For more than two decades, Black Thought has been one of rap's superior MCs, taking lyricism to a higher level with each verse. As the tenured frontman for the legendary rap group The Roots, Black Thought has spent much of his career in the shadows, opting to let the music speak for itself. However, in recent years, the Philly-bred rhyme animal has become more accessible than ever, especially as The Roots has reigned late-night TV as the house band on The Tonight Show. All the while, Black Thought has continued to leave critics, fans and contemporaries in awe with his layered rhyme spills.

"The art of lyricism is now in its greatest decline," the 46-year-old rapper recently told NPR. "That's why it's like, somebody comes out and you drop some bars of substance, it's like it's amazing. It's like a unicorn... But I feel like the standard, like the bar right now, is particularly low. So I'm continually trying to raise the bar."

Black Thought looks to further solidify his standing as one of the all-time greats with Streams of Thought Vol. 1, the rapper's first project without his band of musical brothers. Produced by 9th Wonder and the Soul Council, Streams of Thought Vol. 1 has been long-craved by Black Thought's fans, making it one of the more anticipated releases of 2018. Boasting guest appearances from Rapsody, Styles P and Kirby, the album touts plenty of highlights from Black Thought that should keep it in heavy rotation.

After giving Black Thought and 9th Wonder's collaborative effort a few spins, XXL highlights 20 of the most ferocious and thought-provoking bars from Streams of Thought Vol. 1 that speak to Tariq Trotter's wizardry.

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    Black Thought

    "My granddaddy scored a plaid Donny Hathaways/Hustlin' for everything we had 'til he passed away/When I would ask about what path to take, he used to laugh and say/No man is an island but I'm a castaway/Casualties, I seen 'em like the French Foreign Legion/On the streets, they used to carry out what's our prestigious/In jean jackets and Jabbar Adidas/Back when local R&B was just as soulful as orthopedics" —Black Thought