Once upon a time, not long a time ago…there were spectacular storytellers that took over for the 99s and the 2000s. Continuing from Da Art of Storytellin’, Part 1, here is Part 2 with a few of my favorite fantasies that next leveled hip-hop storytelling from the late ’90s to beyond.
Da Art of StoryTelling – Outkast
In their song that inspired the tittle for this series, we have Outkast with “Da Art of StoryTellin, Pt. 1” as they just shoot game in the form of story raps. Big Boi and Andre join forces to share a series of unfortunate events for their fictional characters “Suzy Screw,” the pretty and promiscuous girl around town Big Boi cheats with, and her friend “Sasha Thumper,” who meets her fate after overdosing on heroin while pregnant. While both fictitious, Suzy Screw and Sasha Thumper were based on actual encounters. Big Boi based Suzy Screw on groupies he met and the idea of Sasha Thumper came after an inspired Andre 3000 heard a story of a Erykah Badu’s friend’s daughter who was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up and responded, “Alive.” The story even continued on to three more parts.
Hey Ma (featuring DJ Kay Slay, Juelz Santana, Freekey Zekey & Toya)
Released in 2002 but carrying over to still being played among me and my friends today is Cam’ron’s classic, “Hey Ma.” Accompanied by Juelz Santana, Freekey Zekey and the scratching styles of DJ Kay Slay, we take a walk with Cam’ron and Juelz as they take us through them looking for a fun time on a fun night out in NYC.
Kick Push – Lupe Fiasco
One of the greatest storytellers of the 2000s was Lupe Fiasco with his anthem “Kick, Push” paving the way dedicated to those grinding legally and illegally. Initially created as a song for a skate shop, Lupe and Soundtrakk set the score for a story about a novice skateboarder finding his way through aerials and varials. This was the debut single for Lupe’s dynamic debut album, “Food & Liquor”, and set the tone for many other poignant parables as told by Lupe. Followed by Kick, Push came tale-telling tracks such as “Hurt Me Soul,” “Hey Say, She Say,” and more. Lupe even elaborated on a story told on “Food & Liquor” and turned it into an audio comic book with his sophomore album “The Cool.” Lupe and his mighty, mythical pen led us on so many adventures as hip-hop listeners and it all started with Kick, Push. The story in Kick, Push is more than just skateboard lingo but was often been interpreted as a point of view for every rebel that heard it. Some say it’s story is parallel to a neighborhood drug dealing, or a struggling music artist, I say it’s the perfect intro for Lupe’s long list of legendary legacies.
Damien – DMX
Before Kanye gave us his dark twisted fantasy, DMX gave birth to “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot” in 1998. On the album, you’ll find DMX sharing grim and gritty tales with “Damien” being one of his darkest. In this song, he tells the story of his relationship with a character “Damien.” Damien was characterized as the devil in disguise and befriended X at one of his most vulnerable times in life. He uses this story to talk about his own terrorizing truths as the devil lures DMX and leads him down the wrong path of materialism, substance abuse, violence, and adultery. X doesn’t conclude his story just yet in this song and eventually continued it in 2 other songs throughout the years.
Love Is Blind – Eve
Another Ruff Ryders anthem and masterful memoir was Eve in her rap ballad “Love Is Blind.” Eve took the time to open up about a real life story of her friend who was a victim of domestic abuse and turn it into a song. Eve used her voice to tell the story for not one woman but the story for many women who fall victim to domestic violence every day with domestic violence being the leading cause of harm to women. Some are unfortunately not able live to tell it as statistically 3 women are murdered from domestic abuse every day but Eve used her spotlight to shed light on an issue that often gets left in the dark.
Rewind – Nas
WE GON PUT IT IN REVERSE *Kid Capri voice* as Nas tells a story in rhyme BACKWARDS in “Rewind.” Brought to us in 2001 from his album “Stillmatic”, was a song with a concept so unique and well written, I’m not sure if it’s been tried again twice.
Song Cry – Jay-Z
Picture all the possibilities in “Song Cry” by Jay-Z, one of my favorite Hov songs and just one of many greatest stories ever told by the GOAT. What makes this song so special, aside from being so sad that the instrumental cries out instead of Jay, was that this timeless, tragic tale of a love story gone wrong was actually 3 real life stories from Jay-Z’s own life molded into one song. He takes his perspective and makes it something so personal for listeners like me who can recall a time in love before “signals got crossed and we got flipped.” Hov has been dishing out stories like this and more for decades, this one might be his most personable.
Stan (feat. Dido) – Eminem
We step into the mind of Marshall Mathers in an iconic story by Eminem entitled “Stan.” Em created this story about an obsessed fan by the name of Stan who literally took his admiration for Slim Shady over the edge. Eminem used his experiences with fan mail and turned it into a sick, twisted track in which a crazy fanatic writes letters to Em telling him how he imitates his rap songs in his life, believes there’s a bond between them, and eventually overdoses on pills and kills him, his girlfriend and unborn child. A song this creative in the form of letters as verses goes down as one of Slim Shady’s greatest. It even became more iconic with the term “stan” now being used for overly dedicated fans today.
What are some story raps that took over the 99 and 2000s for you? Tell it in a comment.