From vicious rumors and celebrity gossip to old country folk tales and campfire chatter, everybody has a story to tell these days. Throughout the history of hip hop, many artists have tried their hand at telling stories, both fiction and non-fiction, through song. In this day and age, the ability to successfully construct an intriguing story is a lost art. Creativity and lyricism has given way to unimaginative chords and auto-tuned voices. While this new wave of music dominates the Billboard charts, it remains unseen as to whether or not it can stand the test of time. Nevertheless, one thing is certain: there is longevity in a good story. Here are some artists who have mastered the art of storytelling.
1. Ice Cube - It Was a Good Day
Ice Cube recounts an unusually pleasant day in South Central Los Angeles with his smooth, laid back west coast flow. This song has stood the test of time— a true hip-hop classic.
Quotable Line: “Get me on the court and I’m trouble/ Last week f*cked around and got a triple double.”
2. Eminem – Stan (featuring Dido)
This is undoubtedly one of Eminem’s greatest works—brilliant, in fact. He narrates the artist-fan connection from both perspectives, and adds a rather disturbing twist at the very end.
Quotable Line: “It’s been six months and still no word, I don’t deserve it?/ I know you got my last two letters, I wrote the addresses on them perfect.”
3. Common – Testify
High drama in the courtroom as Common explains the court case: murder, gun possession, and cocaine distribution. Sounds like an open and shut case, but is justice ultimately served? The plot thickens in the final verse.
Quotable Line: “All that speakin’ her mind, testifyin’, and cryin’/ When this b*tch did the crime, the queen pin.”
4. Lupe Fiasco – The Cool
Lupe Fiasco had a lot to prove on his debut album, Food and Liquor, and he certainly delivered on this track with a clever concept. Who knew following a risen-from-the-dead hustler could be so poetic and interesting?
Quotable Line: “Put it to his head and said, ‘you’re scared, ain’t ya?’/ He said, ‘hustler for death, no heaven for a gangsta.’”
5. Mos Def – Ms. Fat Booty
Mighty Mos Def breaks it down and recounts an out of the ordinary relationship with a girl he met at the club. Which is more shocking: the fact that he caught feelings for a groupie or that she leaves him for another girl?
Quotable Line: “I’d seen her on the ave, spotted her more than once/ A** so fat that you could see it from the front.”
6. Kanye West – Through the Wire
In 2002, Kanye West was involved in a near fatal car accident, which left him with a broken jaw that had to be wired shut. ‘Ye drew inspiration from his brush with death and turned it into the first of his many successful singles.
Quotable Line: “The doctor said I had blood clots, but I ain’t Jamaican man/ Story on MTV, and I ain’t tryin’ to make a band/ I swear this right here, history in the making man.”
7. Carl Thomas – I Wish
Carl Thomas tells the story of a man who develops a deep connection with the woman of his dreams. But the only problem is that she’s married with children! I understand why he wishes he never met her…
Quotable Line: “Long days and nights we spent/ Until she dropped the bomb on me.”
8. Jay-Z – December 4th
Shawn Carter was born on December 4th, weighing in at 10 lbs. 4 oz., and I guess you can say the rest is history. Jay-Z explains in three verses how he got into the rap game. I’d say he’s done pretty well for himself.
Quotable Line: “If you can’t respect that, you’re whole perspective is wack/ Maybe you’ll love me when I fade to black…”
9. Notorious B.I.G. – I Got A Story to Tell
Imagine finding yourself in a situation like this: your jumpoff’s significant other arrives home early. Yikes! If anything, the moral of the story is do your dirt elsewhere, and more importantly, be aware that the rewards are seldom worth the risk.
Quotable Line: “Yeah, tote the chrome for situations like this/ I’m up in his broad and I know he won’t like this.”
10. Damian Marley – Pimpa’s Paradise (featuring Stephan Marley)
One of many great songs by Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley. With the help of his brother, he paints a sad picture we’ve all seen or heard about before: a beautiful girl destroyed by drug addiction. Take ‘em to church, Jr. Gong.
Quotable Line: “Cause coke was a thing that once she first try/ Was once a blue moon to once a blue sky.”