This week saw some big news in the hip-hop world. Action Bronson (a.k.a. the New York Times‘ favorite rapper) found a record deal via Left Brain of Odd Future, thus causing folks with skinny jeans, Vice readers, and kids on skateboards to spontaneously combust from excitement. Back in the land of lyrics, Common freestyles about the heart, Heems gives us a rundown on what he really learned in school, Dice Raw decries fake thugs, Mikkey Halstead proves that simple and direct is best, and Joell Ortiz breaks our hearts. Below, the lines of the week.
5. ”Fell for a bad b*tch, but she was on some me sh*t/Tried to take my son away, call that ho a eclipse” — Mikkey Halstead, ‘Beats TV Freestyle’ lyrics
We at RG are not always about “lyrical miracle spiritual” polysyllabic rhyming. Sometime, straightforward is best. This is a simple “son”/”sun” pun, but it gains great effectiveness and emotion from the context.
4. ”Last year, ni**as was emo/But this year, they sticking to the G code” — Dice Raw, ‘Fake MCs’ lyrics
Dice points out what is all-too-obvious to any close observer of the rap scene — namely, that trend-chasing runs rampant. Raw correctly points out that last year saw a move towards introspection and emotion, but this year sees a sudden move to street content. Strangely enough, these changes often involve the same people..
3. ”I know first-hand words is money/I learned they coded language, observed these dummies” — Heems, ‘Killing Time’ lyrics
While we at RG have had our differences in the past with the members of Heems’ group Das Racist, we have to give credit where it’s due. This song is an absolute banger, and these lines, meant to sum up Heems’ college experience, are delivered with the perfect mix of world-weary cynicism and powerful confidence.
2. ”Left ventricle — check it out, it’s not too mental for/The brother Com Sense, I keep on breathing more/Different type of styles/Yo, I told you I’m coming from my chest/So I always been the best” — Sway in the Morning Freestyle Pt. 1 lyrics
This one is all about context. Sway gives Common a series of prompts during a live freestyle session. They start out weird with “prehistoric”, and get gradually more complicated and absurd. The exercise reaches its pinnacle when Sway yells out “Left ventricle!” Somehow, after he gets over a fit of laughter, Common manages to work the heart chamber into this rhyme.
1. ”But you had an all-white affair, grandpa’s all fly/Even though you been got there, goodbye” — Joell Ortiz, ‘Goodbye’ lyrics
This tune is a quiet, introspective one for the normally boisterous Slaughterhouse crew. But in this tune full of sadness and tragedies — complications with pregnancies, surrogate fathers fighting losing battles with cancer, and the like — Joell’s account stands out. This verse deals with the loss of his beloved grandmother, and his eye for detail really makes the scene come alive. This final couplet, giving a picture of an aging, grieving widower putting on his sharpest suit at his wife’s funeral, just about brings tears to our eyes.