The Best Rap Verses of 2017 (So Far)

2016 was supposed to have been the crazy year for music; 2017 was supposed to be a break. But here we are, halfway through the year, and it feels like rap music is exploding. Many of the best MCs under 40—Kendrick, Future, and Drake—have released full-lengths, and no matter what you hear from the shrinking, fearful cohort decrying the rise of “mumble rap,” hip-hop is as filled with great rapping as it's ever been. This list is the peak of the year so far, the 10 verses that commanded attention, prompted multiple rewinds mid-bar, and had us quoting lines for months on ends (honorable mention to Giggs' verse on “KMT,” which fulfilled the last qualification, if nothing else). One caveat: The list couldn't be made up entirely of Kendrick verses. Here are the best verses of 2017, so far. 


  • Black Thought, “Who Want It”

    Verse: 1
    Best line: “Otis used to sing how we should try a little tenderness/But they ultra envious, crazy disingenuous like/Who need a enemy if that's what type of friend you is?”

    “I got the wordplay of Wallace, work ethic of Shakur, I was sent into the future with a message from the Moors.” Black Thought doesn’t ease into verses as much as kick in the door with them, going from zero to one hunnid instantly—then keeps the intensity all the way up, bar after bar, with internal rhymes and references flowing by so fast—”I got plans, I’m taking my revenge like Roxanne/My man swam here from Mississippi, goddamn”—you’re rewinding to the start of the first verse before the second even starts. David Banner brings it too—it is his song, after all—but you might never get that far. —Russ Bengtson


  • Joey Badass, “Amerrikkan Idol”

    Verse: 1
    Best Line: “So turn the kid raps loud, I'm about to spazz out/Watch out, another n**** runnin' in the White House”

    The first verse on “AmeriKKKan Idol,” the last track on Joey Badass’s All-Amerikkkan Badass lasts nearly two minutes on its own, building to a crescendo around the minute-and-a-half mark—”Got a message for the world and I won't back out/So turn the kid raps loud, I'm about to spazz out/Watch out, another n**** runnin' in the White House”—before trailing off in frustration before the chorus kicks in. When the title of your album is a nod to one of Ice Cube’s best, you’d better bring it. With this anti-white supremacy lyrical assault—”Media's got this whole thing tainted, that's all fact/Feedin' you lies like this whole thing wasn't built on our backs”—he does exactly that. —Russ Bengtson


  • Future, “Might As Well”

    Verse: 1
    Best Line:“You will never know what I was in”

    We all know that Future's life has had its valleys and peaks. But on “Might As Well” he spends less time romanticizing his rough time in the streets or providing flamboyant accounts of gluttony—instead he hopscotches over the Tarantino production, paralleling his tough past with his prosperous present.

    Due in equal parts to his clear delivery, illustrative lyrics, and self-awareness he manages to poetically portray a rags to riches story, devoid of fantasy or Mafioso cliché. In its place are bars that are honest and relatable. —Brandon 'Jinx' Jenkins


  • Rick Ross, “Idols Become Rivals”

    Verse: 3
    Best Line: “Last request, can all producers please get paid?”

    Man, Rozay sounds so disappointed in how Birdman handles business and his words hit even harder over a beat flip of Jay Z and Beanie’s deadbeat-dad ethering, “Where Have You Been.” Birdman has been, for the most part, quiet since this track dropped. We hope he can find it in his heart to make amends with the people he hurt over the years. Still can’t get over how the Boss felt when he found out the watches were fake and the cars were rented, smfh. —Angel Diaz


  • Offset, “Met Gala”

    Verse: 1
    Best Line: “Get to the top and we blew the ladder up”

    It's always exciting when a recent real-life flex is flipped into a song. Offset and his Migos family storming the Met Gala just a few weeks ago was a major moment on the timeline, a nice example in a half-year full of them of just how far the Migos have come and how glorious it is to watch them shine. To hear Offset, on a track with Gucci Mane, wax poetic about it so soon after feels like breaking the fourth wall, like he read our tweets about posing with Celine Dion and said, “Yeah, I can't believe it either.” Except, with Offset, it just becomes a brilliant new shortcut for flexing. How good is life? It's Met-Gala-invitation good. —Frazier Tharpe


  • Remy Ma, “Shether”

    Verse: 1
    Best Line: “And to be the Queen of Rap, you gotta actually rap”

    Nicki Minaj hasn’t been able to get anything to stick since Remy Ma released “Shether.” It's not the greatest song but as a verse—well, it didn’t shake up the game for an entire weekend for nothing (and 48 hours on Twitter is the equivalent of like nine human years). —Angel Diaz


  • Kendrick Lamar, “DNA”

    Verse: 2
    Best Line: “You mothafuckas can't tell me nothin/I'd rather die than to listen to you/My DNA not for imitation/Your DNA an abomination”

    The second verse of “DNA” feels like a cathartic explosion of that side of Kendrick that we all want to see. The side that took the wheel on Big Sean's “Control,” who snapped during his BET Cypher Freestyle in 2013, and resurfaced most recently on the “The Heart Part IV.”

    On “DNA” he's boisterous and superhuman, successfully distancing himself from further from his would-be peers. You can’t be him. He’s the Neo in hip-hop’s matrix. He’s dodging bullets and pulling triggers at the same damn time.

    It's such an insane display, Mike Will had to build the beat around Kendrick's words—nothing else in his library could accommodate the barrage (and Mike is known for his massive library). This is rap as Olympic sport, but it doesn't sacrifice content for the sake of remarkable form. The verse is full of striking images (“Beach inside the window, peekin' out the window/Baby in the pool, godfather goals” and quotables (“You ain't sick enough to pull it on yourself”).

    All while Rick James cries out for marijuana. —Brandon Jenkins and Ross Scarano


  • Drake, “Do Not Disturb”

    Verse: 1
    Best Line: They don't know they got to be faster than me to get to me/No one's done it successfully

    “Stylin though.” A simple and catchy opening, the sort of line Drake excels at. The casual confidence in those two words is appealing; if you saw it on the rack you’d want to try it on—it’s plain, but you think you’d look great in it. Then back home, you find it doesn’t work as well as you wanted.

    Relatability is overrated beyonds its ability to lure the listener in. It doesn’t keep butts in seats. At this point, is anyone still listening to Drake because they think their life is like his, that their struggles are similar? It’s the ghost of a feeling you occasionally glimpse but at this point we’re here for the Drake show, for his logo splashed on the sound a la mode and the rare peek behind the curtain at what his true life. That’s what “Do Not Disturb” gives you. “Stylin though/Dissin but got pictures with me smilin though.” The line is a revolving door—you think you’re in only to be spun back out to the sidewalk to spectate. He’s very good at what he does, you should pay attention. Wait for the summary. —Ross Scarano


  • Young Thug, “Sacrifices”

    Verse: 3
    Best Line: “Growing up, I was a running back/You never made me ran once (goddamn)/I got shot, sweat started running/That shit was red like Hunt (ketchup)” 

    The Young Thug that emerges about halfway into “Sacrifices,” the demure posse cut on Drake’s More Life, is one we haven’t seen before. Thug’s rapping is typically elemental, it defies categorization; explaining what Thug rapping sounds like describing the weather. On “Sacrifices,” though, Thug sounds different. Sober, surgically precise storytelling. It’s such a different flow than what fans are used to hearing that it’s tough to capture how strikingly weird the language is before Thug explodes into a Technicolor croon—the Thug we’re used to, and still thrilled by. He reins it in, later, capitalizing this new, darting rapping with his inextricably melody-laced, throaty delivery. The end result is formless impressionism, a completely new delivery from a new breed of rapper that works about as well as it sounds. It’s a triumph but, because it’s Thug, it’s impossible to say if we’ll ever hear a verse quite like it ever again. —Brendan Klinkenberg


  • Kendrick Lamar, “Duckworth”

    Verse: 1
    Best Line: “Because if Anthony killed Ducky, Top Dawg could be servin' life/While I grew up without a father and die in a gunfight”

    Just when you think you've seen all of K-Dot's tricks, know all of the major tentpoles of his story, this motherfucker goes and ends an already impressive album by putting his entire life into a Sliding Doors, cosmic context via the intertwined biographies of the two most important men in his life. A grand destiny fulfilled that could've easily been another banal and wasted life tossed about by the caprices of cause and effect. A tale this cinematic and unbelievably true needs John Williams on the score—9th Wonder provided the web and Kenny spun it like he was Homer delivering a myth from the heavens. Best verse on the best album of the year. —Frazier Tharpe

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LeBron James Teases New Tracks From Meek Mill and Nipsey Hussle on Instagram

Those who follow LeBron James on his various social media accounts have seen him provide evidence of having More Life months in advance and apparently nudge Top Dawg to release Kendrick Lamar’s Untitled Unmastered. So the concept of King James getting some unreleased music in his championship ring-adorned hands isn’t a foreign concept. James’ latest Snapchat posts have led to fan speculation that he’s already sitting on new, unreleased heat from both Meek Mill and Nipsey Hussle.

One clip finds James giving his signature head-bob to a brooding Meek Mill track. User @MeekMilly_Fan strung the multiple Snapchat story clips together and posted them to Twitter with a plausible explanation.

Lebron James playing that new @MeekMill intro for the album produced by @Nick_Papz on his Instagram story,” he captioned.

As for Nipsey, there were no fan theories needed. Nip tweeted a clip of James nodding and rhyming along to parts of his track “Blue Laces” Sunday afternoon.

“@Kingjames debuts BLUE LACES 2 on instagram off upcoming VICTORY LAP ALBUM,” Nipsey captioned.

Some of this could be merely fan speculation, but it fits James’ penchant for getting albums and singles early. And seeing how James was on Twitter quoting unreleased bars from Drake’s “Lose You” months before the release of More Life, it might be worth checking out some of King James’ pre-playoff posts on Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat.

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