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Earlier this week, XXL brought you a list of 11 rappers speaking about the high points in their careers, from Big Boi to Scarface to Killer Mike to Lil Durk, and everyone in between. Today, we present the flip side of that question—the lowest moment. For each rapper we spoke to about feeling like they were at the top, we asked each of them to describe what it felt like to be at the bottom, riding the roller coaster of life, personal relationships and the music industry. Think of the two pieces as companions, meant to be read side by side. Started from the bottom. —XXL Staff
Big BoiBig Boi: I guess the lowest moment was when we kept getting turned down for record deals when we were trying to get signed. Getting our hopes so high, and then labels just turning us away before we got with L.A. [Reid] and he eventually signed us. Never lost focus with what we wanted to do and just knew that this was what we were put on this Earth to do. We pushed and pushed and made it happen.
Curren$yCurren$y: I don’t know, man. You know what I’m saying? I take everything... It’s all a blessing because I wasn’t really doing that much. My life was out in my crib and shit like that. So the minute I started making any music, every day was tighter than the last one. I mean the lowest point would probably be the beginning, because things weren’t so dope. I didn’t have a Ferrari. But there was no outright despair. 'Cause, I mean, everybody goes through things. I don’t wanna say the loss of a certain homie or anything, because that shit happens to everybody. Everybody goes through that. You know what I’m saying? So I really don’t know. I really can’t identify with a time that I was low as far as in the game. Anything I did in it was good for me.
Fredo SantanaFredo Santana: For me, I feel like my low point is engineering and shit. I make the music straight from scratch. I had DJ Kenn record me or one of my homies record me. Sometimes I record myself and I put it out. I don’t really get it mastered or mixed like it should be. I think I am gonna start doing [that]. I feel like if my quality would have been better, some of my songs would have sounded way better than what they is.
Ice CubeIce Cube: Low point? I guess leaving N.W.A, that’s a pretty low point in my career.
Killer MikeKiller Mike: When Pledge 2 and 3 were criminally slept on. No, Pledge 2; Pl3dge they got a sense of it. Pledge 2 being criminally slept on was low, because I put everything I had into that record, and it affected people the way I thought it would, it just didn't affect the amount of people I thought it would. I was disappointed that it didn't happen in leaps and bounds. But years later it all makes sense.
But I guess the lowest point was not even that. The lowest point in my career was probably the fracture of OutKast the machine, and the breakup of Aquemini Records. Because I was at the beginning of my career, and so much was at stake, that it really took the rug up from under me before I could set a firm foundation. And with that said, embrace the lowest point of your career, because as a result of that, I worked my ass off through the Pledge series and became who I am now. I don't regret it at all, but that probably was the point where my dream became a nightmare.
Lil DurkLil Durk: My lowest point is going to jail. That’s it.
MCLyte_I AM Hip-Hop
MC LyteMC Lyte: I think in '98 is when I recorded the last record for East West Records. As soon as I was done, they told me to start working on another one and I took it extremely personal and I said, you know what, it's time for me to move. At the time, Will Smith had a situation with Interscope, and he said if I ever wanted to come with him, let's roll, and I decided that that was the time. And Sylvia Rhone was nice enough to say, “Okay, if that’s what you want, then so you shall have," and I moved along. I think that was pretty much a low. It was like, okay, not really sure if I want to continue on with hip-hop. And a lot of questions that you ask yourself that you have to be able to answer, only you can do it. A whole lot of people have advice to give and a whole lot of people have motives and agendas that may not be in alignment with the betterment of you. But I love the music and I want to inspire and this is the way you get through to many people, the music.
RapsodyRapsody: You know, you have your bad days, your days where things don't go as planned, or you're shooting for something and it doesn't come. You have your frustrating moments. But nothing like, "I don't want to do this anymore," nothing that would depress me to that point. A low moment would be if I couldn't wake up and do this anymore. As long as I know the studio's open, and I can create and put out music, I'll be okay.
RiFF RAFFRiFF RAFF: When I was on the red carpet at the Grammys last year. They made me sit two rows back from the front of the stage and didn’t let me perform.
The Source Hip Hop Music Awards 2001
ScarfaceScarface: My early career was low, in my opinion. It was a lot of, in the beginning that shit was fun. Then when it turned into a business, it really got shitty, man. I got so shitty, so when it turned into a business it got really shitty. That was a low point.
Tech N9neTech N9ne: It probably had to be after my deal with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis went south in '93. I spent the summer of '93 in L.A. recording with people they were hooking me up with back in the day. I got a record deal with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on Perspective Records in '93. After that, it didn’t work, so we came back home. They cut off the money and stuff. They paid me monthly. That’s when Nnutthowze came about, because we didn’t have anything. I stayed with my producer Icy Rock and we just making crazy music. Fuck up our hair. We don’t care what they think about us.
That bred over to Tech N9ne. That is Tech N9ne. What Brian Dennis built. Tech and Brian Dennis. These dark-minded guys came up with Nnutthowze. And we spelled it N-N-U-T-T-H-O-W-Z-E. We spelled nut with two Ns and two Ts because it stands for New Narcotical Unattainable Techniques. The house of new narcotical unattainable techniques. That’s the whole Tech N9ne spirit. That’s how Strange Music came about. The whole fuck you, we are going this way attitude is Nnutthowze all day.
Previously: 11 Rappers On The Highest Point Of Their Careers
7 Rappers On The Moment They Knew They Could Make It In Hip-Hop
6 Rappers Pick The Best Songs Of Their Career
50 Rappers Snubbed By The Grammys