Jay-Z is a rapper, record producer and entrepreneur from Brooklyn, New York City. In addition to being one of the most talented and best-selling MCs in the world, Jay-Z is also one of the most financially successful hip-hop artists. He owns several companies and was even the former CEO of Def Jam Recordings. In 1998, Jay-Z released “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” on his third album, and it became a Top 10 hit in several countries. In this song, Jay-Z discusses his rags-to-riches life story.
It’s the hard knock life for us
It’s the hard knock life for us!
Instead of treated, we get tricked
Instead of kisses, we get kicked
It’s the hard knock life!
Vocabulary: Rags to Riches
- hard knock life / school of hard knocks (phrase) – a difficult life, usually surrounded in poverty and crime. Jay-Z comes from the school of hard knocks. His songs are geniune, and he actually experienced everything he sings about.
- from rags to riches (idiom) – from being extremely poor to being extremely rich. Jay-Z went from rags to riches. He grew up in some tough neighborhoods in Brooklyn, but now he’s very wealthy and doesn’t have the same problems.
- the hottest (superlative adjective) – the coolest; the best. Jay-Z used to stand on the street corner selling drugs, but now he is driving some of the hottest cars in New York.
- dope (slang, noun) – illegal drugs, especially narcotics. Jay-Z used to have a gun when he waited in the dope spot. Problems occurred all the time on the streets.
- nightmare (noun) – a scary dream; a dream that is freightening and unpleasant. Jay-Z had nightmares of going to prison, but he doesn’t worry about that anymore.
- stick up (phrasal verb) – to steal with a gun, especially a bank.
- split it 50/50 (expression) – to share and divide something equally. If we start a business together, we will split the profits 50/50.
- dough (slang, noun) – money.
- locked down (slang, adjective) – to be in jail, prison. Jay-Z dedicates his music to people who are locked down in small rooms.
- take over (phrasal verb) – to become bigger and more important than something else; to replace something.
- be on top (expression) – to be very successful. Jay-Z had a hard and difficult life, but he’s on top today.
- stay on your toes (idiom) – to be ready and prepared for anything. If you live a life of crime on the streets, you must stay on your toes in order to survive.
- have beef (slang, verb) – to have problems or a disagreement with another person. Why are they fighting? Do they have some beef or something?
- hustle (verb) – to sell something illegally, usually drugs.
- come out (phrasal verb) – to be produced or published. People did not appreciate Jay-Z’s music until his second album came out.
Is it possible to go from rags to riches? What is the secret to success? Do you have to work hard to be successful? Do you need good luck to be successful? If you went from rags to riches, how would you live? Would you buy fancy cars and big houses, or would you save your money? Please write your comments below!