Numbered arbitrarily, because I both compulsively enjoy lists and disdain the importance we ascribe them, you can unravel the order or not, it doesn’t really mean anything.
3. “And not Wonders. I’m Scott Summers/ so don’t make me take off my stunners.” Lupe Fiasco — B.o.B.’s Past My Shades (Ft. Lupe Fiasco).
Past My Shades is a song about people trying to write you off as a fake or phony. You’re trying to be real with people, “[your] souls in [your] eyes” as it were, but they’re claiming that you’re wearing a disguise, “but they can’t see past my shades.” It’s all there, is what B.o.B. is saying, but you can’t see through this artificially constructed veil, you can’t see past the visage. Lu’s verse is typically oblique, mentioning sight “’dem deer can’t see us like hunters,” but also making the same argument as B.o.B. with different words, rapping about how he’ll buy a chain and it will distract people from the realness he’s trying to spit. But this reference to the X-man Cyclops is great because Lu leads by saying that he started the verse talking about eyes/shades/sight, diverged into a similar but new metaphor, and now he’s “back looking for the shade he sought.” But then he says that his shades aren’t like Stevie Wonders, they’re not fashion frames. No, his shades are like Scott Summers’/Cyclops’, they’re for our protection. We couldn’t handle the unencumbered Lupe. It’s a warning.
3. “I didn’t know he had it in ‘im/ Couldn’t see me as Spider-Man but now I’m spitting Venom.” Childish Gambino — Not Going Back.
Childish Gambino is the pseudonym of actor Donald Glover, who plays Troy on Community. A number of years ago there was a campaign to allow Donald to be the first black Spider-Man and play the role in the then-upcoming Amazing Spider-Man. This line references that campaign, using “venom” to refer to the mean raps he spits but also tie it in to Spider-Man by using it as double entendre intended to invoke one of Spider-Man’s more popular and well-known villains. The line also encapsulates the message of the song, which starts out as Donald talking about how people were dogging on him when he began rapping and ends with Gambino publicly declaring how ill he is and how he knows it and knows you know it too. It’s a tight line and tied with “Everything I’m sayin’ I’m Super Saiyan like Goku” for my favorite C-Money lyric.
5. “I ain’t a savior, just your neighbor like amazing peter/ minus the spider bite, the webs, the aunt and uncle neither.” Jean Grae — Kill Screen aka Steve Wiebe.
Taking her name from X-man Jean Grey, Jean Grae spits insane bars on Kill Screen. Songs like this are the reason Rap Genius exists. In this line, which makes an appearance pretty early in the song, Grae is saying that even though she’s ill, she’s hot, she can kick 16 like few can she’s not a savior, of female rappers, the game, or what have you. She’s just a normal chick, not comparing herself to Spider-Man but to Peter Parker. She’s Spider-Man without any of the superpowers. She’s just a girl. A girl who can write raps and all that good stuff, but she’s not here to raise anyone up or do anything more than spit bars.
4. “I got it mastered, man/ in the hood I’m like Plastic Man./Streeeeetch. Fantastic Man/ I make the money come faster, man.” 50 Cent — Stretch.
Usually talked about as a joke, 50 Cent can sometimes be very, very good. Rapping as a persona on 2009’s Before I Self-Destruct, 50 Cent makes numerous references to comic book characters, packing in acute references to The Joker, Spider-Man, Batman, Mister Fantastic, and Plastic Man. In fact, the references to Plastic Man and Mister Fantastic (or “Fantastic Man,” because 50 Cent needed it to rhyme) are made on the hook, the interstitial verse that separates the pieces. Stretch is a song about taking the resources at hand—in this instance, illicit substances—and stretching them out, getting more use for them than anyone else would’ve been able to get. He’s saying that he’s like Plastic Man and Mister Fantastic—who have stretching powers—as he is able to stretch out what he has to levels so impressive that he feels he needs to brag about them.
1. “I smoke on the mic like smokin’ Joe Frazier./ The hell-raiser, raising hell with the flavor/ Terrorize the jam like the troops in Pakistan./ Swinging through your town like your neighborhood Spider-Man.” Inspectah Deck — Wu Tang Clan’s Protect Ya Neck.
Amusingly described as rapping “about karate a lot, right?” by Aziz Ansari’s cousin, The Wu Tang Clan are famous for their relationship with comic books. Ghostface Killah adopted the persona of “Tony Stark,” the real name of Iron Man, and sometimes-actor Method Man has referred to himself as “Johnny Blaze” on numerous occasions. Comic book artist Chris Bachalo did the cover art for Wu-Massacre, the Method Man/Raekwon/Ghostface Killah collaborative album—Bachalo actually did three separate covers, one for each of the rappers. Ghostface Killah has gone as far as to release a comic book—12 Reasons to Die—and then create a concept album of the same name that will be based on the comic. The entire group has time and time again proven their cred, so this choice of lyric was really more an arbitrary choice. But I do like it, Inspectah Deck proclaiming that he’s skilled, provocative, intimidating, but down to earth, a real man of the people. And he does it so succinctly, too. The Wu is forever, and every member of the clan is a rap legend, this one just happen to work a Spider-Man joke into a song.
~ Shea ~