The title of Pusha T's excellent solo debut, last year's My Name Is Name, was directly inspired by 'The Wire,' a fact he elaborated on in a 2012 interview with HipHopSince1987: "Basically, I tried to pick a title that embodied who I am as an artist. I wanted people to understand [that] Pusha is everything that I really, really am. Actually, there's a line in 'Pain' where I say 'my name is my name' - that line comes from Marlo Stanfield from the series 'The Wire.' It was one of the more prominent catch phrases that he said at the end of that series. He was basically saying 'I am who I am, I stand by my name, I live this.' I really felt that embodied my presence in the rap game."
And indeed it did.
It's no risk without gain
It's no trust without shame
It's no us without 'caine
Push - my name is my name
Eminem makes two references to 'The Wire' on this standout cut from his Relapse: Refill EP, first mentioning the little-known character Kenard, a child who ends up shooting and killing stickup god Omar Little late in the series. The second reference is a play on words referring to prominent character Stringer Bell, Avon Barksdale's right hand man in the drug game.
Oh my god, fuckin' bumbaclot, I'm hard as Kenard
The little boy who shot Omar in 'The Wire'
Tie a whore up with barbed wire, you're nothin' but a broad, boy
I'm the real deal, and charbroiler on a bonfire
Boy, don't jinx yourself, boy, I'm Micheal Spinks with the belt
Stringer Bell, boy, my name rings bells for itself
I'm sick as hell, boy, you better run and tell someone else
Bringin' hell, boy, sing them telegrams and get dealt
Sean Price - One (Prod. By Khrysis)
Veteran Brownsville emcee Sean Price, of the legendary Boot Camp Clik, makes multiple references to 'The Wire' on his 2007 album Jesus Price Superstar. These accusatory bars are a highlight.
One box of baking soda, one package of coke
One Pyrex pot, nigga, that's all she wrote
One episode of 'The Wire,' what you know about dope?
Los - Kind Of A Big Deal (Freestyle) [Prod. By Kanye West]
How could we omit Los from this list? Not only is he one of the most respected lyricists in the game, he also happens to hail from Baltimore, otherwise known as the home of the pine box, which he makes known on this Zero Gravity freestyle over Clipse's "Kind Of A Big Deal," a Kanye-West-produced standout from their 2009 album Until The Casket Drops.
The winners do the strangest things, we don't hibernate
Our pupils dilated, we hunt for people to violate
I'll tie a snake in a knot, you sly fox
From 'The Wire,' better known as the home of the pine box
Behind gwap, get found behind rocks
Kool A.D. ft. Open Mike Eagle - Red Wine (Prod. By Amaze 88)
Bay Area emcee Kool A.D., formerly of the tragically defunct Das Racist, references 'The Wire' on this Open-Mike-Eagle-assisted cut from this 2013 mixtape 63, requesting a basic explanation of the show's plot before bemoaning the HIV epidemic.
Cut the fuckery and fakery
Someone explain the plot of 'The Wire' to me basically
Oh plus - fuck HIV (for real)
Whoever thought that up was a real hater, B (fuck 'em)
On this remix of "Superstar," the first single from Lupe Fiasco's 2007 album The Cool, Jeezy describes the aftereffect of watching 'The Wire,' compares himself to prominent character Marlo Stanfield (a drug rival of Avon Barksdale) and calls for a ride-or-die chick like the character Felicia "Snoop" Pearson, a fearless solider in Marlo's organization.
[Excerpt - Jeezy]
Say his earrings 'bout as big as his ego
Keep a fresh bald head like he just left chemo
This ain't even mine, this is Lupe's single
And every time I watch 'The Wire,' it's like I just left B-More
Call me Marlo, come be my Snoopy
Superstar, baby, why wouldn't you do me?
Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire ft. Goldie Glo - Aggin Laer
Brooklyn's Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, never one to shy away from explicit lyricism, references 'The Wire' on this SpaceGhostPurrp-produced cut from his 2012 EP Power & Passion, describing a sex scene with season one of the series playing in the background.
I kick back with... ex
Watching season one of 'The Wire,' gettin' dick wet
Caveman stroke, she can feel it where her ribs at
Rubbin' on a nigga tummy like he had a six pack
I dig that, nigga live with that
Gucci Mane - Pull Up On Ya
We felt the need to include an Atlanta representative in this list, given how popping the region currently is, and who better than the great GuWop himself? "Pull Up On Ya" is included on his December 2013 album The State Vs Radric Davis: The Caged Bird Sings, and finds him comparing his native Zone 6 to 'The Wire,' which we assume is probably fairly accurate.
I'm from East Atlanta, Georgia, man, that shit just like 'The Wire'
You say you from Zone 6, but my nigga, you know you lyin'
I'm a lover and a fighter and a motherfuckin' striker
These lames keep comin' 'round me and they know that I don't like it
Common - Summer Madness (Prod. By No I.D.)
Common's first verse on this 2011 collaboration with No I.D. includes a double entendre in reference to 'The Wire,' B-More being a prevalent abbreviation for the city of Baltimore, where the show is set.
Black heat on the streets of desire
Some got rich and some got priors
My dogs got barbed wires and steal cars with pliers
Wanna see more and be more like 'The Wire'
Ka - Peace Akhi
Criminally underrated Brownsville poet Ka included a dialogue sample from 'The Wire' at the beginning of this chilling selection from his 2013 album The Night's Gambit. It was drawn from one of the first scenes in the series, during which the character D'Angelo (a drug dealing lieutenant in Barksdale's organization) explains the hierarchy of the local drug trade to the younger character Bodie Broadus (an aspiring dealer), comparing it to a game of chess.
D'Angelo: "Pawns, man, in the game, they get capped quick. They be out the game early."
Bodie: "Unless they some smart-ass pawns."
HNHH breaks down 10 of the best references to "The Wire" in hip-hop - not the "Top 10," necessarily - simply 10 of the best.
We both hope and assume y'all have seen or are at least familiar with HBO's "The Wire" at this point - if not, it's due time you did your homework. Created by former police reporter David Simon, the critically lauded television series is arguably one of the most definitive works of our generation, having struck chords far stronger than most of the shows that aired during its run from 2002 to 2008, within the hip-hop community especially.
For those unfamiliar, the series is set in Baltimore, Maryland (AKA Body-More, Murdaland), and each of the five seasons focuses on a different aspect of the city, from the illegal drug trade and investigative police operations to the workings of the seaport, the various levels of government and the public school system, maintaining a gritty realism throughout. Method Man actually appeared in the show regularly, playing the role of secondary character Cheese, the nephew of drug boss Joseph "Proposition Joe" Stewart. Emerging R&B artist Mack Wilds, AKA Tristan Wilds, got his start in the entertainment business portraying the young character Michael. The soundtrack is also rife with rap music, helping set much of the tone throughout.
The inspiration rappers have drawn from "The Wire" is undeniable. One glaring example is the member of Troy Ave's BSB crew who chose the uninspired but earnest moniker Avon Blocksdale, after the prominent character Avon Barksdale, a ruthless drug kingpin. From pioneers such as Eminem, Sean Price and Common to more contemporary acts such as Los, Kool A.D. and Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire, emcees have been referencing the show since the first episode aired in early June 2002.
Read on for a breakdown of some of the best references to "The Wire" since its debut, including but not limited to lyrics, song and album titles, dialogue samples and character comparisons. Keep in mind, they appear in no particular order, and forgive us for all those we've omitted. There are also spoilers throughout this list, for those unfortunate souls who've yet to watch it.
(Check out our previous superhero references list here, if you wish.)