The ten best storytellers in hip-hop
The art of storytelling has existed since before recorded history, so it's somewhat surprising that the practice didn't take off in hip-hop, an originally oral tradition, until the late '80s. Since rappers discovered just how captivating a well-told story could be, the storytelling track has become a staple for almost any album. Like a rite of passage, you must be able to tell a good story if you want to be considered a top-tier rapper. Storytelling has only begun to explore the depths of its potential with weird, sci-fi adventures llike Deltron 3030 or Homer-esque epics like Lupe Fiasco's story of Michael Young History, but some rappers, even without venturing into especially unknown territory, have elevated themselves above the pack as exceptional storytellers. Keep reading for the ten best storytellers in hip-hop.
10. Andre 3000
Although Big Boi and Andre 3000 both brought their individual strengths to OutKast's "Da Art of Storytellin'" series, Andre has always had more of a flair for a visceral communication of emotion and vivid imagery, which make for some compelling stories. Lines like "I remember her number like the summer" and "Look out the window. Golly, the sky is electric blue" are such clear expressions of a moment that they place you right in the middle of the story. And while some storytelling rappers tell stories that seem to exist only for their own sake, OutKast's always seem to be indicative of some greater significance.
9. Big L
Part of Big L's appeal was his authenticity. Whether he's talking about pulling heists for money, doling out street lessons or reflecting on real life struggles, he always impresses his dark, witty personality on his music. Like in "The Heist," when Big L is about to bust in on his wife and her lover with his crew and start killing, he has to pause on the stairs to say, "I'm out of breath. Them cigarettes gon' be the cause of my death." It's out of left field, but funny and appropriate. When the rapper talks about his mother's drug problem in "How Will I Make It," and then says "his dad went out for a fast snack" and never returned, that's the biting humor of the late Big L.