Ever listen to a song that almost made you want to cry? Or a song that some how tugged at your emotions enough to actually make you shed a tear? I'm sure every one's answer is yes and can come up with a list of songs to fit this category. But have you ever listened to a Rap Song that caused you to get a bit emotional? Yeah it's going to take you a little longer to think of one that fits that category.
Given that the majority of rap music listeners are male it's probably hard for them to admit that a rap song may have touched their heart even a tad bit. But as an avid listener of hip hop music for over 23 years I racked my brain and was able to come up with my top 10 list of the most emotional Rap Songs. Now being a man I know it's hard to admit but if you can say that none of these songs ever touched your heart at some point in life when you heard them (not every time but at least once at least one of the songs) not even a little then I don't know what to say but you gotta be damn near heartless.
But anyways here we go with the countdown starting from 10 down to 1.
#10 Runaway Love- Ludacris Feat. Mary J. Blige
This is the most recent song on the top 10. However, Ludacris came with it on this song. The song basically tells 3 different stories of young girls and them going through different struggles. One in an abusive home, another becoming a victim of her gang infested environment, and the last dealing with teenage pregnancy. As if the lyrics don't already make you a bit emotional, Mary J. singing the hook only makes it that much more emotional. As you listen to this story you can almost visualize the tragedies these young girls are going through. "Now little Lisa's only 9 years old she's tryin to figure out why the world is so cold why she's all alone and aint never met her family mama's always gone and she never met her daddy." Ludacris also receives even more props given that this type of song was far from what you're used to from Luda. So Take that Bill O'Reilly!
#9 We'll Always Love Big Poppa - The Lox
Mar. 9, 1997. That's a date that most hip hop fans don't easily forget. It's when we lost one of our Hip Hop greats. The Notorious B.I.G. aka Biggie Smalls aka Big Poppa. Given the tragic events that took his life at such a young age it was a shocker too the entire Rap World. However, This song by the Lox was not the only tribute to The Late Great Notorious. In fact Puff Daddy (at the time) now known as P.Diddy or Sean Jean had a song called "I'll be Missing You." But I tend to give a little more credibility to The Lox since it seemed like Diddy sort of used this song as a spring board to his solo career. But that's a totally different blog. Back to the Lox. They basically pay their respects to B.I.G. and give you a little history on BIG's Impact and their dealings with him though it was only for a short amount of time. "It make me look back,to where he took rap Dude brought the East back, y'all better believe that He never had a warning, One More Chance was right before him everybody must answer when God's callin."
R.I.P. Big Poppa, We'll always love you BIG!
#8 Dead Homiez - Ice Cube
Now most remember Ice Cube from his N.W.A. days and as a hard core Gangsta rapper. But even as hard core as Cube was back then he took the time to pen these lyrics to reminisce on lost friends. "He got a lot of flowers and a big wreath What good is that when you're six feet deep? I look at that shit and gotta think to myself And thank God for my health 'Cause nobody really ever know When it's gonna be they family on the front row." There are so many quotables on this song to even list without listing the whole song. But a few that come to mind are: "They say "Be Strong" and you're tryin' But how strong can you be when you see your Pops cryin'?" And "But no, I pay my respects and I'm through (whaddup Cube?) Hug my crew, and maybe shed a tear or two." Now a Gangsta Rapper crying, you can't get too much more emotional than that people.
#7 Brenda's Got a Baby - 2pac
I remember this was probably one of the first 2pac solo songs I ever heard. (Yeah those of you that don't know 2pac used to be in a group called Digital Underground Google it). But when I first heard Brenda's Got a Baby it hit me like damn! I mean the lyrics were so vivid and real you couldn't help but feel Pac. Plus it was so far on the other end of the spectrum from what he did with Digital Underground. On this song it was like you almost knew Brenda. He painted her as someone that could be anyone any of us knew. " I hear Brenda's got a baby, But Brenda's barely got a brain A damn shame The girl can hardly spell her name (That's not our problem, that's up to Brenda's family) Well let me show ya how it affects the whole community." This song was also unique because Pac just flowed continuously about Brenda way past the normal 16 bar verse. The chorus didn't come until the very end of the song. But if the intro wasn't enough to get you thinking by the time Pac hit you with this line later in the song I don't see how it didn't affect you. "He left her and she had the baby solo, she had it on the bathroom floor 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." And the video was even more vivid as we actually saw Brenda throwing her baby away. I'm sure once Pac saw the impact that songs like this had on people he began to throw at least one into each of his albums. (2 of which are on this list so keep reading). Unfortunately, there was no happy ending for Brenda as Pac concluded "Prostitute, found slain, and Brenda's her name, she's got a baby."
#6 Tha Cross Roads - Bone Thugs in Harmony
I remember when Bone's first album "Creepin On Ah Come Up" dropped it sparked a buzz for the anticipation of their second album "E. 1999 Eternal." I remember the original version of Cross Roads was just okay nothing major or to really keep your attention. But when Easy Mo B dropped this remix version to the song (which later became the video version) it blew Bone up to a level not even Eazy-E probably ever expected they'd reach. Bone had everyone singing/rapping the lyrics to the chorus "See you at the crossroads, crossroads, crossroads So you won't be lonely, And I'm gonna miss everybody, I'm gonna miss everybody." Not to mention this was like the groups' dedication to Eazy-E their mentor and Label Owner, that had passed away from Aids just a few years prior. But I know for fact this was a song that had the hardest Thugs singing "I miss my uncle Charles."
(OK Half We're Way there ya'll...)
#5 I Miss You - DMX Feat. Faith Evans
The diary of DMX Which aired on MTV, I recall DMX going to perform this song and literally breaking down in tears on stage trying to get through the lyrics. At that point I had a much higher respect for this song and it's lyrics. In the song DMX is talking about his Grandmother which raised him. "Gran'ma, I really miss you and it ain't been the same I drop a tear when I hear ur name." I'm sure a lot of us can relate to being raised up by our grandmothers. So on this emotional tribute X even chooses to air out some of the family's dirty laundry. "But what I'm about to say a couple of family members gone hate me but I'm gonna let you know whut's been goin on lately you know since you left a lot of things bout your kids done changed." Along with assistance from Faith Evans on the chorus this is another that will definitely touch your heart.
#4 Dear Mama - 2pac
Now if this one hasn't gotten you at some point I'm speechless. Tupac Shakur Dear Mama had to have touched home with any and everybody and I'm sure still does. This came from Pac's 3rd album "Me Against the World." He was still keeping with putting a song with this theme on each of his albums so this was was no different. Pac essentially describes his relationship with his moms which wasn't always peaches and cream. But he's describing it in a way to where he's basically reconciling it through his lyrics. "I reminisce on the stress I caused, it was hell Huggin on my mama from a jail cell." Ironically during the time this song was release Pac was actually in jail serving a bid for an attempted rape charge. Not saying he was guilty or innocent because I don't know. But a song like this was perfect to drop and smooth over his image. I recall the video which he wasn't even able to be in but his moms was and she made the video come to life even more. If you recall the Hook used an interpolation of the "Sweet Sadie" by the Spinners which was already an emotional song itself back in the day. But with all these factors put together it made this song even more emotional. And with lyrics like "even as a crack fiend mama you always was a black queen mama," I'm sure we'll be hearing this song played for years to come and not just on Mother's Day.
Shout out to my moms while we're on the subject.
#3 All that I got is you - Ghostface Feat. Mary J. Blige
Ghostface was always a story teller. I would actually dare to put ghost up there with Slick Rick when it comes to story telling. When I first heard this song I was able to instantly invision the struggles he and his family went through growing up. And it had me thanking God my struggles weren't this bad. "Family aint family no more, we used to play ball after school eat grits cause we were poor grab the pliers for the channel fix the hanger on the tv rockin each others pants to school wasn't easy..." and "15 of us in a 3 bedroom apartment roaches everywhere cousins and aunts was there, for in the bed, 2 at the foot, 2 at the head, I didn't like to sleep with jon-jon he peed the bed," and "Mommy where's the toilet paper use the newspaper." Again Mary J lends her soulful vocals over the Jackson 5 sampled beat. And ghost leaves us with with a deep question to comptemplate "I ask myself was I meant to be here...why?"
#2 Keep Ya Head up - 2pac
As previously mentioned in writing about Brenda's Got a Baby (#7 on the list) and Dear Mama (#4 on the list), 2pac definitely knew songs that packed an emotional punch went over well with his fans. This song was 1 of 2 memorable songs on 2pac's "Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z." album (I Get Around being the other). But Pac definitely made it known at the beginning of the song that who his target market was. "I give a shout out to my sistas on welfare 2pac cares if don't nobody else care." Pac goes on to state "you it makes me unhappy (what's that?) when brothers make babies and leave a young mother to be a pappy, And since we all came from a woman got our name from a woman and our game from a woman. I wonder why we take from our women, why we rape our women do we hate our women?" Ironically, Pac would later be sentenced to jail for attempted rape charges (As mentioned in song #4). The song used a familiar chorus from The Five Stair Step's "Oooh Child." This only added to the emotional effectiveness of the song. But with this song Pac was spoke the truth he even got political with lines like "You know it's funny when it rains it pours they got money for war but can't feed the poor Say there's no hope for the youth but the truth is it aint no hope for the future." On a side note the war he spoke of was the first coming of George Bush not the present day version. But I'm sure if Pac was still around he'd have much to say about George Bush #2 also. All in all Keep Ya Head Up remains an anthem of motivation that continues to uplift long after Pac has passed as I'm sure Pac originally intended.
Okay Finally we're Down to the #1 song the moment you've been waiting for
(Drum Roll Sounds...)
#1 Retrospect for Life - Common Feat. Lauren Hill
When I first heard this song I remember just thinking man this is a deep song. But it wasn't til I was older and actually had a child that the impact of such a song really hit me. More recently, I recall the possibility of someone close to me being pregnant. Of course with all the options including abortion being discussed this song and the lyrics immediately entered my head. "Knowing you're the best part of life do I have the right to take yours cause I created you irresponsibly subconsciously knowing the act I was a part of the start of something I'm not ready to bring into this world." Common takes on a subject never before mentioned in the history of rap music. He takes you through his mind state while wrestling with the decision. In verse one he's actually talking to the child that never came to be. "I look at your mother's stomach wondering if you're a boy or a girl, turnin this woman's womb into a tomb." He even breaks down to apologizing to the child stating, "instead I lead you to death, I'm sorry for taking your first breath first step and first cry." He then attempts to explain his actions but doesn't even attempt to make excuses by immediately taking full responsibility. "But I wasn't prepared mentally or financially having a child shouldn't have to bring out the man in me plus I wanted you to be raised within a family." In verse 2 common is speaking to the woman about the situation. "Seeing you as a present and a gift in itself you had our child in you I'll probably never feel what you felt but you dealt with it like the strong black woman you are through our trials and tribulations child's elimination." And in today's times of baby mamas being acceptable Comm begs to differ stating "we talkin spending the rest of our lives it's too many black women that can say they mothers but can't say that they wives. I wouldn't choose any other to mother my understanding but I want our parenthood to come from planning." The completion of the full emotion of the song was Lauren Hill singing the chorus. I remember reading that she and Comm had both recently had children when they collaborated on this song, making it even more fitting. Honestly, I was back and forth on if this song would be #1 or #2 even up until writing this. But after listening to the song again and reading the lyrics it's no doubt that Common has the #1 emotional rap song. Whether you've had a child before, had to face the difficult decision of abortion or just listen to the song overall you'll feel have to agree that this is a song that will definitely get directly to your emotions.
Well there you have it my Top 10 emotional Rap songs. Just as an observation it seems the formula for these type songs is this. Take a touching topic (i.e. moms, lost loved ones) write some deep lyrics and top it off with a chorus sung by an R&B singer = An Emotional hit. However, Only few have been able to pull it off and they definitely deserve credit for doing so. Lastly are a few honorable mentions are below.
Be A Father to Your Child - Ed OG and the Bulldogs
The Message - Dr. Dre Feat. Mary J. Blige
We Survive - Talib Kweli