N.W.A - 'Gangsta Gangsta'
Why is this powerful you ask? Well this lyric is powerful as it is all about you, improving yourself, and only yourself, screw the rest. This mentality has hovered over Hip Hop and those listening to it, that not putting here would be a disservice to the genre.Life ain’t nothing but bitches and money.
MC Serch - 'Back To The Grill' (Nas' Verse)
This is Nas, kid, you know how it runs I’m waving automatic guns at nuns Sticking up the preachers in the church, I’m a stone crook.
One again you ask why? This lyric so aptly showcases the anger that black children faced in the ghetto when Nas was growing up. All this anger, at the poverty, the corruption and government summarised in these brutal lines.
Run DMC - 'My Adidas'
My Adidas walked through concert doors and roamed all over coliseum floors I stepped on stage, at Live Aid All the people gave and the poor got paid.
This lyric is something different. Lately we have the big rap names rapping about expensive things the average man could only dream on. Run DMC though, rapped about their Adidas shoes, something any man could have. This song is about attainable things, not unattainable luxury.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five - 'The Message'
A child is born with no state of mind/Blind to the ways of mankind/God is smiling on you but he’s frowning too/Because only God knows what youll go through/Youll grow in the ghetto, living second rate/And your eyes will sing a song of deep hate/The places you play and where you stay/Looks like one great big alley way/You’ll admire all the number book takers
Thugs, pimps, pushers and the big money makers/Driving big cars, spending twenties and tens/And you wanna grow up to be just like them, huh,/Smugglers, scramblers, burglars, gamblers/Pickpockets, peddlers even panhandlers/You say: I’m cool, I’m no fool!
But then you wind up dropping out of high school/Now you’re unemployed, all non-void. Walking round like you’re Pretty Boy Floyd/Turned stickup kid, look what youve done did.
Got sent up for a eight year bid/Now your manhood is took and you’re a Maytag/Spent the next two years as a undercover fag/Being used and abused and served like hell/’Til one day you was found hung dead in your cell/It was plain to see that your life was lost/You was cold and your body swung back and forth/But now your eyes sing the sad, sad song/Of how you lived so fast and died so young.
This verse smashes the romantic view of the street life, showing it for what it is. The whole verse is so powerful and hard hitting I had to use the whole thing.
Public Enemy – 'Fight the Power'
Elvis was a hero to most/But he never meant shit to me. You see/Straight up racist that sucker was, simple and plain/Motherfuck him and John Wayne.
To tackle the two heroes of American culture takes guts. This is basically spitting in the face of American culture.
Kanye West - 'Gorgeous'
“Is hip hop just a euphemism for a new religion?/The soul music of the slaves that the youth is missing”
Kanye tackles the very nature of hip hop. He addresses how powerful rap music is to black people. Has rap failed black youths? Has rap lost its social edge? The reason why this line is so powerful is that it does not answer these questions; it forces you to think about it.
Kendrick Lamar - 'Poetic Justice'
If I told you that a flower bloomed in a dark room, would you trust it?
This line hit me hard the first time I heard it. It was at that moment I thought of Kendrick as more than a rapper, he was a poet.
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - 'Thuggin'
I done been to jail and did my best not to repeat that/I’m tryin to feed my family, give a fuck about your feedback.
No matter what you say, Gibbs is gonna stay thuggin, mother fuck your opinions. Gibbs will do what he needs to do to feed his family.
Lupe Fiasco - 'Bitch Bad'
Until that intelligence meets their favorite singer's preference/"Bad bitches, bad bitches, bad bitches/That's all I want and all I like in life is bad bitches, bad bitches"/Now let's say that they less concerned with him/And more with the video girl acquiescent to his whims/Ah, the plot thickens/High heels, long hair, fat booty, slim/Reality check, I'm not trippin'/They don't see a paid actress, just what makes a bad bitch.
This whole song is powerful, but these lyrics showcases the importance rappers have on young and impressionable minds. You cannot walk away from this song without questioning the antics of some of your favourite rappers.
2Pac - 'Revolution'
Suppress the revolution of premeditated scheme/Introduce a drug called crack, to us ghetto teens/Got a law for raw niggas, now playa what it be like?/When will n***** see they got us bleeding with three strikes/Can't seem to focus hopeless, with violent thoughts I wrote this.
Yall knew 2Pac would be on this list, with good reason. 2Pacs evaluation of street life was hard hitting and raw, and I feel this lyric encapsulates him.
Written by Rhys Prka