Rap songs are often misinterpreted to be filthy and degrading. And due to the growing pop culture rap songs have become a pop phenomenon rather than what it originally represented.
It’s been 46 years that the world has been introduced to rap music.
From police brutality, violence, drug abuse, to sex, women, and partying, hip-hop music can relate to anything.
And as I said, rap music today is heavily influenced by pop culture. Thus record sales mean so much more than the message it conveys.
However, rap music isn’t just about rappers talking about twerking in the club, buying expensive things, having sex with multiple partners, and throwing cash like water.
There are rap songs that paint really beautiful stories and rappers express it in such a way that the listeners get sold on the idea.
After all, real rap is all about telling a story and taking the listeners on a journey like no other.
Here are 10 greatest stories told through rap songs.
Stan – Eminem ft. Dido.
Eminem is one of the greatest names in hip-hop and is one of the most successful artists of all time.
And when he released his album The Marshall Mathers LP he proved why.
While the whole album is critically acclaimed, one song, in particular, showcases Shady’s storytelling abilities. The song in question is “Stan”.
It samples the verse from Dido’s hit “Thank You,” and features the singer herself.
The song paints the picture of a young fan who is obsessed with the rapper and takes everything he raps about literally.
He writes letters to Eminem and hopes to meet him and live with him someday. And he even calls himself Shady’s biggest fan.
Things get out of hand as he doesn’t hear back from the rapper even after sending multiple letters.
So, he ends up killing himself along with his pregnant girlfriend at the end.
Released in 2000, the song became so popular that the word “Stan” was even entered into the Oxford Dictionary.
It is described as “an overzealous or obsessive fan of a particular celebrity.”
According to Eminem, “Stan” is portmanteau of “stalker” and “fan”.
Runaway Love – Ludacris ft. Mary J. Blige.
Ludacris is mostly known for his groovy south-style tracks and party anthems like “Move” and “Get Back”.
But his 2006 album Release Therapy showed that he’s not just a one-trick pony.
And one of the most striking songs from the album is “Runaway Love” ft. Mary J. Blige.
This song tells stories of three different girls, Lisa, Nicole, and Erica.
The first verse is about nine-year-old Lisa who lives with a drugged-out mother who brings home different men every night. Lisa gets abused by one of the men and when she confronts her mother she doesn’t believe her.
She then decides to pack her bags and leave.
The second verse talks about the struggles of a 10-year-old girl Nicole who is physically abused by her alcoholic father on a regular.
She later finds a friend named Stacy and they have a really good bond together.
Unfortunately, Stacy gets shot in a drive-by shooting and dies. Nicole gets frustrated by everything and decides to run away.
And finally, the third verse is about an 11-year-old girl Erica who falls in love with a 16-year-old boy.
The two have unprotected sex that leaves Erica pregnant.
The boy bails out and with no money, she cannot afford an abortion.
Thus, Erica too decides to run away from her home.
Children’s Story – Slick Rick.
Slick Rick made a name for himself with an amazing flow and storytelling abilities during the ’80s and the ’90s.
Even though his songs were hardcore rap, his flow that is true to his name made it more soothing.
And in his 1988 album The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, Slick shares a slick bedtime story to children.
The song “Children’s Story” is actually a cautionary tale for the children.
It depicts the story of two kids who are friends.
And in order to make some money, the two of them decide to rob someone.
Among the two, one of the kind gets hooked to robbing as he keeps on making money.
He robs everyone he could find and one day ends up robbing an undercover D.T. agent.
He gets chased around by the cops all around the town after pulling out a gun on the cop.
The police finally gun him down and shoot him after a long and hard chase.
Slick Rick, through the song, tries to warn children not to rob people and take a negative turn in life, or you’ll end up dead.
Duckworth – Kendrick Lamar.
Kendrick Lamar has won millions of hearts worldwide thanks to his critically acclaimed and classic albums and also amazing music.
You can’t argue the fact that he is one of the greatest rappers of this generation.
And he perfectly displays his storytelling abilities in his albums.
While most of his songs tell stories about fictional characters, one song is based on a true event.
“DUCKWORTH” from his album DAMN depicts a story of two of the closest people in his life, his father and Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith.
Top Dawg is the man that signed him and his crew Black Hippy on his record label Top Dawg Entertainment.
And the story is about the time when Top Dawg was hustling in the streets and planned to rob a local KFC for the second time.
He was a well-respected hustler and an employee with the nick-name Ducky had a whiff of what’s about to happen.
Therefore, in order to keep Anthony from robbing, he decided to give him free chicken with two extra biscuits every time Anthony came around.
Anthony ended up liking Ducky and didn’t rob the place.
This was a huge step for both of their future as Ducky was Kendrick Lamar’s father. And if Top Dawg would’ve killed Ducky that day, he would be serving time in jail and Kendrick would grow up without a father.
And the worst thing, there wouldn’t be Top Dawg Entertainment or Kendrick Lamar.
Lost One – Jay-Z ft. Chrisette Michele.
Jay-Z hung up the mic and announced his retirement after the release of The Black Album.
But in 2006, he returned to the rap scene with a comeback album Kingdom Come.
It wasn’t as critically well-received as his previous projects. But there was one song that perfectly showcased his storytelling abilities and lyricism.
“Lost One” ft. Chrisette Michele tells three different stories in Jay-Z’s life.
The first verse is about how his business partners turned on him and broke his trust.
The second verse tells the story of his relationship with his then-girlfriend Beyonce and how hard it is maintaining it.
And finally, the third verse is about the death of his nephew and how he partly blames himself for the loss.
The song beautifully tells all the stories from Hova’s perspective and shows the vulnerable side of the rapper. Something we get to see in his album 4:44 after a long time.
Morals and Standards – Mac Dre.
Gangster rap was alive and well even in the 2000s thanks to artists like Nate Dogg, Dr. Dre and whatnot.
And when Mac Dre released his album Al Boo Boo in 2003, it was a pure west coast pleasure.
The song “Morals and Standards” paints a perfect picture of how storytelling should be done in a rap song.
The track starts off with him giving out parental advisory and asking children to go to bed.
And thus, the storytelling begins.
In the song, Mac Dre tells the story of how he got locked up for drug possession. And in his cell, he meets a guy named Edgar.
The two become good friends and more than just cellmates.
Both share things about their families and their pictures. But little did Mac knew that Edgar wasn’t really his friend.
Edgar gets out of jail and goes to Mac’s house. He starts sleeping with Mac’s wife and playing with his children.
Mac gets out of jail on parole and finds out the truth.
Then, he decides to murder Edgar for disrespecting his morals and standards.
It was a Good Day – Ice Cube.
Today, Ice Cube might be known for his roles in family films. But there was a time when he was one of the hardest gangster rappers in the scene.
His songs were full of lyrics related to violence, drugs, and police brutality.
But in 1992 from the album The Predator, Ice Cube gave us a song we can bump into and feel good about.
“It was a Good Day” is a song where Ice Cube tells the story of how unexpectedly he had a good day.
It’s just a feel-good song coming out from a gangster rapper. But it perfectly paints how Cube would want to spend every day like.
Lost Ones – J. Cole.
Another greatest rappers of this generation, J. Cole has been making a buzz in the rap scene ever since he came out.
While his debut album wasn’t as successful as his recent albums, it still had some amazing songs.
“Lost Ones” particularly is a perfect example of great storytelling. And the better part is that the song is way older than his debut album.
The song is more of a dialogue between a couple who are way too young to be parents.
However, the girl gets pregnant and decides to tell her man.
Cole here raps about the perspective of both the male and female.
The man tries to explain how it’s not the right time to have babies as they’re both young. But the girl calls him a coward and decided to raise the child even if she has to do it alone.
The song beautifully depicts the emotions of people that go through the same situation.
Kick, Push – Lupe Fiasco.
Lupe Fiasco is one of the best technical rappers in the hip-hop scene. From starting out by appearing alongside Kanye West on “Touch the Sky” to come out with amazing albums, he deserves a lot of respect.
Especially when it comes to his technicalities and storytelling abilities.
And he showcased his storytelling abilities with his debut single “Kick, Push” off of his debut album Lupe Fiasco’s Food and Liquor.
This is a beautiful story of how a boy finds his passion.
It tells the story of a boy who gets his first skateboard at the age of six. He spends a lot of time practicing and honing his skills. But he felt like a loner while doing so.
As he got a little older found a girl that shared the same kind of love for skateboarding.
A little older and he got himself a crew and how he spends all his time skating with his friends.
But the problem he faced was how other people like his neighbors, the guards, and the police tried stopping him from following his passion.
Impossible – Wu-Tang Clan ft. Tekitha.
Wu-Tang Clan is one of the greatest hip-hop crews. And by coming out with amazing albums time and again, they’ve proven their worth.
And the best thing about them is that they’re equally good individually or within the crew.
Their 1997 album Wu-Tang Forever was a hip-hop gem. And the song “Impossible” ft. Tekitha showed us what they were really about.
Here, Wu tells us the story of how bad gun violence is and can be. More than a story, it’s actually a message and a warning to all the youth about the perils of gun violence.
And how quickly it can become deadly.
Ghostface Killah drops the most amazing verse out of everyone. Another member of the crew RZA even called it “the greatest Wu-Tang verse ever written”.