Words by Al and the Pigeon.
Writing music is about telling a story through lyrical content and production. The joy in creating music stems from the ability to provide listeners with fuel for their imagination. It can be argued that lyrical content has been neglected in contemporary hip-hop, with the focus solely on production.
Although few, there are artists who tell a story so vividly through lyrics that the accompanying thought-provoking production takes a backseat.
We have put together a list of our top 5 favourite storytelling rappers which will undoubtedly inspire listeners and reignite their creative passions.
XXXtentacion – Jocelyn Flores
This song epitomises how powerful a record can be when production works in perfect harmony with the lyrical content. You can truly feel XXXtentacion’s pain. It’s dark and twisted, yet there is a feeling of hope.
XXXtentacion’s ability to speak so openly to his fans is something to be respected. For such a young talent to be taken from this world so suddenly is terrible.
I be feeling pain, I be feeling pain just to hold on
And I don’t feel the same, I’m so numb
Get a phone call
Girl that you fuck with killed herself
Joyner Lucas – Ross Capicchioni
First time I (AL) heard this song, I was blown away. Joyner introduces the character of Ross Capicchioni in the first verse as an innocent high school student who is befriended by a fellow student offering Ross protection in the dangerous city of Detroit.
The second verse then totally flips to the perspective of the kid offering protection, who we find out, has been ordered to kill an innocent kid, as part of his gang initiation. Listen to the song to find out how it all unfolds.
V1. Got dressed to head out and ride to school on my skateboard
New kid in class I sat alone takin’ notes while the hoodlums were
V2. Got dressed, then head out, down the stairs from the eighth floor
New kid in class, he sat alone, takin’ notes while my niggas were
Lupe Fiasco – Daydreamin’ feat Jill Scott
Lupe Fiasco has been a massive inspiration for us. Using a robot’s body parts to describe the streets of Chicago is genius. Food and Liquor is one of our favourite albums. Which was followed by another classic and conceptually brilliant album, The Cool.
And the crack heads beg, at about the lower leg
There’s crooked police, that’s stationed at the knees
And they do drive-bys like up and down the thighs
And there’s car chase, going on at the waist
Logic – Nikki
In Nikki, Logic talks about his relationship with his nicotine addiction, through the personification of nicotine which takes the form of a girlfriend.
No matter if you smoke or not, everyone who has ever been in a toxic relationship can relate. The love, the neediness, the all-consuming lust, Logic discusses his struggle to quit and end his addiction to nicotine.
I tried some others but man they just not as good as you
Going crazy cause I only feel this good with you
Maybe I’m just not as strong as I once was
The Streets – On The Edge Of A Cliff
What a song to finish the playlist. Mike Skinner was a huge advocate for describing the physicality rather than the emotion. In doing so, emotion is foregrounded due to the power that comes when it is not referred to directly.
This is definitely apparent in On The Edge of A Cliff as he tells the story of a friendly stranger who talks him out of suicide. This record is indicative of the therapeutic potential of song-writing.
For nillions of years since the outset of time
Every single one of your ancestors’ survived
Every single person on your mum and dad’s side
Successfully looked after and passed onto your life
Check out Al and the Pigeon’s debut single It’s A Shame below.