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We were at the same table when the chips were checked,
A gamblin’ rebel who inspects the deck.
Just when you thought we would fold our hand,
Against all odds, we raised the bet like we changed the plans.
It was live on air, but in between station breaks,
I was holdin a pair and just made the table stakes.
Split the demos, put insurance on tapes,
A safeguard against the crusaders in capes.
If I double-down, they say the Gods are sharks;
If we win against the house, they thought the cards was marked.
We draw hit after hit from a royal flush menu,
While the dealer promoted the full house venue.
A spade in the club with the heart to wear diamonds,
The high roller who got credit upon signin’.
They look puzzled when I shuffle, most of ‘em stunned by the hustle,
Recourse of bluff game’s your muscle.
GZA, “Back in the Game,” from Wu-Tang Clan’s Iron Flag, 2001
Yo, it’s 1 universal law but 2 sides to every story,
3 strikes and you be in for life, mandatory.
4 MC’s murdered in the last 4 years,
I ain’t tryin to be the 5th one, the Millennium is here.
Yo, it’s 6 million ways to die, from the 7 deadly thrills,
8-year olds gettin’ found with 9 mill’s.
It’s 10 P.M., where your seeds at? What’s the deal?
Mos Def, “Mathematics,” from Black on Both Sides, 1999
Let’s travel at magnificent speeds around the universe
What could you say as the Earth gets further and further away
Planets are small as balls of clay
Astray into the Milky Way, world’s outasight
Far as the eye can see, not even a satellite
Now stop and turn around and look
As you stare in the darkness, your knowledge is took!
So keep starin’ soon you suddenly see a star
You better follow it, cause it’s the R.
Rakim, “Follow the Leader,” from Eric B. and Rakim’s Follow the Leader, 1988

GZA/Genius (Wu-Tang Clan) • “Alphabets” • Pro Tools • 2008

Allah Be a Born, Cee Divine, Equality,
Father, then after that, there’s the G-O-D.
He or Her, I Islam, then Justice,
King of Kingdom, Love, Hell or Right, we still exist.
Master, Now in Cypher, Power’s the Queen,
Rule of Rulers, Self of Save, the Truth of the square, the same.
Universe, Victory, Wisdom, Unknown,
Why, Zig Zag Zig…and now we’re back home.

GZA, “Alphabets,” Pro Tools, 2008

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

Killer Mike (Run the Jewels) • “Nobody Speak” • 2016

I rob Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty, Linus and Lucy,
Put coke in the doobie, roll woolies to smoke with Snoopy.
I still remain that dick grabbin’ slacker that spit a loogie,
Cause the toter of the toolie’ll murder you friggin’ Moolie.

– Killer Mike, “Nobody Speak,” from DJ Shadow’s The Mountain Will Fall, 2016

Now, yo: Juice Crew’s the family, Slick Rick’s a friend of me
And Doug E. Fresh, Stet, KRS and Public Enemy.
Blahzay-blah, you know who you are:
The red, black and green, the sun, moon and star.
Knowledge of self is being taught here on after,
Peace in the name of I, Self, Lord and Master.
I come to teach and preach and reaching each
With the speech every leech I’ll impeach.
Drop science and build with math,
And the dumb, deaf and blind’ll feel the Wrath…of Kane.
Big Daddy Kane, “Wrath of Kane (Live),” It’s a Big Daddy Thing, 1990. More from Kane…
I rub your face off the Earth and curse your family children,
Like Amityville; I drill the nerves in your cavity filling.
Insanity’s building a pavilion in my civilian
The cannon be the anarchy that humanity’s dealin’.
A villain without remorse who’s willing to out your boss
Forever…and take all the cheddar like child support.
Big Pun, “Twinz (Deep Cover ‘98),” Capital Punishment, 1998. More from Pun…
I never gave a rat’s ass or a flyin’ fuck…
Drivin’ drunk in a fire truck with the siren stuck,
Slammin’ the brakes, skiddin’ out cause the tires suck.
Went to pull you off my dick and got the pliers stuck.
You better run, cause I’m probably the only one
Crazy enough to shoot your ass with a knife and stab you with a gun.
Eminem, “5 Star Generals,” from Shabaam Sahdeeq’s Sound Clash / 5 Star Generals 12″, 1998. More from Em…
Attention! Follow directions real close:
Keep out of reach of children, beware of overdose.
Too many milligram, but what made a iller jam?
My rhyme is the rhythm of thoughts that kill a man.
Ideas for the ear to fear, might split ‘em;
He’ll never forget ’em…he’ll rest in peace wit ’em.
At least when he left he’ll know what hit ’em:
The last breath of the words of death was ‘The Rhythm.’
Rakim, “Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em,” from Eric B. and Rakim’s Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em, 1990. More classic lines from the greatest of all time…