Rappers work hard to build a tough reputation, and portray an intimidating image. Whether or not there is any truth to their projected image, they must maintain these airs to protect their street credibility, and grow a cult following that buys in to it all. Three of the most important things to a hip hop figure are: wealth, power and respect. In order to obtain those three desired distinctions, they are forced to create images worthy of them. Images that separate them from ordinary folk. It’s easy to take a celebrity’s image at face value. What a lot of people don’t know is, most hip hop figures have never really “walked the talk.” In other words, most of them have never actually lived the dangerous lifestyle that they depict. Many have no actual experience of the criminal activity that they so often romanticize in their music. Still, their influence over the young and impressionable is quite powerful. Here is a quick look at the not so gangster pasts of 9 rappers, before they hit the big time.
9) Rick Ross
In contradiction to the hardened image rapper Rick Ross conveys, he once worked as a correctional officer for 2 years. The irony lies in his lyrics, which often support drug dealing and violent behavior; two activities typically against the law. When allegations first surfaced of Rick Ross’s law enforcement background, he vehemently denied the reports to avoid damage to his street cred, but eventually a website called the smoking gun, obtained documents and photographs confirming the allegations. The hip hop figure once attended Albany State University on a football scholarship during his early twenties.
His music is brimming with obscene and gruesome material. He is known for his shockingly violent depictions, which he credits to his disturbing alter-ego slim shady. Eminem had a rough childhood, raised by a drug addicted, physically and emotionally abusive single mother, to whom he has been estranged to, until recently this year. After failing 9th grade three times, he eventually dropped out of high school at 17, but one thing that always held his interest was English. He would reportedly study the dictionary for fun. Much of the brutality and murderous subject matter found in his music, is emotionally charged rebellion attributed to his difficult upbringing, and no actual criminal or gang-related experience. Channeling his deep seated rage into his music, has enabled him to become one of the highest selling and well revered hip-hop figures of all time.
7) Kanye West
Before becoming the outspoken international superstar we all know and recognize today, Kanye West majored in English at Chicago State University. He eventually dropped out to pursue music full time. He convinced his mother that dropping out was a good idea, by reminding her that she, an English professor, had raised him, therefore he needn’t attend. The fashion designer once worked at The Gap, rapping in the song “Spaceship,” that he had stolen from his former employer because they didn’t pay him much. He’d managed to get away with it without ever being caught.
Plies, commonly known for his sexually explicit content and criminal activity advocacy, once attended Miami University where he obtained a degree as a registered nurse. The run-ins with the law that he often speaks on in his music, did not actually occur until after his rise to fame. His criminal record would begin after his establishment in the hip hop industry, following his 30th birthday.
5) J. Cole
J. Cole fans may be surprised to hear that the rapper once worked as a bill collector before breaking out on to the hip hop scene. The hip hop star claims he couldn’t bear the job for very long, because he would constantly hear depressing stories from people that were unable to afford paying their bills. He also claims it was hard to muster the courage to ask them for the debt.
4) Nicki Minaj
The popular princess of hip hop, Nicki Minaj, known for her over the top persona and aggressive lyrics, once served at a Red Lobster restaurant to make ends meet. According to billboard.com, the rapper admits that her disdain for the job caused her to interact poorly with customers, and that her horrible attitude got her fired from several different positions.
3) Ice Cube
Ice cube once belonged to the legendary gangster rap group NWA, but left before they hit it big, in order to study architectural drafting at the Phoenix Institute of Technology. According to starpulse.com, Ice Cube explains that he didn’t think he would actually earn a living in a rap group. He says, “If you want me to draw you up a house, I can draw you up a house. I don’t know if it’s gonna be livable though.” He would continue his pursuit in music and acting after graduation.
2) Big Sean
Before becoming a mainstream sensation, Big Sean started out as an underground Christian Rapper. His early work can still be found on Youtube, including a song titled “Abstain,” in which he swears off fornication and drugs, and advises other young men to steer clear of “fast girls”. A complete 180 from the sexual exploits, drug abuse and profanity that are heavily featured in his music today.
1) Tupac Shakur
At the time of his death, the rap legend was known for his confrontational outbursts, and high profile feuds. Despite his iconic THUG LIFE tattoo, Tupac Amaru Shakur once claimed in an interview videotaped in 1994, that he had never had any run-ins with the law before his music career took off. He had never been to jail, or had never been in violent gang related fights but as soon as he began rapping about those things, somehow they manifested, and he found himself enveloped in the lifestyle that he glamorized. Following his monstrous success, the rapper served 8 months of a 4 year prison sentence for sexual assault in 1995. As a teen, Tupac studied ballet and theater at the Baltimore School of Performing Arts.