In a week where things happened that we neither ever thought would or particularly wanted to — a new Aaliyah song without Timbaland, the rapper Rick Ross winning the rights to his name from the real Rick Ross, Chris Brown continuing to have a career — it’s good to know that hip-hop is as strong as ever. This week, we have an amazing array of wordplay on our list, from simple dirty jokes all the way to rhymes that showcase multiple literary devices. Below, the lines of the week:
5. “My two-door is retarded, I call that bitch Special Ed/I don’t even know her name, I just call her Special Head” — Young Jeezy, ‘Hail Mary’ lyrics
Jeezy has a well-established formula by now — cliche or idiom in one line, sexual or drug-related version of same in the second line. And while you could set a clock by his punchlines, they’re still effective. Here, the Snowman uses the raunchy version of his patented style, and the image of him calling a girl “Special Head” is just absurd enough to make us crack a smile.
4. “Live pyrotechnic jacket made out of asbestos/My residence high up in the tree, like where the nest is” — Alchemist, ‘Dirt’ lyrics
Alan “The Alchemist” Maman is far better known for his banging beats than his lyrical prowess. So we were doubly impressed when he turned in a superb verse on this song, holding his own against some formidable cohorts, including House Shoes and Roc Marciano. The dense, Ghostface-ian imagery here shows that Alc may have quite a future as an artist/producer — a sort of Kanye for fans who prefer Timbos and hoodies to Louis V and Margiela — if he decides to go that route.
3. “I fuck my Spanish chick insanely/And always keep my N.Y. fitted on, to the point she call me Daddy Yankee” — Jae Millz, ‘I Shot Ya’ lyrics
Millz makes our list for an almost-unprecedented second week in a row with this rhyme. The entertaining pun on reggaeton superstar Daddy Yankee is very clever, and accomplishes the feat of all great jokes — it seems so obvious and natural that you wonder why no one thought of it until now.
2. “I was fitted to wear that fitted and wear that living/For the livid, you hear that penning? Well yeah, that did it” — Skyzoo, ‘Jansport Strings’ lyrics
This track is a banger of an autobiography that deals with Skyzoo’s memories of early rap music video shows. For the kids in the audience, they actually used to play music videos on television back in the day, crazy as it seems. These lines show the artist meditating on his right to wear the metaphoric “crown” of the rap game (that’s the “fitted” [hat] he’s speaking of). But how ‘zoo talks about it is incredible. The “fitted” homophone, the playful near-homophone of “livid” and “living”, and the dense string of rhymes (“fitted”/”living”/”livid”/”penning”/”did it”) all fit together to take this rhyme almost to the top of our list.
1. “Rap-wise, I’m like penny-wise, copper Foamposites, penny Pennys/Never penny-pinch, paid a pretty penny for the image, not a blemish/Epitome, a kindred spirit” — Willie the Kid, ‘Marina’ lyrics
But not quite all the way. Willie the Kid absolutely bodies his verse on this song, making a poetic masterpiece out of what would in most hands be a simple brag about having enough money to hang out on a boat all day. These lines are the best of the bunch. He puts a playful, materialistic spin on the “penny-wise but pound-foolish” saying while taking the “penny” imagery through the entire rhyme. If you pay close attention, you’ll even notice that the third “penny” refers to Penny Hardaway shoes, not to the currency.
Groaner of the week:
“Asking me about money, wonder what’s my net worth/People trying to come sue me, call up J.G. Wentworth” — Mac Miller, ‘Glow’ lyrics
Mac Miller has made several plays for rap-world respectability lately — titling an album in homage to Funkadelic, working with Pharrell Williams, enlisting DJ Jazzy Jeff for PR backup, if not completed songs. However, all of that cred went out the window when hip-hop legend Lord Finesse unleashed a lawsuit against Miller for stealing one of his beats and profiting off of it (Miller made an official video for the song that karoke’d Finesse, which received millions of likely revenue-generating YouTube hits and gave his then-beginning career a huge boost), as well as lying to him about the prospect of future production work. Mac’s response to the suit is terrible to the point of incoherence. J.G. Wentworth is a company that buys annuities, and thus would have nothing to do with lawsuits, managing Mac’s money, paying off or threatening his legal antagonists, etc. We love their funny commercials too, Mac, but that doesn’t mean this rhyme makes any sense.