Hip Hop and Rap stars may live on a different plane that the common man. Bugattis in the driveway and millions in the bank certainly aren’t applicable to my lifestyle. If you aren’t a fan of the genre you may not be aware that the majority of these rappers come from the humblest of beginnings. I enjoy the broadest range of music imaginable, from metal to classical but rap comprises a large portion of my listening. Here are five young rappers whose lyrics about the struggle to break through hard times motivate me every day to stay in pursuit of the things I want most.
1. Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover)
I have to place Childish at the top of the totem pole right now. His last three albums have been exceptional both lyrically and through the sense of heart he has put into each of them. Childish often speaks about how difficult it has been to break into rap after being a comedian first, and the struggles he faces by not fitting the stereotype of what a “young black rapper” should be. He has been written off, laughed at, and mocked but has endured and managed to put out some of the truest music I have ever heard.
Excerpt from: “Bonfire” from the album “Camp”
“Yeah they said they want the realness, rap about my real life
Told me I should just quit: ‘First of all you talk white!
Second off you talk like you haven’t given up yet’
Raps stepfather, yeah, you hate me but you will respect.”
2. G Eazy
I ran into this artist recently and really enjoyed his samples of classic songs from the 60’s such as “Runaround Sue”. G Eazy certainly has a different style but his positivity and keep working attitude seem to drive his songs past the typical head nodding surface enjoyment. The lyrics in this verse really sum up his spirit, never settling for less than the dream and always putting his friends and family first.
Excerpt from: “Been On”
“Dropping opportunities I’m picking up a different call,
Holding out for bigger checks to lift us all,
Never kept a safety net to catch us even if I fall,
Rather risk it all than play it safe,
You like to sprinkle salt and player hate,
My team can eat, I’ll share a plate.”
Probably the most well known rapper on this list Drake is infamous for his emotional style and saying things that most other artists couldn’t get away with. His latest album, “Nothing Was The Same” has a few songs that deal specifically with the time before Drake was famous. As I stated before, I certainly can’t relate to his current playboy lifestyle but I can connect with his early years where uncertainty and fear of failure plagued him constantly. It is inspiring that someone as successful as Drake was once afraid that no one would show up for one of his shows. In this verse he worries about one of his first shows at Warehouse Live in Houston, Tx near the early stages of his rap career. P.S. the venue sold out.
Excerpt from: “Too Much” from the album “Nothing Was The Same”
“Backstage at Warehouse in ’09 like ‘Is Bun coming?
Fuck that, is anyone coming before I show up there and there’s no one there?’
These days, I probably pack it for like twenty nights if I go in there”
4. J. Cole
While only on his sophomore album J. Cole has already established a powerful presence in the rap scene. Much like the other artists on this list he is able to differentiate himself from his peers by rapping about real issues he has to face as a powerful, rich, young man. Many of his songs deal with his fear of becoming a womanizer like his father, his difficult trying to cope with his launch into fame, and the obstacles he had to face to rise in the rap game. Here is one of my favorite verses where he speaks about how he gave his mixtape to Jay-Z who rejected it, but Cole persisted and in a year was signed to Jay’s recording company.
Excerpt from: “Viluminati” from the album “Born Sinner”
“Trying to get HOV (Jay-Z) to fuck with me,
With a burned CD full of jams that was up in my hand
When he said he didn’t want it
It was, fuck him again
One day, he gon’ regret playing me
Little did I know
In a year he’d be fucking paying me”
5. Mac Miller
It wouldn’t be difficult to convince any listener that Mac Miller has the soul of optimist and the happy go lucky demeanor of a kid… his motto is “Thumbs Up” after all. A young rapper from Pittsburgh Mac Miller had a tough time breaking into the rap scene but after the release of his album KIDS on myspace the young artist exploded into popularity almost overnight. His fresh style, lyrical wordplay, and ever positive attitude really reaches to anyone in a trying time and reinforces the idea that hard work and a true soul can take you anywhere.
Excerpt from: “Best Day Ever” from the album “Best Day Ever”
“No matter where life takes me, find me with a smile
Pursuit to be happy only laughing like a child
I never thought life would be this sweet
It got me cheesing from cheek to cheek
And I ain’t get away for nothing cause that just ain’t my style
Life couldn’t get better, this gon’ be the best day ever”