Rap music is a genre that you either love or despise. Many individuals believe it is simply a glorification of gang violence and criminality. Others dislike the beat, thinking it to be overly harsh. Some of the most well-known rappers may enjoy even the harshest rap critics who have toned down their techniques and recorded heartfelt songs.
In no particular order, these are 20 sad rap songs to listen to when you need to cry or release emotions.
1. I’ll Be Missing You – Puff Daddy (Featuring Faith Evans)
Puff Daddy recorded this song as a tribute to Notorious B.I.G. when he died. Every Breath You Take, a Police song sampled in part of the beat. He recorded the single three months after his death, with Faith Evans, Biggie’s widow, delivering the chorus and included a section of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings on the LP version. The song became one of the most popular rap singles of all time.
2. Life Go On – Tupac
When Tupac composed this song, many people seemed to think he was foreshadowing his death. It’s not like any other track in the singer’s brief catalog. The song’s lyrics are about the singer’s late friends but also his life and career reflections. It became one of his best-known compositions because it was so unsettling that he was assassinated in Las Vegas less than a year after writing it.
After the singer’s death, those closest to him grieved as they listened to this song. Some of the lyrics seemed to reflect Tupac’s wishes for his death. Because his untimely death was a tragedy that rippled through the music industry, lyrics like “tell all my people cries when we die, outlaws, let me ride” didn’t come true.
3. Live In The Sky – T.I. (Featuring Jamie Fox)
Like many of T.I.’s others, this song deals with crucial issues, such as drug addiction, tragic deaths, and other tragic circumstances that occur when you need to make tough choices for survival. Because the lyrics are about the rapper’s stint in prison, it’s also a personal song for him. One of the people mentioned in the song is his friend Phil, murdered in 2006.
4. Beautiful – Eminem
This list wouldn’t be complete without an Eminem song. Eminem wrote this song the first time he went into rehab in 2005, and didn’t finish it until he got clean several years later. Beautiful was first released on August 11, 2009 and has helped and touched many fans hearts since. Due to Eminem’s impressive ability to construct meaningful rhymes, this song is not one you want to miss.
5. Dead Homiez – Ice Cube
Ice Cube wrote “Dead Homiez” to overcome his sorrow after one of his friends, T-Bone, died. Ice Cube penned the song in little about an hour because he felt overwhelmed with grief due to the loss, and the words just flowed from his pen. The song also gives listeners a glimpse into what lower socioeconomic communities face when poverty forces them to do illegal things to survive.
6. Retrospect For Life – Common (Featuring Lauryn Hill)
This was the album’s first single, “One Day It’ll All Make Sense.” The opening lines are about abortion and the implications of deciding to end a life. Hill uses a lost version of “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer” by Stevie Wonder. Additionally, she samples “A Sogn Fro You” by Donny Hathaway. The video was the first time Common acted. James Poyser played keyboards in the video.
7. See You Again – Charlie Puth (Featuring Wiz Khalifa)
Paul Walker died in a horrific vehicle accident on November 30, 2013, while filming Fast and Furious 7. Charlie Puth wrote the music for this song. Later, he requested that Wiz Khalifa add the rap sections. Puth began writing the piece with the chorus in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Walker on the other side.
8. Miss U – The Notorious B.I.G ft. 112
Biggie’s homage to Tupac following his death was this song. It was, however, not dedicated to him but to a close friend who died. Notorious B.I.G. was trying to help him break away from narcotics and other problems that were dragging him down. At Notorious B.I.G’s funeral, they played the song as guests left the service.
9. The Message – Dr. Dre featuring Mary J. Blige Rell
This song stood out among the rest of his album 2001, which he released in 1999, based on Royce’s personal experience at first. However, after hearing him sing the song, Dr. Dre’s feelings regarding his brother and music became his own.
10. Song Cry – Jay-Z
When Jay-Z first started touring, he lost a relationship from being on the road and being unfaithful. He first wrote this song, followed by several others that detail how he feels about relationships with women and the evolution in how he understands women. Twenty years after releasing the music, he worked with DJ Khaled on his “Sorry Not Sorry” track using the same sample from this song, “Sounds Like A Love Song.”
11. Tha Crossroads – Bone Thugs and Harmony
On this tune, the group reworked a portion of an Isley Brothers song. Many of the songs are about a group of kids in a cemetery debating death and what happens next. They dedicated it to Eazy-E, a member of NWA who died of AIDS in 1995. The song is a memorial to everyone the band has lost along the way. The credits for the song feature a staggering twelve songwriters, holding the record until 2007. This song is still the group’s most popular after twenty-five years and several singles.
12. Acid Rain – Chance the Rapper
This was one of the last songs, Chance the Rapper, added to the album “Acid Rap.” The lyrics are his strong feelings about a myriad of different topics is considered one of the most thought-provoking tracks on the album. Former President Barack Obama added this song to his 2016 summer playlist.
13. Last Good Sleep – Company Flow
The lyrics detail the experiences Flow had with his stepfather when he was younger. The man almost beat his mother to death during a drunken blackout. His mother held her one, even wielding a butcher knife and threatening one of his paintings if he came near her. Domestic violence is one of the most pressing issues in our country. Sadly, it can go unnoticed because everything might look like it’s fine on the outside. This song portrays the raw emotions when someone is a victim in their own home.
14. I Feel Like Dying – Lil Wayne
Even though Lil Wayne enjoyed commercial success when he released this song, he still had many personal problems. The song’s lyrics detail what it feels like to think that the only way of escaping your problems is to find solace in drugs and alcohol.
The song was a departure from his other work, offering up a bluesier, barring an emo feel.
15. U (To Pimp a Butterfly) – Kendrick Lamar
Even when you’re famous, you can feel like you don’t belong or that everything you do is pointless. Kendrick Lamar‘s song details all the worst things he thinks about himself alongside grief about the death of a friend. More often than not, when a death happens, we feel a need to examine our lives and the directions we’re going. Many times we feel like we could do better, thereby honoring someone we lost. Additionally, an untimely death can leave us feeling like we’re wasting our life and need to do something different. He raps the last part over the ethereal piano and mournful saxophones.
16. They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)- Pete Rock CL Smooth
The inspiration in this song is “Trouble” T. Roy from Heavy D & the Boyz. The song details his death and speaks to people who are mourning the loss of someone close to them they lost. Grief often produces some of the best art because they have a medium to release emotions when an artist feels emotions. Loss of a friend can sometimes be more complicated than losing a family member because you have close connections.
17. Dance – Nas
When sad events, either global or personal, happen, an artist can channel those things into a song to help make sense of pain. In this song, Nas is grieving the loss of his mother. “Dance” is another example of a universal sad rap song because many people know the feeling of losing a parent, and everyone has experienced the devastating loss of someone close to them. In fact, he dedicated the 2002 album God’s Son to her.
18. 8 Million Stories – A Tribe Called Quest
Even though we might think depression most often happens during significant events that change our world, these lyrics show how it is found in many more mundane occurrences. Unlike many rap songs that don’t feel relatable, this one has so many different day-to-day incidents each listener can find something they identify. Additionally, these moments can also be the proverbial straws that break the camel’s back. After all, so many things may go wrong in our lives, but it can be the slightest moment that sends us over the edge.
19. Slippin – DMX
During most of his life, DMX was in and out of legal trouble. The lines in this song offer explanations for his behavior, stemming from his childhood. The song also samples Grover Washington Jr., adding further insight into the roots of his problems. The song’s lyrics also weaves a positive message about wanting to overcome the struggles and promising yourself you’ll rise above your past. DMX’s runs are poignant because the listener can identify with the feeling of hitting rock bottom.
20. Six Feet Deep – Geto Boys
Part of the sample in this song is Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On.” The song’s lines are about a close friend killed during an outbreak of gang violence, so it’s a fitting addition. Additionally, the song details the inner turmoil when you lose someone in such a horrific way. Lately, the country is seeing more racial tension, which unfortunately has kept this song relevant almost twenty years after the recording.
21. Millie Pulled A Pistol on Santa – De La Soul
Too many times, children who say something is happening at home go unheard. This song’s lyrics are a grim reminder of what happens when children are not protected. As the song progresses and no one listens to the title character, she exacts revenge and does not feel vindicated.