I ain’t the captain of the yacht, but I’m on the boat;
I ain’t acting what I’m not, knowing that I don’t.
You niggaz acting like you will, but I know you won’t.
Man, I read between the lines of the eyes of your brows,
Your handshake ain’t matchin your smile…

Beanie Sigel, “Feel it in the Air,” The B. Coming, 2005

I could let these dream killers kill my self-esteem,
Or use my arrogance as the steam to power my dreams.
I use it as my gas, so they say that I’m gassed,
But without it I’d be last, so I ought to laugh…

Kanye West, “Last Call,” The College Dropout, 2003

I thank the Lord for every morning he allows me to rise,
And though the sun is shining, there’s a cloud in the sky
Lettin’ me know that at any moment there could be rain.
And as beautiful as life is, there still can be pain.
Down the park, I hear the sirens, just screamin’ away,
And then the inevitable happens, the end of them days,
As sad as it sounds, but that’s the price we all gotta pay.
And the whole world knows God giveth, and will taketh away.
I live and I learn, I sit and watch my cigarette burn
Down to the ash. It reminds me of the now and the past.
I say a little prayer, cause eventually I’ll stand in the path
Of the souls and dark rows that lead to rest.

Scarface, “What Can I Do?,” The Fix, 2002

Never looking back or too far in front of me,
The present is a gift, and I just want to Be.

Common, “Be,” Be, 2005

Actions have reactions, don’t be quick to judge,
You may not know the hardships people don’t speak of.
It’s best to step back, and observe with couth,
For we all must meet our Moment of Truth.

Guru, “Moment of Truth,” from Gang Starr’s Moment of Truth, 1998

My sense of self and my mental health
Is much more powerful than any hint of wealth.

Guru, “Peace of Mine,” from Gang Starr’s The Ownerz, 2003

I thought I’d probably die in prison, expensive taste in women,
Ain’t have no pot to piss in, now my kitchen full of dishes.
Nose bloody from that sniffin’, your heroin addiction
Trigger finger itchin’, fuck parental supervision…
Purple sippin’, finger twistin’, teeth glisten like it’s Memphis
A bunch of hypocritic Christians, the land of no religion.

A$AP Rocky, “LongLiveA$AP,” LongLiveA$AP, 2013

Just because no one can understand how you speak,
Don’t necessarily mean that what you be sayin is deep.

Talib Kweli, “Good Mourning,” from Reflection Eternal’s Train of Thought, 2000

Time is money, every moment is costly,
So I ration emotion, ‘cause existence exhausts me.

Slug, “They’re All Gonna Laugh @ You,” from Atmosphere’s Lucy Ford: The Atmosphere EPs, 2001

Time is real, we can’t rewind it…
Out of everybody I met, who told the truth?
Time did.

Common, “The Truth,” from Pharoahe Monch’s Internal Affairs, 1999

It’s like a cycle: niggas come home, some’ll go in,
Do a bullet, come back, do the same shit again.
From the womb to the tomb, presume the unpredictable,
Guns salute life, rapidly, that’s the ritual.

Nas, “Verbal Intercourse,” from Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, 1995

The purpose of life is a life with a purpose;
So I’d rather die for a cause than live a life that is worthless.

Immortal Technique, “The Martyr,” The Martyr, 2011

There’s a very big difference between what’s rap and what’s real,
When those worlds collide, that’s when rappers get killed.
Trappers, they go to jail, die without leaving a will,
There’s a very big difference between what’s rap and what’s real.

Saigon, “Rap Vs. Real,” The Greatest Story Never Told 2: Bread and Circuses, 2012

City lights shine bright on my complexion,
Self-reflection…red hairs flashing at the intersection.
Life is a green light, one star, no script,
Supporting actors…fresh peaches, no pit.

Action Bronson, “Randy The Musical,” Rare Chandeliers, 2012

In my world, even sure bets are not certain;
‘Cause you’ll get the picture, then find out it’s the cropped version.

Joe Budden, “Going Through the Motions,” Mood Muzik: The Box Set, 2012

Look inside my soul and you can find gold and maybe get rich.
Look inside of your soul and you can find out it never exists…

Kendrick Lamar, “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” good kid, m.A.A.d. city, 2012

I bet you never heard of a playa with no game,
Told the truth to get what I want, but shot it with no shame.
Take this music dead serious while others entertain.
I see they makin’ they paper so I guess I can’t complain…or can I?
I feel they disrespectin’ the whole thang.
Them hooks like sellin’ dope to black folks,
And I choke when the food they serve ain’t tastin’ right,
My stomach can’t digest it even when I bless it…

Andre 3000, “13th Floor/Growing Old,” from Outkast’s ATLiens, 1996

Let bygones be bygones…but where I’m from,
We buy guns and more guns, to give to the young.

Kendrick Lamar, “The Heart Pt. 2,” from O(verly) D(edicated), 2010

Dear Mama, don’t cry, your baby boy’s doin’ good,
Tell the homies I’m in heaven, and they ain’t got hoods.
Seen a show with Marvin Gaye last night, it had me shook,
Drippin’ peppermint Schnapps, with Jackie Wilson, and Sam Cooke…

2Pac, “Thugz Mansion,” Better Dayz, 2002

Everything has a price…
No matter if it’s fortune, fame or your life.
I understood later that it’s all about paper,
Everything has a fee in the land of the free.

O.C., “Land of the Free,” from Show & A.G.’s Live Hard, 2007

We were beginners in the hood as 5 Percenters,
But somethin’ must’ve got in us, cause all of us turned to sinners.

AZ, “Life’s a Bitch,” from Nas’ Illmatic, 1994

I ain’t never gave a fuck, I never did and never will.
Live my life on principle: keep it true, keep it real.
Better said, I keep it TRILL and no matter who don’t like it,
Homie, that just it how it is, naked truth
Like that stripper that’s in front of me,
And I keep a blunt, and a Bible, and a gun on me.

Killer Mike, “Untitled,” R.A.P. Music, 2012

There’s a million ways to live on this thing called a planet,
I’mma live everyday, I ain’t takin’ nothing for granted.

Sadat X, “The Next Spot,” from High School High soundtrack, 1996

Rappers spit rhymes that are mostly illegal,
MC’s spit rhymes to uplift their people.

KRS-One, “Classic (Better Than I’ve Ever Been),” 2007

Some seek fame cause they need validation,
Some say hating is confused admiration.

Nas, “Stay,” Life is Good, 2012 

You’ve got to realize that the world’s a test,
You can only do your best and let Him do the rest.
You’ve got your life, and got your health,
So quit procrastinating and push it yourself.

Cee-Lo, “In Due Time,” from Soul Food Soundtrack, 1997

I wonder, who do you believe in? I know it ain’t me,
I hope it ain’t a priest, or who you seen on TV.
I hope it ain’t your poppa, potna, he only raised you.
And I know it ain’t your mom, even though that’s who you came through…

Blu, “A Man,” from Blu & Exile’s Maybe One Day, 2012

It’s a thin line between paper and hate,
Friends and snakes, nine millis and thirty-eights,
Hell or the pearly gates…I was destined to come,
Predicted, blame God, He blew breath in my lungs.

Nas, “Hate Me Now,” I Am…, 1999

Keep my planets in orbit,
Never forfeit or quit,
Move forward…
I talk with the awkward slang,
I walk with the Wu-Tang.

RZA, “Tragedy,” from Rhyme & Reason soundtrack, 1997

A simple right or left can mean life or death,
Epic fail or nice success,
Days of pleasure or nights of stress.

Ka, “Decisions,” Grief Pedigree, 2012

Rebel, renegade, must stay paid.

KRS-One, “I’m Still #1,” from Boogie Down Productions’ By Any Means Necessary, 1990

Everybody’s got opinions on the way you’re livin’,
But see, they can’t fill your shoes.

Andre 3000, “Synthesizer,” from Outkast’s Aquemini, 1998

The line between playing to win and sin is thin,
But I walk it with grace and I talk it with taste.
I am that raw, simply put, and I rest my case.

Cee-Lo, “One for the Road,” Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections, 2002

We brag on havin’ bread, but none of us are bakers.
We all talk havin’ greens, but none of us on acres.
If none of us on acres, and none of us grow wheat,
Then who will feed our people when our people need to eat?
So it seems our people starve from lack of understandin’
Cause all we seem to give them is some ballin’ and some dancin’,
And some talkin’ about our car and imaginary mansions.
We should be indicted for bullshit we inciting,
Havin’ children deaf and pretendin’ it’s exciting.
We are advertisements for agony and pain.
We exploit the youth. We tell them to join a gang.
We tell them dope stories, introduced them to the game.

Killer Mike, “Reagan,” R.A.P. Music, 2012

Destiny made a mistake and gave my fate to someone else.

Joe Budden, “Going Thru the Motions,” Mood Muzik: The Box Set, 2012

I am the manifestation of study,
NOT the manifestation of money.
Therefore, I advance through thought,
NOT what’s manufactured and bought.

KRS-One, “Original Lyrics,” from Boogie Down Productions’ Edutainment, 1990

We can’t complain for this borrowed time;
So don’t misuse yours, cause you can’t borrow mine.

Big K.R.I.T., “Wake Up,” 4Eva N A Day, 2012

Yo, where the teachers went, with all that pro-black shit?
Where all the conscious niggas, who used to chat like this?
See, I remember yesterday when y’all was Gods and Earths,
Egyptians and metaphysicists on the verge of giving birth
To Understanding, and planting seeds that grow.
Now everybody’s on that bullshit about killing and so.

Wise Intelligent, “Conscious Style,” The New World Order, 1996

I was always taught my do’s and don’ts:
For do’s I did, and for don’ts, I said I won’t.

GZA, “I Gotcha Back,” from the Fresh soundtrack, and also on Liquid Swords, 1994

Look: if I shoot you, I’m brainless,
But if you shoot me, then you’re famous.
What’s a nigga to do?

Jay-Z, “Streets Is Watching,” In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, 1997

The poor get worked, the rich get richer,
The world gets worse, do you get the picture?
The poor gets dead, the rich get depressed,
The ugly get mad, the pretty get stressed.
The ugly get violent, the pretty get gone,
The old get stiff, the young get stepped on.

Whoever told you that “it was all good” lied,
So throw your fists up if you not satisfied.

J-Live, “Satisfied,” All of the Above, 2002

There ain’t no time to be wasted, the world is going under…
Nowadays, can’t tell Fall from Spring, and Winter from Summer.

Big K.R.I.T., “As Small as a Giant,” K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, 2012

We speak the love language, they speak from pain and anguish.
Some don’t love theyselves, so they perception is tainted.

Talib Kweli, “Love Language,” from Reflection Eternal’s Train of Thought, 2000

I’d rather die enormous than live dormant.

Jay-Z, “Can I Live,” Reasonable Doubt, 1996

I’m your Mr., you my Mrs. with hugs and kisses,
Valentine cards and birthday wishes?
Please…be on another level of planning, of understanding
The bond between man and woman and child.
The highest elevation, cause we above
All that romance crap, just show your love.

Method Man, “All I Need (Remix),” from I’ll Be There For You/You’re All I Need 12", 1995

…I’ve never had a dream in my life,
Because a dream is what you wanna do, but still haven’t pursued.
I knew what I wanted, and did it till it was done.
So I’ve been the dream I wanted to be since Day One.

Aesop Rock, “No Regrets,” Labor Days, 2001

You can call it hell…
But I say it’s below the heavens.

Blu, “The World Is…(Below the Heavens),” from Blu & Exile’s Below the Heavens, 2007

Our freedom of speech is freedom or death,
We got to fight the powers that be!

Chuck D., “Fight the Power,” from Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet, 1990

I don’t see the world as you see it.
I see it as a game, and my aim is to complete it.
What you live for is what you die for:
To make a little name, grab some fame and the high score.

Murs, “Ice Cream Mountain,” from McKenzie Eddy’s Slow Your Horse Down, Son, 2011

It’s kinda hard bein humble in the belly of the struggle,
Doin things that probably get you in trouble.

Busta Rhymes, “Been Through the Storm,” The Big Bang, 2006

You would rather have a Lexus, or justice?
A dream, or some substance?
A Beamer, a necklace, or freedom?

stic.man, “Hip-Hop,” from Dead Prez’ Let’s Get Free, 2000

They say it’s lonely at the top, in whatever you do,
You always gotta watch motherfuckers around you.
Nobody’s invincible, no plan is foolproof,
We all must meet our Moment of Truth.

Guru, “Moment of Truth,” from Gang Starr’s Moment of Truth, 1998

Am I really just a narcissist,
Cause I wake up to a bowl of lobster bisque?

Rick Ross, “I Love My Bitches,” God Forgives, I Don’t, 2011

We all seem to stumble, planning our own demise,
Getting the big picture, and making it wallet-sized.

Kendrick Lamar, “Growing Apart (To Get Closer),” Overly Dedicated, 2010

Take these words home and think it through;
Or the next rhyme I write might be about you.

Prodigy, “Shook Ones, Pt II”, from Mobb Deep’s The Infamous, 1995

The sunset looks beautiful over the projects…
What a shame, it ain’t the same where we stand at.
If you look close, you can see the bricks chipped off.
Sometimes niggas miss when they lick off.

Prodigy, “Streets Raised Me,” Murda Muzik, 1999

When the slugs penetrate, you feel a burning sensation,
Gettin closer to God in a tight situation.

Prodigy, “Shook Ones Pt. II,” from Mobb Deep’s The Infamous,  1995

The world is kinda cold and the rhythm is my blanket.

Q-Tip, “Verses from the Abstract,” from A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, 1991

Day in and day out we do the same thing,
Tryina find the joy in our repetition.
Always complainin’ about the routine and the mundane.
But let me stop to remind y’all bout one thing:
Come hell or high water you can count on the sun
Always shinin’ in its untamed glory.

Phonte, “Greater Than the Sun,” from Zo!’s SunStorm, 2010

So let me explain the game,
Break it down a couple of levels like Tetris:
These young uns kill they own blood for a necklace,
Leave ya slumped over the wheel of ya Lexus,
Smoke kush, wake up and eat breakfast…
…what the fuck you expect?

Pharoahe Monch, “Black Hand Side,” W.A.R. (We Are Renegades), 2011

I’d rather be broke and have a whole lot of respect.
It’s the principle of it.

O.C., “Time’s Up,” Word…Life, 1994

Squeeze the juice out,
Of all the suckers with power.
And pour some back out,
So as to water the flowers.
This world is ours.

Guru, “Robbin Hood Theory,” from Gang Starr’s Moment of Truth, 1998

Some people learn from mistakes and don’t repeat them,
Others try to block the memories and just delete them.
But I keep ‘em as a reminder they’re not killing me,
And I thank God for teaching me humility.
Son, remember when you fight to be free
To see things how they are and not how you like em to be.
Cause even when the world is falling on top of me,
Pessimism is an emotion, not a philosophy.
Knowing what’s wrong doesn’t imply that you right,
And it’s another when you suffer to apply it in life.
But I’m no rookie…
And I’m never gonna make the same mistake twice, pussy.

Immortal Technique, “Mistakes,” The 3rd World, 2009

Kendrick Lamar • “Sherane” • 2012

It’s deep-rooted, the music of being young and dumb,
It’s never muted, in fact, it’s much louder where I’m from.

Kendrick Lamar, “Sherane a.k.a. Master Splinter’s Daughter,” good kid, m.A.A.d city, 2012

Kanye West • “All Falls Down” • 2004

It seems we living the American Dream,
But the people highest up got the lowest self-esteem.
The prettiest people do the ugliest things
For the road to riches and diamond rings.

Kanye West, “All Falls Down,” The College Dropout, 2004

Posdnuous (De La Soul) • “Smile a Lil’ Bit” • 2006

You need to smile a lil’ bit, frown a lil’ less.
Read a couple of books, and then smoke a lil’ sess.
Get your mind right, but don’t OD,
Cause overdoin’ it ain’t doin’ it with quality.

– Posdnuous of De La Soul, “Smile a Lil Bit,” from Oh No’s Exodus Into Unheard Rhythms, 2006

Jay-Z • American Dreamin • 2007

Survive the droughts? I wish you well.
How sick am I? I wish you health.
I wish you wheels, I wish you wealth,
I wish you insight so you could see for yourself.

– Jay-Z, “American Dreamin,” American Gangster, 2007

Pharoahe Monch • “The Truth” • 1999

Truth brings light, light refracts off the mirror,
Visions of yourself and error could never be clearer.
The truth is that you ugly…
Not on the outside, but in the inside.
On the outside, you frontin’ you lovely.

– Pharoahe Monch, “The Truth,” Internal Affairs, 1999

Nas • “I Do It for Hip-Hop” • 2008

They say I’m so low key, I’m socially awkward,
Only those that really know me are the ones that I talk with.
They smile in the light, hate in the dark,
You call it beef, to me it’s just a fuckin’ walk in the park.

– Nas, “I Do It for Hip-Hop,” from Ludacris’ Theater of the Mind, 2008

MURS • “18 w/a Bullet” • 2002

See my life is like a song, I just don’t know the words,

So as I try to hum along people say that I’m disturbed.

Stare and call me a loon, say I’m singin’ out of tune,

But my musics’ got direction so I know what I’m doin’.

Don’t know where I’m goin’ but I got to keep movin’,

Even if my next step is obscured by the present…

Gotta find the next rung on the stairway to heaven.

– MURS, “18 w/a Bullet,” …The End of the Beginning, 2002.

I will show you all you need to know.

You must hold on to anyone that wants you,

And I will love you through simple and the struggle.

But girl…you got to understand: the modern man must hustle.

Slug, “Modern Man’s Hustle,” from Atmosphere’s God Loves Ugly, 2002. More from Atmosphere…

Your whole appearance is a lie and it could never be true.
And if you really loved yourself, then you would try and be you.

Phife, “Butter,” from A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, 1991. More from Phife. Rest in forever peace, Malik Taylor, the rapper known as Phife Dawg, who died Wednesday at the age of 45. 1970-2016.

Dope is like a two-way street:
The addiction, both you and me, now take a seat.
Every car got a fleet, every broad get a Jeep,
Every sparkle in the club that wasn’t ours, we compete.
Poor minds, poor decision makers;
No reward…then what’s the risk you taking?

Pusha T, “M.P.A.,” King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude, 2015. More from Pusha T…

Stay far from timid.
Only make moves when your heart is in it.
And live the phrase ‘Sky’s the Limit.’

Notorious B.I.G., “Sky’s the Limit,” Life After Death, 1997. More from Biggie…

The thing that men and women need to do is stick together,
Progressions can’t be made if we’re separate forever.

Q-Tip, “Verses from the Abstract,” from A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, 1991. More from the Abstract…

Never forget that I’m the one you thought wouldn’t make it.
I used to make money…now I just take it.

Buckshot, “I Gotcha Opin,” from Black Moon’s Enta Da Stage, 1993. More from Black Moon…

I know the price, know the risk, know the wrongs and the rights;
Still my blood flows ice…it’s just my life.

Jay-Z, “In My Lifetime (Remix),” 12", 1994. More from Hov…

Now who in the world do you want to fight?
It’s against the system, we should unite.
Homophobics ain’t alright;
If you learn to love, then you might love life.

Ad Rock, “Alive,” Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds of Science, 1999

You good one minute, psycho the next,
No longer lettin’ it ride…too much Jekyll and Hyde.
Then you subtweet some weeks, busy settin’ your pride.
I’m grown, don’t really need that sort of mess in my life.

Joe Budden, “Playing Our Part,” All Love Lost, 2015.

The way mothers feel for they sons, how fathers feel for they daughters;
When he date, he straight, chip off his own papa.
When she date, we wait behind the door with the sawed off,
Cause we think no one is good enough for our daughters.

Nas, “Daughters,” Life is Good, 2012. More from Nas…

They say signs of the end is near;
I wonder…can I walk a righteous path holding a beer?

Common, “Resurrection,” Resurrection, 1994. More from Com…

Been tested, ain’t fail: I’m tried and true.
When it’s all falling apart, my pride’s the glue.
I felt at times worthless…
Pulled shifts with shifty crime merchants,
Stained hearts, brainwashed by mind serpents.
The fact I’m still here, it’s clear it’s divine purpose.

Ka, “Day 912,” from Ka and Preservation’s Days with Dr. Yen Lo, 2015. More from Ka…

Now it’s my turn, and I am concerned
About idiots posing as kings.
What are we here to rule?
I thought we were supposed to sing.
And if we oughta sing, then let us begin to teach.
Many of you are educated…open your mouth and speak!

KRS-One, “I’m Still #1,” from Boogie Down Productions’ By All Means Necessary, 1988

Stop walking through life as if you were blind,
You should reach for your goal cause I’m reaching for mine.

MC Shan, “The Bridge,” Down by Law, 1987

This ain’t the world we thought it was when we as in pre-school.
Sometimes it’s hard to be cool, sometimes I feel like I’m see-through.
Sometimes I really wish…I wish that I could be you.

Joey BADA$$, “Black Beetles,” B4.DA.$$, 2015.

You a white boy in a fuckin’ droptop,
Bumpin’ 2Pac, actin’ like you hard? Stop.
Hip-hop music make the world go round,
But buying a record don’t put you down.
You listen to thugs, it don’t make you one;
Never met a Blood or Crip, but you act like one?

Mystic, “Pull Ya Card,” from Da Beatminerz’ Fully Loaded w/Statik, 2004.

And even after all my logic and my theory, I add a ‘motherfucker’ so you ignorant niggas hear me.

Lauryn Hill, “Zealots,” from The Fugees’ The Score, 1996. More from Ms. Hill…

Make peace not war, make babies some more, Keep a smile when you travel from shore to shore.

Ghostface Killah, “Nuggets of Wisdom,” from BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah’s Sour Soul, 2015. More nuggets of wisdom from Ghost…

I’m a true master, you can check my credentials
Cause I choose to use my infinite potential.

Jeru tha Damaja, “Come Clean,” The Sun Rises in the East, 1994

It’s like every step bring me close to destiny,
And every breath I get closer to the death of me.
I’m just tryna carry out my own legacy,
But the place I call home ain’t lettin’ me.

Joey Bada$$, “Like Me,” B4.DA.$$, 2015