By Rob Markman
There’s nothing like a great 16. While the music business is built on hit records, it’s the raw rhymes that set hip-hop apart from every other genre. Sometimes only a single verse is needed to excite fans and set the rap world on fire. This year there was no shortage of quality rhymes and while purists often complain of rappers’ diminishing skills, in 2011 many MCs put the focus back on lyrics. It was a tough choice, but RapFix reexamined the best verses of 2011 and picked our favorite five.
Kanye West: “New Day”
On the Throne’s RZA-produced track Kanye West exhibits the type of self-examination that made fans fall in love with him. On “New Day” Yeezy puts the last few years of his life under a microscope, and in an effort to right what he’s perceived as his wrongs, he promises to teach his fictional offspring better. “And I’ll never let my son have an ego/ He’ll be nice to everyone where ever we go,” ’Ye begins his verse. From there the College Dropout ran down a laundry list of no-nos for junior. There will be no chastising former President George Bush Jr. at a telethon, nor will Yeezy II be allowed to look for love in the strip club. Still it was with his closing bars that Kanye seemed most vulnerable, still blaming himself for the death of his mother Donda West, spitting, “And I’ll never let his mom move to L.A./ Knowing she couldn’t take the pressure, now we all pray.”
Nas: “Nasty” (1st Verse)?
Nasir Jones has gone through numerous transformations, but on his 2011 single the Queensbridge rap legend brought it back to his earliest incarnation: Nasty Nas. As soon as the Salaam Remi beat drops he goes in spitting, “A yo Late night candle light, fiend with diesel in his needle/ Queensbridge leader no equal/ I come from the will of Ezekiel/ To pop thousand dollar bottles of scotch, smoke pot and heal the people.” Esco continues to spit rapidly about his box cutter, the amount of choice women he’s slept with and the caps things off with a nod to his gaudy chain collection, which can be seen in HD according to the rap vet.
Lil Wayne: “It’s Good”
Jay-Z versus Lil Wayne would be a battle for the ages, even the light jabs that both gladiators threw in 2011 were enough to get rap fiends excited. A Birdman comment about Wayne being a better (and richer) rapper than Jay-Z, led to a shot from Hov on “H.A.M.,” when Jigga let loose, “I’m like, ‘Really, half-a-billi?’ N—a, really, you got Baby money/ Keep it real with n—as, n—as ain’t got my lady money.” After an alley-oop from Drake, Weezy began to go in on “It’s Good” with the same humorous pop-culture references he’s been known for. “Stop playin’, I ain’t with that bullsh–/N—as act like b—hes, Sheneneh ‘Oh my goodness,” he started spitting aiming at an undisclosed target. Wayne continued taunting his unnamed opponent spitting more darts like, “Two glock 40s, n—a you got 80 problems” before twisting Jay-Z’s “H.A.M.” lyric and spitting it right back at him. “Talkin’ bout baby money? I got your baby money/ Kidnap your bitch, get that how-much-you-love-your-lady money,” The gauntlet was thrown, but both men have since backed off a bit. Is the feud over, or will 2012 bring the rap battle that fans have been waiting for? Stay tuned.
Kendrick Lamar: “Buried Alive” (an interlude from Drake’s Take Care)
Things started off a bit strange when the album version of Drake’s already popular “Marvins Room” led into another interlude coupled on the same track. The buzzing beat began to build as a voice which was unfamiliar to many began to weave in and out of the track. After half-bar mumblings about jumping into a pine box and falling asleep were strangely scratched atop the beat, West Coast upstart Kendrick Lamar than reveals himself. Feeling like “a suicidal terrorist” Lamar begins to rap a story where he meets a star-making alien who bragged off making a certain Toronto MC pop off. But the fame, fortune and fast woman all come at a price. If he is to become the rap star that he has always yearned to be, then Kendrick must give up the simple comforts of live. It’s all pretty abstract until Lamar brings the rhyme full circle and recalls meeting Drake in his hometown, where he primed the young L.A. spitter on what’s to come. “Felt like the initiation, a reality living in the matrix,” Kendrick spit before capping off his rhyme reborn as a next-gen rap star.
Jay-Z: “New Day”
Like Kanye, Jay also used “New Day” as an open letter to his unborn child, except that Hov is now actually expecting. A month after Watch the Throne dropped, Beyoncé revealed that she was pregnant at the VMAs. That moment made Jay’s bars on “New Day” that much more poignant. “Sorry junior, I already ruined ya,” Jigga began his rhyme afraid that his past sins may have already condemned his children in a sick twist of karma. Still, through it all Hov pledges to be there for his kid, vowing to never be like his own absentee father. “Promise to never leave him even if his mama tweakin’/ ‘Cause my dad left me and I promised never repeat him,” Jay spits at the song’s close. Call us crazy, but we have the feeling Hov will make an awesome dad.