Inhale deep like the words of my breath,
I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.

Nas, “New York State of Mind,” Illmatic, 1994

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

God’s the seamstress that tailor-fitted my pain.

50 Cent, “Patiently Waiting,” Get Rich or Die Tryin’, 2003

You know them days you just got the blues,
All stressed and depressed from just watchin’ the news?
No matter what good you do, it seems you always get screwed.
Got you caught up in your feelings, now you off in the mood.
Shake that attitude and do what you can,
Set a couple goals, follow through with your plans.
Time waits for no man and tomorrow’s not promised,
So if she’s still alive, shoot a call to your mama.
Cause the fighting and the drama, it’s just not worth it,
Nobody’s perfect, ain’t none of us worthless.
We all got a place, and we all got a purpose.

Murs, “Yesterday & Today,” Murray’s Revenge, 2006

…Shorty’s laugh was cold-blooded as he spoke so foul,
Only twelve tryin to tell me that he liked my style.
Then I rose, wiping the blunt’s ash from my clothes,
Then froze, only to blow the herb smoke through my nose.

Nas, “One Love,” Illmatic, 1994

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

Now I’m not the type that gets upset,
Try to disrespect folks just to earn respect.
But learn this fact: whether white or black,
I can’t be conquered in my style of rap.
For jealousy and envy are dumb ones’ tools,
So Ricky says nothing, he keeps his cool.
Revenge is not a mission that the Ruler’s on,
Just forgiveness required for the wrong that’s done.

Slick Rick, “The Ruler’s Back,” The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, 1988

All we want in this life is peace, prosperity and a little paper.

Q-Tip, “Peace, Prosperity and Paper,” from High School High Soundtrack, 1996

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

We got to stay awake for all these lizards and snakes;
Some of them come as friends, some of them come as Jakes.

Q-Tip, “Ill Vibe,” from Busta Rhymes’ The Coming, 1996

Props is a true thug’s wife.

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

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

It’s weak to speak and blame somebody else
…When you destroy yourself.

Chuck D., “Welcome to the Terrordome,” from Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet, 1990

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

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

You can’t fool all the people all of the time,
But if you fool the right ones, the rest will fall behind.

Dead Prez, “Propaganda,” Let’s Get Free, 2000

Next time you see a brother down
Stop and pick him up,
Cause you might be the next one stuck.

Grand Puba, “Mind Your Business,” Ya Know How It Goes 12", 1992

Never become so involved with something that it blinds you.
Never forget where you from; someone will remind you.

DMX, “It’s On,” from DJ Clue’s The Professional, 1998

This generation lacks true knowledge of how the past has trapped you with psychological lassos over Adam’s apples.

Reks, “Unlearn,” REBELutionary, 2012

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

You know the wisdom is reflected in the knowledge when it’s manifested;
If not fed in due time, the mind is anorexic.

Cormega, “American Beauty,” The Realness, 2001

So lovers of life, don’t keep your hopes up high.
Why? Cause it’s just a matter of time before it’s your turn to die.
But until then, when you stop breathin’,
It’s time to stand up and fight for what you believe in!

Sticky Fingaz, “2 Wrongz,” from Onyx’s All We Got Iz Us,  1995

Laugh now, cry later: this is the karma.
Hip-hop never died, it’s just sick of the drama.

Cormega, “Journey,” Born and Raised, 2009

Lookin’ out at the world through my window pane,
Every day has many colors ‘cause the glass is stained.
Everything has changed but remains the same,
So once again the mirror raised.
And I see myself as clear as day,
And I am goin’ to the limits of my ultimate destiny,
Feeling as though somebody somewhere is testin’ me.
He who sees the end from the beginning of time
Looking forward through all the ages:
Is, was, and always shall be.

MCA, “B-Boy Bouillabaisse (A Year And A Day),” from Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, 1989. Rest in power, Adam Yauch (1964 – 2012).

I don’t respect killers, I respect O.G. knowledge,
Codes of the streets got new rules, but no guidance.
Lessons, detrimental to a young disciple;
Folks, take care of your brothers, niggas do as I do.
Keep your enemies close, where they can see you.
It’s not your enemy who get you, it’s always your own people.

Nas, “In Between Us,” from Scarface’s The Fix, 2002

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

A prejudiced man is of a devil mentality.
These are words of a wise man, wisdom;
Take a taste and erase the racism.

Kool G Rap, “Erase Racism,” from Kool G Rap and DJ Polo’s Wanted: Dead or Alive, 1990

Truth had me up against the ropes
And semi-conscious without no boxing skills.

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

They say the good die young, so the bad die old.
Guess we somewhere in the middle, so just pray for my soul.

Jon Connor, “Broken Mirrors,” Salvation, 2011

…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

God damn! Drug dealers dealin’ to the kiddies,
Livin’ in the city ain’t no pity on the itty-bitty.
We try to cry, but still they all die,
I try to speak to the youth, and the truth is: they all high.

2Pac, “Wassup Wit The Luv?,” from Digital Underground’s The Body-Hat Syndrome, 1993

Pull down the shades on the windows of your soul,
And gaze into your mind and watch the wisdom unfold…

Beanie Sigel, “Hypnotic,” from Memphis Bleek’s M.A.D.E., 2003

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

In this lifetime, you got two things:
Bad and good, and ain’t nothin’ in between.

Cold 187um, “Untouchable,” from Above the Law’s Livin’ Like Hustlers, 1990

Keepin’ this effervescent street ghetto essence inside us
Cause it provides us with the proper insight to guide us

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

So many programs you watch on the sofa,
But the real program sit on top of your shoulders.

One Be Lo., “Propaganda,” S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M., 2005 (via emaciatedwildebeest)

Life is a blast when you know what you’re doin’,
Best to know what you’re doin’ ‘fore your life get ruined.
Life is a thrill when your skill is developed,
If you ain’t got a skill or trade, then shut the hell up.

Del the Funky Homosapien, “At the Helm,” from Hieroglyphics’ 3rd Eye Vision, 1998

Only in America could you find a way to make a healthy buck,
And still keep your attitude on self-destruct.

MF Doom, “Rhymes Like Dimes,” Operation Doomsday, 1999

Nothin’ taken for granted, just learn from my mistakes.
My will too strong, my spirit’s somethin’ they can’t take.

Slim The Mobster, “South Central Blues,” War Music, 2011

There comes a time in every man’s life when he’s gotta handle up on his own.
Can’t depend on friends to help you in a squeeze,
Please…they got problems of their own.

Slim Kid Tre, “Runnin’”, from Pharcyde’s Labcabincalifornia, 1995

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

Fuck jewels: I think my soul glows bright enough.
And fuck whips: I learn more when I ride the bus.
And fuck, it’s bad enough that we fight for bucks.
And fuck hoes: cause in the end I need a wife to love.

Blu, “Show Me the Good Life,” Below the Heavens, 2007

Hate a liar more than I hate a thief.
A thief is only after my salary,
A liar is after my reality.

50 Cent, “I’m a Hustler,” Power of the Dollar, 2000

And to the shorties on the block, tryin’ to twist 40 tops,
Get your act together, do some carpentry with a Black & Decker,
And stop speedin like a Kawasaki…

Prospect, “The Hidden Hand,” from Fat Joe’s Don Cartagena, 1998

Life is a gamble, we scramble for money,
I might crack a smile, but ain’t a damn thing funny.

Prodigy, “Eye for an Eye (Your Beef Is Mines),” from Mobb Deep’s The Infamous, 1995. More gems from P >

Leave it up to me while I be livin’ proof,
To kick the truth to the young black youth.

Inspectah Deck, “C.R.E.A.M.” from Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), 1993

Imagine peace on this earth when there’s no grief,
Imagine grief on this earth when there’s no peace.

Scarface, “I Seen a Man Die,” The Diary, 1994

You never question when you get the blessings,
So don’t get vexed when your life is stressed.

Shad, “Rose Garden,” TSOL, 2010

Be grateful for blessings,
Don’t ever change, keep your essence.
The power is in the people and politics we address.

2Pac, “Me Against the World,” Me Against the World, 1995

Ghostface Killah (Wu-Tang Clan) • “Food” • 2015

To increase your life line, strengthen your heart.
Eat fish…that brain food will get you smart.
Yoga…deep meditational tactics,
You no good? Then just practice, cause practice makes perfect.
Stop burying your lies, and bring the truth to the surface.

Ghostface Killah, “Food,” from BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah’s Sour Soul, 2015

Black Thoughts (The Roots) • “I Remember” • 2011

It’s only human to express the way you really feel,
But that same humanity is my Achilles’ heel.
A leopard can’t change his spots and never will;
So I’m forever ill…now I can never chill.

– Black Thought, “I Remember,” from The Roots’ undun, 2011

Grandmaster Melle Mel • “The Message” • 1982

A child is born with no state of mind,
Blind to the ways of mankind.
God is smilin’ on you but He’s frownin’ too,
Because only God knows what you’ll go through.

Grandmaster Melle Mel, “The Message,” from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s The Message, 1982

King Los • “God Money War” • 2015

God, money, war…
If heaven free, what we kill for money for?
They say, “When it rains it pours,” but it rain on the poor;
So you ain’t really rich if what’s rich ain’t in your core.

– King Los, “God Money War,” God, Money, War, 2015

Slug • “Arthur’s Song” • 2014

Sippin’ on that brown stuff
Got you feeling like you found love,
Or maybe it was just luck.
But honestly…it’s probably none of the above.

– Slug, “Arthur’s Song” from Atmosphere’s Southsiders, 2014.

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

To everyone out there who’s a little different:

I say, “Damn a magazine, these is God’s fingerprints.”

You can call me ugly, but can’t take nothing from me;

I am what I am, doctor, you ain’t gotta love me.

Brother Ali, “Forest Whitaker,” Shadows on the Sun, 2003.

I just want to innovate and stimulate minds,

Travel the world and penetrate the times,

Escape through rhythms,

In search of peace and wisdom.

Common, “The 6th Sense,” Like Water for Chocolate, 2000. More from Comm…

Battle physically, conquer mentally.

CL Smooth, “Take You There,” from Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s The Main Ingredient, 1994

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…

If you can’t live, you dying,
You give or you buy in.
Keep it real or keep it moving,
Keep grinding, keep shining.

Raekwon, “Gorgeous,” from Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 2010. More from Chef…

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…

The greatest lesson ever learned has yet to be taught.

Nas, “One Plus One,” from Large Professor’s The LP, 1996. More from Nasir…

I guess nobody told you a little knowledge is dangerous,
It can’t be mixed, diluted, it can’t be changed or switched.
Here’s a lesson if you’re guessing and borrowing:
Hurry, hurry step right up and keep following the leader.

Rakim, “Follow the Leader,” from Eric B. and Rakim’s Follow the Leader, 1988. More from Rakim…

You say you wanna be my leader?
I think you wanna be my God.
You say you on the side of the righteous?
I say I’m gonna hang with the wrong.
There’s truth where the filth is,
There’s lies in the law.
You want a whore with a white dress,
I want a wife in a thong.

El-P, “Angel Duster,” from Run the Jewels’ RTJ2, 2014. More from El-P…

Talk…well I heard talk is cheap.
But like beauty, talk is just skin deep.
And when you lie and you talk a lot,
People tell you to step off a lot.

Daddy-O, “Talkin’ All That Jazz,” from Stetsasonic’s In Full Gear, 1988.

Now hear this mixture: where Hip Hop meets scripture,
Develop a negative into a positive picture.

Lauryn Hill, “Everything is Everything,” The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, 1998. More from Ms. Hill >

It’s the message in the song that makes you rock on,
Some people go to places where they don’t belong.
Whether wrong or right, a lot of people fight,
But I’m here to bless this mic, aight?

Guru, “What I’m Here 4,” from Gang Starr’s Moment of Truth, 1998. More from Guru…

In my heart, though, I do believe:
If you put out more love than you receive,
It’s bound to come back around, eventually.

Masta Ace, “Glory,” from Marco Polo’s PA2: The Director’s Cut, 2013. More lyrics from Ace >

The moral of the story is: Keep your mouth shut.
Cause everybody’s listenin’; speak and you fucked up.
I tell you like them old cats say:
Get what you get, and get your ass out the way.
Cause greed’ll get you 35 tight,
You 27…that’s the rest of your life, right?

Scarface, “Rooted,” Deeply Rooted, 2015. More from ‘Face…

You won’t get a harvest if you don’t sow seeds,
Ill-gained wealth brings stress from dirty deeds.
The choices that you make will fulfill your needs,
But the shit you go through will be hard to believe.

Grap Luva, “Step Up,” from I.N.I.’s Center of Attention, 2003

Let me break it down for you again,
You know I only say it because I’m truly genuine:
Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem.

Lauryn Hill, “Doo Wop (That Thing),” The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, 1998

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…

I was a dreamer, life was a gamble;
Born in a casino, but God never give burdens you can’t handle.
Music is my ammo…I’m ready for battle.

K’naan, “Better,” Country, God, or the Girl, 2012

You tried keeping it real, but you should try keeping it right.

Posdnuos, “The Bizness,” from De La Soul’s Stakes Is High, 1996. More from De La…

I give you life decoded,
Nicely quoted.

Ka, “Day 110,” from Ka and Preservation’s Days with Dr. Yen Lo, 2015. More from Ka…

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…

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

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

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.

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…

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

Fear is weakness, learn from what experience teaches.
Beware of leeches, the vampires, my secrets…
Never follow, cause most niggas is straight up cowards.
Take care of my body’s the temple, my mind is the power.

Nas, “Self Conscience,” from Nas & Ill Will Records Presents QB’s Finest, 2000. More from Nas >