The 25 Best Rap Verses of the Last 5 Years

8. 2 Chainz "Mercy" (2012)

Producer: Lifted, Mike WiLL Made It (add.) Mike Dean (add.) Kanye West (add.) Hudson Mohawke (add.)
Album: Cruel Summer
Label: GOOD Music/Def Jam

2 Chainz "Mercy" verse was, unquestionably, the peak of the rapper's long and unlikely climb, the crown jewel in a year of career-making guest verses ("Beez in the Trap," "Supafreak"). It was a verse 2 Chainz had built to over the course of thirty-plus years. His were the punchlines that kind of made you roll your eyes, and then he just kept pushing them over better beats, forcing them into rotation until they became undeniable. It was obvious he was in on the joke—he always seemed smarter than his own lyrics, almost as if he had hustled us by honing in on the perfect low-art formula. He'd figured out the low expectations of his audience, and raised the bar by pinpointing it with precision, then running into that creative vein as many times as possible. But ironically, somewhere along the way, he seemed to find his own accidental art there, his balance of self-awareness and chutzpah carving each goofy joke into the cultural conscious. And suddenly, he was a sensation.

His "Mercy" verse was an unbroken string of punchlines, and suddenly none of them seemed groanworthy; they were brilliant. The references, from foreign cars to money tall "like Jordan" (way to date yourself, bro!) weren't new, but like Guru bragging about how baggy slacks are crazy hip-hop, 2 Chainz was an unlikely, anachronistic hip-hop hero anyway. From "champagne on an airplane" (he's drunk and high at the same time...get it?) to "chain the color of Akon," every line seemed to have reached some kind of apotheosis, a moment of dad-joke transcendence. —David Drake

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