It’s not at all an exaggeration to say that there was a period of time in my adolescence where rappers had a bigger influence on my life than my own parents. It sounds crazy to me looking back at it now but there’s no doubt that for a three to four year stretch this was certainly the case. In fact, if I had to list my biggest influences from the age of 12-15 the list would probably look something like this:
- Kobe Bryant 1
- 50 Cent
- Young Jeezy
- Jay Z 2
- Any Film with potential Jessica Alba nudity
- My Parents
Like many people my age, I grew up on hip hop. Not listening to hip hop, but on hip hop. I like to think of rap music as the drug I was on that made all of my decisions as a middle school child in the mid 2000’s make sense. Like the time I decided to take dating advice from a man who once dropped the legendary line “I love you like a fat kid loves cake.” Or how for several years, I sincerely believed that I was a size XXL – even though I barely weighed 110 pounds. Thankfully for me, my mother drew the line at unnecessarily wearing a band-aid on my face.
Hip hop was more than just music to me at that age. It was a guide to life. And while in retrospect most of the decisions I made during this “heavily rap influenced” era of my life were as poor as my fashion choices, there were some positive life lessons that I ended up taking away from this period. Here’s what it would look like if some of my favourite rappers wrote self help books:
Kanye West – The Ultimate Secrets of Total Self-Confidence
If this whole etymology thing works the way it’s supposed to, 200 years from now the word confident will have morphed into the word Kanye-fident and rightfully so. No one in the history of the world has believed in anything the way Kanye West believes in himself. There’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance, and while Kanye has definitely veered into arrogant territory at times, there is something endearing about someone who isn’t afraid to say what they truly feel all the time.
One thing that I’ve found that works for Kanye is saying things out loud. That’s why every morning I look in the bathroom mirror and I say my mantra:
“I am so credible and so influential and so relevant that I will change things. I’m a creative genius and there’s no other way to word it. For me to say I wasn’t a genius, I would just be lying to you and to myself. When I think of competition, it’s like I try to create against the past. I think about Michelangelo and Picasso. You know, the pyramids. Because you can’t look at a glass half-full or empty if it’s overflowing.” 3
And then I brush my teeth and get dressed. Now will most of you reading be able to afford the dope ass outfit I put on? Probably not. But it really doesn’t matter because the dopest thing I’m always going to be wearing is confidence.
50 Cent – The Art of War
50 Cent is without a doubt hip hop’s most likeable bully. Over the past decade, he has had beef with nearly everyone in hip hop and has sometimes even expanded his scope to include non rappers. Remember that one time he named his dog Oprah? Or that other time he taught the world Floyd Mayweather couldn’t really read?4 In fact, rap beef has been such an integral part of 50 Cent’s career that it even has a dedicated section on his wikipedia page. And while a case can be made that his various feuds are the only thing keeping him relevant right now, it’s not as if he acted any differently during the prime of his career. As Ja Rule, Fat Joe and pretty much every other New York rapper from the early 2000’s can attest – 50 Cent was a pretty big bully back then too. As one of the first rap superstars of the internet era, 50 set the blueprint for how to use web trolling to remain relevant and personable in the public eye. So sure, he might not know what a grapefruit is, but when it comes to beef 50 cent is a god damn connoisseur.
“Where is Ja?” It’s a question that I ask myself all too often – particularly on nights that I can’t sleep. My homies say I’m paranoid but is it really that crazy to think that he could be out there right now plotting his way to finally get his revenge against me? Shit, he could be here in this house and I wouldn’t even know it. It’s one of the downsides of living in this 23 bedroom mansion. Consider this lesson one in the art of war; war never stops even when it appears one side has won. Always be prepared.
Now excuse me, I have to go write another diss record just in case.
Snoop Dogg – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:
When most people get high their productivity drops. Once that THC kicks in, it’s like all of those chores suddenly don’t seem so important anymore and it really does seem like more of a television and cereal-for-dinner type of night anyway. When Snoop is high, he sells millions of albums, while starring in multiple film and television roles and amassing a net worth of over $100 million. Uncle Snoop clearly knows some things that the rest of the world doesn’t.
So check it out nephew, this publisher gave me quite a nice check to give you fools some advice on how to better your lives. Now I have to be honest, some of y’all are lost causes. But I’m not one to focus on the player haters and perpetrators so let’s get to it. The first thing S-N-O-O-P-D-O-G-G would advise is that all of you ladies and gentlemen start worrying about your health. Now, personally, I am a fan of the seaweed diet. I call it that because the only rule to the diet is that once you see weed you have to smoke it. Some people are going to say this is unhealthy, don’t listen to them. I’ve lived by this diet for over 30 years and haven’t gotten sick once. And if weed really affects your short-term memory, then how come I always remember to smoke weed? Another important part of being healthy is exercise. People always ask me how I manage to stay so slim at my age. It’s actually really simple. Two words – crip walking.
Diddy – Think & Grow Rich
Of all the people on this list, Diddy is the closest to an actual real life self help guru. And unlike most self help gurus, Diddy’s advice actually comes with no strings attached. You don’t need to buy a book or go to an expensive seminar to get it, all you need to do is follow him on social media and watch as those life changing motivational messages slowly trickle in. Unfortunately, just like most self help gurus, the advice itself isn’t all that practical. It’s all sizzle and no steak. But Diddy is a master at selling the sizzle. There are few things as motivational as watching Diddy talk that talk. I mean just listen to this, or this, or this or any of these. It’s gotten to the point where I really don’t even expect rapping anymore when I see “featuring Diddy” on a track. I just expect another motivational speech that will make me feel like I’m just a couple steps away from becoming a billionaire. How exactly am I going to make the billion? I’m not sure, I’m still working on that part. But I’m motivated and that’s half the battle right?
The best way to get something done is to begin. Success doesn’t make champions, challenges do… So if you want to fly, you have to give up the things that weigh you down. A real person is not perfect, and a perfect person is not real.Your mistakes should be your motivation, not your excuses. Have you been on your grind today? Or have you let the negativity consume you! Focus people! God 1st! Get money! Never stop! Let’s go!!! 5
Birdman – How to Win Friends and Influence People
Birdman is an awful rapper. He’s also happens to the fifth richest one in the world. He’s the owner of the label Cash Money Records – the home of a couple of rappers that happen to be pretty damn good. How did this come to be? Does he have super human networking skills? Was he just in the right place at the right time? Does he tell really good jokes? The world deserves to know Mr. Birdman, tell us the secret.
- Nothing tops yelling out “KOBE!” and hitting a game winner in middle school. I’m pretty confident my life peaked right at that moment. ↩
- Yes I had Nelly over Jay at one point in my life. I have no explanation for it other than I was 12. ↩
- These are all real things Kanye has said at one point or another. ↩
- Ironically, just like Floyd, 50 has a pretty spotless record of his own. I mean 50 Cent pretty much is the Floyd Mayweather of rap beef. Also, did 50 give Floyd the only L of his career? ↩
- Once again, real Diddy tweets. ↩