Last week, we took a look at the fifty worst rap lyrics of all time. Going through all the dreck and drivel to get to the crème de la crème of crappiness was tedious and rather exhausting. This week, we even things out by taking a look at the other end of the spectrum and examining rap lyrics to find cleverness and wordplay worthy of being praised. Selecting the very best lyrics from a library of oh so many is a tough task. Is technical skill the prime consideration? Poetic quality? Historical significance? Keep reading for the full countdown to see which rhymes struck as some of the best of all time.
See also: - The 50 worst rap lyrics: The complete list - The 50 worst rock/pop lyrics of all time: The complete list - The ten best storytellers in hip-hop
50. Mos Def - "Mathematics"
"Crack mothers, crack babies and AIDS patients/Youngbloods can't spell, but they could rock you in PlayStation."
Mos Def raises the stakes of this rhyme in the first line by presenting the challenges humanity faces in this day in age. He then pairs this with a commentary on the priorities of the day's youth, who are more concerned with video games than practical knowledge. When combined, the gap between what we need and what he have is clear and startling.
49. Wale - "Is There Any Love?"
"You niggas so-so like a seamstress."
Wale is a cool cat, and his wordplay here is seamless. The image of a seamstress sitting at her machine, running through mundane line after line, just seems to fit with a mediocre rapper, so the simile is so apt. And he makes it sound easy and fluent — like a finger roll in basketball. It's tough to make it look so simple.
48. CL Smooth - "They Reminisce Over You"
"T to the R-uh-O-Y, how did you and I meet?/In front of Big Lou's, fighting in the street/But only you saw what took many time to see/I dedicate this to you for believing in me."
The whole purpose of this song, as indicated in the title, is to honor memory and reminisce about a friend who's passed. The story of how Troy and CL met may seem incidental, but it is those kinds of idiosyncratic specifics that make the story so genuine and the nostalgia so poignant. The believability of the meeting story makes CL's thank-you to Troy that much more powerful.
47. Lauryn Hill - "Zealots"
"And even after all my logic and my theory/I add a "Motherfucker" so you ignorant niggas hear me."
Lauryn Hill gives a taste of her biting wit and humor, commenting on the state of music — hip-hop in particular. It's a great line, because the "motherfucker" does stand out in Lauryn's otherwise clean verse; it perks you up, but she's still using the word in an enlightened manner, thus getting the point across without compromising the quality of her lyrics.
46. Scarface - "No Tears"
"I got this killa up inside of me/I can't talk to my mother so I talk to my diary."
It's funny how it can be easier to talk to the world than to your own mother. Scarface's rap was his diary, and this song comes off his album named, that's right, The Diary. This line speaks to how important rap is — how important any form of expression is — to the artist as more than just a career or way to entertain. Some rappers pour their souls into their lyrics, and you can bet that a rapper like Scarface wouldn't dare use a potentially effeminate word like "diary" unless he was doing just that.