Hip-Hop | Music’s Smartest Genre | Lyric Breakdown
Rap is easily one of the smartest musical genres to ever exist, yet it’s mainstream popularity is overly saturated with dumbed down preschool rhyme schemes and Trap beats made just to get a head nodding.
But alas, I am here to break down some of the most clever lines in rap songs today. First up, Royce da 5'9", KXNG Crooked, Joell Ortiz, and Eminem, with the song “I Will,” off of Eminem’s most recent album, “Music to be Murdered by.
Before we begin, let’s define some slang terms:
- Bar: Refers to a rapper’s lyrics, especially when considered extremely good.
- HAM: Hard-As-a-Motherf — — . In an extremely high-energy manner; to an exceptional degree (a euphemistic acronym used as a description of intensity, without explicit vulgarity)
- Dead Presidents: U.S. money in the form of bills
“Sacha Baron Cohen, Ferrell, where am I going with this?
Oh yeah, I bar at will
And when you throw the iron in it, I’m all that still” — Royce da 5'9"
Let’s unpack this together. Sacha Baron Cohen is the actor that played Borat in the movie by the same name. Ferrell, is in reference to the actor Will Ferrell. Royce is known to bend words for a more creative punch-line, and these lines exemplify this perfectly. Bent, “borat will” sounds like “bar at will.” And what he means is he is so experienced and skilled at rapping he can give you a bar anytime he wants. Left alone, that slant works and is well done, but he takes it further.
Royce acknowledges a bar isn’t just a slang term for a clever rap line, so even if it’s a bar made of iron, he’s all that… steel (still). And there we have the second word bend.
“Manslaughter goons under the moonlight
John Wilkes, that’s who I’m in the booth like
Ayy, bruh, I go ham for dead presidents
And everything I record is over your head like a boom mic” — KXNG Crooked
Think about those times when a friend is nervous to speak in front of a crowd or something but after they do it you compliment them and say, “hey, you killed it out there.” Well, when recording vocals, like raps, you record in a booth. So in this line, he’s “killing it” like John Wilkes (in a booth).
The next phrase you literally have to read between the lines: Ayy-bruh-ham (Abraham). Playing off the line before, President Abraham Lincoln was assisinated by John Wilkes Booth. But it’s said very cleverly here because the syllables for Abraham aren’t forced, he’s telling you a message. He goes crazy and is all about making money. Politics have never sounded so poetic, huh?
“All your bars subpar like good golfers
I put a hole in one of you birdies with this Eagle and launch it” — Joell Ortiz
The wordplay is insane here. As obvious as the bar may seem, it covers a LOT in just a sentence and a half. Bars, as we explained earlier are memorable or clever rap lyrics, are suppose to be great, but Joell Ortiz is saying just as good golfers are, your bars are subpar. Left alone that’s a weird way of making fun of someone. Comparing a good golfer to a bad rapper, huh? BUT THEN, speaking of golf, he says he’ll murder you with a handgun. Wow, that escalated quickly.
To briefly go over the double entendra of golf and guns:
- Hole in one- To complete the hole in just one shot. Also, to shoot through a person.
- Birdie- To shoot one under par on a hole. Also, name calling someone, similar to chump, wuss, chicken.
- Eagle- To shoot two under par. Also, slang term for a Desert Eagle handgun.
And there you have it, a golf/murder double entendra.
So in what is most likely my first of many articles about rap/hip-hop lyrics, just remember the vast majority of people don’t give lyricists and rappers like these the credit they deserve when they write lines like this.