Everybody loves a rags to riches success story, which is why the notion of the American Dream is so alluring and compelling.
The world of rap and hip hop is full of rags to riches stories.
In music videos, concerts, and tabloids, we see rap artists decked out in designer clothes and diamonds, surrounded by exotic luxury cars, lavish mansions, and beautiful women. But we know most rap superstars didn’t start their careers in such conditions.
In fact, many of the most popular and successful rap and hip hop artists had humble beginnings, living in rough neighborhoods and selling drugs just to make ends meet.
What’s interesting is how these artists pushed themselves forward, despite their struggles, into remarkable fame and success.
A true leader in rap and being a producer – and in the music industry in general – Kanye West has an interesting story.
Though much of his publicity in recent years centers on his outrageous statements, West’s fame and success ultimately comes from his remarkable creative process and output.
Kanye’s comes from a strong household, where his mother was an English professor, and his father was a photojournalist and former Black Panther member.\
They divorced when Kanye was just 3, however, and his mother, Donda, was ultimately the one that raised him.
After the divorce, she moved them to Chicago, where she taught college courses.
Donda was the supportive, driving force behind Kanye’s early musical career. She even helped fund his first record, when he was 13.
A local producer in Chicago, No I.D., heard the demo, and took West under his wing to help teach him about how to make music.
He described Kanye as “the most persistent person who I’ve ever met.”
Kanye tried to go to college, which his mother encouraged, but he dropped out to pursue music. (It’s worth noting that his first major album is titled College Dropout.)
He got even more serious about music, and started selling his beats.
He got his big break when he finally sold a beat for $8,000 to artist Gravity.
Afterward, he sold another beat to producer Jermaine Dupri.
With this success, he moved to New Jersey so that he could more easily try and sell his beats to artists and labels in New York City.
Shortly after, he started producing for several big artists at the time, including Dead Prez, Mase, Goodie Brown, and Jay-Z.
But he quickly tired of making beats for everyone else. He wanted to start making his own music.
Two weeks after ending up in a nearly-fatal car crash, West recorded a mixtape that included the single “Through the Wire,” which he did with his jaw wired shut.
This in turn got him the opportunity to finish his first album, which was wildly successful.
From there, he has produced several more albums, collaborated with other artists, and even stretched beyond music, branching into fashion.
He has married television personality Kim Kardashian, and has kids with her.
Post Malone, whose real name is Austin Richard Post, has a less dramatic success story than some of the other artists in this list, but it is remarkable, nonetheless.
He was born in Syracuse, New York, on July 4, 1995, and grew up in Dallas, Texas – an unlikely place for a rap superstar to spawn from.
Nearly twenty years later, in 2015, he uploaded a song to his SoundCloud account. This song, “White Iverson,” became viral within a day, and launched the young rapper’s career. The artist has stated that, at the time this hit was uploaded, he didn’t even have enough money to buy a pack of cigarettes.
Despite his singing ability, Post’s passion has always been for guitar. He figured this out after playing the popular Guitar Hero II game.
When he wasn’t gaming as a teen, Malone was posting Vine and YouTube videos in which he made music of all kinds, from rock to rap.
After graduating high school, Post Malone moved into a house with other YouTubers and gaming streamers. Here, he continued to play music and sing. His music career grew as well, and he even got the opportunity to collaborate with Kanye West and tour with Justin Bieber.
In 2016, his album Stoney went double platinum and skyrocketed his career even further. Last year he released album Beerbongs & Bentleys, which hit number one on the Billboard 100.
And his most recently released album, Hollywood’s Bleeding, on which he collaborated with several of the most popular artists today, proves even more his talent and success.
On April 30, 1991, Jacques Berman Webster II, whom we know today as Travis Scott, was born in Houston, Texas. Scott credits his childhood in the South Park neighborhood of Houston, where he lived with his grandmother.
When Scott turned 16, it was then that he found his interest in music through producing music and making beats.
In fact, he loved it so much that he moved to Los Angeles to pursue music more seriously. He lived with friends, sleeping on a couch for two years while he worked in the studio.
He dropped out of college at the University of Texas – without telling his parents – and used the money that would have paid for his formal education to pay for plane tickets between Los Angeles and Texas. His mom was so mad when she found out that she didn’t speak to him for several months.
But it paid off.
Rapper T.I. heard his beats and ended up collaborating with Travis on his track “Animal.” Soon after that, Kanye West’s engineer linked up with him, and Travis eventually got to meet Kanye at a listening party.
Kanye was impressed with Scott, and let him produce some of the songs on his Cruel Summer album.
Now he is directing music videos in addition to creating new music. He is even working with and dating singer Rihanna.
Born Cordozar Calvin Broadus Jr., rapper Snoop Dogg is a famous West Coast rapper. He was born and raised in Long Beach, California in a time when gang wars dominated the neighborhood.
Snoop was forced to choose a side, and joined Rollin’ 20 Crips when he was a teenager. He was arrested several times while in high school for selling drugs.
When Calvin found rap, however, he began to focus on that, rather than the streets. He began rapping under the name Snoop Doggy Dogg, with his friends and fellow artists Nate Dogg and Warren G.
HIs first performance was on Death Row Records in 1992, featured on producer and artist Dr. Dre’s song “Deep Cover.”
Roughly one year after that, Snoop released his debut solo album, Doggystyle, and pretty much instantly became popular and a household name, representing the West Coast rap style.
Snoop is still popular today, more than 20 years later. He has released over 15 albums, and fleshed out his resume with his dispensary business, and the production of his own TV series. He is still occasionally touring with new hip hop acts, and appearing on television shows with Martha Stewart.
Despite being worth several hundred million dollars today, Eminem was hardly born with a silver spoon in his mouth. The rapper, whose real name is Marshall Mathers, grew up in a Detroit trailer park.
Born to a teen mother, Eminem had a rough childhood, lacking stability and moving around a lot within both Michigan and Missouri. Finally, when he was 12, his family settled in Detroit.
Marshall was a bit of a loner in school and struggled to make friends, instead getting bullied.
He escaped his strife at the time by indulging in various creative outlets, like reading comic books, watching TV, and listening to music.
Marshall dropped out of school in the ninth grade to pursue making his music full time. When he wasn’t working dead-end jobs to support himself, he was gaining notoriety in the local rap battle scene.
Finally, thanks to his hard work and iconic Slim Shady persona, he was discovered by rap producer Dr. Dre. He gave Eminem a chance, and helped him release his first album, The Slim Shady LP, in 1999. Em is known for this angry and controversial lyrics.
He has since released several more albums – all of which have been largely successful. There has even been a movie made about his life, the biopic 8 Mile, in 2008.
Though he’s a CEO, executive producer, and business mogul now, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson wasn’t born into such a fancy and easy life.
50 Cent was born in South Jamaica, Queens, one of the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in New York City.
He was raised by his mother, Sabrina, who had him when she was just a teenager and made money by being a drug dealer. Naturally, as she had become such a powerful drug dealer in the area, she made enemies. Sabrina was killed in a fire – whose cause is yet to be determined – when Curtis was just eight years old.
Following in his mother’s footsteps, 50 started dealing hard drugs. He was 12 years old when he started dealing hard drugs, like heroin and cocaine, and became the new neighborhood kingpin when he was just 19 years old.
He also started making enemies because of this at the time.
On May 24, 2000, 50 Cent was shot outside of his grandmother’s house nine times. Scared from this experience, Curtis became inspired to focus on making his rap music and quit selling drugs altogether.
50’s debut album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, was certified six times platinum, and skyrocketed his popularity instantly.
This made it easy for him to release all of his following personal albums, and those he made with his group, G-Unit.
From there, 50 Cent moved up in the world, becoming an executive producer, a shareholder of a popular vodka brand, Effen Vodka, and to other endeavours outside of the music industry.
A Few Final Words
The rap industry is no stranger to success stories like these.
And with so much inspiration, and so many rap lyrics and music videos focusing on exorbitant wealth, fame, and success, it is sure to keep inspiring rap and hip hop artists for generations to come, each with their own success stories.
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