I have a strong, core principle when it comes to rap music: white people should largely avoid publishing criticism of a genre that’s not theirs. I love rap, it’ll forever be the genre I check for first when I’m looking for new music, and I’ve long been enamored with the small miracles that can really only happen in a genre with such a low barrier to entry but high standard of quality. Black people created rap, they’ve morphed the genre a hundred times over, and they’ve spent the entire twenty-first century dominating the music industry, and much of the criticism they garner from white folks comes from ignorance and a total misunderstanding of what a culture that isn’t theirs is looking for.
Having said all that, I can’t let Kanye slide for delivering the worst rap verse of all-time: his guest verse on Kid Cudi’s “Erase Me”.
Of course there are probably worse verses out there, but that’s usually for one of a few reasons: the rapper is not very talented, the rapper did not try very hard (aka “mailing it in”), the rapper tries too hard (every J Cole verse), or it’s almost intentionally bad. But Kanye suffers from none of those, at least not in general and especially not in 2010, when this song was released. He’s not Nas or Kendrick, but he was more than capable at that point in time and has some incredible features in his portfolio to boot.
So grading on a bit of a curve here, taking into account that it was the lead single from a blooming Cudi’s second album, that the song came out the same year as his masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and that Kanye has delivered excellent guest verses in the past, I maintain that his verse on Erase Me is the worst I’ve ever heard.
Let’s take it line-by-line:
“I’m Yeezy/ She said ‘Hi, I’m Arya’/
‘No, you a angel you wave high to Aaliyah.’”
Horrible start here, totally forced the name of the made up love interest to rhyme(not the first time this’ll happen). Arya isn’t a common name at all, but that’s beside the point. The second line here is multiple syllables longer than the first, and after pausing he has to exasperatingly spit out the bar so it doesn’t sound weird. You can recover from this, everyone has a bad couplet here and there, unfortunately that wouldn’t be the case for MAGA man here.
“I got a show in Korea, they built a new arena/
Why don’t you come and watch a n**** tear the whole scene up”
Pretty much same issues as the first bar, forced and jumbled for a mediocre rhyme. It’s fine, it’s bad but this line isn’t why we’re hear.
“I know I seen ya before, but don’t know where I seen ya/
Oh I remember now, you’re somethin’ that I dreamed of”
If you’re not gonna rhyme, then don’t try to rhyme. He delivers this garbgae line like he’s Supa Hot Fire too, pausing after each line as if he’s reciting the preamble to the Constitution for the first time. This is when I start getting annoyed with what Kanye’s doing here, it’s not at all pleasant to listen to.
“Don C said she cool, but don’t let her fuck ya C.R.E.A.M up/
Monica Lewinsky on the dress she’ll take ya to the cleaners”
The lines are just far too long, on every single bar it’s like he’s giving a doting monologue about a groupie he let play him. Give it a rest man, that Monica Lewinsky bar is a joke too. More unnecessary syllables! The line barely even make any fucking sense, it’s a double entendre where neither entendre is interesting or funny at all. While we’re at it, nobody cares about Don C; I’m sure he’s a cool guy and a talented designer but invoking him adds nothing to this sorry ass verse.
“Sure enough a week later I’m in extra love/
And everybody knew she mine, so she extra plug”
“Johnny and Sally sittin’ in a tree” ass bars. This is like if Rupi Kapur was ghostwriting for Troy Ave. The tone change here pissed me off too, we don’t even know if Arya likes him before he talks about being in love and switching his flow to pivot chapters of this aimless story he’s telling us. Love and plug also don’t rhyme well, and he does just enough to tell you he’s trying to rhyme without actually making it sound good.
“Every bouncer, every club, show her extra love/
We just prayin’ the new fame don’t get the best of us”
Aside from rhyming “extra love” with “extra love” two lines later, this is mostly fine. There’s even a mildly substantive musing about the trappings of fame! He still doesn’t really rhyme, still hasn’t rhymed once the whole song. This is the last tolerable line in the whole song, the following is the worst ending to a rap verse I’ve ever heard.
“But all good things gotta come to a end/
She let it go to her head, ‘No, not my Arya!’”
I hope you’ve listened to the verse before reading this, or while you’ve been reading it. If not, go listen right now. Ok, done? Good, soooooo WHY DOES HE SAY ‘END’ LIKE THAT????? I’m furious thinking about it. It’s like “eeeena” or “aynaa” or even “eaynuh”. Nobody in any setting has ever said “end” like that, and if you’re going to change the way a word sounds (mansion/Wisconsin) at least make it funny or interesting. Let us in on the joke! It wasn’t even a hard word to rhyme! I’d wager at least twenty letters have obvious rhymes with “end”. The worst part, IT STILL DIDN’T RHYME!!! How do you stretch an easy word that far and still fuck up the rhyming part. Eena/Aena/Ayna to Arya, come the FUCK on bro! I’m so fucking mad right now. On top of that god awful rhyme, he went from vetting this girl, to being in love, to the relationship flaming out in like three bars. And not in a creative way either, somehow he spent too much and not enough time on each stage of the relationship. Also, what is that corny ass quote anyway? “No, not my Arya!” man what are you talking about?? Nobody talks like that, maybe parents say that to a principal when their kid shoves someone into a locker at school, but who the fuck says it otherwise? All those verbal gymnastics for some of the most garbage writing I’ve ever seen in rap, fuck Build The Wall Blueface forever.
“The height of her shoppin’ was writers blockin’ me/
I couldn’t get my shit out anyway ‘I HOPE YOU DIE, ARYA!!!’”
I got a lot of my rage out during the last paragraph, but luckily there’s still plenty left for what is unquestionably the worst rap bar I’ve ever heard. We can ignore the first line, for now. It’s absolutely stupid as hell and deserves some heat, but that’s not where my beef is. That last line, that’s how he FINISHED the verse. He had this grand, lead single guest verse and decided the best way to finish it was with laxative lyrics, a diarrhea diatribe, a shit serenade, a stool stanza, a dookie decree, a fecal fiat, BM bars, a defecation declaration, you get it. I’m not as mad at this line as I was the last one, it’s worse to be sure but it’s at least hilariously bad. He went for it, I’ll give him that, but he swung and missed by a mile while pretending he hit a homer. I know he centered all of his writing around this last bar. How, you ask? You ever hear someone tell a joke that rushes to the punchline? The punchline could be great and the joke could still work but it loses some luster because of the delivery. Well in this case the delivery was awful and the punchline was somehow much, much worse. Look, any line regarding violent fits of shitting is gonna draw my ire, so maybe I’m biased but how can anyone hear that and say “damn, that’s heat!!”? And the vitriol he delivers the line with, it’s performative but not entertaining, which is about the worst thing you can be, and it’s also a woman he’s in love with that he’s wishing death on because she’s spending too much of his money, extremely chill and normal behavior.
Bootstraps Beanie Siegel never answered for why he did this, nobody ever checked him on the worst verse of all time because it was the same year as MBDTF which wiped his slate totally clean. That’s fair, but I won’t let this stupid piece of bullshit get lost to history, it sucks ass and it now has the distinct honor of being named the worst rap verse of all-time by yours truly. I doubt Keep America Great Kevin Gates cares at all about a decade-old rap verse on a lead single for his then-biggest artists’ second album, but I do. And I know Cudi had to, although he’s known for dropping some trash himself. Kanye’s been in the song-sabotage business a few times, just ask Pusha T, Nas, Big Sean, Lil Pump, Schoolboy Q, Vic Mensa, YNW Melly, Travis Scott, and John Legend. Never let Kanye touch a microphone again, not because of MAGA censorship or anything like that, but because he stopped making interesting, decent music years ago and has been wasting our time making up for his dwindling talent with overdone PR stunts. We’re good now big dog, enjoy your billions you fucking weirdo.