Hip hop can explore many emotions, from anger to sorrow to pride. But it is also a great genre for providing inspiration and keeping you motivated when you’re feeling low. If you need a reminder of what you’re working for, these motivational rap songs might give you the boost you need to get back on your feet.
1. Guess What — Russ feat. Rick Ross
Russ’ 2020 collaboration with Rick Ross might at first sound like a braggadocious song about living large. But beneath the swagger, the song is really about knowing that you are in control of your own life. “Race against your doubt,” the lyrics command, reminding the listener that the key to success isn’t having everything go right all the time—it’s about being resilient and optimistic.
2. Started From The Bottom — Drake
Drake released Started From The Bottom as a way to address rumors about his early life, particularly accusations that his success came from him having an “in” in the music industry. In reality, the Canadian rapper was raised by a single mother and grew up very poor. Even during the start of his acting career, he was supporting her through a long illness. The song shares the story of his early life and contrasts it to his current success.
3. Till I Collapse — Eminem
Till I Collapse is one of Eminem’s most popular songs, having been released on his 2002 album, The Eminem Show. The song is about how even incredibly successful musicians like Eminem himself sometimes feel discouraged and like they should give up. But he insists that he believes he is meant to be a rapper, and so he’s never going to stop until his body gives out.
4. Blessings — Big Sean feat. Drake & kanye west
Big Sean released Blessings in 2015; the track featured appearances from Drake and Kanye West. In the song, he describes how lucky he is to have the life that he does, particularly in regard to his success as a rapper. However, even more than that, he expresses thanks for the people who have supported him, suggesting that fame and fortune aren’t as important as being with those you love.
5. Congratulations — Post Malone feat. quavo
Post Malone released Congratulations in 2017, his second Top 20 hit. The song was inspired by the euphoria of winning teams at the 2016 Olympics. It tells the story of a person who has become successful after many years of hard work, receiving a phone call from their mother after she saw them on TV. The mother expresses her pride in her son and reminds him that he proved all his naysayers wrong.
6. I’m Ready — The Diplomats
The Diplomats, composed of rappers Cam’ron, Jim Jones, and Juelz Santana, released I’m Ready in 2002. The song is a triumphant yet defiant response to people who want to suppress their talents. The rappers promise their friends that they will hold true to their ideals and share them with the world, no matter who tries to knock them down.
7. Hard In Da Paint — Waka Flocka Flame
Hard In Da Paint was released by Waka Flocka Flame in 2010. The song is a defiant challenge to anybody who thinks that the rapper is to be messed with. Though he mainly describes what he will do to anyone who challenges him, his message is simple: he has survived extreme hardships throughout his life and is a survivor who won’t be put down.
8. Juicy — The Notorious B.I.G.
The Notorious B.I.G. released Juicy in 1994. The rapper makes it clear from the beginning why he has composed the song, dedicating it to everyone who has ever put him down. This includes the teachers who predicted he wouldn’t succeed and the neighbors who called the police on him while he was trying to make a living. Juicy is a reminder to everyone that he’s done exactly what they said he could never do.
9. Mama Said Knock You Out — LL Cool J
It might seem strange to say that Mama Said Knock You Out is inspirational. But behind the violence of the lyrics in the chorus, it is actually a song about resilience. The rapper is telling all his haters that his mother told him to blow them away once he succeeds. The song is him doing just that.
10. You’re Da Man — Nas
You’re Da Man is a 2001 track from rap king Nas. In it, he reflects on all the things he’s accomplished and realizes that the thing he is most grateful for is his daughter Destiny. It’s a good reminder of the real reason why we fight for our dreams—not for fame, but for the people that we love.
11. Run This Town — Jay-Z feat. Rihanna
Jay-Z collaborated with Kanye West and Rihanna for this 2009 hit, which won a Grammy Award. The song is an anthem of confidence and self-assuredness as the rappers assert that they are the rulers of the hip hop industry and no one is above them. You might call it arrogant, but most of us can only dream of having that kind of awareness about our own identity.
12. Heart Of a Champion — Nelly
Sometimes, you have to pump yourself up on purpose to start feeling motivated. Few songs are better for that than Nelly’s 2004 Heart Of a Champion. The rapper had reason to talk about a big game at the time, as he was one of the biggest names in the game. But he also clearly believed in his own greatness, a feat that can be hard for many of us.
13. If I Can’t — 50 Cent
If I Can’t was released on 50 Cent’s debut album in 2003. The super-confident track features the rapper asserting his legitimacy. He’s not just pretending to be a gangster rapper—he’s the best—challenging everyone else to get up on his level, not the other way around.
14. Work Hard Play Hard — Wiz Khalifa
Work Hard Play Hard is an adage that has been around for centuries, although it’s been phrased differently. The 2012 Wiz Khalifa song reminds you that when you work hard for the necessities in life, you’ll also get to enjoy your free time more—whatever “play” might mean for you!
15. Can’t Tell Me Nothing — Kanye West
Can’t Tell Me Nothing was overshadowed by Stronger, released on the same album, making it a sleeper hit. The song is a shout of defiance to those who want to discourage him and an assertion that he won’t forget his roots, no matter how much they want him to.
16. DNA — Kendrick Lamar
Have you ever felt like you had a destiny? That’s what Kendrick Lamar is talking about in his 2017 track DNA. In some ways, he’s talking about the actual DNA that his ancestors have passed down, but it’s also a way of saying that he’s doing what he is destined to be doing.
17. Good Day — Greg Street feat. Nappy Roots
You can find an aggressive hip hop song anywhere, but it’s not often you find one that makes you smile and feel hopeful. Greg Street’s 2010 track is all about choosing to have a good day. How? By looking around at all the good things in life and taking the time to appreciate them.
18. Look At Me Now — Chris Brown feat. lil wayne & busta rhymes
Bragging has its place in hip hop, and Chris Brown’s Look At Me Now is one of many tracks in this vein. But there are some things worth bragging about, and having a successful rap career is one of them. If you’re inspired by success, this track might provide the inspiration you need.
19. Hate Me Now — Nas feat. Puff Daddy
Hate Me Now might just be the most biting, in-your-face hip hop song addressed to all the people who are against you. The 1999 track gets aggressive, but the core message is actually more dismissive. With it, Nas tells the naysayers to go ahead and hate him for all he cares; it doesn’t make a difference to his success.
20. Superstar — Lupe Fiasco feat. Matthew Santos
Lupe Fiasco’s 2007 hit Superstar is a warning for people who dream of a life in the spotlight. So why would we call it motivational? The repeating chorus urges the listener to prove who they say they are while telling them not to be afraid. So while it is a warning about the dark side of fame, Superstar is also an encouragement to stay true to yourself and to remember what your mission really is.
21. I Did It — Raja Kumari
Indian-American rapper Raja Kumari is blissfully and unapologetically triumphant in I Did It. As the title implies, the song is all about her putting aside the naysayers and becoming a successful hip hop artist. Kumari’s heritage is also on full display in her music like a proud flag as she describes her as “mango juice from Bombay.”
22. When I Grow Up — NF
NF came out with When I Grow Up in 2019 on his album, The Search. The song portrays the rapper as his child-self, looking forward to being a professional rapper when he grows up. The boy dreams of being a famous rapper, buying big houses, and making millions because everybody knows his name. Meanwhile, adult NF advises that the dream is possible, but there are many setbacks to face before achieving success.
23. Stronger — Kanye West
Before he became an outspoken and problematic public figure, Kanye West dropped some truly phenomenal songs, particularly in the 2000s. One of the most memorable is Stronger, which was released in 2007 and won a Grammy Award. The song is widely considered to be based on the quote from Friedrich Nietzsche: “What does not kill him, makes him stronger,” The moral speaks for itself.
24. Ruff Ryders’ Anthem — DMX
DMX released Ruff Ryders’ Anthem at the height of his fame in the late 1990s. The song was written to sound like a militaristic anthem, with the rapper’s periodic exclamations throughout intended to be a way of hyping the listener up. It is essentially an expression of standing strong with members of a community, in this case, the legendary “Ruff Ryders.”
25. WIN — Jay Rock
Have you ever heard of the idea of saying something until it becomes reality? Jay Rock almost seems to practicing this kind of mindfulness with his 2018 song, WIN. In the song, he declares himself the winner of the hip hop industry, deserving of a crown. It might seem boastful on its surface, but it is also a lesson in believing your goals before they come to fruition.
26. Victory — Puff Daddy feat. The Notorious B.I.G. & Busta Rhymes
The Notorious B.I.G. recorded Victory mere days before he was killed. The song compared standing strong with your friends and loved ones to victory over those who challenged you. It ended up being an oddly prophetic song, with lines like “The sun don’t shine forever,” seemingly foreshadowing B.I.G.’s death. Nevertheless, it remains a highly motivational song about remembering what really gives you strength.
27. Keep Ya Head Up — Tupac
Tupac may have died decades ago, but his 1993 hit, Keep Ya Head Up, is still as poignant today as it was back then. The song is an anthem of love and respect to black women, calling attention to the abuses they suffer. Tupac considered himself a strong feminist and the song expresses his esteem for women, encouraging them to stay strong.
28. U.N.I.T.Y. — Queen Latifah
These days, Queen Latifah is better known as an actress but also a talented rapper. Her 1993 song, U.N.I.T.Y. was a fierce anthem calling out bigotry against women, particularly in the hip hop industry. The song was a massive success, with many radio stations allowing it to air uncensored for the purpose of spreading its powerful message.
29. Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop — Young Gunz
Need a song to keep yourself pumped up as you get ready for the day? Young Gunz’s Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop covers a lot of subjects, but it is mainly about continuing to press on despite all obstacles. The title sends the main message: keep working toward your goals, and no one on the planet will be able to stop you.
30. Lose Yourself — Eminem
Lose Yourself is probably best known from Eminem’s 2002 film, 8 Mile. The song has one of the most recognizable openings in rap history, with Eminem shouting a challenge to the listeners, forcing them to ask themselves what they would do if they got the biggest chance of their lives. It’s a big question to ponder—and one that might make you want to change your life.
31. Remember The Name — Fort Minor
Remember The Name might just be one of the most famous motivational rap songs of the 2000s. The song is styled around a chorus made to look like a recipe for success. It is about a person persevering in their craft not to become famous but to share his talents with the world. Achieving this takes focus, hard work, and talent. It’s a great song to use as a blueprint when following your own destiny.
32. Humble — Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar released his irony-laced song, Humble in 2017, winning an astonishing three Grammy Awards. The song contrasts poverty and success, ego and humility, as the rapper reminds both his peers in the hip hop industry and himself not to forget their place. Even though they have made it big, he warns them to remember where they came from.
33. Dreams & Nightmares — Meek Mill
Meek Mill released Dreams & Nightmares on his debut album of the same name. In the song, the rapper looks back on all the battles that he has fought in the past and how he overcame them all, eventually achieving success. He went from a life of crime and poverty to being a rapper working with Mariah Carey, and other hip hop greats.
34. I Can — Nas
Nas released I Can on his 2003 album, God’s Son. In a unique choice for hip hop, the song was aimed toward kids and arranged over a Beethoven sample. It warns kids to persevere in school and keep away from bad crowds. Nas says that, surrounded by the right people, they can become anything, but with the wrong influences, their life can go in a bad direction.
35. Reborn — Kids See Ghosts
Reborn” was a collaboration by Kanye West and Kid Cudi, released in 2018. The song is about recovering from mistakes in the past and making a new life going forward. It took its title directly from Kid Cudi, who said that he would be returning “reborn” after time spent in rehab. The rapper had suffered from drug addiction for many years and was now looking forward to moving in a new direction.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
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