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The 30 Most Lyrical Rap Songs of the Last 5 Years

4. Kanye West f/ Rick Ross, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj & Justin Vernon "Monster" (2010)


Nicki Minaj's verse on "Monster" is easily one of her most celebrated, and with good reason. Although the rapper had plenty of lyrical moments earlier in her career—particularly on the now-classic Beam Me Up Scotty—and was an adroit rapper from a technical standpoint, "Monster" was the moment where she outshined the competition on a large stage without abandoning the very characteristics that made her rapping distinctive. Instead, she doubled-down on everything that made the haters hate, and the fans love her: the split personality raps, the valley girl vocals, the unapologetically female-oriented references (i.e. Giuseppe heels—that's the monster shoe).

The verse also had shape, a structure. It starts with a scene-setting introduction: She pulls up in a monster automobile, before laying out her statement of purpose: You can be the king, but "watch the queen conquer." And she proceeds to do exactly that, with each portion of her verse building in tension, ratcheting up another degree by the time she rhymes "climb it" with "climate," slipping into fake patois, schizophrenically switching between different vocal styles, claiming the throne ("Besides 'Ye they can't stand beside me") until climaxing with a series of double-time rhymes that build to the verse's peak: "Pink wig, thick ass give 'em whiplash/I think big, get cash, make 'em blink fast...."

Being lyrical, then, isn't just about dexterity, but it's not just personality, either; it's about embodying all the things that you do well, and doing it at an exceptional level. —David Drake

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