Remembering Fred the Godson, the Pioneer of Punchlines

The Bronx rapper died from complications due to coronavirus on April 23. His writing was unlike any other MC, bar none.
28 April 2020, 2:26am
Fred the Godson Freestyle on Hot 97
Screenshot via Hot 97 YouTube

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

A popular rhetorical technique in rap is to pause and admire one's own work mid-verse. This flourish often seems needlessly indulgent, a way to underline a metaphor that the listener probably understood the first time. When Fred the Godson did it, it actually felt necessary. He even said as much himself, saying, "I'm too deep for the listener, they missin' a win/They feel I'm in they top list/Once they listen again, I'm him" in "Talking About Money" from his 2011 project City of God.

Fred the Godson, born Frederick Thomas, died from complications due to coronavirus on April 23, 2020. If you aren't familiar with his wordplay, the Bronx rapper suggests you might've heard his work elsewhere. "My studio's a haunted house the way I'm doing all this ghostwriting," he said on "What You Scared Of?" On his guest verse on Vado's Fortnite, he alluded to a freelance career once again. "Your favorite rappers, they know me / they probably took some of 'God bars, they owe me."

Known for his punchlines, Fred's voice had a faint tremble, like he was going to chuckle mid-bar. And sometimes he did. His verses often reference hustling, and appear to be inspired by his real life. "I never had a day job, man. God is good," he said in an interview with The Breakfast Club, before cracking a smile and looking at the camera.

His writing was remarkable not just in originality and wit, but his sense of humor. His punchlines really were actually punchlines. In a video where Fred the Godson performs for Busta Rhymes in the studio, he caps his verse with "I'm so ahead of my time, I'm babysitting my mother." Busta hits the engineering board to pause the track, repeats the line, and both rappers double over in laughter. Another time, while on Sway in the Morning, Fred spit, "I need a priest, I just had sex with my ex's sis" causing Sway to crack up, and fellow emcee Problem throws his mic on the table.

Fred the Godson's discography spans more than a decade, with features ranging from Kool G Rap to Fat Joe to Waka Flocka. In honor of an incredible emcee and prolific writer, we've provided a small sample of our favorite Fred the Godson punchlines.

"I don't eat pork / I don't even like money with Abraham on it"
-Genesis, Gordo

"They know I rhyme well / these A&Rs are comedians like Jerry / 'cause everything they sign fail"
-Intro, Fat Boy Fresh

"I'm on the celly flowin' / tell Beyonce my punch lines have Kelly rollin"
-So Crazy

"I buy cars, right, it's no secret / but you like Nas wife, you Kelis it"
-So What Cha Sayin Freestyle

"You mistaken me, I put an end to ya / guns Taken 3 / Forest Whittaker"
-2016 Sway freestyle

"The D's on our heels, and we still let o's go / heels, notice I said stiletto / steel, long-nose, Gepetto"
"Can't tell what I might spit / Like Pippen in Salt Lake City / I carry the mic sick"
-2017 Funk Flex Freestyle

"Rs throw on a track and then Fred speak / Best father in the world / I still dead beats"
- GG Intro (No Smoke) from "Gorilla Glue"

"I was the man who planned to cuff it up / but you had dicks on the ceiling, you fucked it up"
-Monique's Room

"They spit bars son, rarely / MTV, I'ma different car, son, daily"
-Sway freestyle

Fred the Godson's catalog can't be captured with a small sampling of punchlines, and his work should be appreciated in full form. As a father of two, his verses are not only inspiration for emcees and comedy writers, but they are also technically God-level dad jokes. A March 2020 interview with The Source, Fred the Godson said he'd planned to flood the market with new music this year. The hip-hop community has shown love to the late emcee's family, from Nas to Jadakiss to Juicy J. In his memorial post for Fred the Godson, Fat Joe, who called Fred his "little brother," posted, "Maybe now the world will pay attention to your greatness."