DAR Hip Hop: The 5 Best Hip Hop Songs With Personification

By @CherchezLaPorsh 

As hip hop fans, we’ve always been appreciative of artists who write their own rhymes. Not only is it indicative of skills, but we get insight in to their thoughts. This has always been an important part of rap music for me, the lyrics. I started listening to rap at a very young age and while most of the songs I listened to at that time would go over my head, it didn’t take long before I realized the knowledge, ability, and skills that they have are unmatched in any genre. I realized that song after song was laced with so many poetic devices, metaphors, rhyme patterns and perfectly aligned beat patterns with unique cadences that made the genre unlike any other. As my appreciation and understanding grew and the more I listened and paid attention to song lyrics, the metaphors and similes began to pop for me. Artists were using them often, they were using them well and soon it would become signature to them.

Today that specific thing is what I want to talk about. Similes and metaphors within rap songs and their concepts and the artists that perfected them (commonly referred to as extended metaphors or personification) and what makes these ones the best. The criteria I used was the ambiguity and consistency with maintaining the double entendre from beginning to end. Here are my top five choices.

5. 50 Cent- Baltimore Love Thing (2005)

-In my number five spot we got 50 Cent with “A Baltimore Love Thing” from his album The Massacre. I’m not the biggest 50 fan but I do appreciate quite a few of his songs and I love his flow. He’s always had a way of resonating with fans. He’s never been afraid to get emotional, explicit or downright gritty/raw and that’s exactly what he does here. The title is brilliant, as knowing Baltimore, Maryland is the heroin capital of the US, he deliberately titled it such and speaks from the perspective of the drug. It isn’t until mid way through the first verse that he alludes to heroin but to the surface listener, it sounds like nothing more than a rapper in love “going through it”. This song is very well constructed and allows the listener to determine the topic based on their personal understanding. Here’s a snippet of what makes it so great:

“All the shit I did for you, I made you feel good/
We have a love thing/
You treatin' this like it's just a fling/
What we have is more sacred than a vow or a ring/
You broke my heart you dirty bitch, I won't forget what you did/
If you give birth, I'll already be in love with your kids/”

4. Cam'ron- White Girls (2006)

-In fourth place, I picked Cam’ron with “White Girls". Much like 50, Cam also uses a drug (coke) as the intended underlying topic but depicts it as his wife. What makes this one better than 50’s is Cam’s attention to detail, the rundown of the history of cocaine and how it seeped into our society and neighbourhoods. He also uses a ton of alliteration and of course the rhyme patterns are on point. Take a look:

“Basics to basics/
No way you could think I'm racist/
Got a white girl, tell you that she's quite thorough/
Borough to borough/ 
Flew me through this white world (from what?)
From Colombia, then she moved to Canada/
Now she live in Harlem, right, and you could say I manage her/”

“But the fur Byrd gang flip birds on curbs/
And, it's ya homey thunny/
I got a pony dummy/
Phonies clone me/
Calm down I'm only money/
Like Prince Akeem, you the servant Semmi/
Living Martin's dream as I burn the hemi/”

3. Common- I Used To Love H.E.R. (1994)

-Common has always been a fan favorite and it’s for his forward thinking, intellectual approach to every song he creates so this list would be incomplete without him. At number three, we have the classic “I Used To Love H.E.R”. This track doesn’t need much explanation but I love the topic choice and I love the approach. Back in ’94, this song may have been a little premature BUT since has become a timeless classic because what Common knew then, we experienced over the years. The decline of the quality in hip hop. I think what makes this track incredible is how well he maintained the “female” figure throughout each verse. He gives us a very quick (and brief) crash course in the history of hip hop from his perspective and waits until the very end to tell us what it’s referencing. Common is incredible with words, and his lyrics flow like a modern-day Hemingway. This track is one of the first that started this method of rapping and was the perfect blueprint for other rappers to follow. Here are my favorite lines:

“I might've failed to mention that this chick was creative/
Once the man got to her, he altered her native/
Told her if she got an image and a gimmick/
That she could make money/
And she did it like a dummy/
Now I see her in commercials, she's universal/
She used to only swing it with the inner-city circle/”

2. Nas- I Gave You Power (1996)

-The number two spot goes to Nas with “I Gave You Power’. I think it’s the intro that does it for me. Even though he blatantly says “like I’m a gun”, he laces the track with so much human emotion that it becomes a little blurred. It isn’t until the verses unravel that we learn Nas is the perspective of a gun. He incorporates his personal experiences from the streets and raps with so much detailed imagery it becomes realistic (in essence). Nas is a master storyteller, he knows how to captivate listeners, hold their attention, and end it in a way that works wonders on a track like this. Here’s what I mean:

“He walked me outside, saw this cat/
Cocked me back/ 
Said, Remember me, He pulled the trigger but I held on/
It felt wrong/
Knowing niggas is waiting in hell for him
He squeezed harder, I didn't budge/ 
Sick of the blood/
Sick of the thugs/ 
Sick of wrath of the next man's grudge/
What the other kid did was pull out, no doubt, A newer me in better shape/ 
Before he lit out, he led the chase/
My owner fell to the floor his wig split so fast/
I didn't know he was hit/
It's over with/
Heard mad niggas screaming, niggas running/
Cops is coming/
Now I'm happy/
Until I felt somebody else grab me...Damn/"

1. 2Pac- Me And My Girlfriend (1996)

-And the number one spot and the best metaphoric/personification track of all time IMO is none other than Tupac’s “Me And My Girlfriend”. This track was inspired by Nas’ “I Gave You Power” but IMO Tupac executed the concept better. He gave the gun the title of girlfriend and gave it a female voice. We hear her intermittently throughout the track, she’s aggressive and there is a clear understanding that she’s a different kind of “female”, but Pac does a fantastic job with the lyrics to keep the “gun” the underlying meaning. This is a track that merits multiple listens. Once from the perspective of a human girl and one as the perspective of the gun. In both instances, Tupac gives us a solid track that is truly a classic and will forever be the example of how versatile hip hop and street “lingo” is. Here’s my favorite part:

“When niggas act bitch-made she got the heart to fight/
Nigga, my girlfriend, though we separated at times/
I knew deep inside, baby girl would always be mine/
Picked you up when you was 9
Started out my life of crime with you/
Bought you some shells when you turned 22/
It's true, nothing compares to the satisfaction/
That I feel when we out mashin'/ Me and my girlfriend”

There you have it, the best use of poetic devices, metaphors, and personification in hip hop. Other tracks that deserve mention are GZA “Queen's Gambit”, the ever explicit and kinda twisted “Worst Enemy” by Tech N9ne, and of course “Gotta Eat” by Lupe Fiasco. You could also reference tracks such as Organized Konfusion's "Stray Bullet", Cam'ron's "D'Rugs", Pharaohe Monch's "When The Gun Draws", and a slept on gem in Blu's "Amnesia" as well as many others. If there was any doubt in the technique, mechanics and intricacies that goes into writing rhymes hopefully this serves as proof that rappers are some of the greatest authors and poets that ever lived!



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