The ten best hip-hop lyrics of 2012
4. "Money Trees" - Kendrick Lamar featuring Jay Rock
"From the gardens where the grass ain't cut, them serpents lurking, Blood.
Bitches selling pussy, niggas selling drugs, but it's all good.
Jay Rock uses the extended metaphor of the garden to explain the temptation of sin where he's from. For him, the garden is also literal: He grew up in the Nickerson Gardens Section 8 housing projects. It is poorly maintained, which makes it perfectly habitable for serpents like that which tempted Eve to original sin -- for him, the temptation is prostitution and drugs. And the the fact that he says it's all good makes the story all the more tragic; he's grown accustomed to it even though it very plainly isn't "all good."
3. "Tick Tock" - Danny Brown
"Got the tongue of a pimp, raised by a dirty preacher
that used the church money to cop a new Beamer.
Got the heart of a child raised by a prostitute
that bought his momma the rubbers when a John came through"
This line is like an onion; the more you peel away, the stronger it seems to get. There are just so many forces at work here. The two qualities that Danny finds in himself, basically charisma and perseverance, are typified by the tongue and the heart, the first of which comes from an assumed father figure, the second of which comes from a mother figure. And though these qualities seem to work to Danny's advantage, they are likened to those of somewhat dubious but somewhat redeeming characters: a pimp and the son of a prostitute. In this context, the relationship of a pimp to the son of a prostitute raises all sorts of issues about charisma, heart, masculinity, femininity and morality. The words are plainly stated, yet poignant, nuanced and evocative.