BLOG: The Concept of Success in Hip Hop

Hip Hop embodies the “rags to riches” story. The narrative is typical: I grew up under very difficult circumstances, I stood out, I was special and now I “made it.” I now have enough money that I can take care of myself and my family, forever.

Most people in real life however, never “make it.” Life, for most people, is a constant struggle and is more about managing problems then one day reaching some obscure mountain top of happiness and problem-free (read: debt free) existence. I believe this is where Hip Hop has come up short. Rap music has been the soundtrack to my life in many respects and has provided me with inspiration through each stage of my life, but had I relied only on the messages contained in my favorite rap songs, I would be lost in the misconception that I can one day “make it” and would think all else is failure. The truth is life is about the details; waking up everyday, making it to work or school on time and doing everything with heart, soul and care. Rap music, and the “hustle” that every rapper claims to be their forte is about “getting in the door” or “closing the deal.” Such hustle is not enough in the real world. Care, diligence, paying attention to detail and doing everything right all the time is what it takes to live a productive life.

This same ethos is what drives hip hop’s friendships. Note, every rapper claims they would “die” or “kill” for their homey…but when it comes to the small stuff that actually counts on a day to day occurrence, they come up short. Rappers who have professed undying loyalty to one another in song after song, soon stop talking over contractual or business disputes. Think about how many of your friends have said “Dog, you know I’d do anything for you…” but can’t pick you up and give you a ride when you need them or come up short on the most mundane of requests. This is the same that the “huslter” mentality in Hip Hop has done to our youth’s concept of success: “Man, I stay grinding!” is the battle cry I hear all the time…my follow up question is: Well, how many hours have you spent in preparing for your test?

We can’t all be Lebron James or Jay-Z but many of us live each day like we are one “hustle” away from being them. It’s a fallacy that causes many 14, 15 and 16 year old young brothers and sisters that I mentor look me in the eyes and say “I don’t care, I’ma be ballin’ out of control…” in response to me telling them they are not going to graduate high school.

The reality is: You are not a “Boss” who will one day be driven in a Maybach basking in the respect you get from everyone, everywhere you go. Unless you work hard, seek guidance and make every day a fruitful progression, you will be another statistic making less than 25 grand a year with kids you cannot provide for and a future without hope.-TPAR

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  • ty from linden blvd

    Good shit homie

    But what you are really talking about in essence is the so called “American Dream”.

    Most people find them selves chasing that dream until one day they wake up(usually when they are in their mid 50′s early 60′s)and realize it was all bullshit.

    • tony grand$

      Good post TPAR.

      It’s definitely time for the youth to receive a mandatory wake up call.

      The problem with that, though, is with such unfiltered bullshit being the basis of so many thought processes today, who/what is exactly strong enough to penetrate the masses?

      Personally, 15, 16 is too old. “They” have all the answers. “They” knew the solutions to problems their young minds can’t yet begin to fathom. I think now we have to start with the 10 year olds @ this point. They’re old enough to gather information, good &/or bad, so if we hit them hard with the misbeliefs & misconceptions early, maybe it will be the dose of “real life” needed to survive in the real world.

      Otherwise, it’s another lost generation. Which, sadly, seems to be the case.

    • Tyree

      Man, this whats up right here. Now, if we had more of the ‘Celebs” on this same path, I think we could possibly change the way our youth think about success, keeping it real and making it. I myself, also mentor 13, 14 yr. old, and it’s really sad how some of them can’t actually read a book, but they can quote every single word from a jeezy or wayne song. But in their mind, thats what life is all about. Keeping it so called ” REAL” or “GANGSTA”. But it’s really a joke, because they’re never told about the other side to it. The side where you end up in jail or dead, a STATISTIC! They also never get to see the good side of life, where you go to school and get an education and make something out of yourself. These young boys today fail to realize that you can make that way and be just as successful or even more successful ya know. But what’s frustrating to me is that, for the most part, most of these young dudes don’t have someone around everyday trying to encourage them. And when you have a kid that’s always around the hustling, street life etc, thats what’s he’s gonna want to do. It’s natural instinct because that’s all he see. What we need is for out so called “DADS” out there, to get up and get involved and be a DAD. It really makes a hell of a difference when you get involved and show u care, and that your son is special and can be somebody. If you don’t get involved, believe me, the streets will. Then all we have is another statistic. I’m out, Columbus, OH….

    • Tyree

      It’s not just about being a doctor, lawyer, teacher etc, you can be whatever it is that you want to be, just dont settle for what we call reality….. “the hood”! And just because you make out the hood, and leave to pursue other options, that does not make you a sell out, sucka, lame, busta, fake, or any of that. It just means that you are on your “grind” and trying to make it. So please, don’t believe them when they tell you “if you leave the hood, you’re a sell out”. If your so called friends are telling you that, then I suggest you re-evaluate your friendship because your friends should always support you trying to do something positive. Going to school and getting an education, that does not make u a “lame”. It means your preparing yourself to move on to bigger and better things. And if the people beside you dont want that, then leave them where they are. Columbus, OH

  • Jhon da Analyst

    Yeah, these bums need to get some health benefits from these fuckin labels!!

  • Who dat?

    Deep post TPAR.

    I am going to extend on what ty from linden blvd posted. The truth is we have to provide the youth with an alternative perspective towards achievement in life. The young ones despite their BS are smart and most have seen through the standardized germanic system of education ( Read – Weapons of Mass Instruction by Gatto )and therefore they are trying to achieve success without going through the system where they would need the skills you so profess in your post – diligence.

    Unfortunately the chances of making it outside of the normal system ( an education then a job )are slim and should really be pursued by people with natural gifts that would help them in that pursuit ( one look at Dwight Howard or James only confirms they shouldn’t be playing college basketball ). In congruence with Gatto’s idea what has to be changed is actually the system, to not only improve the wellness of the kids but also to stimulate creativity.

    To take it a step further, a change in the system will create new roles which the kids will not only want to occupy but they will also be very good in those roles. Not everyone wants to be a doctor, accountant or lawyer.

    Some people may want to be a gamer or a sneaker designer and might realise this when they are locked down in a cubicle somewhere looking real grey after having lost most of their earnings in a depleting 401 k fund. At that time it would be too late and they end up asking what is life when they have just lived it.

  • (V)asterP_G6

    It true how the youths need to approach the system with tenacity and passion. They will make it if they try and never give up.

  • Japiro

    Damn, I needed that! I just wrote a blog about this the other day. So true!!! Damn, I miss The Scratch Mag!!!

  • Worley

    Bol is TPAR

  • Pierzy

    Nice drop, TPAR.

    “We can’t all be Lebron James or Jay-Z but many of us live each day like we are one “hustle” away from being them. It’s a fallacy that causes many 14, 15 and 16 year old young brothers and sisters that I mentor look me in the eyes and say “I don’t care, I’ma be ballin’ out of control…” in response to me telling them they are not going to graduate high school.”

    Co-Sign and it’s not only in sports or music but in all walks of life.

    • Pierzy

      Yup. And Ron Mexico is Pierzy and Billy X. Sunday is Tony Grand$.

      • tony grand$


  • Prophet The Rebel

    Good article. Life is a constant struggle no matter what you do.I’m one of those “kids” who’s gone back and forth in school, in and out of the “thug” life, and I’m proud to say that I’m in school now, pursuing a career in acting AND hip hop.

  • –OG Matt Herbz–

    You mean to say that hip-hop inspires a false sense of hope in urban youth? Whuuut?! I’m sick of hearing the same shit: It’s the music’s fault…then the counter: It’s the parent’s fault…then the obligatory: It’s the government’s fault. I don’t know who’s fault it is, but it ain’t mine.

    You know what I say, fuck them kids. I’m a provide for me and my own and that’s that. Nobody’d give a shit about me or my family if we weren’t eating so fuck these stupid kids flunking out of school and thinking life’s a joke. One day, I might just pack up and go live in a small Spanish villa and just not give a fuck about the U.S. no more. I’m a move where there are no mosquitos, nigga.

    –OG Matt Herbz–

    • N DOT C

      ^You know what I say, fuck them kids^ LOL. For real a lot of people expect role models out of their entertainment. If so then i as an emcee should be claiming some of these kids on my income taxes.

      N DOT C

      Available Now
      For Sale @ iTunes, Amazon, and Shock Hound & MySpace


    Question: do all these guest bloggers get paid or are they doing it for the love? I’m just asking

    • Pierzy

      I didn’t get paid

      • tony grand$

        Neither did I.

  • Chris Cash

    Like it or not musicains are the biggest role models for youth, even with good parenting children are subject to music that motivates them to do negative things, cause like Dave Chappele said life is a lot cooler with a soundtrack.

  • Gedion


  • El Tico Loco

    Good post

    And is so true, some kids, and immature grownups think success is gonna come like *snap* and will not see beyond the end result (“ballin”) or the work that it takes to get there, and if they do they will chose the fastest way without remembering that money that comes fast goes fast. Is like a tree with 2 ft roots, it will tumble down. On the other hand there are narrowminded folks that will only see one way out and don’t explore other routes (education)that will give the same results but with a foundation (deep roots)so growth is inevitable. More successful people (besides rappers and ballplayers) need to stay connected with their old neighborhoods if they come from a bad one to show those kids hope beyond the booth and the court. (Keep your pass current)

  • $ykotic

    Nice. Very nice.

    That’s why it’s the American Dream, not the American way.

    • DT the Kingpen

      $ykotic, that’s the quote of the year.

  • SmokinAces

    I don’t understand how you can chastize the youth for wanting to live something better than the struggling 9-5 life that most people do in their lives. While I do believe that the rapper/musician/drug dealer/athlete is way overdone, people such as yourself do not give other alternatives to those occupations. All my life I all I heard, as far as being sucessful, was doctor, lawyer, or teacher. What if none of those fields grab a young person. What other options do they have if they are given a narrow view, not just by rappers or ball players, but also by their parents, teachers, and almost everyone else. We need to show these kids that you can be creative and and be outside the box. I don’t want to make it seem like your entry wasn’t very good. But I think if we are going to harp on the problems, at least we should offer more and better solutions than “you won’t make it as a rapper so give up.” If someone feels in their heart of hearts that they can do that, who are you, me, or anyone else to tell them they can’t.

    • Dub Sac

      I think part of the problem is how a lot of kids have an unrealistic expectation of what it will take to “make it” as a rapper/musician/drug dealer/athlete. Rapping looks like it’s easy because most rappers don’t talk about the actual work that goes in to getting your name out and perfecting your craft.

      However, that work ethic and dedication is the key to anything you do in life. Even if you do go to college, if you don’t apply yourself and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, you’re going to miss out and you’re going to end up in the same position as before you got a degree.

  • dbys

    yea dudes right cuz i see so many people with that attitude,hell ive even caught myself at times but smokin aces has a point there

  • Avenger XL

    Interesting post

    However I think many people miss what is really happening with these kids. They use some hustler idea or grind mentatlity as a social narcotic to help them forget about the hell they go trhough to survive everyday. Living in slum conditions because you have parents who are irresponsible children themselves or addicts who fucked for recreation and now they have a child which is going to handicap their already jacked life further. If it wasn’t for rap music they would escape in some other deceptively easy to attain appearing social narcotic like church where you forget about the hell the system puts you through to live a good life and go to a great heaven where there is no more pain rather than working hard to make this life count. There are many social narcotics that numb the mind and as we go through ruff things it protects our sanity and defends us against our fears. But the most devistating thing we face in the black community is the fact we lost several generations to drugs and the middle class left after desegregation. We do need more positive images and we need to give these kids more choices as well because it is hard to mentor a child when their parents are fuck ups too. I know I have tried and continue to do so. But it is our duty to contiue to do so and seek new answers to the problem to help them give up the social narcotics and low work ethic.

  • SmokinAces

    Also, when did rags to riches become strictly a hip hop thing? Goodfellas, Scarface, Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Oprah. America as a whole was always facinated with the person coming from the bottom up. Help, America was built on it.

  • LB

    SmokinAces…I agree with the message of your post. But speakin specifically in the context of Hip Hop and our culture; I think it’s a good thing for those kids to want to manifest their dreams into reality, or simply, aim to do somethin in life that they’d actually enjoy doing-while gettin hella paid. But at the same time, it’s a matter of perspective that determines how far you get. I mean, if you think bein a Boss is bein someone famous, then you’ll have to wait until you become famous one day to claim it. But if you know bein a Boss has more to do with your position of power and access, then anybody with a lethal combination of heart, persuasiveness, and intelligence can be that.

  • Gerv

    This is the realest post on this site or any hip-hop site I have read in a while keep up the good work!!!

  • LB

    Avenger XL…How do you propose these shorties out here get along in the face of other parts of society, echoing similar points as yours, telling them to go to school, get in debt, and live even harder lives than those who never chose to go the nonscholastic route? I think you’re putting your own “social narcotic” out there. And since when having faith stored up to feed your soul is a bad thing? Ya see, people like you want to teach and lock up the same kids you are so-called for helping out. Why are you a mentor, teacher, or whatever you are instead of a Superintendant? a Mayor? an Alderman? a Supreme Court Judge? Is it because someone told you don’t waist your time? Or was your hustle or grind not good enough?


      Don’t be such a religious zealot quick to attack anyone to that calls church a social narcotic which it is. Secondly I work with kids in my community to keep them from being locked up and I know college isn’t for everyone so I encourage kids to explore all of their interests that are productive and I show them other avenues such as apprentice bassed careers and discuss money management with teens and college students.

      Now I don’t care for most politics due to the dog and pony show involved but who knows maybe one day I will run for something but as of right now I am only interested in working with disadvantaged youth and doing my best to show options and hopefully be a good example for them. What are you doing to slow down the lock up rate?

  • Stan

    Real talk homie… Great post..

  • miles archer

    Yeah, ok… I feel u, but… you didn’t exactly break any new ground.

    I think you could of elaborated on the fact that the reason Jay-Z, Russell Simmons, Puffy etc… are so successful IS their work ethic and attention to detail.

    Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson made handling a basketball look effortless. Willie Mays and Ken Griffey made catching a fly ball look commonplace. Shaun Carter and Sean Combs make 100 million dollar deals seem as nonchalant as a D-Boy deciding what color fitted to wear with his white tee.

    That is where the fallacy lies(pun intended).

    It’s the natural gift that pointed them in the direction of understanding “where” they wanted to be successful, yes, that’s true.
    BUT, the constant work ethic, attention to detail and drive to achieve is what has allowed them to sustain it.

    What separates someone like George Lucas from the guy who just bought a movie camera isn’t necessarily talent, it’s the obsession with feeding their limitless desire for perfection. It’s constantly evolving your craft and technique because you truly believe that you’re never finished.

    The “American Dream” becomes the nightmare when we’re okie-doked into thinking it’s easily achieved and once achieved, we’re done.
    But that “Dream” shouldn’t be discouraged because we’re after it for what might be perceived as the “wrong reasons”.

    It’s nice to have nice things.

    The value we put on those things change, however, when you have to do something of value to acquire them.
    miles archer

    By the way…XXL gave you a platform to speak on something that the masses would read… the least you coulda done is hit ya “spell check”.

    I’m jus’sayin’.

  • chillin mayne

    dayum….real talk….hell of a article TPAR, respect

  • ShowTime

    Im confused. Is your point not to have dreams and or not to pursue “the american dream” because most people nver achieve it?Or are u saying that its ok to have aspiration but u have to work at it.

    I know personally I Know Im gonna make it. I dont even believe I know. Unless I get killed or something, God Forbid.

    It might not be Music that gets me there but I have always felt I was destined for greatness.

    I definately feel you on Education. But if youre mentoring the youth as an Adult you should overstand although it is Prerequisite to success as Mr. Obama has stated it is also an Indoctrination which eronously teaches our kids What to think and not HOW to think.

    Its not Learning that kids are runnig from. Its the White Glory History that is taught that puts african american contributions in as an after thought,Its the uninspired teachers, its the outdated curriculum,its the overpacked classrooms,its the violence in school, its the unpractical nature of about 85% of the things they teach in school.

    If a Kid by the 9th grade cant tangibly feel or see the direct correlation between going to school and being succesful, as Jay _Z or whoever they idolize, why should they be exspected to complete their education?
    Why do you think so many males are HS drop outs?

    Anybody who has ever been become rich in this country has done so by going into business for themself. Or they have become the product? Like an actor, musician,writer, Athlete.

    Everybody else has worked made somebody else rich only to find out they have little to no money to retire on.

    MYmom is a Lawyer and my father is a doctor.Both are in their 50s and unable to retire.

    Is that what you want kids to aspire to?

    education>Job>uncomfortable retirement ??

  • Ben

    Tell people something they don’t know you preachy bastard. All these guest bloggers suck ass.

  • Black So

    While I definitely agree with the majority of your post what needs to be stressed to the youth of today is that music is nothing but entertainment. You cite rappers as being the only ones who can “make it” when in reality there are only a handful ( Jigga, 50, etc) who have made it to the point where they could retire right now and not do anything for the rest of their lives. A common complaint that I hear is that the “old” rappers won’t step down. The truth is that the majority of them can’t and in order to garner any type of income they have to do shows and travel 250 days out of the year. the bulk of rappers do grind no matter how much they try to portray themselves as the the proverbial boss.

  • abdulnasir

    this is the best shit written since the guest blogs started and i absolutely agree wiv every word u said man.

  • DramaKing

    its been a minute since i been on here whats new yall? But yeah lemme get at this…wow thats some real deep shit its the American Dream that we all be chasing but like Andre said even the average joe has problems he has to joust wit you know? I’m usin that quote because of most kids say that they gonna be ballin and what not when they dont actually get up and get out to do the things ya know.

  • Prince Caesar

    I know this is the realest post I’ve ever read on this site. It’s very true. The youth (especially black and hispanic) are subjected to this close-minded thinking at a young age. Almost everytime they turn on the radio or TV they see some guy wearing a million dollars worth of jewelry talking about how he’s a hustla. The truth is most rappers talk down on the average man that works a 9 to 5, attends school, or are just trying to make it. I watch these idiots brainwash people into thinking that you are not there equal if you don’t wear jewelry, sleep with a bunch of tramps, and lie about criminal activity. I’m only 23..and I knew from a young age that the image rappers and some athletes provide are nothing more than fake ass facades. I don’t see pop stars promoting selling drugs and killing people.

  • yeah man

    I expected more TPAR, than a rant on how to be a good worker bee…although I do agree that real life is in the details and that is an important message. And yes, rappers are’s both a cliche and a truism. But the main reason that most people in life don’t ‘make it’ is that they listen to dudes who have already given up and think it prudent to break the dreams of kids who still have hope. Anyways, I really thought you were going to come with something substantial homes.