Below is a list of 12 favorite creative rap songs. Of course, every song from any genre has an element of creativity – but my definition of creative is a bit different here. I am defining creative as a song that tells a story, and/or speaks from the perspective of another person, object, or world.
12. Suicidal Thoughts – (The Notorious B.I.G. featuring Puff Daddy)
This song was the final track on the classic Ready to Die album. The song is a phone call to a friend while having despondent and suicidal thoughts. The content is essentially a quasi-reading of a suicide note. B.I.G. makes depressing statements such as:
“All my life I’ve been considered as the worst
lying to my mother, even stealing out her purse.
Crime after crime – drugs to extortion
I know my mother wish
she got a fu*king abortion.”
In spite of being begged to calm down, B.I.G. ends up shooting himself with his friend on the line. The true genius of this song was the way it set up the theme for his next album: Life After Death.
11. Thugz Mansion – (2pac featuring featuring Anthony Hamilton)
This song, posthumously released six years after 2pac’s death, is great for two reasons. First, it imagines a gangsta-only, drama-free haven in the sky called Thugz Mansion. Second, 2pac raps as if he is already dead, and assures listeners from the afterlife in Thugz Mansion. He begins the third verse by saying:
“Dear Mama, don’t cry
your baby boy is doing good,
tell the homies I’m in heaven
and it ain’t got hoods.
I seen a show with Marvin Gaye last night
it had me shook,
drinking peppermint schnapps with Jackie Wilson
and Sam Cooke.
Then some lady named Billie Holiday sang,
sitting there kickin’ it with Malcolm
til the day came. ”
This perspective alteration demonstrates that 2pac did not fear death. Additionally, the timing of this release made this verse, in particular, stand out. Since 2pac’s murder in 1996, people genuinely believed that he faked his death to fool his enemies, and would return seven years later on September 13, 2003. The decision, on behalf of his estate, to release this song just one year beforehand, tapped into this theory and capitalized off it.
10. I Used to Love H.E.R.– (Common)
This song by Common is brilliant because he raps as if he is talking about a woman. He details how ‘she’ used to be raw and pure when she was underground, but then she went to the West Coast and began to sound different. Common says the following:
“I met this girl when I was 10 years old
and what I loved much
was she had so much soul.
She was ol’ school, but I was just a shorty
never knew throughout my life
she would be there for me
on the regular.
Not a church girl, she was secular.
Not about the money, no studs was mic checkin’ her.”
The lyrical misdirection is genius, and Common continues until the last line of the song when he declares he is talking about hip hop!
9. Runaway Love – (Ludacris featuring Mary J. Blige)
This song details the dynamics of sexual violence against young girls. This track is my favorite tune by Ludacris – as it is one of the few times he displays his social consciousness. What makes the lyrics of this song so powerful is the fact that the verses tell the individual stories of victims, who are rendered invisible by their circumstances. Coupled with the soulful voice of Aunt Mary – who has been known to lay down some heartfelt anthems – this song becomes even more real. The imagery of the bridge is epic:
“She is left up in the world on her own
forced to think that hell is a place called Home.
Nothing left to do but get her clothes and pack
she said she’s about to runaway
and never come back.”
8. Brenda’s Got a Baby – (2pac)
This was 2pac’s first hit that put him on the map. What makes this song so powerful is the social consciousness of the way pregnancy, neglect, and poverty adversely impact the black community. 2pac tells the story of a young girl named Brenda, who was molested by her cousin and got pregnant. In her attempt to survive, she was forced to sell drugs. She ends up having the child and throwing it in the trashcan before she is eventually killed.
“She’s 12 years old and she’s having a baby
In love with the molester, who’s sexing her crazy
And yet she thinks that he’ll be with her forever
And dreams of a world with the two of them are together,
He left her and she had the baby solo, she had it on the
And didn’t know so, she didn’t know, what to throw away and
what to keep
She wrapped the baby up and threw him in the trash heep
I guess she thought she’d get away
Wouldn’t hear the cries
She didn’t realize
How much the the little baby had her eyes
Now the baby’s in the trash heap balling
Mama can’t help her, but it hurts to hear her calling.”
7. I Got a Story to Tell – (The Notorious B.I.G.)
This song narrates a sexual tryst with a wife of a player from the New York Knicks. Biggie sneaks into the house of the couple for some action, thinking the husband is away at work, only to be surprised by his sudden return home. The wife is nervous that she will be caught – but Biggie concocts a brilliant plan to change the narrative altogether: pretend she was being robbed. Biggie was already toting a gun, so it was not far-fetched. The plan works, and Biggie receives an unexpected reward:
“I flashed the heat on ’em,
he stood emotionless.
Dropped the glass, screaming
‘don’t blast, here’s the stash
100 cash, just don’t shoot my ass, please!’
…Started pulling mad Gs out the floor
threw the stacks in a Prada knapsack, and hit the door!”
6. Rewind – (Nas)
This song, which appeared on the monumental Stillmatic album, was a standout track. We are taught as children to tell stories in chronological order: from beginning to end. Nas refuses that style of narration and raps a story backwards. In doing this, no content or imagery was sacrificed.
“Listen up gangstas and honeys with your hair done,
pull up a chair hon’
and put it in the air son.
Dog, whatever they call you, god, just listen
I spit a story backwards, it starts at the ending.
The bullet goes back in the gun.
The bullet hole’s closing the chest of a ni**a
now he back to square one,
screaming, “shoot don’t please.”
I put my fifth back on my hip,
it’s like a VCR rewinding a hit.”
5. Wet Dreamz – (J. Cole)
This song contains slick, well-crafted verses narrating the thoughts and actions by which the rapper lost his virginity. He gives voice to the inner-most feelings of self-consciousness that often accompany sexual interactions (especially the first one). In an effort to seem cool to the girl pursuing him, he lies about having previous sexual experience – which, in turn, makes him a more attractive mate. He takes for granted the idea that she also has sexual experience, but the song ends with him saying:
“It’s time for action
pull out the condoms real smooth
yeah, just how I practiced.
But right before I put it in
she flinched and grabbed it and said
‘I wanna get something off my mental
I can tell you’re a pro, but please be gentle
cuz … I ain’t never did this before, no
I ain’t never did this before, no (repeat til end)”
4. Guilty Conscience – (Eminem featuring Dr. Dre)
The back and forth dialogue and original concept lands this song on the list. The track presents the quandaries of three different individuals in three different scenarios: whether or not to rob a store, whether or not to have sex with a minor, and whether or not to kill one’s wife and her extra-marital lover. Eminem raps as the devil sitting on one shoulder, while Dr. Dre raps as the angel on the other shoulder. They argue the pros and cons of committing heinous acts in each situation. The exchange is both hilarious and insightful, with gems such as:
“Now before you walk in the door of this liquor store
and try to get money out the drawer
You better think of the consequence (But who are you?)
I’m your motherfu**in’ conscience
Go in and gaffle the money and run to one of your aunt’s cribs
and borrow a damn dress, and one of her blonde wigs.
Tell her you need a place to stay.
You’ll be safe for days if you shave your legs with Renee’s razor blade
Yeah but if it all goes through like it’s supposed to
The whole neighborhood knows you and they’ll expose you
Think about it before you walk in the door first
Look at the store clerk, she’s older than George Burns!”
3. The Cool – (Lupe Fiasco)
Lupe’s ability to compose clever, imaginative lyrics is illustrated clearly here. This song tells the story of a dead man who dug himself out of his own grave and walks through the same ‘hood he once lived in. The second verse opens with the lines:
“Now he’s all nervous as he dug to the surface
tarnished gold chain is what he loosened up the earth with.
He used his mouth as a shovel to try and hollow it
and what he couldn’t dirt-spit
he swallowed it.
Working like a …hmm
The main character in the story ends up going back to the same place he was shot at six months before, only to be robbed by the same exact people who killed him. The moral of the story: “no heaven for a gangsta.”
2. I Gave You Power – (Nas)
This is one of the most lyrical Nas songs, ever. On this track, he raps from the perspective of a gun – through all of its owners and violent confrontations. We often hear about gun control, but in this song Nas talks about another form of gun control: a gun with a conscience. He says:
“He placed me on his waist, the moment I’ve been waiting.
My creation was for blacks to kill blacks
its gats like me that accidentally go off
making ni**as memories.
But this time its done intentionally,
he walked me outside, saw this kat
cocked me back, and said
He pulled the trigger, but I held on
it felt wrong, knowing ni**as is waiting
and hell form.
He squeezed harder, I didn’t budge
sick of the blood, sick of the drugs
sick of the wrath of the next man’s grudge.”
The concept of this song was so powerful, that it compelled 2pac to write and release a song just 7 months later with a similar theme called “Me and My Girlfriend” – talking about his love for his gun. While that song was good, it paled in comparison to Nas’ version.
1. Stan – (Eminem featuring Dido)
The narration of this story is top class. In this song, the contents of mail from an obsessed fan are put into verse. The fan, named Stan (voice-over by Eminem), knows all of Eminem’s music, has posters of him in his bedroom, and wants to be with him. After not receiving responses to his messages, Stan takes some pills, ties his girlfriend up in the trunk of his car, and drives off a bridge. Stan’s last words recorded on audio-tape were:
“All I wanted was a lousy letter or a call
I hope you know I ripped all of your pictures off the wall.
I love you, Slim – we could’ve been together,
think about it.
You ruined it now, I hope you can’t sleep and you dream about it
And when you dream I hope you can’t sleep
and you scream about it.
I hope your conscience eats at you and you can’t breathe without me
See Slim, shut up bi***! I’m tryin’ to talk!
Hey Slim, that’s my girlfriend screamin’ in the trunk.
But I didn’t slit her throat, I just tied her up, see I ain’t like you
‘Cause if she suffocates she’ll suffer more, and then she’ll die too.
Well, gotta go, I’m almost at the bridge now
Oh sh*t, I forgot, how am I supposed to send this sh*t out?”
The tape was eventually found in the car. After a while, Eminem responds to Stan’s letters – and realizes that he was the person described in the news who drove off a bridge with his girlfriend in the trunk.