The closest I've ever become to being a rapper is when I accidentally say something that rhymes, and even then I sound more like a fool than an actual artist. Writing a rap song is hard enough, but delivering verses that cut and inspire awe in as few words as possible is an even greater feat. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a good place to start if you're looking for 20 of the most fire bars and one liners in the history of rap.
20. Jay Z/Kanye West - "N***as in Paris"
"Ball so hard, muhf***as wanna fine // That shit cray".
"That shit cray". It might be one of the most well-known and well-used phrases in history, entering into the public lexicon as a not just a sound bite but a regular piece of language.
19. Outkast - "Ms. Jackson"
"I'm sorry Ms. Jackson (ooooh), I am for real // Never meant to make your daughter cry // I apologize a trillion times".
Instantly recognizable and perfect for everyone to sing along to. "Ms. Jackson" is also a nice display of Andre 3000's sensitive side.
18. Lil Uzi Vert - "XO Tour Llif3"
"I don't really care if you cry // On the real you should've never lied // Saw the way she looked me in my eyes // She said ‘baby I am not afraid to, die'".
It's really cool watching rap beginning to blend with other genres, and Lil Uzi Vert is on the forefront of creating emotionally charged and honest lyrics.
17. Sa-Roc - "MetaMorpheus"
"Luster starts to fade when the fresh coats every winter stop // I learned all that I needed tween the educated city blocks".
Sa-Roc is such a wordsmith and one of the most underrated rappers, female or not, in the game right now. Something about this line just evokes such a sense of understanding about growing up impoverished in an urban environment.
16. 50 Cent - "A Baltimore Love Thing"
"I heard she bisexual, cause she f*** with that girl // but boy oh boy f***ing with me is a whole ‘nother world".
It's a real crafty way of using popular slang and words to add double meaning to his message. It's amazing how often this song gets overlooked by fans of 50.
15. Army Of The Pharaohs - "Seven"
"There's hell to pay, but the devil don't take checks // I tried to send a message to God, his phone don't take texts".
From start to finish this line is loaded with brilliant one liners and bars, but this one stands out for its succinct nature and creative flourish.
14. Tyler, the Creator - "Yonkers"
"(F*** everything man) that's what my conscience said // then it bunny hopped off my shoulder, now my conscience dead // now the only guidance that I had is splattered on cement // Actions speak louder than words, let me try this shit, dead".
There's probably a more well-known line in this track that I'm not a big fan of, but when Tyler puts down the act he has moments of real vulnerability like in these four bars that really are something to listen to.
13. Andre Nickatina - "The Last Rap I'll Ever Write"
"Pull me over, man I'm sober // Nothing in here but chips and soda".
"The Last Rap I'll Ever Write" is a brilliant piece by Andre Nickatina but this little nod to trying to get one over on the cops is striking for its humor and seemingly improvised nature.
12. Migos - "Bad and Boujee"
"Rain drop, drop top, smokin' on cookie in the hotbox"
2017's line of the year, by a long shot.
11. Cardi B - "No Limit"
"My career takin' off, these hoes jogging in place // Swear these hoes run they mouth, how these hoes out of shape?"
More concise than her verses on "Bodak Yellow", these lines from Cardi are just humorous and on point.
10. Denzel Curry - "Parents"
"Your momma ain't shit, your daddy ain't shit // And then you realize that life is a bitch // Got no education, so you gotta be the chick // That strip for a living cause you gotta pay the rent."
Next to Kendrick Lamar, Denzel Curry is one of the realest rappers out there when talking about how life actually is.
9. Lil Wayne - "6 Foot 7 Foot"
"Bitch, real Gs move in silence like lasagna".
While it turned into a meme about the supposed lack of substance in modern rap, this line from Lil Wayne still shows that word play can be enjoyable without pretenses of being deep.
8. Atmosphere - "God's Bathroom Floor"
"Made a date with Divinity, but she wouldn't let me f***".
"God's Bathroom Floor" uses such powerful lyrical imagery to paint the convoluted picture that is drug addiction. No line better sums up the what addicts are chasing and experiencing when they use drugs.
7. The Notorious B.I.G. - "Suicidal Thoughts"
"Crime after crime, from drugs to extortion // Man I know my mother wish she got a f***ing abortion".
One of the darkest and heaviest lines ever, it flies in the face of one liners being used to brag or take down others, and turns the microscope onto Biggie, a critical analysis of who he is and all of his faults.
6. Kendrick Lamar - "m.A.A.d. City"
"You know the reasons but still won't ever know my life // Kendrick a.k.a. Compton's human sacrifice".
Kendrick tends to get wordy with his verses, yet in between the drawn out bars on "m.A.A.d City" he managed to deliver this one poignant line.
5. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five - "The Message"
"Don't push me cause I'm close to the edge, I'm trying not to lose my head".
Arguably one of the first and most memorable one liners, it set the stage for rap as an expression of urban anger and frustrations.
4. Drake - "The Motto"
"You only live once, that's the motto, n****, YOLO"
Remember when you literally could not stop people from saying "YOLO"? It defined an era, and became a meme unto itself.
3. Gangstarr - "Full Clip"
"Full clip, do you want to mess with this? // Gangstarr, I'm one of the best yet".
It's so simple, but it's one of the few boasts in rap that doesn't come across as desperate or trying too hard.
2. Big L - "7 Minute Freestyle"
"Yo, I got slugs for snitches, no love for bitches // Puttin' thugs in ditches when my trigger finger itches".
There was only one Big L, and there hasn't been anyone to approach him since. This is the first line from "7 Minute Freestyle", and Big L would only continue to dominate through the rest of the track.
1. Mobb Deep - "Shook Ones Part II"
"Your crew is featherweight, my gunshots'll make you levitate".
No other song comes as close to encapsulating the spirit of gangster rap as "Shook Ones Part II". It's made all the more astounding when you consider how young Havoc and Prodigy were when they wrote it, and how much the song followed the lives they were living.