Hip Hop music was one of the best influences in my musical journey. With some genres like R&B and Rap music, the culture of expressing personal anecdotes and spitting with music was simply a thrill to explore. My early influences included 50 cents In da club going to back to old school with one of my all time favorites 2Pac, this type of music struck a chord with me.
One of my early interest of composing music mostly arose from my exposure to hip hop music. I think it was simply of the best platforms to not only talk about your achievements but also the struggles, the pain and the failures that one had to go through. Its easier for someone to talk about their good experiences but when artists like 2Pac, Biggie, Ice Cube, Eminem and others used words to express failures, it hit me in a fashion that I hadn’t experienced.
Suddenly, words like failures, struggles became positive words and experiences started to take a new turn. In the recent times, I was fortunate to meet a group of French folks who introduced me to some of the dopiest rappers spitting in French. It was simply amazing to see how different languages can bring about a new dimension in the most unexpected way. I have included some of the my favorite rap artists here and this section will keep growing.
Tupac Shakur was an American rapper and actor who came to embody the 1990s gangsta-rap aesthetic, and who in death became an icon symbolizing noble struggle. He has sold 75 million albums to date, making him one of the top-selling artists of all time.
Tupac began his music career as a rebel with a cause to articulate the travails and injustices endured by many African Americans. His skill in doing so made him a spokesperson not just for his own generation but for subsequent ones who continue to face the same struggle for equality.
In life, his biggest battle was sometimes with himself. As fate drove him towards the nihilism of gangsta rap, and into the arms of the controversial Death Row Records impresario Suge Knight, the boundaries between Shakur’s art and his life became increasingly blurred — with tragic consequences. Read more
The Notorious B.I.G.
Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls and the Notorious B.I.G., lived a short life. He was 24 years old when he was gunned down in 1997 in Los Angeles, a murder that has never been solved. Smalls was from New York and had almost single-handedly reinvented East Coast hip hop — overtaken in the early 1990s by the West Coast “g-funk” sound of Dr. Dre and Death Row Records.
With his clear, powerful baritone, effortless flow on the mic and willingness to address the vulnerability, as well as the harshness, of the hustler lifestyle, Smalls swung the spotlight back towards New York and his label home, Bad Boy Records. He styled himself as a gangster and although he was no angel, in reality he was more of a performer than a hardened criminal. In this regard, he was similar to Tupac Shakur, his one-time friend turned bitter rival — a contest that spiraled horrifyingly out of control leaving neither man alive to tell the tale. Read more
Born Andre Romelle Young, Dr. Dre came from a musical background. Both of his parents were singers. His mother, Verna, quit her group the Four Aces shortly before Dre was born. His middle name comes from one of the bands his father Theodore belonged to, the Romells.
After his parents split up, Dre lived with his mother, who remarried several times. They moved around frequently, and at one point lived at the Wilmington Arms housing project in the Compton area. At Centennial High School, Dre showed a talent for drafting, but he paid little attention to his other course work. He transferred to Fremont High School and then went to the Chester Adult School. But his interests didn’t lie in schoolwork—he wanted to make music.
Dre received a music mixer for Christmas in 1984 and soon turned his family’s home into his studio. For hours on end, he would work his magic, taking pieces of different songs and sounds to make his own sound. Read more
Chart-topping hip-hop artist Snoop Dogg was born Cordozar Calvin Broadus Jr. in Long Beach, California, on October 20, 1971. His nickname came from his mother because she thought he looked like Snoopy from the Peanuts cartoon. The musically inclined youngster played piano and sang at his local Baptist church, before starting rap in sixth grade.
After graduating high school, Snoop was arrested several times for drug possession and spent time in prison. He was also associated with the Rollin’ 20 Crips Gang. He started making music as a way out of his troubles and recorded early demos with his cousin Nate Dogg and friend Warren G as 213.
A track on one of these came to the attention of Dr. Dre, who invited Snoop — then rapping under the name Snoop Doggy Dogg — to audition. From there they collaborated on a song called “Deep Cover” for the soundtrack of a film of the same name; and Snoop became the key rapper on Dre’s hugely successful first solo album, The Chronic, in 1992. Read more
Ice Cube was born O’Shea Jackson on June 15, 1969, in South Central Los Angeles, California. Ice Cube was raised by his mother, Doris, who worked as a hospital clerk, while his father, Hosea, was a groundskeeper at the University of California, Los Angeles.
With a set of strong parents behind him, Cube was able to navigate the tricky landscape that was his neighborhood, which became increasingly shaped by drugs, guns and violence. Cube was a good student who was passionate about football and music.
When Cube reached his teens, his parents pulled him out of his local school and bussed him to a suburban high school in the San Fernando Valley. For the young Cube, who’d known little beyond the deteriorating South Central L.A., the affluence and stability that marked his new surroundings left a deep impression. He saw his hometown in a new light and wondered why the violence and drugs that were wreaking havoc on it weren’t generating more attention. Read more
Rapper, actor and music producer Eminem is one of the best-selling musicians of the 21st century and one of the most influential rappers of all time.
Born Marshall Bruce Mathers III in 1972 in Missouri, Eminem had a turbulent childhood. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade and worked odd jobs until finally making it as a rapper upon the release of The Slim Shady LP in early 1999. The album went multi-platinum, garnering Eminem two Grammy Awards and four MTV Video Music Awards.
In2000, Eminem released The Marshall Mathers LP, which was noted as the fastest-selling album in rap history. Two years later, he delivered the Academy Award-winning song “Lose Yourself,” from the semi-autobiographical drama 8 Mile.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013) also garnered numerous accolades, and the rapper later followed with Revival (2017), Kamikaze (2018) and Music to Be Murdered By (2020). Read more
50 Cent was born Curtis James Jackson III on July 6, 1975, in the borough of Queens in New York City. He was raised by a single mother in the neighborhood of Jamaica. His mom worked as a drug dealer and died in an unexplained fire when Jackson was only eight years old; after her death, he was raised by his grandmother.
Jackson had boyhood aspirations to be a boxer, and fought at the junior level, but began selling drugs when he was 12. At the age of 19, an undercover police officer arrested Jackson for selling four vials of cocaine and when his home was raided three weeks later, police found crack and heroin. Sentenced to three-to-nine years, he instead went to a boot camp and got his GED. At this time, he was already rapping and took on the name 50 Cent, which was the original moniker of a Brooklyn crook from the 1980s. Read more
Born Nasir Jones, in Queens, New York, on September 14, 1973, Nas is the son of jazz musician Olu Dara. He was raised in Queensbridge Houses — the largest public-housing project in America — where he wrote stories about his life growing up there. Despite his talent for writing, Nas dropped out of school in eighth grade, and his life on the streets would fuel a new style of writing: rap lyrics. His first mentor was Willy “Ill Will” Graham, who would play him hip-hop records and DJ as Nas rapped.
In 1991, rapping as Nasty Nas, he made a stunning debut with a guest verse on “Live at the Barbecue” by Main Source. Nas’ verse was a seamless melding of his writing skills and his street knowledge. The track was produced by Large Professor, who subsequently produced many of Nas’ early demos and continued to work with him throughout his career. In the wake of “Barbecue,” Nas was asked to contribute to the soundtrack for the film Zebrahead — a sort of hip-hop Romeo and Juliet set in Detroit — and the resulting song, “Halftime,” another collaboration with Large Professor, became his debut single in 1992, and would also appear on his debut album, Illmatic, two years later. Read more
Trevor Smith Jr. (born May 20, 1972), better known as Busta Rhymes, is an American hip hop musician.
Of Jamaican heritage, Busta Rhymes was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Uniondale, New York. At 12 his family moved to Long Island where he met up with other MCs from the growing New York hip hop community.
Smith is well-known throughout the hip hop community with the release of his debut solo album on Elektra Records, The Coming, in 1996 (1996 in music) after leaving the Leaders of the New School. The album’s mix of ragga and hip hop made it a marginal success, and it included the US and UK top 10 single ‘Woo-Hah!! Got You All In Check’. The follow-up, When Disaster Strikes… was less successful in the US but sold well overseas. The album did, however, produce two hugely popular singles and videos in America, ‘Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See’ and ‘Dangerous’. The third single, ‘Turn It Up/Fire It Up’ was less popular, but only just failed to top the UK charts and was a top 10 hit in Germany, establishing Rhymes as an international star. Read more
Wherever rapper Eminem goes, controversy and headlines are sure to follow. With so many people unsure about whether to love him or hate him, five young rappers have decided to join him on his latest project, D12. Also known as the Dirty Dozen, D12 is a sextet of Detroit-based rappers — all between the ages of 23 and 25. Members Bizarre, Swift, Kon Artis, Proof, and Kuniva claim they are “here to bring the sick, the obscene, the disgusting.” With this agenda in tow, D12 could prove to be the sequel to the controversial parade that Eminem started with the explicit lyrics on his solo album Slim Shady (Interscope, 1999) and the in-your-face single “Way I Am” (2000, Interscope).
D12’s 2001 debut album, Devil’s Night (Interscope/Shady), had potential to cause some waves, with the inclusion of their raucous 2000 single, “Shit on You.” After a three-year wait, D12 returned with 2004’s D12 World, including guest appearances from Obie Trice and B Real. Read more
One of the best selling hip-hop acts in the world, G-Unit indeed is such an extraordinary band to achieve the attainment in such a short time. With all the qualities and experience they possess, the group undoubtedly has captured the heart of mainstream hip-hop community through their magnificent rap tunes. Founded by 50 Cent (born as Curtis James Jackson on July 6, 1975), the establishment of G-Unit began when the rapper intended to rebuild his career in music industry after he was dumped by Columbia Records due to his shooting incident happened in April 2000.
He afterwards contacted his longtime friends also fellow artists named Tony Yayo (born as Marvin Bernard on March 31, 1978) and Lloyd Banks (born as Christopher Lloyd on April 30, 1982) to discuss about forming a rap group. Yayo and I were taking all of the meetings with 50, Lloyd recalled. We came up with the G-Unit concept because 50 didn’t want to shop himself simply as an artist. Read more
Rapper Jay-Z was born Shawn Corey Carter on December 4, 1969, in Brooklyn, New York. “He was the last of my four children,” Jay-Z’s mother, Gloria Carter, later recalled, “the only one who didn’t give me any pain when I gave birth to him, and that’s how I knew he was a special child.” His father, Adnes Reeves, left the family when Jay-Z was only 11 years old. The young rapper was raised by his mother in Brooklyn’s drug-infested Marcy Projects.
During a rough adolescence, detailed in many of his autobiographical songs, Carter dealt drugs and flirted with gun violence. He attended multiple high schools, including George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School in downtown Brooklyn, where he was a classmate of the soon-to-be-martyred rap legend Notorious B.I.G. As Jay-Z later recalled in one of his songs (“December 4th”): “I went to school, got good grades, could behave when I wanted/But I had demons deep inside that would raise when confronted.” Read more
Cypress Hill were notable for being the first Latino hip-hop superstars, but they became notorious for their endorsement of marijuana, which actually wasn’t a trivial thing. Not only did the group campaign for its legalization, but their slow, rolling bass-and-drum loops pioneered a new, stoned funk that became extraordinary influential in ’90s hip-hop — it could be heard in everything from Dr. Dre’s G-funk to the chilly layers of English trip-hop. DJ Muggs crafted the sound, and B Real, with his pinched, nasal voice, was responsible for the rhetoric that made them famous.
The pro-pot position became a little ridiculous over time, but there was no denying that the actual music had a strange, eerie power, particularly on the band’s first two albums. Although B Real remained an effective lyricist and Muggs’ musical skills did not diminish, the group’s third album, Temples of Boom, was perceived by many critics as self-parody, and the group appeared to disintegrate shortly afterward, though Muggs and B Real regrouped toward the end of the ’90s to issue more material. Read more
Following the deaths of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G., DMX took over as the undisputed reigning king of hardcore rap. He was that rare commodity: a commercial powerhouse with artistic and street credibility to spare. His rapid ascent to stardom was actually almost a decade in the making, which gave him a chance to develop the theatrical image that made him one of rap’s most distinctive personalities during his heyday.
Everything about DMX was unremittingly intense, from his muscular, tattooed physique to his gruff, barking delivery, which made a perfect match for his trademark lyrical obsession with dogs. Plus, there was substance behind the style; much of his work was tied together by a fascination with the split between the sacred and the profane. He could move from spiritual anguish one minute to a narrative about the sins of the streets the next, yet keep it all part of the same complex character, sort of like a hip-hop Johnny Cash. The results were compelling enough to make DMX the first artist ever to have his first four albums enter the charts at number one. Read more
Rap artist MC Hammer was born Stanley Kirk Burrell in Oakland, California, on March 30, 1962. His father, Lewis Burrell, worked as a warehouse supervisor for several years before gambling took over his life and nearly drove the family to ruin.
Fortunately for his son, Hammer never inherited his father’s gambling gene. Instead, his passions lay with music, baseball and dancing. By the age of 11, young Hammer was regularly earning money performing dance routines outside Oakland Coliseum during A’s home games.
Even as he dreamed of playing professional baseball, Hammer never turned his back on music. While working for the A’s, he adopted the moniker “MC,” for “Master of Ceremonies,” and performed at various clubs when the A’s traveled out of town. Read more
Nathaniel Dwayne Hale (August 19, 1969 – March 15, 2011), better known by his stage name Nate Dogg, was an American singer, rapper and songwriter. Recognisable for his deep singing voice, Hale became best known for providing guest vocals for a multitude of hit rap songs between 1994 and 2007, earning the nickname “King of Hooks”.
Hale began his career in the early 1990s as a member of 213, a trio formed in 1990 with friends Snoop Dogg and Warren G. In 1994, he co-wrote and sang as the featured performer on Warren G’s smash hit single “Regulate,” which reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and served as a breakout success for both artists. Nate Dogg would soon become a fixture in the West Coast hip-hop genre, regularly working with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Xzibit in the 1990s; his deep vocals became sought after for hooks, and he would expand to work with a larger variety of artists in the 2000s, such as Eminem, 50 Cent, Fabolous, Mos Def and Ludacris. As a featured artist, Nate charted 16 times on the Billboard Hot 100, and in 2003 reached number one via 50 Cent’s “21 Questions.” Read more
Emerging in 1993, when Dr. Dre’s G-funk had overtaken the hip-hop world, the Staten Island, New York-based Wu-Tang Clan proved to be the most revolutionary rap group of the ’90s — and only partially because of their music. Turning the standard concept of a hip-hop crew inside out, the Wu-Tang Clan were assembled as a loose congregation of nine MCs, almost as a support group.
Instead of releasing one album after another, the Clan were designed to overtake the record industry in as profitable a fashion as possible, the idea being to establish themselves as a force with their debut album and then spin off into as many side projects as possible. In the process, the members would all become individual stars as well as receive individual royalty checks. Read more
Mobb Deep stood tall as East Coast hardcore rap figureheads on the basis of their epochal album The Infamous. Released in April 1995, The Infamous was released almost exactly a year after Illmatic and about half-a-year after Ready to Die — the debut masterpieces of Nas and the Notorious B.I.G., respectively, and likewise albums of momentous significance for East Coast hardcore rap.
On The Infamous, the duoof Prodigy and Havoc set the tone for future generations of hardcore New York rappers, from crews such as G-Unit and Dipset, to the likes of Ka and Roc Marciano. Subsequent Mobb Deep releases were equally influential, especially Hell on Earth (1996). The following decade, Prodigy and Havoc recorded for G-Unit — the label of Mobb Deep disciple 50 Cent — as well as numerous other outlets. Read more
Wiz Khalifa was born Cameron Jibril Thomaz on September 8, 1987 in Minot, North Dakota. He moved around a lot as a kid because his father was in the military. At an early age, Khalifa discovered his love for making music. He started writing lyrics around the age of nine and began recording his own tracks a few years later.
Spending his high school years in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Khalifa attracted a local following as an artist. Soon he was garnering national attention with his 2006 mixtape Prince of the City: Welcome to Pistolvania. The following year, Khalifa had his first hit rap single with “Say Yeah.” He also released more mixtapes, including Grow Season (2007) and How Fly (2009) with Curren$y, around this time.
Khalifa’s career reached new heights with his ode to the Pittsburgh Steelers, his hometown team, with 2010’s “Black and Yellow.” Read more
Although he never became a household name, Rakim is near-universally acknowledged as one of the greatest MCs — perhaps the greatest — of all time within the hip-hop community. It isn’t necessarily the substance of what he says that’s helped him win numerous polls among rap fans in the know; the majority of his lyrics concern his own skills and his Islamic faith. But in terms of how he says it, Rakim is virtually unparalleled.
His flow is smooth and liquid, inflected with jazz rhythms and carried off with an effortless cool that makes it sound as though he’s not even breaking a sweat. He raised the bar for MC technique higher than it had ever been, helping to pioneer the use of internal rhymes — rhymes that occurred in the middle of lines, rather than just at the end. Read more
The multi-Grammy-award-winning rapper Drake has had two shots at fame — and nailed them both. He first came to prominence in the teen soap Degrassi: The Next Generation in the role of Jimmy Brooks, a wheelchair-bound character he played for seven years. After leaving the show he became one of the biggest rappers on the planet after signing a deal with Lil Wayne’s label Young Money Entertainment.
He is rarely out of the headlines, whether it’s for dating Rihanna or Jennifer Lopez, founding his own label, OVO Sound, or fronting the NBA’s Toronto Raptors as the team’s global ambassador. It’s no surprise that Jay Z labeled him as the Kobe Bryant of hip hop. Born Aubrey Drake Graham on October 24, 1986, in Toronto, Canada, Drake grew up with music in his blood. His father, Dennis Graham, was a drummer for the legendary rock ‘n’ roll star Jerry Lee Lewis. An uncle, Larry Graham, played bass for Sly and the Family Stone. Drake says that his mother, Sandi Graham, also hails from a “very musical” family — his grandmother babysat Aretha Franklin. Read more
Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, who performs as Kendrick Lamar, was born in Compton, California, on June 17, 1987. After writing stories as a child, he put to music some lyrics about the rough Compton streets he grew up on. He rapped under the name K-Dot, releasing a series of increasingly popular mix tapes, which brought him to the attention of hip-hop super-producer Dr. Dre. Lamar’s debut major-label recording, good kid, m.A.A.d City, was released to great acclaim and impressive sales for an up-and-coming recording artist. He continued to receive accolades for his 2015 album, To Pimp a Butterfly, and his 2017 follow-up, DAMN.; both won Grammys for Best Rap Album, while DAMN. also made history as the first of its genre to earn a Pulitzer Prize.
Kendrick Lamar Duckworth (who dropped his last name to perform as Kendrick Lamar) was born in Compton, California, on June 17, 1987. His parents had moved to Compton from Chicago to escape the city’s gang culture, although Lamar’s father had been associated with the notorious Gangster Disciples gang. Read more