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LL Cool J • “My Rhyme Ain’t Done” • 1987

I took a little trip into a deck of cards:
The Diamond Jack, Joker and the Ace of Spades
Was amazed at greater Cut Creator on the fade.
Then I played cards with the Queen of Clubs,
The Queen of Hearts with me cold fell in love.
As for the Queen of Diamonds, she don’t like men…
Because you know that a diamond is a girl’s best friend.
The double-trouble Spade was named the Deuce,
And the Joker acted stupid, so we gave him the news.
There was 52 cards, and I met everyone
That story is over, but my rhyme ain’t done.

LL Cool J, “My Rhyme Ain’t Done,” Bigger and Deffer, 1987

Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest) • “Black Spasmodic” • 2016

Rip every stage with grace, look right dead in they face,
Live the Tribe principle of havin’ impeccable taste.
Enjoy that breath like that one was your last one left,
If you don’t believe me, there’s truly life after death.

– Q-Tip, “Black Spasmodic,” from A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service, 2016

From the bottom of my heart, that’s where the love starts:
The love for breakdancing, my love for the art.
And with this love, I do hip-hop from the soul,
A real MC, who never sweats how many copies are sold.
Yeah, I want to go gold, platinum, et ceteras,
But why put out some wackness when no one will respect ya?
I’m staying true, nuff respect to those that paved the way,
From Bambaata down to Shah (that be my DJ).
Without my peeps, I dont know how the hell I’d make it, word…
Sometimes I feel that my career is headed for the curb.
One love for the lendin’ hand and givin’ all your help,
Believing in me when I didn’t believe in my own self.
The Abstract, with whom I’m always making rugged tunes,
Kid Hood, restin’ in heaven, I hope to see you soon.
Phife Dawg, “Peace, Prosperity, and Paper,” from the High School High soundtrack, 1996. More from the Five Foot Assassin. Rest in power to Malik Taylor, better known as Phife from A Tribe Called Quest. 1970-2016.
Now Joe wanna be like Bob,
Bob got it goin’ on with no job.
And everything Rob got he got from Robin,
And everything she got, she got ho-hoppin’.
My girl Jilly wanna be like Jackie,
Fat rope chains and I think that’s wick-wacky.
Tom and Dick wanna be like Harry,
Little do they know he’s bitin’ on Barry…
Salt, “Expression,” from Salt-N-Pepa’s Blacks’ Magic, 1990
They been calling me a criminal for so damn long,
Start to believe they right…and they gon’ make me do something wrong.
You see me in the hood, you think I’m trynna rob you.
I’m just talking to you when you think I’m trynna con you?
No matter what, they gon’ call me a crook.
So you think I give a fuck if I look like a motherfuckin’ criminal?
Sticky Fingaz, “Look Like a Criminal,” from Onyx’s Against All Authority, 2015. More from Sticky…
This is business: they don’t care about your lyrics;
The better you sell, the better future for their children.
Controversy sells, so they support conflict,
Makes more progress, means more profit.
An artist gets killed, they say they’re ‘so sorry,’
Meanwhile, they tell you the date of his next project.
What a life…death made them more profit:
Record companies get paid for your drama.
Cormega, “Industry,” Mega Philosophy, 2014. More wisdom from ‘Mega…