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What is competition? I’m tryna raise the bar high,
Who tryna jump and get it? You better off tryna skydive
Out the exit window of 5 G5’s with 5 grand
With your granddad as the pilot he drunk as fuck tryna land
With the hand full of arthritis and popping prosthetic leg
Bumpin Pac in the cockpit so the shit that pops in his head
Is an option of violence, someone heard the stewardess said
That your parachute is a latex condom hooked to a thread.
Kendrick Lamar, “Control,” from Big Sean’s Hall of Fame, 2013
Music business hates me cause the industry ain’t make me,
Hustlers and boosters embrace me and the music I be makin.
I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollars…
They criticized me for it, yet they all yell ‘HOLLA!’
If skills sold, truth be told, I’d probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli.
Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense,
But I did five mil…I ain’t been rhymin like Common since.
Jay-Z, “Moment of Clarity,” The Black Album, 2003
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