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A few weeks back when I was satirically naming The Greatest Hip-Hop Songs In All Of History, there were a few I neglected to mention in some seriousness. High on that list is Biggie's "Niggas Bleed." Even if you restrict the conversation to "best written lyrics" it's hard to really talk about the best of anything in hip-hop. I don't know how you measure the surrealism of early De La Soul against the naturalism of Ice Cube's early solo offerings. And sometimes lyrical deconstruction can't even explain lyrical greatness. "Colorblind" (which we will discuss later this week) is beautifully written, and there are beautiful lines, but I love it more for its tone. 


It's probably best to stick with favorites, and "Niggas Bleed" ranks pretty high on that list. I'm one of the few people that prefer Biggie's second album to his first. The second is a sprawling inefficient work, but I think it shows Biggie as more polished MC. If I recall correctly, he himself, said as much claiming that this was going to the album that made people say he was the best ever. I think he got really close. The voice shifts in the first verse are utterly seamlessly, and Biggie makes no effort to clue you in on who has the mike when.

Hip-Hop revels in violence, but there's only so many times you can say "I'm gonna blow your brains out." And so you often find the art at its most creative when it's at its most violent--that's the place where everything's been said, and you have to say something new. I don't even want to quote from this. It would ruin it. Out of all the MCs I've, Biggie had the best sense of humor and the best grasp of irony.

More, unlike a lot of writers, he knew when to stop talking. You don't need to know where "Ron" vanished to or how long he was gone. All you need to know is he "came back speaking Spanish\lavish habits...."

"Lavish" is a great word.


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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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