Burn train buffers
Right turn, would've missed the iceberg, fine
But you don't like our kind, do you?
Junkyard dog, hot tin roofs cradle kittens with sub-par flaws
Rappin' is my radio, graffiti is my TV
B-boys keep them windmills breezy
-Aesop Rock, 'No Jumper Cables'
Money-makin' plans, pistol close at hand, swollen pockets
Let me introduce the topic, then we drop it
Expose snakes 'cause they breathe freely
Located worldwide like the art of graffiti
I think I'm tougher than Nitti, my attitude is shitty
Colder than a dope fiend's titty
-Tupac Shakur, 'Bomb First'
Hijabs, hoodies, afros, locks
Teddy bear, liquor bottle shrines, rocks
Tanks, prayer rugs, church pews, Mexican corn stands
Blood, sweat, and tears, police batons
Gas masks and bullets create graffiti on corners
Murals that salute freedom or death for liberty
-Iesha Jaco (via Lupe Fiasco), 'Ayesha Says'
Flippin' in the ghetto on a dirty mattress
You can't match this rapper slash actress
More powerful than two Cleopatras
Bomb graffiti on the tomb of Nefertiti
MCs ain't ready to take it to the Serengeti
My rhymes is heavy like the mind of sister Betty
-Lauryn Hill, 'Everything Is Everything'
Where I'm from, a fiend'll sell a heater for 5 jums
Dealers scatter when Ds or Y come
"R.I.P." is written on walls for people who die young
And niggas either dream of b-balling, or to be balling
Sometimes it's hard for me to write, son, the streets calling
Patience is a virtue, temptation'll hurt you
-Cormega, 'Verbal Graffiti'
Now is the time for all the people all over the world
To see rappers, breakers, DJs, stars rockin', shakin' and breakin'
Graffiti rock - it's gonna give you a shock
If you've never seen a breaker do a headspin...
Said check out this... graffiti rock
And if you've never seen a DJ scratch a record on beat
Said check out this... graffiti rock
-Kool Mo Dee / Special K, 'Graffiti Rock Theme'
This for the dudes with the spray paint in the air
Who make you wonder, like "how he get his name up there?"
Tagged up in Central Booking...
Tagged on the bridge and the subway so we kept you lookin'
They can write your name on TV before the people's eyes
Screamin' on the radio "you the best", thats a lie
Write my name in graffiti, the streets recognize
From the ancient hieroglyphics, to graffiti painted pictures
I study, I know the scriptures, but nowadays ain't it vicious?
Date back, I go beyond, check the holy Qu'ran
To speeches at the autobahn, now we get our party on
So being benificient, I bless 'em with dialogue
They expectin' the next testament by the God
-Rakim, 'The 18th Letter'
Tags that spray your hall with rap aerosol
Organized graffiti lectures in can control
Or level with the devil racing uptown first to Fort Apache
I'm much too much for any demon style to master me
From the Throgs Neck Bridge to the Hell’s Gate
-Bigg Jus (Company Flow), '8 Steps To Perfection'
Made money - money made power
Unstepped on as it came off the Mayflower
I come from graffiti'd halls
Now the X marks the spot on my graffiti walls
Statuettes, X'd eyes on those graffiti dolls
My ghetto bitches ask why, I say it's just because
I am De Niro after Am.Ex. commercials and "The Fockers"
With Martin Scorsese after Gangs Of New York could rock this
Back together with the master plan
The rebirth of Langston Hughes, I'm that man
I'm in the streets like old graffiti
I'm hearin' wankstas talkin' greasy
-Nas, 'Don't Body Yourself'
Yo, what the fuck happened to reality spittin' rhyme slayers?
These days everybody tryna be a thug or a player
Where did all the real motherfuckers go in the game?
Bring back the break dancers and graffiti writers with fame
I remember hip-hop before the mic cunt clappin'
'Cause I used to drink forties with more flavor then these rappers
-Immortal Technique, 'Revolutionary'
Now the rap music's makin' money for the corporate
It's acceptable to flaunt it, now everybody's on it
Graffiti isn't corporate so it gets no respect
Hasn't made a billion dollars for some corporation yet, so...
In the name of Phase2, Stay High, Pre-Streets
Grab your cans and hit the streets, I'm out for fame
-KRS-One, 'Out For Fame'
You make a little paper, but you actin' greedy
They'll cook your momma in front of you just like Hibachi Petey
There's no Tahiti - forty-five scrolls in graffiti
Bimmers on BBs, the shit only seen on the TV
It really happened in the galaxy of Queens
Givin' credit, you're indebted off the fallacies of fiends
-Action Bronson, 'Marijuana Bronson'
I'm sittin' in the classroom learnin' the rules
And it says you can't do graffiti in school
That can't be wrong in the hallowed hall
So my notebook turned into a big wall
The heart of a lion and the courage of three
And the mind of a man much wiser than me
-Grandmaster Melle Mel, 'Beat Street Breakdown'
He loved graffiti, it opened him
Creeped down an alley with a can of Rust-Oleum
Canvas: that flat surface
He learned quick to control the nervousness
If it ain't a building, he burnt the bridge
And no, he don't give a damn what the curfew is
-Slug (Atmosphere), 'C'mon'
Shorties in line to cop the new CD
So hip-hop I bust nuts in graffiti
We could two-piece it or we could just seize it
Shorty on my shit 'cause my style wild decent
What's it gonna be, the party or the precinct?
Queens cats rock, keep it rugged and recent
-Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest), 'Give Me'
I sport too fly for the forty-ounce drinker
I sport too fly for a forty-ounce thinker
A fresh linen scent so sniffer on the two-inch
A talker of the berg without weed influence
So stick to your Naughty By Natures and your Kane
'Cause graffiti that I based upon the wax is insane
-Posdnuos (De La Soul), '"Stakes Is High" Intro'
Spayed the wall with graffiti like hogs for all my lost dogs
Never reach until I see the blue sky, 'til I die
All I ever want is to be left alone
Me myself, me my dope, me and my chrome
Got paid by cops and judges, I budge when I buzz
I got the City of Long Beach goin' crazy for drugs
-Snoop Dogg, 'Downtown Assassins'
Time to put on my armour, go to war for the game
'Cause it's on its last leg, and that's more than a shame
This is a lifestyle homey, it's more than champagne
But I will make a toast to Flash reachin' the Hall of Fame
I end it with a line, from the book of King James
Let there be light when I write graffiti on the train
-LL Cool J, 'Dear Hip-Hop'
HNHH breaks down 20 of the best graffiti references in hip-hop - not the "Top 20", simply 20 of the best.
Along with emceeing, DJing and breakdancing, graffiti is one of the four fundamental elements of hip-hop, and it's been an integral part of the culture since the beginning. Films such as Charlie Ahearn's Wild Style and Stan Lathan's Beat Street helped define this vivid form of expression in the 80s, and it's since grown into an international phenomenon. You'll find graffiti art in most corners of the globe at this point.
From pioneers such as Grandmaster Melle Mel, KRS-One and Rakim to contemporary acts such as Lupe Fiasco, Action Bronson and Immortal Technique, emcees have been participating in and paying homage to bombing since day one.
Read on for a breakdown of some of the best lyrical references to graffiti over the past three decades. Keep in mind, they appear in no particular order.
*This article is brought to you by our collaborators at gotbars.com, currently one of the most efficient providers of the latest hip-hop and R&B lyrics.