At the surface level, hip-hop may look like a world of ostentatious glamour, but the genre’s history is heavily rooted in the art of the hustle. Many of rap’s biggest, wealthiest names were once down-and-out hustlers from poor neighborhoods and crime-ridden circumstances striving for a way out. They weren’t afraid to do anything, by any means necessary, just to get by. And once MCs like 50 Cent, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Jay Z and Lil Wayne discovered the creative outlet of music and started rapping, their long-instilled practice of hustling was showcased through with every bar.

Rap’s most successful stars create their own legacy with the tools they’re given. For the craft’s most notable acts, the tools for success were slim to none. At times, they didn’t even have a pen and paper to write their rhymes down. For some rappers on this list, it took a shooting to serve as a wake-up call. For others, jail time drove them to change their life path. For all of hip-hop’s greats, it was the longing for something more out of life that drove them to pursue their passion of music.

Get on the legendary wave and check out some of the best rags-to-riches stories in hip-hop history. These rappers serve to remind us all to trust the struggle and leave a lasting legacy.