There are few things are as crucial to a lyricist’s body of work as wordplay. Yes, you should also have an easily distinguishable and recognizable voice and, sure, you should be able to string together a narrative with your rhymes every so often. But it’s often and MC’s wit that gets him or her noticed. Just think of all the freestyle cyphers or a cappella clips you have watched over the years where the audience erupts not for storytelling but for the wordplay. The ability to flip a word or maybe even an entire sentence in a way that gives it new life is what makes so many rappers worth listening to. Look at a guy like Lil Wayne, for example, who’s unfortunately relied on this lyrical device like a crutch. He still delivers a hilarious punchline here and there, but it’s become too commonplace for listeners to slap their foreheads when he raps as opposed to covering their mouths to stifle laughter.
One of the more frequent wordplay touchstones is gambling, especially the game of poker. So many rappers over the years have looked to poker to reference their mean-mugging stares at their opponents, how much money they have made, and much more. This fact hit me recently as I was listening to several underground favorites while playing poker online at Betfair, where I stacked a few chips of my own against virtual opponents. As I won hands, bluffed my opponents, and yes even folded, I could hear the clever card-playing references much more clearly, and I felt this element of wordplay deserved some attention.
For this list, I decided to showcase the lyrics themselves while adding a quick note about what the rappers are referencing, just in case some of y’all weren’t sure.
Do or Die – “Po’ Pimp”
“Well a motherf-cker might be broke and shit/ And then collecting no dough from tips/ But I be spittin mo’ game than a mouthful of poker chips/ To get them hoes with the open lips and the provokin’ hips.” Twista (then known as Tongue Twista) is basically saying here that he might be low on cash, but no matter, because he’s still clever enough to win over even the most provocative female.
Swollen Members – “Poker Face”
“Full house, royal flush, what you holdin’?/ You’ll be foldin’, f-ckin’ with Swollen/ Queens get jacked by the King of Spades/ Buc Fifty, Mad Child, Prev One, Poker Face.”-Swollen’s Prevail raps these bars on the hook and uses card references to, basically, talk a lot of sh-t toward his crew’s opponents.
Sam Lachow & Raz Simone – “Good Reasons”
“I’m not the type to throw a fit after losing my poker chips/ I’m broke as sh-t but I got some weed and tobacco so I’m-a roll a spliff.”-Rising Seattle/New York native Sam Lachow is sort of harking back to Do or Die on here, basically making it clear that just because he’s broke doesn’t mean a damn thing. Also, he’s not so weak-willed that folding his cards will ruin his day.
Roc Marciano – “20 Guns”
“Frozen wrists I throw a poker chip.”-Grimy rapper/producer Roc Marciano, who hails from Long Island, is all about the imagery here. His wrists are frozen from the ice (probably a Rolex) he’s wearing, and you can just picture him throwing a poker chip down on a table like a boss.
Ransom – “Unexplainable”
“But now my focus is, poker face with the poker chips/ The soul eclipse every time you hearin’ this soldier spit.”-This is Jersey City rapper Ransom basically just showing off with his internal rhymes while telling the listener that you won’t be able to read him emotionally. It’s a blank, cold stare whether he’s folding or stackin’ chips.
We’ve shared some of our favorite poker references, but now it’s your turn. Hit the comments section with some your personal favorites and do try to stick to the underground realm like we did.- Follow us on @Dagrahyndmusic or Dagrahyndmusic.com