Look, we all have regrets. That one crazy ex, the street-vendor burrito after a night at the bars. We’re all human, and mistakes are inevitable–good luck is a finite resource. And despite how we view them, rap stars aren’t so error-prone themselves, even if they want to play off that every creative move they’ve made has crapped platinum and gold.
So we salute those admirable emcees who’ve had the guts to say, “sike! That thing I did really wasn’t that good.” This group includes fresh faces and legends alike, ten of them we’ve compiled with proof that their regrets aren’t just urban legend in honor of our annual day of jest, April Fools’ Day. So go ahead, read, and then tell us what we’ve missed in the comments below.
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The Beastie Boys – Licensed To Ill
The Beasties probably didn’t regret the album itself, which helped shift the zeitgeist towards Hip-Hop’s mainstream acceptance, but they did regret its lyrics’ overt homophobia and misogyny.
In a 1999 letter to TimeOut New York, Ad-Rock apologized for the rampant homophobia on their debut by saying that “time has healed our stupidity.” And speaking on the misogyny, 1994 song “Sure Shot” saw MCA rapping, “the disrespect to women has got to be through,” which tries to atone for Licensed To Ill lines like, “I think her name is Lucy, but they all call her loose/I picked her up at eighth and forty-deuce.”
We think The Beastie Boys did plenty throughout the remainder of their careers to correct those juvenile mistakes. But never forget: the album’s original title was supposed to be Don’t Be A F****t.
Jay Z – “Big Pimpin'”
Ditto for Jay on the misogyny front. In the lead-up to the release of his book, Decoded, Hova attended an event sponsored by Bing in Miami where his lyrics to “Big Pimpin'” were displayed on the floor of the venue’s pool. Apparently, he was appalled at the sight, commenting, “it was like, I can’t believe I said that. And kept saying it. What kind of animal would say this sort of thing?” Someone in the throes of a swagged-out Carnival celebration in Trinidad, probably.
If that embarrassing realization wasn’t enough, Jay also has to fight a lawsuit that concerns the alleged illicit use of a sample from the song into this year. “Regret” is probably an understatement right now when Shawn looks back at “Big Pimpin’.”
Kanye West – “Breathe In Breathe Out”
Because Kanye West is, well, Kanye West, he will never say that he regrets his work. But according to those who worked with him on The College Dropout, “Breathe In Breathe Out” almost didn’t make the final mix.
“He always had a hang-up about releasing ‘Breathe In Breathe Out,'” Consequence told Billboard. “I think he kept it… because it was one of the first records he had and it was sentimental to him.” Of course, it’s still a great track, “bull**** ice rap” and all–it’s just not “Jesus Walks” or “Spaceship.”
Mac Miller – “Up All Night” & “Party On Fifth Ave.”
Mac’s issues with critics’ reviews of his debut studio album, Blue Slide Park, are well documented. And if we’re being honest, the album was not…that great. Mac himself told Complex that he doesn’t particularly care for “Up All Night” or “Party On Fifth Ave.,” two cuts off the LP: “I can’t make ‘Up All Night’ right now,” says Mac. “That’s the only record I regret. ‘Party on Fifth Ave’—great song, I guess. It’s fun. But when I listen to that song and those verses, I hear nothing.” Ditto.
Fortunately, the emcee has put out a steady stream of mind-bending, oftentimes awesome work since that debut, so let those tracks simmer in the metaphorical bottom half of your YouTube library, buddy, and keep on keepin’ on.
Pharrell – In My Mind
By show of hands, how many of you still listen to this album? How many of you–when pouring over Pharrell’s production credits, work with N.E.R.D. and more recent solo offerings–even remember that his 2006 debut exists? If you didn’t raise your hand, no worries. Pharrell, when speaking with GQ, can’t blame you: “‘I wrote those songs out of ego,’ he says. ‘What was good about that? What’d you get out of it? There was no purpose.'”
Joe Budden – “Porno Star”
Joe Budden spoke with Vibe a few years ago about songs that he’s regretted making, and he didn’t hesitate to call out a production company with whom he worked early in his career. The results of that partnership inspired songs like “Porno Star,” which–along with sounding like the theme music to a Kenny Powers sashay from the minor league bullpen–includes the words “d*ck,” “p*ssy” and “sex” said an uncomfortable number of times. Yeah, it’s pretty clear why Budden regrets this dud.
YG – “Toot It And Boot It”
Like almost every other rapper and his project on this list, YG messes with “Toot It And Boot It”–he just doesn’t like his rhymes. But of course! The Compton rapper told Hip-Hop DX recently that he didn’t know what to do with the DJ Mustard- and Ty Dolla $ign-created track, so, “I ain’t take my time with the verses. I was just rapping.” Which we suppose explains lines like, “I met her in the club, you know I was drunk/I asked her name and then I said: ‘I wanna ****’/And I’m YG and you know I ******.” Very true: a little bit more discretion and effort would’ve went a long way here.
Wiz Khalifa – Rolling Papers
There were quite a few people who, when Wiz Khalifa dropped Rolling Papers in spring 2011 thought, “what the heck is this?” Excluding the harder-hitting “Black And Yellow,” the sugary album was a very noticeable appeal to Top-40 radio–“No Sleep,” “Roll Up”–and perhaps it isn’t as bad in hindsight if taken for what it is: a pop record.
But that didn’t stop Wiz from writing a letter to fans that apologized for it: “The mistake I made on Rolling Papers was thinking it was time to move on from that genre [Kush & O.J.] not knowing that it had impacted people so much.” You can say that again.
Drake – The music videos for “Fancy” and “Miss Me”
Drake is similar to another superstar rapper in that it seems he lives life with zero regrets. Just think about it: how many rappers have the guts to make a song like “Marvin’s Room”? But Drake’s his own biggest critic, and in a 2011 interview with GQ when asked if his debut album, Thank Me Later, was his low point and could’ve been better, Drake agrees and then adds, “definitely that combined with the videos for ‘Miss Me’ and ‘Fancy.’I just watched the videos and was like, ‘What the f*ck are these videos about?'” We’ll spare him and say that Thank Me Later was good–not amazing–and those two tracks were some of the bigger, better cuts.
As for their videos? “Fancy”–despite what this author believed–never surfaced and “Miss Me” is, meh, ok–although, a wild hologram Weezy appears!
Lupe Fiasco – “Show Goes On” and, really, Lasers
Oh, Loopy. Where art thou from the Food & Liquor glory days?
This was the beginning of the end of Lupe Fiasco’s sanity, as he went off to Complex about how he hated his third album, Lasers, and its lead single before the thing was even released. Jeesh.
There’s too much to maneuver through here, but what he had to say about “Show Goes On” essentially speaks to how screwed Lasers and Fiasco’s relationship with his label, Atlantic, was in the first place: “I didn’t have nothing to do with that record. That was the label’s record…. that was like the big chip on the table. I had to do it and it had to be the first single if the record was going to come out.” Yikes.