We used to fight for building blocks
Now we fight for blocks with buildings that make a killing

from Jay Z – D'Evils Lyrics on Rap Genius

Meaning

The “building blocks” here have multiple meanings here.

First off, when the narrator and his friend were only kids, they used to just play games with stacking blocks.

Then as they both became heavy in the drug game, they started to search for the “building blocks” with which to build their empires on. This would include where they set up, how much money they had to invest, and of course the drugs themselves.

This progressed to literally “building blocks” meaning city blocks. He has gone from trying to build up his wealth to literally controlling buildings. But this creates conflict with his former friend, who also wants to set up at these buildings, to make a “killing”. Since the building block being controlled is so profitable it leads to many turf wars over control.

As a whole, this line frames the rest of Verse 2. It describes the origins of his relationship with a friend that he grew up with in the drug game that eventually becomes a bitter enemy of his. It also serves as a metaphor for Jay’s rise in the rap game from Hawaiian Sophie to Reasonable Doubt.


In a Reasonable Doubt documentary, Jay describes this line, saying:

“When we was young fighting for those little building blocks, now we fighting for blocks with buildings. Like “I own that block”, you know? And the irony in that, you know, we grew up together so we learnt things together we learnt about our first jump shot, and our first time we rode a bike, and the first time we learned how to use a condom”

It’s here: go to 27:45. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXfgKbp9ncQ

Jay also calls this track “one of his favorite songs ever”.

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