to Joe’s new label head was genuine without appearing obsequious.
1. “When the ink drip, it’s the rise of the Sphinx’ son/Reverse the course of mankind ever since the Greeks won” — Ras Kass, ‘It’s A Problem’ lyrics
Afrocentric historians and scholars have for decades now talked about the African influence on ancient Greek philosophy, and have complained about the racism inherent in claiming that the Greeks invented the discipline. Here, Ras nods both to that controversy and Alexander the Great’s conquering of Egypt in 332 B.C. Thought we’re not really as sure as Ras that we’d want to go back to the 330s, we are blown away enough by his lyrical prowess to at least consider the idea.