We all love a good story. They transcend age, race, sex, class or whatever else you want to use to separate us. No matter who you are, a decent story will make you want to know what happens next. When a song tells a story you almost have to stop whatever else you’re doing and focus on it, try and do anything else and you can’t help but miss parts out. That entrancing quality is what makes those songs so special.
Keep reading for some of my favorite storytelling songs. I think this will become a regular feature in the future.
Pharoahe Monch – “Trilogy” – A tale of murder, betrayal and revenge. All the fun stuff. A rapper comes home to his friend banging his wife and shit gets real. The song’s structure makes it really stand out. It’s split into three acts, each describing a different part of the story. You can only put the pieces together properly once you’ve heard the whole thing.
Joe Budden – “Pray for Me” – Joe Budden’s one of the most gifted lyricists in hip-hop but hasn’t really got the respect or success that should follow, either from the mainstream or underground. Maybe it’s because it sounds like he’s super depressed. Listen to a Budden mixtape all the way through and it’s hard to imagine him ever smiling. When he does get it right the results are stunning. Here he imagines his own death and meeting God at the gates of Heaven. He touches on religion, the nature of faith and morality. Very deep, reflective song.
Andre 3000 – “A Day in the Life of Benjamin Andre (Incomplete)” – This is a masterpiece. Three Stacks starts narrating his own story and just keeps going. It’s essentially one long verse driven forward by an ominous beat and frantic claps. Listening to most people spit uninterrupted for 5 mins would be boring but listen to how he switches up his flow to keep things interesting. Flawless.
Eminem – “Stan” – The definitive storytelling rap song. Em takes on the role of an obsessed fan who writes letters to his idol in the hope of some sort of acknowledgement. When it doesn’t come he starts to lose it. One of the most creative songs I’ve heard. Even more amazing was the mainstream success this had, Marshall was so big he could sell millions of copies of a song where he rapped about grisly acts of violence. Just amazing.
2Pac – “Brenda’s Got A Baby” – On a personal level, this song means a lot to me. Not because I’ve got a teenage girl like Brenda pregnant but because it’s the first hip-hop song that really struck me with its lyrics. Before this I listened to hip-hop for the beats, after I listened to what the artists had to say.