I had my first moment of enlightenment at the tender age of 14. On a cold January night in New York City, I walked down the street with my friend Ben. As teenagers do, we were discussing the emotional satisfaction that comes from hip hop. Ben questioned how he, a young man lacking money to blow or girls to woo or drinks to drank, could connect to these artists. I took a minute to think about his problem and then, in a moment of glorious wisdom, it hit me: “My dear Ben, rap isn’t about actually being able to live these lifestyles. It’s about taking these lyrics, taking this bravado and turning it into your own highly irrational confidence.” For the most part, this statement rings true today.

Now that I narrowed down the purpose of an entire genre of music into a single sentence, let’s progress. I present the following list of rappers:

J Cole

My dude’s first big hit,“Work Out,” was about whether or not his hook-up was a one night stand or a long term relationship. First off, find some fucking subtetly, J. Cole. Can’t you go 24 hours without laying your heart on the line? J. Cole’s game is just whining. You can only bump J. Cole if you’re an insecure marshmallow.

Eminem

Eminem is a fine rapper. Some would even say that he’s a great rapper. What is a better pump up song than “Lose Yourself”? The answer is nothing; nothing is a better pump up song. But every now and again Marshall will say something about assaulting his girlfirend or killing his mom or something like “Put anthrax on a Tampax / and slap you ‘til you can’t stand.” Now, I understand to the average individual this lyric may seem perfectly normal, but to my cultured musical tastes, this lyric makes me go “huh” and “why?” Eminem certainly leaves you feeling confident, but in a dirty, “why did I wake up with my hands covered in blood” sort of way.

Kendrick Lamar

If you never pay attention to the actual lyrics, Kendrick gives you unreal confidence. One time I listened to Kendrick Lamar and challenged American Pharoah to a horse race. Another time I put on good kid, m.A.A.d. city and ran for 30 seconds without stopping once for water. So yes, Kendrick does inspire wildly confident behavior in people. But if you listen to the lyrics, his songs are actually a dysfunctional cocktail of tragedy and triumph, born from the daily horrors of living in gang violence. Kendrick will pump you up, but if you employ any analysis toward his work, you’ll understand that’s not the point.

Young Thug

Does Young Thug even know how to speak? Is there a google translate setting just for Young Thug? Never have I understood less of what I was singing and felt more confident while singing it.

DMX

If JR Smith and Nate Robinson had a baby, DMX would be that baby. DMX raps the way a rabid dog would rap. DMX’s flow consists of 100 percent aggression, and he spits in a fashion that suggests he is about to become mentally unhinged. DMX sounds like he got strep throat as a kid and never recovered. Listen to “X Gon’ Give It To Ya” one time. Oh you did? Oh, you’re a changed person forever because now you drip so much swag that you needed to get a prescription deodorant to stop all the swag drip. That’s a common ailment when listening to DMX, God of irrational confidence.

Kanye West

As I write this I turn on “Power” by Kanye West and, oh wait, be right back, gotta go storm the Bastille. Be right back, gotta kick ass in Normandy. Be right back, I’m Captain Sully and I have to land this goddamn plane in the Hudson River.

 

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