Each episode in season one is titled after a Gang Starr song.
Luke's adherence to Gosh Darn It to Heck! and use of a swear jar is an homage to Prince, who was similarly adverse to swearing in public and even fined people who cursed at his shows. Reportedly, this was part of a bid to get Prince himself to cameo on the show, but he died before the producers could contact him.
In the first episode, it's established that Luke has a blind friend/early warning system who runs a newsstand and tips him off when Connie will pressure him for his rent money. That is exactly the kind of relationship that Shaft and Marty have.
In one episode, Luke can be seen reading a copy of Little Green: An Easy Rawlins Mystery by Walter Mosley.
Luke's walk through Crispus Attucks while casually shrugging off gunfire from multiple shooters is a nod to the police station massacre from The Terminator. This is the second time that particular massacre has been referenced in the Netflix shows, the first being Karen Page and Grotto's escape from the Punisher at the hospital in the season 2 premiere of Daredevil (2015), released earlier in the year.
After Willis Stryker takes out the ambulance transporting Luke, he taunts Luke with The Warriors quotes like "Can you dig it?" and "Caaaarl! Come out and plaaaay!" Luke identifies the movie and realizes Stryker's identity because of it.
When Luke confronts two thugs in a parking lot, he calls them "Plug One" and "Plug Two," the names of two members of the group De La Soul.
Shades responds to Willis Stryker's decision to take Harlem's Paradise hostage by saying, "Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis?". Willis replies that it's not the time for jokes.
Harlem's Paradise itself is a reference to Smalls Paradise, a former nightclub that was established in 1925 by Ed Smalls and known in its day for being the only Harlem club that was integrated and owned by an African American. The name is also a nod to the 1939 musical film Paradise in Harlem, which centered around an actor who sees a mob execution and gets run out of town. In Season 2, it's established that Buggy Stokes and Quincy McIver worked as dishwashers at Small's Paradise, so it's likely that they named Harlem's Paradise after it.
Bobby Fish's name is a play on Bobby Fischer, another chess player. Turk even points it out.
The end of Luke and Misty's last scene in Season 2 is almost shot-for-shot from the ending of The Godfather, with Luke as Michael Corleone and Misty as Michael's wife. Misty's outside the room, watching as someone whispers something sensitive into Luke's ear, and another of Luke's men closes the door on her, slowly but inevitably shutting her out from this part of his life.
In the second season finale, D.W. accuses Luke of being up to "Hyman Roth shit," referencing the gangster from The Godfather Part II
A late-episode sequence in which a brooding Luke Cage walks down the street and seems to glide across the pavement while mournful music plays is an apparent homage to a very similar sequence on Malcolm X.
The sequence where the Asian gang attacks en masse while Dual Wielding hatchets is a reference to the Axe Gang, a real historic Chinese gang that has been portrayed in such a way by numerous kung fu films.
Tilda drops the name of numerous black musicians at Cottomouth's grave.