It’s been a minute since my Top 10 Beef/Diss Tracks, I had to chill for a bit on the list because it took so much out of me. I got loads and loads and LOADS of emails. The 88 comments really does me justice yo, but what can I say? I loved every single email I got, every comment dropped… I loved the controversy.
I have to apologize to my man Kev for being late on this. I thought the Diss tracks took a lot out of me; I think this one damn near killed me. I present you guys with the Top 15 Phonte Rap Performances. Two things:
- I had to be specific about the title because he does sing and some songs were spectacular because of a combination of lines from separate verse and
- I had to expand it to 15 from 10 because 10 was much too hard. At the bottom there are 5 Honourable Mentions, even those were hard.
Guys, I’ve listened to pretty much every single Phonte track that is available, I’ve narrowed them down through 5 processes. These are the ones that made the 6th cut. Professional sports teams don’t even have that many cuts! This thing has more cuts than a Preemo track so take it as you may and know that my time and effort is really all for you guys. Please feel free to hate, love, express your opinion, acknowledge, son me, own me, “pwn” me, violate me, email me and caress me. You guys keep me doing this stuff so enjoy all of it. Big ups Nottingham!
15. “Tour of Duty” by the Justus League
Album: Soldiers of Fortune
Why it’s Dope: One thing that was so difficult throughout this entire process was ignoring the beat. Phonte makes it easy at the end. The song as a whole is a collective effort by the J League and the topics differ from braggadocio, to smack talk, to relative props to the comrades. All of the verses seem like a set up for Mr. Coleman, the evidently leader of the pack. Goosebumps still entail when it kicks in and Phonte delivers a verse to any of who those who try to attack him on his “Tour of Duty.” It is Rambo like, but still, the rather large unit of the J League forms like Voltron around ‘Te.
Memorable Lines: “A square nigga, so they figure they could corner him”, “the only shooting I did was shot dice”, “I’m like Lumbergh shittin’ on your Office Space”
14. “Slow it Down” by Little Brother featuring Darien Brockington
Album: The Minstrel Show
Why it’s Dope: Phonte has never been shy about his non-luxurious lifestyle, “…I got a Nissan/ that I’m still paying for still got a lease on,” but he’s also never been shy about expressing his emotions. On “Slow it Down” we get a deeper glimpse into that part of the relationship-talk Phonte. Here, he breaks down the difficulties of telling a girl who wants things to go fast to slow down. He also gives insight to the rather blind nature of ‘relationship inheritance’ (a phrase I just made up that explains that we live like our daddies did, not by choice). It is such a genuine verse and feeling that I’m sure most men reading this can easily relate to. Phonte sounds saddened, upset, and confused at what to do because he knows at the end of the night, we don’t want to be lonely (see also: “After The Party”).
Memorable Lines: “So well-rounded, no wonder you’re in my circle”, “I want a girl, when I want a girl/ and when I don’t want a girl, I want a girl who understands that”
13. “Feelin’ Alright” by Little Brother
Album: The Listening (Japanese Import)
Why it’s Dope: Hopefully this track has been heard by now; it certainly merits a listen. Phonte comes out hard… really hard. He’s feeling alright, apparently, but shows that he’s pretty damn pissed off. ‘Te speaks on wack rappers as well as why he’s hated in the rather demeaning world of hip hop. It is 45 seconds of comedic genius, as well as microphone brilliance.
Memorable Lines: “Crush you Minute Maid rappers in 30-second intervals”, “You gets no dough, your mic check just bounced”, Rap today is like a Minstrel/menstrual Show, even I’m catchin stomach cramps in it”.
12. “Doin’ Me” by Little Brother featuring Supastition
Album: Chitlin Circuit 1.5
Why it’s Dope: A boy’s relationship with his mother will always be important in a man’s life; however, it may not always develop or change. Phonte speaks on this rather taboo issue with his mother not accepting his choices in woman. This forces Phonte to explain himself via this verse that he is more than responsible to take care of any troubling situation his girl of choice might put him in. Very interesting take and delivery, and as he mentions, it must’ve been a hard verse for him to write. It’s no Eminem/Mom battle, but this is certainly an emotional tug of war for Phonte.
Memorable Lines: “That’s decision I carry/ wanna be happily married and not just stuck with a wife/ who can adjust to my rappin’ and her lips are always yapping/ and that’s just what would’ve happened if I took your advice” , “You’re gonna lose me as a son ‘til you respect me as a man”
11. “Brave New World” by The Foreign Exchange
Why it’s Dope: ‘Te is a great observer, but beyond that, he’s a great translator (get it, because it’s The Foreign Exchange album…haaaa). He takes all the various issues going on during the time of 2004 and smacks them up into 2 great verses. The first verse is pretty much a list of issues like surveillance, war, poverty, crime, and politics. The second verse is the necessary connection he feels we need to people to survive in the world explained in verse one, but it takes a big sacrifice, hence, the ‘brave.’ The content and two great verses merit a necessary spot for a generally over-looked track.
Memorable Lines: “Can’t afford to raise kids cos we gotta raise soldier/ and satellites looking at my pad when I wrote this”, “Scared to catch SARS so we cancelled all the shows in Toronto” (I actually remember when this cancellation happened)
10. “Whatever You Say” by Little Brother
Album: The Listening
Why it’s Dope: Don’t act like you didn’t rewind the verse to see if he was factual in that closing statement. Don’t act like he didn’t get you bobbing your head. And don’t act like this isn’t one of the dopest and most original verses we’ve heard in this modern era of hip hop. The story entraps you as ‘Te spits game to a chick who turns him away because he isn’t a huge hotshot millionaire. A second verse speaks on what he can still do for a lady when given that chance. The real stand out is that first verse with that huge flip and it would be hard not to include “WYS” in this list simply for its rewind-factor, but, if you wanted to dive further into why it’s so great, look at the flow; the continuation and connections are hypnotic and drag you in just as much as the story does.
Memorable Lines: “Make her so wet, she make a Freudian Slip”, “I got your head still bobbing and my verse didn’t rhyme”.
9. “Not Enough” by Little Brother/
“Speed” by Little Brother
Album: The Minstrel Show / The Listening
Why they’re Dope: Firstly, these two can easily qualify for the best songs off of their respective albums; moreover, Phonte talks about two different types of stresses. The former speaks on the stress of never being good enough for the fans or for the current state of hip hop despite putting so much work into it. He similarly discusses a similar topic of stress, but in the everyday “treadmill lifestyle.” You can actually hear the stress that Phonte is feeling on both of these tracks. On one track, it seems as if they are doing all the things right, but they can never move fast enough, while another is that everything is too fast. Phonte truly illustrates that the lives we live never go according to our time or standards.
Memorable lines: “Tay’s style is nuts and y’alls is just dated”, “When I write it’s for all of N.C., call me the state pen”, “Pushin 80 miles an hour to this call center/ tryna pick up a check I only see 20% of” , “my job got me slaving like I’m Dred Scott, take a break nah nigga you betta not/ cause that’s when the respect stops/ energy drain, I need a blast like Hi Tek got”.
8. “Watch Me” by Little Brother
Album: The Minstrel Show
Why it’s Dope: I hope it has been concluded by now that Tay‘s the illest; point blank… period. “Watch Me” reaffirms that he is. Line after line of just pure smack talk at its peak is something rarely heard in hip hop, but Phonte delivers a verse worthy of praise. It doesn’t have as much concept as the tracks 9-15, but it does have consistent uppercuts that connect right on the jaw. These uppercuts will inevitably make your jaw drop.
Memorable Lines: “This ain’t a peace talk/ so muthafucka save that sweet talk for reservations at the Marriot”, “No need to act a fool in public because when you Ego Trip, that’s when you lose your luggage”, “Made friends and made figgas while you stuck on the front porch/ waitin’ to shave Mister”, “Better keep it moving like the laws of inertia”.
7. “We Got Now” by Little Brother
Album: The Minstrel Show
Why it’s Dope: Phonte has a knack for ending albums on a ridiculously impressive note. It may be an upsetting note like on “The Listening”, it may be a secure feeling on “We Got Now” or it may be a fresh feeling like “When Everything is New.” Regardless, he’s good at it. With this track, Phonte explains his anger with the sad state of hip hop and how it is pretty much made a turn for the worse. Don’t get it twisted, Phonte isn’t ‘complaining’ or sitting back and doing nothing about it, he’s out to reassure that he is going to take control and boost it up to its true potential. There are plenty of wit and jabs to go around on this great verse.
Memorable Lines: “gave birth to niggaz/ and when I burp them niggas they spit up old lines that I fed to them earlier”, “I agree that everybody’s a biter/ but if your Xerox my style/ then that’s infringing on my copy, right?”, “I think about the youth and how their minds are so closed/ cause now ‘Rap City’ look like ‘Video Soul'”.
6. “Hold On” by Little Brother
Album: The Minstrel Show (Japanese Release)
Why it’s Dope: A bonus track overseas?!!? The people of North America weren’t blessed with this track right away, but Tay decides to lace it. It is such an intense verse that just keeps going when you think it will end. He brings us on this roller coaster of a verse that ranges from the up and downs of his journey, to the wack ish he has encountered along the way, to the lessons learned on this journey. He also talks about persistence and how hip hop has created this tantalizing taste of success that he fiends for. His connections and his flow throughout the track are flawless and everything is stringed together so poetically, even with all of his anger that builds up appropriately to the end of the song.
Memorable Lines: “They say the deadliest weapon is ‘Te chillin’ with a mic in the palm of his hand”, “He saving rap from its hideous state/ he never gets rattled in the city of snakes”, “Even though I’m rapping now and got thangs/ I don’t rock chains, our ancestors did it for us”, “This is what I’m faced with all the time/ Ain’t tryna be Rembrandt, just wanna draw the line/ between illusion and reality…”
5. “The Listening” by Little Brother
Album: The Listening
Why it’s Dope: Start with the chorus: “We got a better chance of blowing up in Switzerland.” This simple line gives a lot of information about the North American fan. The fact is many people tune out of the lyrics and ride the beat; “Thank God for 9th” Phonte says. As lyrical as Phonte gets, those who do listen pay attention and this song is certainly for all the listeners about those who ain’t listenin’. It’s a dope 5 verse for a variety of reasons. It closes out the album and acts as a complete wrap up. The verse is probably the most true to the theme and why shouldn’t it be; it is the title track. I’m sure a ton of hip hop heads can relate to this track because they’ve probably had numerous conversations with the “song number fans” and the “beat lovers only” cats, thus, the frustration that Phonte displays on the track is genuine, believable, and probably a daily occurrence. The flow is paramount and the style is polished. It’s a great way to finish off the debut and close out with a serious note as he delivers such a sincere vent.
Memorable Lines: “It’s like niggaz wanna play with it/ They hear some good shit, but don’t stop to savor it”, “Check all these bitches on my Soul Glow city/ Walking round with Madagascar titties/ Imported for my Cole Train leaves ya niggaz”, “So I would go inside my room and dig deep inside the strong rhythms”
4. “Yellow Lines” by Cunninlynguists featuring Phonte and Witchdoctor
Album: Dirty Acres
Why it’s Dope: Man, Phonte loves the ladies. Maybe a little too much though. “Yellow Lines” is a song about crossing those boundaries and boarders while you are in a relationship. What is normally a clichéd topic is turned into a verse so poetic. The verse is slightly cold; it’s Phonte persuading a girl to pretty much cheat on her significant other. “Well Suga, if you are worried bout catching feelings chances are you already have” is how Phonte justifies the acts. Naturally, the song is of a dark nature, but this allows Phonte to feast on the beat with line after line after line of symbolic, metaphorical donations to the idea of cheating. He’s the best lawyer in hip hop.
Memorable Lines: “McIntosh of my eye, let me take a mega bite”, “Switch memory lanes while we dreamin’, wanderin’/ And in return I’ll strip my inhibitions/ And go skinny dipping in your stream of consciousness”, “Denial’s not a game I’m prepared to play So I express things most niggaz scared to say”
3. “Dreams” by Little Brother
Why it’s Dope: It was largely considered to be his best verse off of Getback almost immediately after it dropped. The verse is probably his most in depth analysis of the dream of rapping and making it, however, it looks at the negative side, such as the prospect of failure and even moving out of the lifestyle he grew up on. In actuality, he’s been blessed with a gift that has allowed him to stay out of trouble; however, this trouble he is away from is the same trouble that is keeping up all night because his family is suffering from it. It’s a real win/lose situation for ‘Te, however, his last two lines give a great summary of the two trails people may decide to take.
Memorable Lines: “Cause truth be told, if my records never sold/ And I wasn’t raised this bold, nigga I would probably be you”, “But still got boys on the block and fam, smokin rock/ So please, miss me with that conscious shit”, “Do you really wanna win or just look good losin?/ It’s no illusion”
2. “Next Day” by Little Brother
Album: Getback (iTunes Bonus track)
Why it’s Dope: The front to back story of Phonte‘s rise and fall and rise again beginning with his money struggles, to his Little Brother tour through Cali, to his manager Big Dho and the list goes on. It’s like the listener has just watched a slide show of Te‘s life and it is so perfect. Aside from the content and subject matter (which is really hard to argue with) the sincerity in Phonte‘s voice through it all is so evident. He paints a picture so vivid that makes the listener feel that we were in that tour van with him. The memory bank was full and he took out a huge deposit to unload this gem on us and we will forever be grateful for the gift. The flow is timely and excellent and the wit is, as always, present. Keep in mind; it is just Phonte rapping for 3 minutes straight. Don’t blame yourself for getting extremely familiar with Phonte‘s story, I guarantee repeat listens will be or already have been done.
Memorable Lines: “We was for “The Big Throwdown” like Le-vert/ Me, Pooh, 9th, I.D., and Malachi/ In the crowded-ass van filled with ugly-ass T-shirts”, “With a palm that’s sweaty and hand that’s jittery/ Signed, to Atlantic and the rest is misery/ Oops! – Fraudulent slip, I mean the rest is history/ I”m just still a little hot, excuse my niggery”, “They said, “We wouldn’t make it as a two-man team”/ But this is part of a two-man dream”.
1. “Boondock Saints” by Little Brother
Album: Separate but Equal
Why it’s Dope: I really hope this verse is self explanatory. I’d love to say that Phonte has done better than this, an earlier verse of his, but it would be really hard to. The verse incorporates the past 14 songs in a nut shell… all of the emotion, the swagger, the anger, the frustration, the sadness, the content, the misery, the disbelief, the… everything. It is all on this track. Put on the tune, and follow line for line. Listen again, follow line to line. Everything is just so beautiful, hauntingly beautiful about this verse. Apply the title to the verse to get the full effect. Wow.
Memorable Lines: “Right, back to business off a 6-week tour/
And I ain’t never seen drama like this before/
Gotta lotta shit to get off my chest, some wild shit to address/
So I told Crisis press record/
Imma put it on wax and give you the raw facts/
And truth about life and things I’m dealin’ wit/
Black folks saying that I’m too intelligent/
And white folks saying Imma little too niggerish/
It got me in a strange predicament/
I wish BET and MTV would judge more wisely/
But I don’t know what’s worse the fact that they ain’t playing our shit/
Or the fact that it don’t even surprise me/
Because I ain’t shucking, because I ain’t jivin’/
Some of these crackers won’t stand beside me/
And cuz I ain’t killin’ and don’t support pimpin’/
Some of these niggas wanna call me a Cosby/
Well, I’ll be that dude, I’ll scratch that itch/
I’ll play that role, call me Heathcliff bitch!/
And if this ain’t what you want then fine/
But somehow someway we gotta draw that line/
And it goes without mentioning/
I thought about censoring this verse so my label and managers stay cool/
But as of this recording, we ain’t even out-sold The Listening/
So really what the fuck I got to lose?/
Bitch is phon-tiggah, low the show rippah/
Hold cuz my hoes would change week-to-week/
But now my flows be changing from beat-to-beat/
Tell my nigga Jim Bones we gotta beat the street/
Cuz I know that they need us/
It’s gotta be more to this generation than drinkin and smoking all the weed up/
This my confession with the embassy, you fucking imbeciles can put your rosary beads up”
“Raw Life”: Ridiculously painful to keep this off here. That second verse might be one of his dopest verses, it just didn’t have the content to expand like some of these other ones did. Regardless, it is still a tremendous track
“The Becoming”: Another one that hurt to leave off. Because of all the tracks here that spoke about the “becoming” of Phonte, I felt that this track would just be redundant. It still is a massive cut and really brought Phonte to the forefront.
“War”: Originally made my top 15 @ number 15, but got bumped out. Punchline City population Phonte. Speaks of war and how no sucka emcees should want it with him.
“Sincere”: His sincerity is evident throughout every part of his music; he takes it to the relationship side and presents us with another element of sincerity. It’s a great dialogue towards his girl and the struggle they are through. Beautiful track.
“Nobody Like Me”: Seeing him perform this live last night further boosted up this track. So much pain on this track is wrapped up in the loads of success that Phonte has had. The storytelling (and memory, wow) is impeccable.
Other notables: “Rise and Fall”, “Who’s That”, “Back At It”, “Tension”, “Welcome to Durham”, “Let It Be Known”