The game's fucked up
Nigga's beats is bangin', nigga your hooks did it
Your lyrics didn't, your gangsta look did it

from Jay Z – The Prelude Lyrics on Rap Genius

Meaning

An example of criticism of the rap game “from within hip hop’s borders”

As referenced in Michael Eric Dyson’s Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip Hop, where he discusses the differences between criticism of hip-hop critics versus those who represent the art form themselves, Jay-Z reflects on the rap game during his “retirement” stint. To him, some rappers were releasing some real garbage: all beat, no rhyme. Dudes got the idea that a crunk beat, repeating some phrase, and some mean-mugging was all it took.

The [distinction rappers have in their criticisms of rap music over rap critics outside of the industry] is the balance and the historical memory at work in the best musical and literary commentary on the culture. (Intro, page xxiv)

To help improve the meaning of these lyrics, visit “The Prelude” by Jay Z Lyrics and leave a comment on the lyrics box