It’s deep-rooted, the music of being young and dumb,
It’s never muted, in fact, it’s much louder where I’m from.
Kendrick Lamar, “Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s Daughter,” good kid, m.A.A.d city, 2012
We love it where we from, but we kick it where we at.
Ladybug Mecca, “It’s Good to Be Here,” from Digable Planets’ Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space), 1993
It seems we living the American Dream,
But the people highest up got the lowest self-esteem.
The prettiest people do the ugliest things
For the road to riches and diamond rings.
Kanye West, “All Falls Down,” The College Dropout, 2004
Let me break it down for you again,
You know I only say it because I’m truly genuine:
Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem.
Lauryn Hill, “Doo Wop (That Thing),” The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, 1998
You need to smile a lil’ bit, frown a lil’ less.
Read a couple of books, and then smoke a lil’ sess.
Get your mind right, but don’t OD,
Cause overdoin’ it ain’t doin’ it with quality.
– Posdnuous of De La Soul, “Smile a Lil Bit,” from Oh No’s Exodus Into Unheard Rhythms, 2006
Life is love, heartache and strain,
Yet the strength to overcome it all keeps me sane.
OC, “Gotta Luv It,” from Ray West and OC’s Ray’s Café, 2014
Survive the droughts? I wish you well.
How sick am I? I wish you health.
I wish you wheels, I wish you wealth,
I wish you insight so you could see for yourself.
– Jay-Z, “American Dreamin,” American Gangster, 2007
I’m like a major threat:
Cause I remind you of the things you were made to forget.
– 2Pac, “Holler If Ya Hear Me,” Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., 1993
Truth brings light, light refracts off the mirror,
Visions of yourself and error could never be clearer.
The truth is that you ugly…
Not on the outside, but in the inside.
On the outside, you frontin’ you lovely.
– Pharoahe Monch, “The Truth,” Internal Affairs, 1999
They say I’m so low key, I’m socially awkward,
Only those that really know me are the ones that I talk with.
They smile in the light, hate in the dark,
You call it beef, to me it’s just a fuckin’ walk in the park.
– Nas, “I Do It for Hip-Hop,” from Ludacris’ Theater of the Mind, 2008
See my life is like a song, I just don’t know the words, So as I try to hum along people say that I’m disturbed. Stare and call me a loon, say I’m singin’ out of tune, But my musics’ got direction so I know what I’m doin’. Don’t know where I’m goin’ but I got to keep movin’, Even if my next step is obscured by the present… Gotta find the next rung on the stairway to heaven.
– MURS, “18 w/a Bullet,” …The End of the Beginning, 2002.
I will show you all you need to know.
You must hold on to anyone that wants you,
And I will love you through simple and the struggle.
But girl…you got to understand: the modern man must hustle.
Slug, “Modern Man’s Hustle,” from Atmosphere’s God Loves Ugly, 2002. More from Atmosphere…
Your whole appearance is a lie and it could never be true.
And if you really loved yourself, then you would try and be you.
Phife, “Butter,” from A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, 1991. More from Phife. Rest in forever peace, Malik Taylor, the rapper known as Phife Dawg, who died Wednesday at the age of 45. 1970-2016.
Dope is like a two-way street:
The addiction, both you and me, now take a seat.
Every car got a fleet, every broad get a Jeep,
Every sparkle in the club that wasn’t ours, we compete.
Poor minds, poor decision makers;
No reward…then what’s the risk you taking?
Pusha T, “M.P.A.,” King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude, 2015. More from Pusha T…
The thing that men and women need to do is stick together,
Progressions can’t be made if we’re separate forever.
Q-Tip, “Verses from the Abstract,” from A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, 1991. More from the Abstract…
Now who in the world do you want to fight?
It’s against the system, we should unite.
Homophobics ain’t alright;
If you learn to love, then you might love life.
Ad Rock, “Alive,” Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds of Science, 1999
You good one minute, psycho the next,
No longer lettin’ it ride…too much Jekyll and Hyde.
Then you subtweet some weeks, busy settin’ your pride.
I’m grown, don’t really need that sort of mess in my life.
Joe Budden, “Playing Our Part,” All Love Lost, 2015.
The way mothers feel for they sons, how fathers feel for they daughters;
When he date, he straight, chip off his own papa.
When she date, we wait behind the door with the sawed off,
Cause we think no one is good enough for our daughters.
Nas, “Daughters,” Life is Good, 2012. More from Nas…
Been tested, ain’t fail: I’m tried and true.
When it’s all falling apart, my pride’s the glue.
I felt at times worthless…
Pulled shifts with shifty crime merchants,
Stained hearts, brainwashed by mind serpents.
The fact I’m still here, it’s clear it’s divine purpose.
Ka, “Day 912,” from Ka and Preservation’s Days with Dr. Yen Lo, 2015. More from Ka…
Now it’s my turn, and I am concerned
About idiots posing as kings.
What are we here to rule?
I thought we were supposed to sing.
And if we oughta sing, then let us begin to teach.
Many of you are educated…open your mouth and speak!
KRS-One, “I’m Still #1,” from Boogie Down Productions’ By All Means Necessary, 1988
Stop walking through life as if you were blind,
You should reach for your goal cause I’m reaching for mine.
MC Shan, “The Bridge,” Down by Law, 1987
This ain’t the world we thought it was when we as in pre-school.
Sometimes it’s hard to be cool, sometimes I feel like I’m see-through.
Sometimes I really wish…I wish that I could be you.
Joey BADA$$, “Black Beetles,” B4.DA.$$, 2015.
You a white boy in a fuckin’ droptop,
Bumpin’ 2Pac, actin’ like you hard? Stop.
Hip-hop music make the world go round,
But buying a record don’t put you down.
You listen to thugs, it don’t make you one;
Never met a Blood or Crip, but you act like one?
Mystic, “Pull Ya Card,” from Da Beatminerz’ Fully Loaded w/Statik, 2004.
Make peace not war, make babies some more, Keep a smile when you travel from shore to shore.
Ghostface Killah, “Nuggets of Wisdom,” from BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah’s Sour Soul, 2015. More nuggets of wisdom from Ghost…
I’m a true master, you can check my credentials
Cause I choose to use my infinite potential.
Jeru tha Damaja, “Come Clean,” The Sun Rises in the East, 1994
It’s like every step bring me close to destiny,
And every breath I get closer to the death of me.
I’m just tryna carry out my own legacy,
But the place I call home ain’t lettin’ me.
Joey Bada$$, “Like Me,” B4.DA.$$, 2015
Most people don’t make love no more,
They just fuck and they fight.
What happened to the stay-togethers?
I’m with you, and that means forever.
Big K.R.I.T., “Soul Food,” Cadillactica, 2014
Fear is weakness, learn from what experience teaches.
Beware of leeches, the vampires, my secrets…
Never follow, cause most niggas is straight up cowards.
Take care of my body’s the temple, my mind is the power.
Nas, “Self Conscience,” from Nas & Ill Will Records Presents QB’s Finest, 2000. More from Nas >
Happiness is temporary, always has been.
I just lost one…but sometimes I win,
I always spread love…but sometimes I sin.
Joey Bada$$, “On & On," B4.DA.$$, 2015
I start thinking:
How many souls hip-hop has affected?
How many dead folks this art resurrected?
How many nations this culture connected?
Who am I to judge one’s perspective?
Common, “6th Sense,” Like Water for Chocolate, 2000. More from Common…
Rap is like a set-up…a lot of games,
A lot of suckers with colorful names.
‘I’m so-and-so,’ ‘I’m this, I’m that.’
But they all just wick-wick-wack.
KRS-One, “My Philosophy,” from BDP’s By All Means Necessary, 1988. More from KRS…
Different day, same shit, same script, different plate
This the way of the world, and I’m just tryin’ ta fit in place.
Oddisee, “First Step,” from Diamond District’s March on Washington, 2014
They’d rather see me fail than succeed,
That’s why I’m alone on my own with no team.
Don’t need no green, though I got some to spend;
In the end…all I really need is a friend.
Bishop Nehru, “So Alone,” from Bishop Nehru + MF DOOM’s NehurvianDOOM, 2014
Some people tell me that I need help.
…Some people can fuck off and go to hell.
B-Real, “Illusions,” Cypress Hill’s III: Temples of Boom, 1995.
I never asked to be born, and death’s no question.
The sun’s still shining off the same old lessons,
Then why does life feel like an educated guess?
And my thoughts are like meals…I’m a sucker for the seconds.
Oddisee, “Own Appeal,” Tangible Dream, 2013. More from Oddisee…
And through our travels we get separated, never forget:
In order to survive, got to learn to live with regrets.
Jay Z, “Regrets,” Reasonable Doubt, 1996
Most rappers these days is actors,
And I can’t keep watching the same movie.
Mick Jenkins, “Jazz,” The Water[s], 2014
We could fight the fuss till we get like friends,
Or somebody bite the dust and we split like ends.
Even in our wildest moments, girl, I’m on it cause you’re worth it.
Practice makes perfect, so we fightin’ for a purpose.
A$AP Rocky, “Wildest Moments (Remix),” from Jessie Ware’s Devotion, 2013
You see, if you ever wanted to ever be anything,
There’d always be somebody that shoot down any dream.
There’ll always be haters, that’s the way it is:
Hater niggas marry hater bitches, and have hater kids.
Kanye West, “Bring Me Down,” Late Registration, 2005. More gems from ‘Ye