Hip-Hop is one of the strongest music genres out there and quite possibly the hardest to wing. Not everyone can thrive in such a scene that puts a great deal of importance on songwriting and delivery. Besides, rappers are expected to sport a strong and unbreakable demeanour and should be ready to defend their craft, credibility, and territory at the sign of any threat, especially the competition.
However, rappers have deviated from these unwritten rules to delve deep into their feelings and exhibit forms of “vulnerability” in their art to tell stories driven by personal or societal issues. The following five make the list of some of the most emotional rap music I have listened to:
Da Grin – If I Die
This is definitely one of the most chilling songs to come out of the Nigerian rap scene. It was probably another song to most people in the first days of its release, albeit, one that called for a deep reflection on the concept of death and mortality. But after the rapper died a few weeks after, it carried on a deeper meaning and took the mystery it exudes to another level.
Maybe Da Grin was clairvoyant or not — and that doesn’t really matter –, but the song will live forever and be a reminder of what the industry lost in the man.
MI – Ashes
This song is a tribute to four students of the University of Port Harcourt who were lynched by an irate mob on October 5, 2012. Several reactions trailed the horrific incident, but MI’s effort ranks.
In between MI’s questions for everyone involved, the society’s tolerance for such evils and the sombre mood set from the beginning of the song brought to the fore with spoken-word-style storytelling, you would hear the hurt buried in the words, and that has a way of making you feel.
Anifowoshe – Olamide
Many would say that Olamide picked up where Dagrin left off. Well, both of them, as is the case with many others hustled their ways to the top. In Anifowoshe from his Baddest Guy Ever Liveth album, he took his fans on a journey, chronicling his not-so-rosy life and experiences before he got fame and everything that comes with it. It is the classic tale of “I-worked-hard-for-this-and-I-got-it. While that may seem cliché, the song will get a sigh or two out of you.
2pac – Brenda’s Got A Baby
From his 1991 album 2pacalypse, the late rapper took an interesting and proper take on the issue of teen pregnancy and the role the society plays in it. To make his point, he told the story of Brenda, born in the hood with no education. Brenda was in a relationship with her cousin who eventually impregnated her. She tried to dispose of the baby, but couldn’t bring herself to do it. Brenda left home and tried to sell drugs, but she ended up getting robbed. With nothing to fall back to, she resorted to prostitution – a path that led to her murder. The song is for every girl-child the society has failed.
Modenine – Cry
Modenine’s name might not readily come to mind anymore, but his 2007 single “Cry” is the evidence of his storytelling prowess. The song featured two verses with separate stories but tragic endings.
The first verse follows the story of an unnamed woman through university and her marriage to her man who was an alcoholic. Things came to a head when the woman, during labour, put a call through to her alcoholic husband, but he didn’t make it to her because he drove intoxicated and died in a car accident.
In the second verse, he narrates the story of two friends who had it great until university when they joined rival cults, eventually leading to a standoff that led to their deaths.