Decoding Rap Lyrics from The Blueprint 3


Understand Rap is like Urban Dictionary, but for exclusively for rap lyrics. As they explain on their about page,

“Since music is an art form, lyrics are open to interpretation. Therefore, multiple explanations for lyrics from different perspectives are encouraged. With a greater understanding of lyrics, the genre as a whole can grow and be appreciated and accepted by people all over the world who like the music they hear but are confused or curious because they just don’t understand rap.”

After the jump we’ve rounded up some of our favorite Blueprint 3-related explanations for your edification. Let us know if you agree with what they’ve come up with in the comments.

“Empire State of Mind” The lyric: “I be Spiked out, I could trip a referee” ytaudio(0UjsXo9l6I8)

The explanation: “Spiked out” means sitting in the front row at a New York Knicks basketball game, since movie director Spike Lee is always sitting court-side at Knicks games (so close to the game he could trip a referee if he stuck his leg out — good expensive seats).

“Run This Town” The lyric: “should throw they hand in ’cause they ain’t got no spades” ytaudio(yVA-xTBeHyM)

The explanation: Jay-Z is not directly referring to the card game Spades, but instead the champagne Armand de Brignac Brut Gold which has a golden spade on the label. The other table is not spending cake and can’t afford to buy it, hence they should give up or stop trying.


For those who have never been to prison (lol), in the game Spades if you and your partner are dealt no spades all hands are thrown in and the cards are re-dealt. It is in reference to other emcees giving up.

“What We Talkin’ About” The lyric: “all teary-eyed ’bout to take it to a mattress” ytaudio(9f6R7QQraDk)

The explanation: References The Godfather, which means to set up mattresses for foot soldiers to sleep on in a hideout before getting the call to go to war.


He’s talking about these tough guys broken down, crying themselves to sleep.

“D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” The lyric: “jeans too tight, your colors too bright, your voice too light” ytaudio(8z13AjI8n4I)

The explanation: He’s talking about this hipster movement, which is just wack. Young urban males and females dressing like it’s 1983, bright colors, skinny jeans. “Can’t wear skinny jeans cause my knots don’t fit.”


Jay-Z is decrying proponents of the “Jerking” movement for wearing skinny jeans with bright colored clothing and rapping with high voices.

“Thank You” The lyric: “I put 8 balls in corners without using pool sticks” ytaudio(kLlJsW2kXd8)

The explanation: To put an 8 ball in a corner pocket of a pool table is a reference to playing pool/billiards. Jay Z is saying that he doesn’t need a pool stick because he doesn’t play pool. However, he still puts 8 balls (quantities of cocaine/crack) on street corners.