It's On Like Donkey Kong: Terrible Rap Lyrics From the 90's

Hit the three-wheel motion.

It’s on like Donkey Kong.
You wanted that fast buck
Now I gotta light that ass up
Thus spake Ice Cube in the single “Now I Gotta Wet’Cha” from his 1992 album The Predator. It’s an excellent album, both danceable and grim, courtesy of Ice Cube and DJ Muggs’ typical sound—loping beats, P-Funk horns, Sly and the Family Stone guitar jangles, and nasty lyrics. This is not the Cube who gave us the 2007 family laff riot Are We Done Yet? No, this is the Cube of N.W.A., the Cube of “Fuck Tha Police,” and the Cube of these lyrics from “It Was a Good Day”:
Left my niggaz house paid,
Picked up a girl been tryin to fuck since the twelve grade.
It’s ironic, I had the brew she had the chronic,
The Lakers beat the Supersonics.
Felt on the big fat fanny
Pulled out the jammy, and killed the punanny.
And my dick runs deep so deep so deep
Put her ass to sleep.

This Cube doesn’t mince words or waste time. This Cube feels on the big fat fanny, pulls out the jammy, and kills—kills!—the punanny. Which brings us back to “Now I Gotta Wet’Cha,” a tale of gangster posturing wrapped in Solomon Burke samples. The song begins with a little one-act number, Ice Cube and his friend strolling through what we assume are the mean streets of Compton. They roll up on some hapless sucker, and this happens:

Ice Cube: Hey, what’s up man?
Hapless sucker: Not too much.
Ice Cube: You know you won, G.
Hapless sucker: Won what?
Ice Cube: The wet t-shirt contest motherfucker!

Gunshots follow, and we realize “wet t-shirt” refers to the hapless sucker falling in a rain of bullets and blood, cut down in the semi-prime of his life by a vengeful Ice Cube. Fair enough. It was 1992, I was a sophomore in college, and I loved it. Even though I was far from Compton, both socioeconomically and geographically. Even though I was living in a basement apartment in Buffalo, NY with a hammock for a bed, no heat, and a framed poster of Marlon Brando in motorcycle leathers hung above my bed because I thought it would attract women. I’d drive to class in my 1977 Pontiac Parisienne, blasting Ice Cube and fantasizing about delivering my own “The wet t-shirt contest motherfucker!” line. To who? I have no idea. Maybe my medieval history professor. He was an arrogant sonofabitch.

But that’s not the point. The point is the first lyric after Cube’s little one-act number. So Cube says “The wet t-shirt contest motherfucker!” and we envision the hapless sucker lying in a puddle of his own blood, choking and gasping and wondering what went wrong with his life. Cue the DJ Muggs beats and Cube spitting lyrical venom:

It’s on like Donkey Kong.
You wanted that fast buck
Now I gotta light that ass up
Donkey Kong? As in this Donkey Kong?
What was Ice Cube thinking? Donkey Kong isn’t a gangster game. It’s not even close. It’s a mustached Italian guy trying to rescue his girlfriend while a giant ape throws barrels at him. Cube could have at least picked a game with some violence, like Double Dragon:

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A more appropriate line would have been:

Your ass is draggin.
Leave the G’s behind
Or I’ll knee you in the face like Double Dragon.

Or maybe this:
Sippin gin from a flagon,
Getting dizzy what’s next?
Flying kick you in the neck like Double Dragon.

Or how about:
My bitch won’t stop naggin,
So I drop my pager
And punch her repeatedly in the solar plexus like Double Dragon.

Think you can come up with something better? Post it at the bottom of this column. It has to be no more than three lines, and it has to be a gangster-type lyric based on a violent 90’s video game. The best lyric gets a prize. I’ll have Boni think of something good to send the winner.

Anyway. Despite his Donkey Kong misstep we forgive Ice Cube because he gave us “Wicked,” a terrific song with a video starring Kiedis and Flea of the Chili Peppers breaking windows and smashing kitchens like a HUD crew run amok:

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So Ice Cube found redemption. There is no such redemption for Shaq. Not after his 1993 debut Shaq Diesel.


1993. Grunge was still relevant, A Tribe Called Quest released Midnight Marauders, and Gen X’ers were just beginning to appreciate the benefits of irony. Did we recognize the hilarity of Shaq Diesel? Of course. Did Shaq? I don’t know.

I submit this hypothesis: _Shaq Diesel _contains the worst rap lyrics of any rap album ever made. Two songs from _Shaq Diesel _support my claim:

  1. “(I Know I Got) Skillz”
  2. “Shoot Pass Slam”
    We’ll start with the unnecessarily-parenthetical “(I Know I Got) Skillz.”

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Let’s take a sample of these lyrics, from Shaq’s second verse:

I got a hand that’ll rock ya cradle,
Cream you like cheese, spread you on my bagel.
My Ford Explorer boomin’ with the clunk-a-funk
All you jealous punks can’t stop my dunks.
They’re brand new like Heavy,
Built like Chevy, Impala,
But Shaq’s a smooth balla.
(Yeah, but what about rhymin?)
I can hold my own.
Knick-knack Shaq-attack, give a dog a bone.

As for “Shoot Pass Slam,” Shaq gives us a bastardized Onyx) rip-off complete with lyrics so bad they approach genius.

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From the end of the first verse:

Coast to coast, LA to Chicago I’m strong and cocky like Ivan Drago.
I hop hop hip hip,
Check the way I rip rip.
Upset to your stomach,
Plop plop plip plip.
Sharp as a dagger.
Call me Shaq attacker.
I love Jim Valvano
Forget Jimmy Swaggart.
I’m a mack,
You better back off me.
I’ll leave a bad taste in your mouth
Like boogers in coffee.

Do boogers in coffee leave a bad taste in your mouth? I’ll take Shaq at his word, but I can’t imagine boogers and coffee lingering as long as, let’s say, liver and onions. Of course “onions” is hard to rhyme, so I guess Shaq felt boogers and coffee was more appropriate. I guess.

Moving on. No discussion of terrible rap lyrics from the 90’s would be complete without finding some white rock band who decided to try rap. And so we turn to the whitest of rock bands: the Canadian supergroup Rush.

(Full disclosure: I loathe Rush, and not just because they are Canadian. I loathe Rush because they are Rush. My loathing is visceral. When I hear Geddy Lee sing, my upper lip instinctively curls inward, as if I’ve driven past a mangled deer lying on the side of the road and caught a glimpse of its exploded innards drying in a pulpy mass. When I hear Rush fans explain their love, I become an old man railing against the idiocy of kids these days. My loathing is so strong I’d rather listen to Triumph than Rush. Yes, it’s that bad.)

So with those biases in mind, let’s sample 1991’s “Roll the Bones” from Rush’s album of the same name. There is no need to watch the whole thing. I suggest the first 30 seconds, then fast forward to 3:18:

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Before the shock subsides, immerse yourself in these lyrics. Don’t just read them. _Live _them. Give these lyrics the spoken word treatment. Print them out, stand with one hand in your pocket and the other stretched out in front of you—fingers spread and palm down—as though you’re about to drop massive knowledge on this Christmas day. Pretend these rhymes represent the struggles of a Canadian supergroup forced to watch Bryan Adams maintaining relevance while all anyone knows about your group anymore is your Neil Pert fills and your 1981 single “Tom Sawyer.”

Now speak:

Get busy with the facts.
No zodiacs or almanacs,
No maniacs in polyester slacks.
Just the facts.
Gonna kick some gluteus max.
It’s a parallax—you dig?
You move around
The small gets big. It’s a rig.
It’s action.

Random interaction.
So who’s afraid
Of a little abstraction?
Can’t get no satisfaction
From the facts?
You better run, homeboy,
A fact’s a fact
From Nome to Rome, boy.

Take a deep breath. And continue:
What’s the deal? Spin the wheel.
If the dice are hot—take a shot.
Play your cards. Show us what you got.
What you’re holding.
If the cards are cold,
Don’t go folding.
Lady luck is golden;
She favors the bold. That’s cold.
Stop throwing stones.
The night has a thousand saxophones.
So get out there and rock,
And roll the bones.
Get busy!

If I could point to one line—and I will—that sums up everything wrong with Rush, Canada, and rock bands trying to rap, it’s this:
The night has a thousand saxophones.
Just when Rush has done enough damage—after Neil Pert has already thrown us to the ground, plunged his knife to the hilt, and twisted the blade while Geddy belts out his twangy high notes—they add insult to grievous injury with their final order: Get busy!

It makes me want to record my own version of “Now I Gotta Wet’Cha.” And finally I have my chance:

Micah: Hey, what’s up man?
Geddy Lee: Not too much.
Micah: You know you won, G.
Geddy Lee: Won what?
Micah: The wet t-shirt contest motherfucker!

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