21 Rappers Explain What Hip-Hop Means to Them

As we dive into table work this week, we’re exploring each character’s relationship to hip hop and asking questions about how they all fell in love with music, what made them want to work and perform in the industry, and what motivates each of them to keep pursuing success (however they may define it). This XXL Magazine piece featuring 21 rappers responding to the question “What does hip-hop mean to you?” is an interesting snap shot of how some current artists think about their own relationship to the genre.

We’ve excerpted a few of the XXL interview responses below — how do these answers align with the way Verb, Pinnacle, and Peep One might answer the question?

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Hip-hop, to me, is definitely a lifestyle. It’s definitely more than just a genre of music. I think every genre of music has a lifestyle, but it’s more. It’s really a culture, man. It’s more than a lifestyle, it’s culture. It gives people a way of life. I think why a lot of conscious artists are cherished these days is because it’s so much commercial. It’s not even what it’s about, it’s just because there’s so much of it. You know when you see a video, you know it’s gonna have cars and hoes in it. You know somebody is gonna be talking about the same ol’ shit, but it’s about balance. It’s not bad to talk about it, it’s about the balance. I’m not always in the club and I’m not always hanging out with model bitches in front of a car. But I do it. I’m also into other shit as well. I kind of give the people the best of both worlds.  — B.o.B


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Like anything else, it grows and evolves and changes. Any art form never stays in one place. To me, it started out as a way to express myself, a way to turn ideas into something tangible. And as a vehicle; a vehicle to make something out of nothing. I never knew what the fuck I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t wanna go to school, I just wanted to stay in Oakland and just figure it out. And when I got a scholarship to go to school in New Orleans and my mom pushed me to go, I got down there and was even more convinced that I didn’t know what the fuck I wanted to do with my life. I definitely knew I didn’t want to work a regular-ass job and I didn’t want to be miserable forever. Music became the vehicle to, like I said, make something out of nothing and make a living doing something I loved to do so much. And to talk to people and tell my story and to watch that impact people, and just connect to people through music. This is the best fuckin’ job in the world.  — G-Eazy


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Hip-hop means progression to me. Life—everything for me. It’s a way I support my family. It’s the way I escape reality when shit gets too rough. It’s a way for me instead of going and getting mad or doing something dumb, I can just go write a song about it. It’s a way of refuge. It’s brought on a bigger meaning these last couple of years just because of the impact it has on my life and how I can affect others. I loved that. I loved the fact that I can make somebody who is having a bad day listen to one of my jams and now they not tripping no more. That’s a lot on it, dog.  — Problem


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It means everything in a sense. It means the outlet, the voice. It means the voice, especially coming from the environment that I come from. It’s almost like our guidance. It’s our school. It’s our news channel. It’s our everything. So for me, hip-hop is basically a way of life.  — Young Buck

Read the full list of responses on XXL’s website.