20 of the Best Lyrics From Black Thought’s ‘Streams of Thought Vol. 1′ Project
For more than two decades, Black Thought has been one of rap's superior MCs, taking lyricism to a higher level with each verse. As the tenured front man for the legendary rap group The Roots, Black Thought has spent much of his career in the shadows, opting to let the music speak for itself. However, in recent years, the Philly-bred rhyme animal has become more accessible than ever, especially as The Roots has reigned late-night TV as the house band on The Tonight Show. All the while, Black Thought has continued to leave critics, fans and contemporaries in awe with his layered rhyme spills.
"The art of lyricism is now in its greatest decline," the 46-year-old rapper recently told NPR. "That's why it's like, somebody comes out and you drop some bars of substance, it's like it's amazing. It's like a unicorn... But I feel like the standard, like the bar right now, is particularly low. So I'm continually trying to raise the bar."
Black Thought looks to further solidify his standing as one of the all-time greats with Streams of Thought Vol. 1, the rapper's first project without his band of musical brothers. Produced by 9th Wonder and the Soul Council, Streams of Thought Vol. 1 has been long-craved by Black Thought's fans, making it one of the more anticipated releases of 2018. Boasting guest appearances from Rapsody, Styles P and Kirby, the effort touts plenty of highlights from Black Thought that should keep it in heavy rotation.
After giving Black Thought and 9th Wonder's collaborative effort a few spins, XXL highlights 20 of the most ferocious and thought-provoking bars from Streams of Thought Vol. 1 that speak to Tariq Trotter's wizardry.
"My granddaddy scored a plaid Donny Hathaways/Hustlin' for everything we had 'til he passed away/When I would ask about what path to take, he used to laugh and say/No man is an island but I'm a castaway/Casualties, I seen 'em like the French Foreign Legion/On the streets, they used to carry out what's our prestigious/In jean jackets and Jabbar Adidas/Back when local R&B was just as soulful as orthopedics" —Black Thought
"I heard murdering as vast deserted land/Since back when Burning Man was Blacks in Birmingham/Before the presidential election diversion scam/Matter fact, before they clapped Franz Ferdinand/You gossip on Jay and Beyoncé or Kim and Kanye/But keep risin' to the top what my mind say/Picture my daughter drinkin' water where the sign say/For colored girls, I ain't talkin' Ntozake Shange" —Black Thought
"Who the technical culprit, I don't mess with no vultures/I'm electrical voltage, not the regular dosage/Too obsessive compulsive, I'm a fuckin' explosive/Mixed message in a bottle I left with the postman" —Black Thought
"Obi-Wan, universe, you owe me one solid/My homie Gonzalez only know gun violence/On the corner, where they prob'ly on they 21 Savage/Cats chewin' your garbage, Young Cesar Chavez/Division one, yo, where we get our rhythm from/Continuum, still swingin' like a pendulum" —Black Thought
"Who keep it a hundred when everything's partial/Dignity and sanity is what the game cost you/Wake up to the paddles on your chest, we had lost you/I'm just paintin' a picture like Kerry James Marshall/I'm just takin' a picture like Carrie Mae Weems/So smile and say cheese, we in 2018" —Black Thought
"I'm not a typical arrogant American/On prescribed medicine/I'm sick as I ever been/Rolling out of the dealership and the McLaren/These rappers is Peter Pan, I'm pan-African" —Black Thought
"I'm known for bein' brutally honest/If lyricism is spiritual to you then rewind this/I'ma kill 'em but it ain't about to be with kindness/I believe the industry about to see a conquest/Changin' of the mindset, money just a concept/Never been a object, even when my mother was livin' up the project/Now my rating is higher than young Richard Pryor get/Still speakin' my mind, just in a different dialect" —Black Thought
"I seen it all, I had it all and I ain't mad at all/This rapper toss gravitas like a cannonball/Stayin' up all night throwing my sleep pattern off/I need a doctor on-call, I keep Adderall/Position of my commission is trilateral/You fuckin' with me you tripping for trying that at all/I mess around, make the call, get the gat involved/I know people, it's a small world after all" —Black Thought
"My credit card say it's our world at the mall/My broad lookin' like she Cinderella at the ball/Reborn every January like a Capricorn/From downtown, no Ryan Lewis and Macklemore/It's yours truly, I'm Paul Mooney, I'm George Clooney/I'm fully immersed in the craft, bringin' awards to me/The bass player say he gon' sue me/I gave the finger to him, the Lord gave a round of applause to me" —Black Thought
"Self-saboteur, speaking it to my paramour/Torch rappers like I'm igniting the aerosol/Maintaining the wherewithal that embarrass y'all/Game changer the way I shredded your cabbage off/Explaining this change your apples to applesauce/When we were young, innocence was ours, but that was lost/Where I reside is the dark side of the glory/The fury I manipulate is the arc of the story" —Black Thought
"I was built to run the game, I came up playing guard/With young niggas between 5'5" and six-foot-four/I banged over both, trying to bank over some more/And ball out in something gorgeous that'll keep me in court/Where they'll judge like y'all does, y'all don't know me enough/Y'all still owe us for what all y'all did to the Cold Crush/To my donuts I'm shooting J. Dillas and what" —Rapsody
"Uh, I said Dostoyevsky meets Joe Pesci/Tired of staring at a glass half-empty/Turning me from Dr. Sebi to cocking semi/It got me clutching my machete from the Serengeti already/Wild Styles and Fab Five Freddy/I'm a stranger in Moscow, don't ask how deadly is the ummah/Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah/To the Tripoli shores from the halls of Montezuma, stop intruder" —Black Thought
"I'm built on facts, I'm not your rumor/A malignant tumor, slid through in a suede Puma/The steady-heavy legendary, all praise is overdue/Same cloth as the chosen few, rap Noble Drew/I guarantee you know more music by the suckers/It's not a victimless crime if anybody suffers/In a system that was designed for them to try to cuff us/But what's the use for them trying when can't nobody touch us?" —Black Thought
"Outer space the place that I’m parkin’ in/My marketin’, when you see the sky darkenin'/Rhyme artisan from the crew that's bipartisan/Hi haters, a fifth grader you're not smarter than/Alpha & Omega you betas I march harder than/Batteries, y'all ain't included, you're not a part of it/I just took a flight to France to cop cardigans/At Lanvin, I'm that primetime Buju Banton" —Black Thought
"Yo, I probably began in the Rift Valley/In places untraceable by Rand McNally/Took a cobblestone trolley through a Mercer Street alley/The more championship rings than John Salley/Biochemically on par with Salvador Dali/I traveled to Tijuana to smack the federali/Who packing avocado toast like Mario Batali/I'm an ocean without a coast, going back to Cali nigga" —Black Thought
"Well picture that, the diplomat pistol slap aristocrats/Any rapper coming for me, I'ma send a missile back/Not too many legends got a legacy that's this intact/That equipment I'm grippin kept where the ammunition at/Soul Makossa like I'm Manu Dibango/Wild as the Democratic Republic of the Congo/I'm Hunter S. Thompson doing it gonzo/A rapper winds up as a John Doe, I told niggas" —Black Thought
"Let's meet at the crossroads of torsos/And learn some things only the Lord knows/Break the law, it's the only law now, no one knows/Got pies in the oven but no DiGiornos/We all got fucked but no pornos/We ain't growing corn but got cornrows/We ain't playing greens but we be spending it/Lifespan is short, try extending it" —Styles P
"Thanks for the memories/For first and third of the month check deliveries/Agencies in the early '80s for givin' cheese/The families with parents who had drug dependencies/Masjids and storefront ministries/Dinner from the chicken lady, Miss Genevieve/For every lesson I received as I live and breathe/And all the blessings I believed in and been achieved" —Black Thought
"To Sierra Leonians and the Senegalese/Honey and lemon teas, sincere sympathy/The power of positive energy apropos/The hatred as a motivative, thank you to my enemies/From Memphis, Tennessee and kitchen chemistry/Atari Centipede, Heineken and Hennessy/The barbershop that used to be at Sixth and Emily/For all the history and all you did for me, thank you" —Black Thought
"Gangsta and fly hoes, freaks some side shows/Mistakes I've made in the past that only God knows/Usually my preference would be to travel the high road/Sometimes I stray from the path, that's no surprise though/I had to use this expression of my gratitude/That my attitude didn't limit my latitude/In cases what I had to do, what I had to do/Even though I was spazzin' boo, I wasn't mad at you" —Black Thought