13 rap cuts that could be used to create cinematic masterpieces

The world of rap is brimming with potential blockbuster narratives from many of its most notable artists. Songs from some of your favorite classic albums weave intricate tales that unfold like miniature movies. Imagine if standouts from Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city transformed into a coming-of-age story on the big screen. Others from the likes of Slick Rick and The Notorious B.I.G. practically beg to be a sprawling epic.

The beauty lies in rap’s inherent diversity. Think of Eminem’s “Stan” as a high-octane psychological thriller, with the song’s main character leaving everyone in the theater on edge until the film’s tragic end. Or envision A Tribe Called Quest’s “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” as a quirky comedic adventure in the vein of The Hangover, complete with an ending that would leave viewers wanting to hit the replay button. Rap’s ability to tell stories creates the perfect basis for an A-list watch — one that entertains while sparking conversations long after.

Below is a list of 13 songs that fit the aforementioned mold in unique ways. These potential films wouldn’t just be about the music – they’d harness the raw energy of Hip Hop culture to create something truly unique.

1. It Was A Good Day – Ice Cube

One of the dopest stories about a typical 24 hours in Los Angeles stands as one of the best in rap history. Ice Cube’s The Predator standout depicted his ideal day, filled with good luck, leisure, and a peaceful neighborhood. The lyrics used a contrast between fantastical scenarios and ordinary events to highlight the harsh realities of his everyday life, where violence and police presence are commonplace. Interestingly, a fan determined the exact date the song might have been referring to and a successful internet campaign flew a blimp with Ice Cube’s name over his old neighborhood in celebration of the release.

2. Hip Hop Saved My Life – Lupe Fiasco and Nikki Jean

Taken from The Cool, “Hip-Hop Saved My Life” was an emotionally charged cut about an underground rapper facing challenges but striving for success. The main character in the song could even be heard writing a track that best represented the struggle of making music while dealing with real-life issues. It was later revealed that the song was based on the life of Houston veteran Slim Thug, who made a brief cameo in its matching visual.

3. Home – Knucks

Knucks’ “Home,” the breakout hit from NRG 105, explored the cycle of violence plaguing young Black men in London. The protagonist, influenced by his friends and pride, got caught up in crime, and his jealousy led him to kill someone over a seemingly trivial situation involving his girlfriend. The chorus referenced the Great Fire of London as a metaphor for the city’s knife crime crisis.

4. Stan – Eminem

The Marshall Mathers LP standout “Stan” told a chilling story of a fan who became increasingly obsessed with Eminem. The song reflected on the rapper’s experiences with supporters who took his violent lyrics too literally and also aimed to silence critics who questioned his talent. “Stan” became a huge hit and cemented itself in pop culture, with the term “stan” entering the Oxford Dictionary as a word for an overzealous fan. Eminem’s later revelations suggested that Stan later attempted to kill him in an unused verse.

5. Children’s Story – Slick Rick

Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story” isn’t your typical bedtime tale. The second single from The Great Adventures of Slick Rick was a cautionary number delivered through a gripping narrative. It followed two young men who turned to crime, but one got caught in a dangerous cycle he couldn’t escape. The story took a tragic turn when he unknowingly robbed an undercover cop, which led to a chase and a fatal shooting.

6. Somebody’s Gotta Die – The Notorious B.I.G.

A dark thriller with an even darker twist ending. On the Life After Death track, B.I.G. picked up right where another song, “Warning,” left off – getting bad news in the middle of the night. This time, it was his friend Sing who woke him with word of another friend’s murder. Fueled by revenge, Biggie and Sing plotted a quick retaliation against the killer, Jason. In genius fashion, the song left listeners hanging on to every line until its tragic cliffhanger in the final seconds.

7. You Got Me – The Roots, Erykah Badu, and Jill Scott

This powerful love story became one of The Roots’ biggest hits, earning the Philly collective a top 40 placement on the Billboard Hot 100. The Things Fall Apart cut brought to life a relationship that went through changes many can relate to and largely placed emphasis on reassurance and rebuilding trust. The chorus – which was sung by Erykah Badu or Jill Scott, depending on the version – conveyed a message to the woman’s partner: Despite any doubts, she’s committed and will be there for him.

8. Just A Friend – Biz Markie

Like Biz stated in the closing lines, “Listen to the message that I send, don’t ever talk to a girl who says she just has a friend.” The love story gone wrong became the rapper and beatboxer’s biggest hit and could be found on The Biz Never Sleeps. In a humorous turn of events, the song’s hook was only sung by Biz because no one showed up to do it for him.

9. Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter’s Daughter – Kendrick Lamar

“Sherane a.k.a Master Splinter’s Daughter” served as the first part of a coming-of-age story told throughout the entirety of Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city. The track began with a prayer before bringing listeners to a summer fling that began at a party and simmered throughout subsequent months. Despite knowing a girl’s gang ties, K. Dot couldn’t resist her, and the song ended abruptly with a tense scene that continued on another part of the album.

10. I Left My Wallet in El Segundo – A Tribe Called Quest

Taken from People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, the humorous story about a random Cali trip took on additional life with its matching music video. The clip began at a police station where Q-Tip recounted how his mother won a game show and left her car behind. A road trip kicked off and hijinx ensued to the point where Tip somehow lost his wallet in El Segundo and had to make a return trip to retrieve it.

11. Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 1) – Outkast and Slick Rick

Not to be confused with Slick Rick’s album of a similar name, “Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 1)” saw the British legend and his Atlanta counterparts telling individual stories for the listener. For Outkast, the song was centered around two experiences: Big Boi’s engagement with a promiscuous woman and André 3000’s lament over a tragic passing. Slick Rick appeared on the extended version to break down a relationship of his own.

12. Suicide Note – Scarface

Scarface’s “Suicide Note” was told from the perspective of someone reflecting on the loss of a friend who died by suicide. The track saw the narrator – the Houston veteran himself — expressing disbelief and pain over the loss while questioning if he could have somehow prevented the tragic death. The track is ultimately a glimpse into the harsh realities of the streets and its effects on one’s mental health.

13. I Gave You Power – Nas

One of the most creative cuts within Hip Hop (and music as a whole) took an unconventional approach by delivering its narrative from the perspective of a gun. Nas’ poignant words almost immediately revealed this unique perspective before highlighting the gun’s purpose to kill. The rapper then used the weapon’s “voice” to depict the destructive cycle it’s a part of, referencing robberies, violence within Black communities, and accidental shootings.

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