5 Timeless Verses/Songs by Joyner Lucas
Words by Ade Yusuf
Joyner Lucas is arguably one of the most viral rappers of our generation, and rightly so. He has repeatedly created songs that demonstrate his rapping ability and musical talent of which there seems to be an abundance. Joyner executes tracks that playfully stitch together seemingly unrelated words into a lattice of flows, depth and lyrical gymnastics, while still retaining the ability to take a deep dive into one controversial perspective or topic and expanding on the nuance therein until the audience is overwhelmed with substance and often a new lens from which to view the world. Here are our top 5 picks of some top shelf Joyner Lucas tracks and verses that we think everyone needs to hear!
1. I'm Not Racist
One of the more culturally accepted products of the MAGA-hat era of American politics has to be this song. The timing of its release admittedly capitalised on the zeitgeist of that period with a reflective, conversation styled depiction of the literal differences that we find as we move closer to the racial lines used to create the grid that we manoeuvre through and call civilised society. By contrasting the stereotypical extremes surrounding race relations in America, Joyner attempts to (and for the most part succeeds at) walking the audience through the unheard thoughts behind some of the slurs different groups are subject to. The visual depiction of a white person saying things that many white people say indirectly on a daily bases could be seen as giving an unfair platform to a perspective that is detrimental. Thankfully (and perhaps unintentionally) a result of the first verse was that it exposed the shallow nature of a lot of the misconceptions that feed racial generalisations that minimise the legacy of slavery. Something that Joyner has experienced himself, several times before. The power of this verse is firmly in the truth that the opinions shared are usually never given space to be heard, and in most cases rightly so. Joyner manages to give a perspective that those on either side of the argument can identify with and ultimately realise the flaws in their own opinions. A powerful piece of art indeed.
2. I'm Sorry (Verse 2)
I’m sorry is probably the most personally influential songs I’ve heard In the past 10 years. The song details the experience of suicide from two perspectives; the first being that of the suicidal person, and the second being that of their closest friend or brother.
The song opens with a somewhat familiar description of a depression and self-deprecative cocktail which ultimately proves to be lethal. Unfortunately this part of the song has become more and more familiar as we grow older. Although expressions of suicidal thoughts have slowly been given more of an audience in recent years, this song doubles down by also presenting a deep cut into the breaking heart of those who Love those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts. The second verse does justice to such a sensitive perspective that’s rarely ever touched on. The subject matter makes it extremely possible to potentially stray away from a measured sensitivity, but Joyner manages to fold honest expressions of anger at a friends suicide, into the pain-stained, compassion-fatigue riddled envelope that is the second verse. This side of the story of suicide is one that is rarely afforded the space to be spoken and heard. It’s often shaded by an umbrella of guilt and an overwhelming urge not to make an already painful situation about you. But all in all, it is an unavoidable part of the story. And one that was skilfully described to great affect.
Frozen is paired with a music video that harrowingly depicts the catastrophe of a car crash, and the seemingly endless extent to which the damage caused spreads through the lives of those affected in that single frozen moment. For me, the most poignant verse is the first which is written from the perspective of a dying young child in the frosty embrace of a blood stained and glass littered floor. The young child spends the first moments of the end of her life recanting everything she would miss out on and we are gifted a very realistic perspective of someone so young losing more than they were ever able to really grasp or understand. It’s very fitting that the first words are “Damn, this is not alright”. Reflecting the childlike innocence that expresses itself in moments that are usually only contemplated by ‘grown ups’. The cadence of Joyner’s delivery and the slight tonal inflections used does as much as it can to correct for the experience of this perspective being expressed by a young child with a grown man’s voice, but all things considered this verse and in truth this song as a whole, can be extremely powerful to anyone who has ever been through a near death experience or has ever lost someone in the circumstances described in this song.
4. Words with friends.
Words with friends is conceptually one of the most earnest representations of the raw unfiltered roots of hip hop and expression that brought forth the sounds that we are so familiar with today. The entire song is a demonstration of versatility and skill as Joyner essentially has his friend throw random words in the air which he would then catch effortlessly while literally never missing a single beat.
The song consists of 10 short verses initiated by suggested words from friends, wherein he still manages to take the seemingly trivial words suggested and weave attention grabbing elements of substance into what could have been easily seen as a hollow but skilful bit of fun. Thankfully, those of us in the audience get to enjoy the unencumbered vibes of the freestyle era, while also taking some debate ending punchlines home with us for good measure. The 11th verse stands as a more fleshed out demonstration of the wordplay exhibited throughout the entire song and is my personal favourite for the continued onslaught of wordplay infused gems that the shorter verses teased of earlier in the song.
The final song on the list but by no means the least, is Forever. This song is no less meaningful than the other songs in this list, but the positive ending and lighter and more spacey instrumental creates an almost speech bubble-esque atmosphere, with the words acting as an open door to the thoughts of Joyner. The song tells a tale of a man toiling with the news that a woman he didn’t want to be with, had fallen pregnant for him. Throughout the song, Joyner outlines the fears, the concerns and even some of the extreme thoughts triggered by such a circumstance. In the first verse he details his initial reaction and how he “told her she should get an abortion and I really meant it”. The final verse is a much appreciated changing of mind that is described with Joyner’s trademark realism. The reconciliation is not twisted into the style of a fairytale and shows what a more realistic transition through such a situation might look and feel like in real life.
The second verse is probably the most loaded in terms of subject matter. As this verse falls between the more dimly lit aura of the initial verse and the bright raising sun of the final verse, it is very fitting that this song be described as the twilight of the story. The second verse describes the conscious mind of a man looking into the face of a child he still doesn’t want, even after the child is here - “And I still remember your baby shower like it was yesterday, And to your mom it was special, me, just another day, I wish that you could see the pictures, all the fake phony smilin' Had to pretend that I was happy, deep down I was cryin' Ma asked if I was okay, I turned around and looked away I was dryin' all my tears, look back to say yeah I was lyin', goddamn, how the hell I get here? This is it, this supposed to be my life” - Once again Joyner shows a willingness to confront the nuance in situations and topics that most would cautiously stay away from. And in doing so, he is able to flex the range of his rap gymnastics, and set his ability within a frame that is more often than not overflowing with substance.