Sure, every rapper speaks on their past occasionally. But, the daring ones dedicate entire tracks to reflecting on their upbringing. These evocative cuts deliver candid details into their already intriguing lives and arouse a typically unheard side of their artistry for the greater good - no matter how difficult sharing with strangers can be. To express how much we appreciate when emcees step outside their comfort zone and express the best in themselves, we’ve compiled 20 of our favorite reminiscent rap songs for your listening pleasure.
Memory lane never sounded so good.
1. Nas - “Surviving The Times”
Starting from buying his first microphone to getting game-changing looks from MC Serch and eventually shopping major label deals, God’s Son used this new track from his 2007 Greatest Hits album to take fans on a Chris Webber-produced journey through his career that was actually deserving of the prestigious placement.
2. Danny Brown - “Grown Up”
One of the best things about reminiscent rap songs is that they bring the best out of the MCs writing them, as the topics are close to their heart and require actual sentiment. That’s why it was so nice to hear Danny drop the drug and hoes shtick for a minute and deliver this candid glimpse into his Detroit upbringing.
3. Killer Mike - “Grandma’s House”
Some kids grow up going to their grandparent’s house occasionally on the weekends, watching old movies on repeat and sneaking video games with the neighbors. Not Killer Mike though, who reluctantly spent his adolescence sneaking sacks out his Nana’s quarters as a means of upgrading his lifestyle.
4. Scarface - “My Block”
Talking about more than just himself, the former baby-faced dope-peddler named Sleepy speaks on his whole Southside Houston neighborhood for this classic Fix single.
5. Busta Rhymes - “How Much We Grew”
Lacing bar-stool piano keys with some reflective raps, Bussa Buss details everything from coming out his mom's womb to laying his first pipe on this dedication to loved ones from his 2000 Anarchy album.
6. Mike Jones - “Back Then”
On his breakout single from Who Is Mike Jones?, the boisterous Houston rapper spoke on how girls who used to think he was fat as a kid eventually came around when he got iced out. On his breakout single from Who Is Mike Jones?, the boisterous Houston rapper spoke on how girls who used to think he was fat as a kid eventually came around when he got iced out.
7. Whodini - “Growing Up”
Spinning the throwback theme into a positive public service announcement against crack, the 80s favorites detailed how they followed rules growing up and were still cool. The video - featuring the one and only Larry Fishburne as a Firebird-pushing crack dealer - is a sight to be seen.
8. Lil Wayne - “La La La”
This fan favorite finds Weezy speaking on growing up as a snot-nosed kid from the Holygrove projects, who used to ride around on handlebars in Saints’ Starter jackets with money in his pocket and a gat in his waist. Doesn’t sound like much has changed, actually.
9. DJ Quik - “Summer Breeze”
Much more than just laid-back BBQ background music from the Quiksta, this is a detailed tribute to a precarious youth the CPT resident made the best of.
10. Snoop Doggy Dogg Ft. Daz & The Twinz - “Poly High”
This formerly unreleased gem from DPGC’s golden era found The Doggfather and his extended fam rapping from the perspective of their high school-aged selves, mashing through Polytechnic High in the 213.
11. Jay-Z - “My First Song”
This Black Album gem reflects on how when other cats were trading cards and playing Atari, Jigga was working his way from dimes to O’s in the rental amidst the Brooklyn streets.
12. Kendrick Lamar Ft. MC Eiht - “m.A.A.d City”
Considering the conceptual theme of K-Dot’s major label LP, 95% of the album could be featured here. However, this sinister two-in-one combo finds the TDE MVP reminiscing on eerily deep details of his childhood in a manner that will send chills down your spine.
13. Eminem - “Cleanin Out My Closet”
Yeah, Slim’s childhood was a little more disgruntled than most. But, that only made for better listening material, as Marshall’s self-produced open book from The Eminem Show became one of his most sought-after singles.
14. Ed O.G. & Da Bulldogs - “Life Of A Kid In The Ghetto”
If you’re a suburbanite or grew up in some small rural town, listening to this throwback from Ed O.G. will enlighten you to how early of an age this Beantown banger had to hold his own in the confines of an unstable upbringing.
15. Big K.R.I.T. - “Neva Go Back”
No matter where you are in life, everyone has those feelings of wondering what it’d be like to go back and kick it like the old days - a feeling Krizzle rocks rather eloquently over a guitar lick from his Krit Wuz Here mixtape.
16. Beanie Sigel Ft. Eve - “Remember Them Days”
For his debut album The Truth, Beans teamed with Eve to deliver this warming track for all the sugar-water kids out there, who grew up only on a dime and their imagination.
17. DTP Ft. Lil' Fate, Ludacris, Shawnna, Scarface & Keon Bryce - “Growing Pains”
Whether you liked the somber original or repackaged remix with Facemob, this throwback from Luda and his Disturbing Tha Peace family had everyone rightfully reflecting on memories of GI Joes and Thundercats.
18. 2Pac - “Old School”
Both a portrait of the Pac’s youth and a homage to his Hip-Hop predecessors, this flute-heavy boom-bap from Me Against The World explains why the legendary MC was so versatile on the mic - he grew up enamored in the music.
19. Notorious B.I.G. - “Juicy”
Sometimes it seems like this Biggie classic is on every list written. Then again, the ashy to classy theme here wouldn’t be nearly as potent if not for the tape-popping and Word Up magazine references.
20. Ahmad - “Back In The Days”
A vividly-written, chronological snapshot into the past of a one-hit wonder’s childhood, this track is the epitome of the list and a great reminder that you really don’t realize what you have until it’s gone.