Rappers do love to show off. Boasting and putting your opponent down have been key parts of the DNA of hip hop since the street-level spoken-word insult competitions - known as the dozens, or snap-battles - that informed the form from its earliest days.

That said, not every brag is designed to overwhelm. Some are deliberately mild, to make the rapper look charming and down-to-earth; some are self-deprecating and funny, a knowingly daft alternative to all that preposterousness; and some aim to scorch, but just miss their target.

Tinie Tempah - Pass Out

I got so many clothes I keep some in my aunt's house

To set the tone, here's a boast that is both mild and perfect. Tinie Tempah's first hit is so cocksure, his boasts don't have to think big to hit their mark. Oh sure, he can brag "soon I'll be the king like Prince Charles' child" as well as any rapper, but he also throws in a few self-effacing one-liners such as, "I been Southampton but I've never been to Scunthorpe," or, "I'm 'bout to be a bigger star than my mum thought," just to prove he has both feet on the ground. Best of all is this all-too-likely claim to have already outgrown his own bedroom

"I got so many clothes I keep some in my aunt's house," could mean there's an entire wing of Tinie's threads and box-freshest trainers at Auntie Tempah's mansion, but it might also refer to the bag of washing he left in her spare room.

I got so many clothes I keep some in my aunt's house

Beastie Boys - Puttin' Shame In Your Game

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I'm the king of Boggle there is none higher / I get 11 points off the word 'quagmire'

Run-D.M.C. opened their barnstorming call to arms King of Rock with the lines, "I'm the king of rock, there is none higher / Sucker MCs should call me sire," a couplet which acted as a battering ram to the citadel of rock and pop music in 1985. As a boast, it's about as far from mild as it's possible to get. The song also contained the slightly puzzling claim that, "There's three of us but we're not The Beatles," which only makes sense if you consider that the song was released after the death of John Lennon, when there were indeed three surviving Beatles still in action.

In any case, that iconic opening was later spoofed brilliantly by Beastie Boys in their 1998 Puttin' Shame In Your Game, in which Ad Rock claims, "Well, I'm the king of Boggle there is none higher / I get 11 points off the word 'quagmire'," as indeed he would with any word of more than seven letters.

I'm the king of Boggle there is none higher / I get 11 points off the word 'quagmire'

Jay-Z - Mr Carter

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I see euros, that's right: plural

No one is above feeling a little peer pressure from time to time, so when Jay-Z turns up to offer a guest rap on a Lil Wayne track, emotions are going to be running high. This may be the reason why his usual flawless braggadocio lets him down a little bit in his contribution to Wayne's Mr Carter. Seeking to impress, he points out, "I'm so fly I'm on auto-pilot," and even, "My name's being mentioned with the martyrs / The Biggies and the Pacs and the Marleys and the Marcuses," which is all perfectly normal grist to the rap mill.

Then, when his thoughts turn to money, he says something that sounds like it should be impressive but doesn't quite pass muster: "I see euros, that's right: plural." He thinks he's saying he's got a colossal wodge of foreign cash, but it sounds more like he found a couple of coins on a ferry to La Rochelle and now he can afford to get some chocolate from a vending machine.

I see euros, that's right: plural

Skepta - Man

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Dressed like I just come from PE / You're dressed like you just come from church

One of Skepta's principal skills as a grime artist is explaining to someone not as wonderful as he is, that they are deluded in thinking they are on the same level. In Man, it's commonly assumed that he's having a pop at Dizzee Rascal, with lines such as: "I used to rate your page on MySpace but you never stayed on track."

A little later on, his thoughts turn to sartorial matters, and in order to fully undercut his rival, he exposes a difference in their respective fashion choices, claiming that he is "dressed like I just come from PE" and "you're dressed like you just come from church", neither of which sound particularly great or terrible and, let's be honest, the thought of a sweaty Skepta in his games kit is by far the more distracting image.

Dressed like I just come from PE / You're dressed like you just come from church

Drake - Headlines

Tuck my napkin in my shirt 'cause I'm just mobbin' like that

Headlines is a song about taking stock of bad habits and looking to make a change, a situation Drake seems to acknowledge in the opening couplet, in which he admits, "I might be too strung out on compliments / Overdosed on confidence," before detailing how he has fallen from his own high expectations of himself. All of which makes this odd little detail all the more endearing. Taking time out from castigating himself for getting drunk on his own hype, Drake idly notes that he still knows how to eat properly, saying, "Tuck my napkin in my shirt 'cause I'm just mobbin' like that."

It's a sweet way to say he might occasionally fall prey to the monstrous excesses of ego, but he still knows how to eat spaghetti without spraying his clothes with sauce.

Tuck my napkin in my shirt 'cause I'm just mobbin' like that

French Montana - Don't Panic

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If you a star, I'm a whole planet

French Montana does not seem like the type of person to deliberately undersell his achievements, so it's probably safe to assume that if his boasts occasionally appear to be on the milder side of outrageous, it's an accident. For example, In Ain't Worried About Nothin' he claims, "That gun automatic / My car automatic," without bothering to make it clear if he's talking about a self-driving car or the transmission in his Ford Focus. One is more impressive than the other.

But his finest moment of what we should really call fumblebragging occurs in Don't Panic, where, in order to impress a rival as to the magnitude of his excellence, he claims, "If you a star, I'm a whole planet." Which sounds impressive until you realise that stars are an awful lot bigger than planets. It's like trying to score points by claiming, "If you're a Ferrari, I'm a whole shoe."

If you a star, I'm a whole planet

PJ and Duncan - Let's Get Ready to Rhumble

So many lyrics, we're frightened to use 'em

PJ & Duncan (the young Ant & Dec) have a problem. They're simply too good at lyrics. In the middle of their cartoonish rave-rap pop masterpiece Let's Get Ready to Rhumble discussion falls to the problems they have dealing with the surplus of ideas. They've got "so many lyrics" they "keep them in stores". Granted, nowadays that colossal archive will have been digitised and reduced to a zipdrive, but this was 1994. Then we discover that they have "even got them coming out of our pores", which just sounds unpleasant.

Small wonder they opened the debate with the mournful wail that they have, "So many lyrics, we're frightened to use 'em," as if moving just one rhyming couplet would be enough to bring about the collapse of their carefully filed poetic empire, crushing them both in an unending torrent of cascading verbiage. Rap is a dangerous business.

So many lyrics, we're frightened to use 'em

Redman - 5 Boroughs

My paragraph alone is worth five mics / A 12-song LP, that's 36 mics

5 Boroughs is a song by KRS-One that pays tribute to the rappers of New York. Or, more specifically it's a song in which 10 rappers from New York are invited to pay tribute to themselves and the city in which their musical form was born. One of the rappers present is Redman, who issues a splenetic verse that has a curious maths problem embedded in two of its lines.

"My paragraph alone is worth five mics," he begins, adding, "A 12-song LP, that's 36 mics." So, if he uses three mics per song - assuming there are no skits or instrumentals padding out the tracklisting - a paragraph must equal one and two-fifths of a song. Which sounds a bit less impressive once you've worked it all out.

My paragraph alone is worth five mics / A 12-song LP, that's 36 mics

Will Smith - Gettin' Jiggy Wit It

Ciga-cigar right from Cuba-Cuba / I just bite it / It's for the look / I don't light it

Will Smith can be proud of the outrageous size of some of his boasts. In Boom! Shake the Room, for example he claimed that "many" had died - actually DIED - attempting to "stop my show", a line which is as preposterous as it is fantastic. But it's Gettin' Jiggy Wit It that contains his least impressive, but most responsible claim to fame.

He claims to have a "ciga-cigar right from Cuba-Cuba", but then adds, "I just bite it / It's for the look / I don't light it," as if afraid of a stern word from his mum. It's a clear contravention of the club's fire safety policies anyway.

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Ciga-cigar right from Cuba-Cuba / I just bite it / It's for the look / I don't light it

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