Dark Light

What’s the one thing all classics have in common? The first song absolutely sets it off. And what’s the most important thing about the first song? The opening lines.

We’re talking bars here, not lines from a skit. So as iconic as “The Genesis” from Illmatic may be, “Yo, Nas, yo, what the fuck is this bullshit on the radio, son?” does not count. And we’re not including hooks either, or maybe we are, I don’t know, I’ll take it case by case.

Anyway, let’s not waste any more of your time, here are the 52 greatest rap album opening lines of all time (in chronological order).

Run–D.M.C. – “Hard Times”

Hard times spreading just like the flu
Watch out homeboy, don't let it catch you
P-p-p-prices go up, don't let your pocket go down
When you got short money you're stuck on the ground

Artist: Run-D.M.C.

Album: Run-D.M.C.

Released: March 27, 1984

Run–D.M.C. – “Peter Piper”

Now Peter Piper picked peppers, but Run rocked rhymes
Humpty Dumpty fell down, that's his hard time
Jack B. Nimble was nimble and he was quick
But Jam Master cut faster, Jack's on Jay's dick

Artist: Run–D.M.C.

Album: Raising Hell

Released: May 27, 1986

Eric B. & Rakim – “I Ain’t No Joke”

I ain't no joke, I used to let the mic smoke
Now I slam it when I'm done and make sure it's broke
When I'm gone no one gets on cause I won't let
Nobody press up and mess up the scene I set

Artist: Rakim

Album: Paid in Full

Released: July 7, 1987

Big Daddy Kane – “Long Live the Kane”

Party people in the place
Embrace the bass as I commence to pick up the pace
And make you motivate, and accelerate
'Cause like Tony the Tiger, I'm great!

Artist: Big Daddy Kane

Album: Long Live the Kane

Released: June 21, 1988

Public Enemy – “Bring the Noise”

Bass! How low can you go?
Death row? What a brother know
Once again, back is the incredible rhyme animal
The uncannable D, Public Enemy Number One

Artist: Chuck D

Album: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Released: June 24, 1988

N.W.A. – “Straight Outta Compton”

Straight outta Compton, crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube
From the gang called Ni**az With Attitudes
When I'm called off, I got a sawed off
Squeeze the trigger, and bodies are hauled off

Artist: Ice Cube

Album: Straight Outta Compton

Released: August 8, 1988

​The D.O.C. – “It’s Funky Enough”

One, and here comes the two to the three and four
Then I drop the beat I have in store
Lay dynamics on the top like a rug
Make it sound smooth and later make a dub

Artist: The D.O.C.

Album: No One Can Do It Better

Released: August 1, 1989

A Tribe Called Quest – “Excursions”

Back in the days when I was a teenager
Before I had status and before I had a pager
You could find the Abstract listenin' to hip-hop
My pops used to say, it reminded him of Bebop

Artist: Q-Tip

Album: The Low End Theory

Released: September 24, 1991

Ice Cube – “The Wrong Ni**a to Fuck Wit”

God damn, it's a brand new payback
From the straight gangsta mack in straight gangsta black
How many motherfuckers gotta pay
Went to the shelf and dusted off the AK
Caps gotta get peeled
Cause "The Ni**a Ya Love to hate" still can "Kill at Will"

Artist: Ice Cube

Album: Death Certificate

Released: October 29, 1991

Redman – “Time 4 Sum Aksion”

In this corner we have the funk body snatcher
P Funkadelic and I gotcha hard enough
That I can chew a whole bag of rocks
Chew an Avenue, chew an off street and off block

Artist: Redman

Album: Whut? Thee Album

Released: September 22, 1992

Kool G Rap & DJ Polo – “On the Run”

I got a job with the mob, makin G's
Doin some pickups, deliveries and transportin keys
Yeah they got me like a flunky
I'm ridin around with ten kilos inside my trunk G

Artist: Kool G Rap

Album: Live and Let Die

Released: November 24, 1992

Wu-Tang Clan – “Bring Da Ruckus”

Ghostface catch the blast of a hype verse
My Glock burst, leave in a hearse, I did worse
I come rough, tough like an elephant tusk
Your head rush, fly like Egyptian musk

Artist: Ghostface Killah

Album: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

Released: November 9, 1993

A Tribe Called Quest – “Steve Biko (Stir it Up)”

Linden Boulevard represent, represent-sent
Tribe Called Quest represent, represent-sent
When the mic is in my hand, I'm never hesitant
My favorite jam back in the day was "Eric B. for Presi—"

Artist: Phife Dawg

Album: Midnight Marauders

Released: November 9, 1993

Nas – “N.Y. State of Mind”

Rappers; I monkey flip 'em with the funky rhythm
I be kickin', musician inflictin' composition
Of pain, I'm like Scarface sniffin' cocaine
Holdin' an M16, see, with the pen I'm extreme

Artist: Nas

Album: Illmatic

Released: April 19, 1994

2Pac – “If I Die 2Nite”

They say pussy and paper is poetry, power and pistols
Plotting on murdering motherfuckers 'fore they get you
Picturing pitiful punk ni**as copping pleas
Puffin' weed as I position myself to clock G's

Artist: 2Pac

Album: Me Against the World

Released: March 14, 1995

Big L – “Put It On”

Ayo, you better flee hops, or get your head flown three blocks
L keep rappers' hearts pumpin' like Reeboks
And every year I gain clout and my name sprouts
Some brothers'd still be virgins if crack never came out
I got the wild style, always been a foul child
My guns go "BOOM BOOM!" and yo' guns go "pow pow"

Artist: Big L

Album: Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous

Released: March 28, 1995

Raekwon – “Knuckleheadz”

Lay on the crime scene, sipping fine wines, pulling nines on
UFOs, taking they fly clothes, they eyes closed
We getting loot, no doubt, check the word of mouth
Unheard about, guns go off and now a murder route
I'm out, my raps play the part like a Get Smart secret agent

Artist: Raekwon

Album: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…

Released: August 1, 1995

GZA – “Liquid Swords”

Fake ni**as get flipped in mic fights
I swing swords and cut clowns
Shit is too swift to bite, you record and write it down
I flow like the blood on a murder scene
Like a syringe, on some wild out shit to insert a fiend

Artist: GZA

Album: Liquid Swords

Released: November 7, 1995

2Pac – “Ambitionz Az a Ridah”

I won't deny it, I'm a straight ridah
You don't wanna fuck with me
Got the police bustin' at me
But they can't do nothin' to a G

Artist: 2Pac

Album: All Eyez on Me

Released: February 13, 1996

JAY Z – “Can’t Knock the Hustle”

Yo, I'm making short term goals, when the weather folds
Just put away the leathers and put ice on the gold
Chilly with enough bail money to Free a big Willy
High stakes, I got more at stake than Philly

Artist: JAY Z

Album: Reasonable Doubt

Released: June 25, 1996

Nas – “The Message”

Fake thug, no love, you get the slug, CB4 Gusto
Your luck low, I didn't know 'til I was drunk though
You freak ni**as played out, get fucked and ate out
Prostitute turned bitch, I got the gauge out

Artist: Nas

Album: It Was Written

Released: July 2, 1996

2Pac – “Bomb First (My Second Reply)”

Allow me to introduce first: Makaveli the Don
Hysterical, spiritual lyrics like The Holy Qur'an
Ni**as get shook like 5-0
My .45 is next to me when we ride, for survival

Artist: 2Pac

Album: The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory

Released: November 5, 1996

Mobb Deep – “Animal Instinct”

Yo, laid up in the cut, watch these rap ni**as fuck you up
Dig in shorty guts, get the bitch to set you up
It's the most trifle, 41st Side disciples

Artist: Havoc

Album: Hell on Earth

Released: November 19, 1996

The Notorious B.I.G. – “Somebody’s Gotta Die”

I'm sittin' in the crib dreamin' about Lear jets and coupes
The way Salt shoops and how to sell records like Snoop (oops!)

Artist: The Notorious B.I.G.

Album: Life After Death

Released: March 25, 1997

Wu-Tang Clan – “Reunited”

Reunited, double LP, world excited
Struck a match to the underground, industry ignited
From metaphorical parables to fertilize the Earth

Artist: GZA

Album: Wu-Tang Forever

Released: June 3, 1997

JAY Z – “Intro: A Million and One Questions / Rhyme No More”

A lot of speculation
On the monies I've made, honies I've slayed
How is he for real? Is that ni**a really paid?

Artist: JAY Z

Album: In My Lifetime, Vol. 1

Released: November 4, 1997

DMX – “Intro”

One-two, one-two, come through, run through
Gun who? Oh, you don't know what the gun do? (What?)
Some do, those that know are real quiet
When you think you wanna try it, fuck around and start a riot (Uh)

Artist: DMX

Album: It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot

Released: May 19, 1998

Lauryn Hill – “Lost Ones”

It's funny how money change a situation
Miscommunication lead to complication
My emancipation don't fit your equation
I was on the humble, you on every station

Artist: Lauryn Hill

Album: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Released: August 25, 1998

OutKast – “Return Of The “G””

It's the return of the gangster, thanks ta'
Them ni**as that's on that blow that run up in your crib
Which contains your lady and an 8 month old
Child to raise plus you true blue 'bout this music but
They do not want to hear it

Artist: Andre 3000

Album: Aquemini

Released: September 29, 1998

Eminem – “My Name Is”

Hi, kids, do you like violence?
Wanna see me stick nine-inch nails through each one of my eyelids?
Wanna copy me and do exactly like I did? 
Try 'cid and get fucked up worse than my life is? 

Artist: Eminem

Album: The Slim Shady LP

Released: February 23, 1999

Dr. Dre – “The Watcher”

Things just ain't the same for gangstas
Times is changin', young ni**as is agin'
Becoming OGs in the game and changin'
To make way for these new names and faces 

Artist: Dr. Dre

Album: 2001

Released: November 16, 1999

Ghostface Killah – “Nutmeg”

Scientific, my hand kissed it
Robotic, let's think optimistic
You probably missed it, watch me Dolly Dick it
Scotty Wotty copped it to me, big microphone hippie
Hit Poughkeepsie, crispy chicken, verbs, throw up a stone, Richie

Artist: Ghostface Killah

Album: Supreme Clientele

Released: February 8, 2000

Eminem – “Kill You”

When I just a little baby boy
My momma used to tell me these crazy things
She used to tell me my daddy was an evil man
She used to tell me he hated me

Artist: Eminem

Album: The Marshall Mathers LP

Released: May 23, 2000

JAY Z – “The Dynasty (Intro)”

The theme song to The Sopranos
Plays in the key of life on my mental piano
Got a strange way of seeing life, like
I'm Stevie Wonder with beads under the do-rag

Artist: JAY Z

Album: The Dynasty: Roc La Familia

Released: October 31, 2000

JAY-Z – “The Ruler’s Back”

Yo, gather 'round hustlers that's if you still livin'
And get on down, to that ol' Jig rhythm
Here's a couple of jewels to help you get through your bid in prison

Artist: JAY Z

Album: The Blueprint

Released: September 11, 2001

Clipse – “Intro”

Playas we ain't the same, I'm into 'caine and guns
Chopard with the fishes make the face lift numb
Out in Panama in that amazing sun; I'm amazing, son
You ni**as wonder where my grace is from

Artist: Pusha T

Album: Lord Willin’

Released: August 20, 2002

50 Cent – “What Up Gangsta”

They say I walk around like I got a S on my chest
Nah, that's a semi-auto, in a vest on my chest

Artist: 50 Cent

Album: Get Rich or Die Tryin’

Released: February 6, 2003

Common – “Be (Intro)”

I wanna be as free as the spirits of those who left
I'm talking Malcolm, Coltrane, my man Yusef
Through death grew conception, new breath and resurrection
For moms, new steps in a direction

Artist: Common

Album: Be

Released: May 24, 2005

Young Jeezy – “Thug Motivation 101”

I used to hit the kitchen lights, cockroaches everywhere
Hit the kitchen lights: now it's marble floors, everywhere! (haha)
Call the carpenter, the roof on the coupe's gone (chea)
Give a fuck what he sold - I'm the truth, homes (that's riiight)

Artist: Young Jeezy

Album: Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101

Released: July 26, 2005

Clipse – “We Got It for Cheap (Intro)”

Fear him, as soon as you hear him
Upon my arrival, the dope dealers cheer him
Just like a revival, the verse tends to steer 'em
Through a life in the fast lane, I German engineer 'em

Artist: Pusha T

Album: Hell Hath No Fury

Released: November 28, 2006

Kanye West – “Good Morning”

Wake up Mr. West, Mr. West
Mr. Fresh, Mister, by himself he's so impressed
I mean damn, did you even see the test?
You got D's, muthafucka D's, Rosie Perez

Artist: Kanye West

Album: Graduation

Released: September 11, 2007

Kanye West – “Dark Fantasy”

I fantasized 'bout this back in Chicago
Mercy, mercy me, that Murcielago
That's me, the first year that I blow
How you say broke in Spanish? Me, no hablo

Artist: Kanye West

Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Released: November 22, 2010

JAY-Z & Kanye West – “No Church in the Wild”

Tears on the mausoleum floor
Blood stains the Coliseum doors
Lies on the lips of a priest
Thanksgiving disguised as a feast

Artist: JAY Z

Album: Watch the Throne

Released: August 8, 2011

Meek Mill – “Dreams and Nightmares (Intro)”

I used to pray for times like this, to rhyme like this
So I had to grind like that to shine like this
And the matter of time I spent on some locked-up shit
In the back of the paddy wagon, cuffs locked on wrists
Seen my dreams unfold, nightmares come true
It was time to marry the game and I said, "Yeah, I do"
If you want it you gotta see it with a clear-eyed view
Got a shorty, she tryna bless me like I said achoo

Artist: Meek Mill

Album: Dreams and Nightmares

Released: October 30, 2012

Kanye West – “On Sight”

Yeezy season approaching
Fuck whatever y'all been hearing
Fuck what, fuck whatever y'all been wearing
A monster about to come alive again
Soon as I pull up and park the Benz
We get this bitch shaking like Parkinsons

Artist: Kanye West

Album: Yeezus

Released: June 18, 2013

Drake – “Tuscan Leather”

Comin' off the last record
I'm gettin' twenty million off the record
Just to off these records, ni**a, that's a record

Artist: Drake

Album: Nothing Was the Same

Released: September 24, 2013

Pusha T – “King Push”

This is my time, this is my hour
This is my pain, this is my name, this is my power
If it's my reign, then it's my shower

Artist: Pusha T

Album: My Name Is My Name

Released: October 7, 2013

Future – “Thought It Was a Drought”

I just fucked your bitch in some Gucci flip flops
I just had some bitches and I made 'em lip lock
I just took a piss and I seen codeine coming out
We got purple Actavis, I thought it was a drought

Artist: Future

Album: DS2

Released: July 17, 2015

Kendrick Lamar – “DNA.”

I got, I got, I got, I got
Loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA
Cocaine quarter piece, got war and peace inside my DNA
I got power, poison, pain and joy inside my DNA
I got hustle though, ambition, flow inside my DNA

Artist: Kendrick Lamar

Album: DAMN.

Released: April 14, 2017

Pusha T – “If You Know You Know”

Pullin' up in that new toy
The wrist on that boy rockstar like Pink Floyd
Waving at rude boy, I'm wavin' at you, boy
Ran off on the plug too like Trugoy

Artist: Pusha T

Album: Daytona

Released: May 25, 2018

Westside Gunn – “GODS Don’t Bleed”

Even the FBI said the squad was violent
They labeled us young, wild, and homicidal
But hustlers treat my last shit like it's some kind of Bible
'Cause I drove with my last brick in a Honda Pilot

Artist: Benny the Butcher

Album: Supreme Blientele

Released: June 22, 2018

Dreamville – “Under the Sun”

Nothing new under the sun, nobody fucking with son
I got a couple of sons, a couple of guns
A couple of ni**as that bust up the party and fuck up the fun
She digging me and I’m cuffing her friend
She ig'-ing you while we fucking for fun

Artist: J. Cole

Album: Revenge of the Dreamers III

Released: July 5, 2019

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