Top 10 Best Verses of 2011


There are a number of factors that can make a great verse. Content, flow, delivery, style, and wit, to name a few—are crucial when debating hot verses. Some waste no lines a la Lil Wayne on "6 Foot 7 Foot." And, at times, the rapper's commanding presence takes precedent over lyrics. Meek Mill's high energy performance on "I'ma Boss" comes to mind. Yesterday, (December 21) XXL listed the best guest appearances of the year. Today, XXL acknowledges MCs who went to work on their own songs. Here are the Top 10 Best Verses of 2011. —XXL Staff


10. Meek Mill “I’ma Boss” (First Verse), Self Made, Vol. 1 (2011)
Best Line: "Look I be riding through my old hood, but I'm in my new whip/Same old attitude but I'm on that new shit"
2011 was the year of Meek Mill’s full-fledged emergence, and the first verse of “I’ma Boss” was crucial in ushering in his success. The track—included on both the Maybach Music Group compilation Self Made, Vol. 1 and Meek’s own solo tape Dreamchasers—was hip-hop’s summer street anthem, relying on a frenetic Jahlil Beats production and Meek’s fierce bars. The initial verse embodies much of what has brought the Philadelphia native to the forefront of hip-hop’s new class: both his self-important boasts and violent threats are believable, and the hunger in his voice and energy in his flow make the verse unavoidably connectable to the listener.

tech n9ne

9. Tech N9ne “Worldwide Choppers” (First Verse), All 6’s and 7’s (2011)
Best Line: "Hit ‘em up and get ‘em up, I ain’t done, I ain’t did enough/Trippin’ when I rip it, I be the X when I split ‘em up/Sorta like I was liquored up and backin’ up in the gut/Everybody be knowin’ I be actin’ up when I buzz"
Tech N9ne has been cultivating a frenzied following for two decades, but this past year was arguably his most successful. In addition to sustaining the constant touring and merchandising that have allowed him to thrive for years, the Kansas City, Missouri rapper began to become accepted by hip-hop on a broader scale. He gained that wider respect with his skills, and those were certainly on display on his “Worldwide Choppers” verse. Next to lyrical titans like Busta Rhymes, Yelawolf, and Twista, Tech shined, packing 340 words into a verse that clocked in at just under a minute. Though the concept of the songs was about, well, chopping, the Strange Music MC is also saying something—albeit that something was about how he was better than everyone else. He switched his flow numerous times, employing a gamut of styles.


8. T.I. “I’m Flexin’,” (First Verse), Trouble Man(2012)
Best Line: "Feds want me back behind that wall/It's the only place that I can't go/I'm focused dog, I ain't with that fuck shit/Think it’s sweet but it ain’t though"
After his release from prison in late August, T.I. was reportedly locked in the studio, hard at work. The first manifestations of such sessions came with remixes and features (“Spend It,” “F.A.M.E.,” “Magic”), but it was his first official single where T.I. really made his ‘I’m Back’ claim. The Big K.R.I.T.-produced banger was, fittingly, a display of Tip’s ability to flex on a track. In a matter of a quick eight bars, his first verse touched on many of the ATLien’s strengths. Of course, his flow was impeccable. Beyond that, first, he touched on his fashion and business sense, plugging his own clothing brands; next, he referenced the Paparazzi constantly in his business; to round things out, he repped the A, rode around town, lit some green, bragged about his money, shunned the Feds and promised he was focused. Sure sounded like it.


7. Elzhi “The World Is Yours” (First Verse), Elmatic (2011)
Best Line: “Command this skill invincible like the Man of Steel/My killer's got your gorilla slippin' on banana peels”
From the get-go, Elzhi dug himself a hole. Trying to remake Nas's Illmatic? Please. Why do that? Well, the Detroit MC had good reasons, as he would soon illustrate, particularly with mind-boggling verses like his first from “The World Is Yours.” Though the verse clocks in at under a minute, Elzhi is able to get exactly what he wants done: he tells you he's the shit while showing you. Couple that with his rhyme scheme—which was especially astounding, as he complimented a standard A/B pattern with packed in rhymes—and the young rhymer more than adequately paid homage.


6. Lupe Fiasco “Lightwork,” Friend of the People (2011)
Best Line: “Funny how I'm only sick if you never catch a thing/Argue with your friends over what really the record means/Back and forth about its course, with professor's refereeing/Why he so rebellious? Up-front with his realness?”
As he did two years ago, Lupe dropped a mixtape on Thanksgiving this year as a show of appreciation to his fans. The brief release was packed lyrically, making up for some of the awkward production choices the Chicago native made. Here, he uses Ellie Goulding’s smooth “Lights” for two minutes and forty four seconds of straight spitting. The one verse song touches on everything from Lu’s connection with his fans to the positivity of his message, all while making relevant and witty political and pop culture references.


5. Wale “Self Made,” Self Made, Vol. 1 (2011)
Best Line: “It’s funny that since I put this chain on/These bitches appear quicker than State Farm”
The first verse on the Maybach Music Group compilation Self Made, Vol. 1 is Wale at his finest. The D.C. rapper, still fresh off of his signing to the House that Rozay built, balances content and slick talk on the lengthy verse. He addresses relevant issues—that he doesn’t fit on MMG, his fallout with Interscope, females flocking in his direction because of his newfound status—and does so with cleverness that made many fans initially draw to Mr. Folarin (to open the verse, for instance, he raps, “They tried and tell me I don't fit up in this muthafucka/’Cause Rozay been talkin’ white he think he Uncle Ruckus”). It was a memorable way to kick off an impactful album.


4. Drake “Headlines” (First Verse), Take Care (2011)
Best Line: “I had someone tell me I fell off, ooh I needed that/And they want to see me pick back up, well, where'd I leave it at?”
Drake mounted his triumphant return with this opening verse from his first Take Care single, “Headlines.” Bar by bar, he touched on what it seemed like everyone was thinking and saying leading up to his greatly anticipated sophomore album. Perceived cockiness? Check. Partying tendencies? Check. Time elapsed since his last album? Check. Whispers that he could have fallen off? Check. Any of the possible headlines—yeah, he touched on 'em, and did so in his typically undeniable rap sung approach.


3. Jay-Z “Why I Love You” (First Verse), Watch The Throne (2011)
Best Line: “Fuck you squares, the circle got smaller/The castle got bigger, the walls got taller/And truth be told after all that said/Niggas still got love for you”
In between opulent rhymes and social commentary, Jay-Z and Kanye West took some time out address their past on Watch the Throne. With “Why I Love You,” the two heavyweights addressed friends-turned-foes. Without naming names, Jay-Z, who opens the song, lets out his feelings on situations gone awry with Dame Dash, Beanie Sigel and others. Hov uses vivid imagery, comparing himself and Roc-A-Fella to an emperor and the Roman Empire, respectively, also using religious references, while grappling with the falling out he had with his friends and business partners. Though the verse isn’t particularly long, it exhibits Jay packing a classically impenetrable punch, coming off deep yet nonchalant.

kendrick lamar feature

2. Kendrick Lamar “HiiiPoWer” (First Verse), Section.80 (2011)
Best Line: “Back to put you backstabbers back on your spinal bone/You slipped your disc when I slid you my disc/You wanted to diss but jumped on my dick”
The lead single to his album Section.80, as well as a fan-favorite, Kendrick Lamar’s “HiiiPoWer” began to bring the Compton MC to a larger audience, without compromising any of his ferocious lyrical chops. Kendrick comes off impassioned but under control, expressing the versatility that has become one of his strengths. Merging revolutionary political messages with brief verbal attacks on the police and lyrical assaults on any possible rap foes, the Top Dawg Ent. rapper managed to craft a verse that remained dense and intricate without becoming incomprehensible.


1. Lil Wayne “6 Foot 7 Foot” (Second Verse), Tha Carter IV (2011)
Best Line: “Paper chasin', tell that paper, ‘Look, I'm right behind ya’/Bitch, real Gs move in silence like lasagna”
What better way for Lil Wayne to reemerge than with “6 Foot 7 Foot,” and his second verse, in particular? Following a bid on a gun charge Weezy staked his claim for the top spot in the game with this lyrical tour de force over cartoonish production. Though the first verse to this lead single to Tha Carter IV was impressive, it was truly the second where President Carter proved that he hadn't lost a step during his time away. The verse exemplified Wayne's signature style, as he oozed outlandish creativity all over the Bangladesh beat. Kicking multiple flows, Weezy made each bar a punchline, often independently crafted but flowing seamlessly into the next. Safe to say he stood tall on this one.