When you think of rappers, you probably think of hardened guys with lots of swag, but they weren’t always like that. Just like every other person on the planet, there are photos of them as adorable children and others of them as awkward teenagers. Seeing these guys (some of which rarely crack a smile) as loving little children definitely comes as a shock.
Okay, so we aren’t only giving you photos of rappers as cute babies, some of these awkward pre-fame photos will give you a good laugh. Back before these guys had professional stylists and a team to come up with their image, they were just regular schmos who, like a lot of guys, didn’t dress too well or take fantastic photos. On the other hand, some of these famous rappers look EXACTLY the same as they used to (they have surprisingly good genes).
When you see the photos of these hardcore guys, who rap about drugs and life on the streets, when they were just little children, you won’t believe they’re the same person! The people on this list were apparently really good at creating an image since they seem to have really transformed themselves, mainly by way of facial tattoos. Check out this list to see what these famous rappers looked like before they were famous faces.
11. Childish Gambino
Even way back in high school he seemed to know he’d be a big deal one day- you can tell from this yearbook photo by the way that he’s smirking. Last year, Childish Gambino made a huge radio debut with his song 3005, which put him on the map for a lot of people. Even before that, he had a pretty big loyal fan base that followed his every move. Since then, he’s performed at tons of concerts including Austin City Limits, one of the biggest festivals in the country.
He recently released a new album that was dropped in with no prior hype, which people have been loving. He doesn’t seem to be too daunted by fame and is just doing his own thing and making music. It seems like he’ll be on the rise for awhile.
10. Kanye West
The only reason this photo made the list is because he’s smiling, which nowadays is a rare occasion. Kanye West is known for three things – his music, his style and his ever-present unamused scowl. This photo is a rarity because not only does it show a time that he was smiling, but he also let someone capture it on camera. If you’ve ever seen those gifs online that show him laughing for about 2 seconds and as soon as he realizes he’s being filmed showing some emotion, the smile slides right off his face, you’ll know this is a magnanimous occasion. So for those of you out there wondering, yes Yeezy smiles and if you’re lucky enough you may be able to snag a photo that lasts a lifetime.
9. Nicki Minaj
Do you recognize her without a neon skintight outfit and electric wig? We almost didn’t. This is the “queen of rap” back in high school. She attended a performing arts high school in New York and has stated that it changed her life. In an interview, Minaj said that being at that school was the first time in her life she felt she truly fit in because she was around other creative people.
You probably know her for her extreme and in-your-face personality, so this photo is interesting because it shows her back when she was a regular person. The brand she’s created since this was taken has made a huge splash all around the world and has kept her on top for years. If you ever need to create an image, she seems like a good person to go to.
8. Wiz Khalifa
Do you recognize him without tattoos all over his face? It’s pretty difficult to and honestly, I probably wouldn’t have known it was him if it wasn’t for the look on his younger self’s face, because it’s one he still sports regularly. Now, he looks like a hardcore weed-smoker, but back then he just looked like your every day teenager up to no good.
Wiz Khalifa got his first tattoo when he was 16, but said even before then he knew he wanted to be covered in them. He believes they’re a way to express himself and tell a story about his life, feelings and opinions. Even now, while he’s still pretty covered, he strategically leaves little places he can add new tattoos so he can continue adding to the ever growing collection.
Look at this cute little baby eating a cookie. I bet his parents never would have guessed that he would grow up to make countless songs that would be played over decades. He’s still a pretty clean cut, nice looking guy, which isn’t much of a shock from how adorable he is in that baby picture. Not only is he an attractive guy, but he’s also a pretty good family man – he has two kids of his own and adopted two from his late sister.
Nelly was huge back in the early 2000s with hits like “Ride Wit Me” and “Country Grammar”, but recently he’s stepped back into the spotlight and has been featured in many new songs. He’s been able to change with the times and has maintained the same image. He doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon, so let’s see what he does next.
6. Big Sean
One of my personal favorites. Look at Big Sean back when he was still little. He’s been all over the media lately for relationships and break ups, as well as hit songs he continues to steadily release. It seems like everything he touches turns to gold and we can be sure that he made his grandma proud. In his most recent song “One Man Can Change The World”, he recognizes his grandma and everything she did for him, which is a nice change of pace from most other rap songs.
The only white boy on the list; much like him being one of the only (major) white boys in the rap game. In this childhood photo, he’s sporting a flipped out bowl cut, which may be why he’s had his head shaved since he’s been a star.
Eminem has painted a pretty vivid picture of the hardships he’s faced in life through his music. Most of his songs are dedicated to his daughter, Haley, which makes him a pretty endearing character. He hasn’t come out with too many songs lately, but we hope he comes back because he’s one of the most iconic rappers we grew up with.
Oh Ludacris. He really needed a stylist when he was contemplating this look (and going by the name Christopher Brian “Chris” Bridges). It’s no question that he looks much better now with a clean-shaved look. Clearly he (now) puts a lot of effort into his appearance, so we weren’t shocked when we learned that he owns every pair of Jordans that were ever made. EVER. It is a surprise that he hasn’t come out with his own shoe design yet. He could probably make a killing designing shoes…although it’s not like he needs any more money.
The girls love him, the boys want to be him, but this photo definitely isn’t creating any envy. Known from starring in the show Degrassi, to becoming one of he biggest rappers in history, Drake is most known for his killer good looks, and his suave, sophisticated swag makes every girl swoon.
He’s come a long way since this photo, so if you’re not loving your look right now you can take some inspiration from this ugly duckling and work on changing your presentation. Granted, you probably won’t be as successful as he was, but you can still try.
2. Tyler the Creator
Tyler the Creator (born Tyler Gregory Okonma) flies a little more under the radar, but he’s still huge. He’s the lead rapper of Odd Future and also does things on his own. His music is a bit dark and pushes the comfort zone of society, but we can all agree that he’s definitely a creative artist.
In this yearbook photo, his smile is so big you’d never guess he’d turn into a darker person in his later years. Maybe he’s just been expressing his super inner thoughts. To address the obvious, his ears- he still hasn’t totally grown into them…
1. Lil Jon
We’ve saved the best for our number one spot. Just looking at this picture, you would never, in a million years, guess that this was the photo of a hardcore rapper. Let alone one who raps pretty much exclusively about alcohol and womanizing, but to each his own (right?). Lil Jon, who was born Jonathan Smith, is hands down the king of re-invention since he looks absolutely NOTHING like this anymore. Sporting braids, tattoos and shades most of the time, this nerdy-looking kid turned into one intimidating man.