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Meaning of the song ‘How Ya Like Me Now’ by ‘Kool Moe Dee’

Released: 1987

The track “How Ya Like Me Now” by Kool Moe Dee is a bold indictment on imitation, a shining testament to his own skills, and a charged-up challenge to any MCs questioning his hip-hop prowess. Through the lyrics, Kool Moe Dee explores issues like originality, respect, and creativity in a rap game he sees polluted with phonies. He’s quick to call out those who copy his style, and isn’t afraid to flex his lyrical muscle to prove his point.

The song starts with a strong statement, comparing his rhymes to home runs or slam dunks, hitting the listener hard and fast. He makes it known that he’s feeling frustrated, seeing other MCs “gettin’ paid usin’ my rap style” and deciding he ain’t about that life. He’s going to take his style back, rising like the “return of the Jedi” to reclaim what’s rightfully his. To those who doubted his ability to make records, Kool Moe Dee hits back with a simple, impactful question: “How ya like me now?”

He continues to fire off, calling out those trying to ride his wave of success, likening them to wannabes at ‘Amateur Night at the Apollo’. He speaks of the rap game as a jungle, and he is the true king, not the ones standing around copying his rhymes and trying to rock the crowd like he does. His old school roots show when he mentions seeing men die for less, reaffirming his commitment to let his mic do the talking.

As the song progresses, Kool Moe Dee compares himself to Picasso, painting a picture with his words that no imitator can fit into. His rhymes are a “cure”, healing life and leaving a stain in the brain of every listener. He warns other MCs that he’ll make their girls swoon for him, emphasizing his superiority.

He is furious at the sight of lesser rappers boasting about their skills, claiming to be the best when they haven’t even faced him in a battle yet. He warns them that if they refuse to acknowledge him as the superior rapper, he’ll “make him call himself Toby”, a reference to the character Kunta Kinte from the series ‘Roots’ who was forced to take up the slave name Toby.

In the final verses, he gives a stern warning to those infringing on his territory and impersonating his style. He warns them he’s only just begun, that they’re already overwhelmed and that if he keeps going, they’ll be “throwin’ up”. Old rhymes that they used to pay to hear at parties are now used to show them their place. Kool Moe Dee ends the song by repeating the titular question, “How ya like me now?”, a rhetorical question thrown at his rivals and doubters, leaving them with something to mull over as the song fades out.

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