6. Kanye West "Can't Tell Me Nothing" (Verse 1)
There are more than a few very worthy reasons we've called this song both the greatest song Kanye West has to offer, and the greatest song of the Complex Decade (as well as one of the best rap songs for getting dressed). It also has one of the best opening lines of all time, maybe the only one that could possibly match the epic gravitas of the operatic, bass-heavy production: "I had a dream I could buy my way to heaven/When I awoke I spent that on a necklace."
It's a stunning opening parry in a sequence that's the first of eight flawless, showstopping bars, a purified result of Kanye's id, hubris, and conscience reacting violently against one another. He invokes his passion for Louis, admits that even his mother can't reach him on certain issues, bemoans the lack of role models for young black men, asserts his persecution complex (or the fact that he has to live in a world trying to stifle him, depending on what side you fall on), and finally, gets a top-shelf Cosby Show reference in the kicker for good measure.
It's a brilliant verse not just because it's as bombastic as it is tragic, or because it's one of the most self-aware 16s in the history of rap. It's brilliant because, for a verse about excess, it's mercilessly edited, and shows 'Ye's masterful skill at asserting the grandest of ideas in the smallest amount of space. How meta. —Foster Kamer