What’s hip-hop music if not an outlet to combat life’s hardships? Since its early days, the culture has acted as a platform for oppressed and overlooked folks to voice their struggles. Yesterday, on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, all of the world paid tribute to the citizens of New Orleans who’ve endured through homelessness, government neglect and the destruction caused by broken levees.
With the city’s strong natives in our thoughts, XXL couldn’t help but think of rap’s survivors, artists that are no strangers themselves to hard times. Life constantly challenges men and women of all backgrounds, but it’s all about how one thrives through the difficult periods. These six rappers have weathered their own personal storms to emerge victorious. Salute them.
One look at the current Billboard 200 albums chart is all that’s needed to see Eminem’s resiliency. Last May, Marshall Mathers released the comeback record Relapse, after five years of musical inactivity caused by drug use and the death of his best friend, and fellow D12 member, Proof. While the LP was a financial triumph, many fans and industry types questioned its direction, accusing Em of going too far into conceptual horror and goofily-voiced flows instead of earnestly cleaning out his personal closet. Having heard the complaints, Em returned this past June with a proper resurrection record, Recovery, which has spent seven weeks atop the Billboard 200 album chart.
Last September, Kanye West became Public Enemy No. 1. overnight. In a now-infamous episode of foot-in-mouth foolishness, the superstar producer-rapper stormed the MTV Video Music Awards stage and tainted young pop/country singer Taylor Swift’s Best Female Video victory. West, clearly a Beyoncé fan, professed his appreciation for B’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” vid over Swift’s “You Belong With Me.” As if public opinion wasn’t sour enough in the incident’s wake, famous folk, ranging from Katy Perry to President Obama, voiced their disdain for ’Ye’s actions. Fortunately, a year away from the limelight and dope music have done West’s career good. Today, he’s as prolific as ever (see his Twitter profile or weekly “G.O.O.D. Friday” music series), and has the year’s most anticipated album on deck. No longer are heads asking “Where are you, Yeezy?”; he’s everywhere.