From the grandmaster Slick Rick to Eminem, Immortal Technique and Vakill, we decided to look at 10 artful stories told through Hip Hop verses.
You could argue that anytime a rapper puts pen to pad or steps into the vocal booth, they are telling a story. I listen to some of these mono-syllabic spitting numbskulls and hear nursery rhymes at best, so I’m not prepared to go there. What I’m talking about it that real, vivid, cinematic type shit. The songs with a narrative so rich that you can picture it like a movie in your minds eye while you listen.
There is no shortage of storytellers out there; you can find verses, songs, or entire albums dedicated to telling tales. Like any form of art, there are those that are a cut above the rest. Telling a story is an art form in itself, whether you’re recalling a story to your boys at the bar, writing songs or making movies. A true storyteller can make an average story great, and a great story unforgettable. As these songs illustrate, it isn’t just the story, it is how you tell it. It is putting in those small, seemingly insignificant details, which make the listener feel like they are there. It is using a metaphor that captures a situation in a way that a description could never do.
Slick Rick – La Di Da Di
(as "Doug E. Fresh & MC Ricky D," 1985, Danya/Reality Records)
Characters: Slick Rick, Sally, mother, two little guys
Setting: New York (presumably)
Plot: A day in the life of Slick Rick
Excerpt: “Clean, dry was my body and hair / I threw on my brand new Gucci underwear / For all the girls I might take home / I got the Johnson's Baby Powder and the Polo cologne...”
Lesson: Avoid relations with old ladies.
This may be a Doug E. Fresh song featuring a young emcee then known as MC Ricky D, but this song will always be remembered as the birth of Hip Hop’s first master storyteller. Over Doug E’s beatboxing, Rick effortlessly flips listeners through a day in his life. He details his brand of underwear as casually as he does the cat fight in his honor. Three years later Rick would deliver his debut album—which was damn near storytelling tracks from end to end and would forever cement his place in history. Respect the architect, or lick the balls.