Being an intern isn’t all coffee-fetching and errand-running. It’s an opportunity to check your ego, get your foot in the door, and push yourself to levels you never knew existed. I’m gassing? Just look at some of the biggest names in hip-hop as proof of what can be accomplished by ambitious apprentices. Whether they were actual interns, like Puffy at Uptown, or unofficial understudies, like former Digital Underground backup dancer Tupac Shakur, those that have completed the beautiful struggle from the bottom to the top know that paying dues is what hip-hop, nay, America, is all about. Here’s a look back at five of the illest interns in hip-hop history to set off’s first ever Intern-Net Takeover Week.


While a student at Howard University in Washington D.C., Puffy used to commute from the nation’s capital to his Uptown Records internship in NYC each morning by hiding in the bathroom of commuter trains because he couldn’t afford a ticket. Now, the same kid who didn’t have enough money to ride the Amtrak can charter a private jet if he wanted. How’d he do it? Ask Andre Harrell, the then President of Uptown, who hired Puff only to find himself in competition with the ambitious go-getter for the top spot at the company a few years later. Take that.

Classic Early ’90s Interview with Diddy & Andre Harell


Some may wonder why Jay looked like such a natural when he played hype man for Drake last November in Toronto. But those who know their history know that Hov came into the game some 20 years earlier as Jaz-O’s apprentice. Yes, before the G4’s, Maybachs, and worldwide tours, Jigga was just the skinny kid from Marcy playing sidekick in Jaz’s “Hawaiian Sophie” video. Last year’s performance beside Drizzy showed that either being a hype man is like riding a bike, or Jay got some damn good pointers from Bleek to help shake off the rust. Hey, I can’t call it.

“Hawaiian Sophie”


While hustling on the streets of the Bay, a teenaged 2Pac met Digital Underground leader Shock-G (or Humpty Hump) and talked his way onto the group’s tour bus as a roadie. Traveling the country along with DU as they opened for Public Enemy, Pac sharpened his skills, networked with fellow MCs, and did “The Humpty Dance”  on stage beside Mr. Humpty before making his debut as an MC on the group’s “Same Song.” In just a few years time, the energetic kid who was always smiling became one of the most beloved artists in the history of music. Now, that’s one ambitious ridah.

“The Humpty Dance”


Most of us met Kanye in the early 2000’s as an in-house producer for Roc-A-Fella, and later as the outspoken backpack-toting MC in the pink polo. But Mr. West’s journey started way back in 1996 when Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie of the Bad Boy production team The Hitmen took the young beatmaker under his wing. Though ’Ye was never an actual “ghostproducer” as he said on “Last Call,” his years spent working with D-Dot proved to be instrumental to the young producer’s growth. Sending beats to his mentor, who helped turn them into full songs, got Kanye some of his first production credits in the industry, as well as valuable experience. Almost a decade-and-a-half later, he’s graduated to superstar status and has the entire industry eagerly anticipating his yet-to-be-named fifth studio album.

Kanye playing a beat for D-Dot Pre-Roc-A-Fella Days


The former Def Jam executive’s seven-year rise from unpaid intern to President is one of the most inspiring stories in hip-hop.  Liles started out working for free for Lyor Cohen at Def Jam in 1991 and was running the company by 1998. His strong relationship with artists and expertise in branding have made him one of the most influential men in music in the past 15 years, helping artists like Jay-Z, Ludacris and DMX crossover globally. Liles’ humility and generosity make him an ideal ambassador for the culture and his devotion to giving back inspired the city of Baltimore to rename the street he grew up on in his honor.

Footage of Liles’ Street Naming Ceremony

Kevin Liles Drive Street Naming Ceremony from Kevin Liles on Vimeo.

Shout out to our current Editor-In-Chief Vanessa Satten, who started at XXL as an intern back on issue No. 13. Check for me and the rest of the No. 1 intern team in the universe—Manny, Aleia, Vaughn and Amber—as we take over the staff blog and XXL twitter account for the week. Stay up. —Calvin Stovall


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