The art of storytelling is alive and well. In comparison to decades past, storytelling songs aren’t at the forefront of rap like they once were. But “dead” is a reach. Stories are still very much painted into music right now. If anything, they’re hidden in plain sight.
Like everything else, there are levels to this and one of them is crime. King Von’s “Took Her to the O” is a near perfect recent example, illustrated with the tale of catching an enemy lacking. Even though he explained that the story isn’t true, the imagery of his lyrics will make you think otherwise.
Aside from describing a quick law-breaking moment, artists like Reason are taking a page out of Ice Cube’s old book and rapping about an entire day. His song, “Might Not Make It,” depicts an animated adventure of having 24 hours to live, where he chooses to do things like kidnap the City Girls and leak Kendrick Lamar’s music. The particulars of his imagination turn this record into a modern day movie.
Another huge part of storytelling is perspective. For his song “Free," D Smoke bounces around the first-person recollections of having cancer and getting caught up in the system. The harsh scene he portrays in five short minutes is successfully gut-wrenching.
Rod Wave is making a name for himself by pouring his pain into lyrical paragraphs in songs like “I Remember,” on which he details the trials and tribulations of his life. Rappers like Meek Mill and Roddy Ricch have opted for the diary-style confessionals too, reminiscing on the time they spent with Nipsey Hussle and their reaction to finding out that he was fatally shot on “Letter to Nipsey.”
No matter how you look at it, storytelling is still present in rap. In the case that you’re a non-believer, here are 10 songs from this year that prove it.