Thought has always been nice with the pen, but his transition from being the frontman for The Roots to one of the best and most clever MCs in the game is amazing. His breath control and cadence is enviable and his marathon-length freestyles are analyzed and admired for years after their release.
His recent collaborations with Danger Mouse and his Streams of Thought series are proof positive of Thought's lyrical superiority as an MC. With the release of Glorious Game, his collaborative project with El Michels Affair, we present four of Black Thought's dopest lyrical performances.
1. Hot 97 Freestyle, 2017
This freestyle was understandably voted as the best Hot 97 freestyle of 2017, but it's also arguably one of the best ever to air on the popular program. The 10-minute masterpiece is filled with too much dopeness to quote, with nearly every line being quote worthy, but we have included a few standouts.
"Fools swear they wise, wise men know they foolish/ well we was headed for the web, even before computers/ I never thought you'd give me a reason to do this/ Cain and Abel, Jesus and Judas/ Caesar and Brutus, I see intruders, avert your eyes/ I told you keep out of the hood - circumcise"
"Got my crown tilted, my gown quilted, silk with cashmere/ burnin' Rome down in a minute, built it last year/ newsflash, I dodged the bullet that killed the cashier/ my homie told me to come with him to the Masjid/ them brothers said, "Don't go from written bars filled with rage/ To primetime television and your gilded cage/ then forget there's people in the world still enslaved/ I barb-wired my wrist and let it fill the page/ gun fire and flares, sirens glare I'm in an iron chair/ where people who care don't get the lion's share."
"Maybe I'm the new Rakim, maybe I'm fat Pharaoh/ undergarments of armor be my intimate apparel /pre-Kardashian Kanye, my rhyme-play immaculate/same cadence as D.O.C. pre-accident/when photos were sepia-toned and record players were somethin' you would keep in your home/ yo, the traveler, the meaning of Tariq he was known/ for the exemplary performance uniquely his own."
"Being his excellency gets to be exhausting you in the residency of the one they call King/Dada, Ali Baba, the talented Mr. Trotter
Inside of my right palm, the mark of the stigmata/ big Poppa, wig chopper, emperor Jaffe Joffer, muhfucka I'm stronger than the coffee out in Kaffa/ all y'all niggas vagina-hot, remind me of Icona Pop I step in the booth, I'm a bull inside a China shop/ mollywhoppin', watch another cotton pickin' body drop/ every time we rock, yo they actin' like it's Mardi Gras/and I'm that gun in y'all face, none of y'all safe/ If I catch you at the right time in the wrong place/slippin', sippin' on somethin' with a strong taste/like whiskey or bootleg bourbon with a corn base."
2. Sway In The Morning Freestyle With Method Man, 2017
Black Thought's freestyle with Method Man on Sway In The Morning is a testament to the brilliance of both MCs. When the beat starts, Thought zones out and it's difficult to tell whether he's listening to Meth, choosing which rhyme fits the track or a combination of both. What's for sure is that as always, Thought delivers an amazing piece of poetry.
"Black Johann Sebastian, the Zohan of fashion/your kind ain't really showing no signs of gasping," he spits. "Go find a caption to explain the neutron and proton attraction and drop/ tell 'em call it Captain Rock /I started at the bottom, now I'm lonely at the top/ I ain't hardly finished climbing, no, I'm only at the top I figured I should probably show 'em show 'em what I got/ something nasty skirted off the lot/ It's darker than a kettle iron blacker than a pot."
3. "Thought vs Everybody" - Tiny Desk Home Concert, 2020
During the height of the pandemic, NPR turned their popular Tiny Desk concerts into home versions, and Black Thought didn't disappoint during his appearance on the show. Sitting alone in a room with his Grammy award, gold records and other industry trophies, Thought delivers a live rendition of "Thought vs Everybody" from Streams of Thought, Vol. 3.
Thought delivers clever wordplay that is also timely and socially relevant: "Ayo, they ask why I seem so solemn/on the throne between three stone columns /you know the name, fuckin' up the game, no condoms/ everybody's got damn first world problems/ the truth is inconvenient as non-believers fearing DACA dreamers instead of FEMA/ Bentley, Benz, or a Beamer, Fiji or Aquafina/we fuck around and be the next Iwo Jima
4. Dont Say Nuthin' The Roots, 2004
2004's "Don't Say Nuthin'" is a great example of Black Thought's growth within The Roots. He was always able to show his dopeness within the confines of the group, but their early jazz-influenced material guided his pen in the direction that was more fitting of an MC who was part of a band than the "cyborg" that he would become.
With its "mumble rap" hook that existed before mumble rap was a thing, Thought spit lines like, "Yeah! That all mighty amazing, ill highly contagious/kamikaze sound splash like it shot from a gauge/ until your body sound clash, head of the class/ Magna Cum Laude/ beats bring the beast out me, flagrant, foul rowdy/ reed pipe but deed tight, disposition keep on flipping/ keep em playing they position keep making the people listen/ what I spin put em out on a limb/ got tears, got blood, got sweat, leaking out of the pen/ y'all fake niggas not setting a trend/ we never listen to them/ it's like trying to take a piss in the wind." A dope example of Thought's progression.