In a 2014 interview with HardKnockTV, which recently sparked a conversation on Twitter, the eternally hip André 3000 argued that age and hipness are mutually exclusive. “The origin of the word hip-hop—first you have to be hip, and the older you get, you get further away from the hipness,” André told interviewer Nick Huff Barili.
The intent behind André's comments, I assume, wasn’t to bring down other aging rappers. Rather, he sees himself as inessential to the current state of hip-hop. “I wouldn’t have much to offer to the game after a certain point… We’re all gonna die sometime,” he continued. (For the record, 3 Stacks provided the world with two of 2019’s most essential verses on James Blake’s “Where’s the Catch?” and Anderson .Paak’s “Come Home.” But I digress.)
André’s fear of irrelevance likely stems from the fact that his current stage of life doesn’t resemble the luxury of Atlantan trap or the adolescent emotion of rap’s younger generation, nor does it appeal to the more modern, streaming consumer.
“Unless you want to hear about parenting and how it is with my 16-year-old and not wanting to go and get prostate exams, at a certain point, what am I talking about?” –André 3000
But here’s the thing: as the father of a four-month-old son—my firstborn—I’d love nothing more than to hear about parenting from an older, wiser, more experienced parent. The act of parenting is real life, and hip-hop is nothing if not a medium for keeping it real.
Rapping about parenting is not without precedent either. Some of the greatest and most popular rappers have explored what it means to be a rap dad, a mother, a teacher, and a struggling artist trying to juggle their family life and professional recording career. Sure, rhyming about your children has the opportunity to be sentimental (I’m looking at you, DJ Khaled and Chance the Rapper). However, parenting offers so many lessons to explore and opportunities to celebrate life in meaningful ways. It’s one of the noblest pursuits I’ve encountered in my life thus far—and hip-hop cannot exist without it.
To that end, let’s take a look at six rappers who are parents who remind us that family life transcends hipness and certainly belongs in hip-hop. And André, if you want to drop 15 tracks dedicated to your son and the journey you’ve lived as a parent, I will be there—headphones on, son in my arms—to listen.
“That Dude” — Consequence
Queens rapper and oft A Tribe Called Quest collaborator Consequence has his priorities set when it comes to balancing family life and career. “I always have to be Dad first,” he told DJBooth about his now-eight-year-old son, Caiden. For Cons, 42, being a dad means fostering Caiden’s hip-hop pursuits while maintaining his career. The two linked up for their first rap collaboration on 2016’s “That Dude,” and the result is straight joy. In matching buffalo check jackets, Cons and Caiden splurge in the toy store and trade bars like Q-Tip and Phife: “My Hurley is black and my Timbs are tan / My son is already four, and he’s already the man.” Yes, it’s cute. Over a classic soul sample, the father-son relationship shines, and you can’t help but have a great time listening.
“She’s Mine, Pt. 2” — J. Cole
Despite the song’s title, taken from 2016’s 4 Your Eyez Only, J. Cole and his wife, Melissa, are raising a young son. “She’s Mine, Pt. 2” finds Cole sorting through the existential crisis of “How can I raise a child in this broken world?” He weighs the joy of celebrating “Christmas cheer” and protecting against corporate greed. Cole hopes to truly convey love to his child while “We just swipin’ shit here, we don’t love, we just likin’ shit here.” Amid his internal dialogue, Cole zooms in on a diaper changing scene and how he’ll tease his son when he’s older if he pees on him. It’s a moving song—grounded in the emotional, intellectual, and physical relationships between father and son—that manifests familial love in every line.
“Glory” — JAY-Z
In January 2012, hip-hop’s most celebrated power couple, JAY-Z and Beyoncé, introduced us to hip-hop’s most famous child icon, Blue Ivy Carter. Released 10 days after Blue’s birth, JAY-Z’s “Glory” invites us into the bliss of those first moments of parenthood. “The most amazing feeling I feel / Words can’t describe the feeling, for real / Baby, I paint the sky blue / My greatest creation was you.” Over Neptunes production, Hov contemplates his childhood—separated from his alcoholic father—and resolves not to make the same mistakes. He and Beyoncé (as we hear in 2013’s “Blue”) are elated and energized by their daughter. It’s been a pleasure to see their family grow, change, and “hold on” together over the last eight years.
“Father of 4” — Offset
Parenthood isn’t a typical topic of discussion for Atlanta’s Migos, but Offset is driven to succeed by his passion for his children. In fact, his 2019 debut album, FATHER OF 4, is a dedication to his four kids—Jordan, Kody, Kalea, and Kulture. “I cried to myself while I was doing this album ‘cause I was talking about my story and my kids,” Offset revealed in an interview leading up to the album’s release. On the title track, he begins with an apology for his absence: “Kalea, you my first, first daughter / I missed the first years of your life, I’m sorry.” Offset’s love for his children is evident and it pushes him to keep working and improving as a rap dad. “Even though we gotta catch up, pray to God that he bless us / I’mma keep grindin’ for my kids, never gon’ let up,” he continues. Offset reminds us that parenting isn’t an easy task off the to-do list. It requires dedication, persistence, and wholehearted devotion.
“Daughters” — Nas
Many parenting raps are born from the early stages of parenthood; Nas’ 2012 song “Daughters” explores the transitional period of a child becoming an adult. Written for his then-17-year-old daughter, Destiny Jones, “Daughters” finds Nas struggling with a familiar dilemma. He wants the best possible life for his child, but he also can’t hypocritically judge her for the same mistakes he’s made himself. “She heard stories of her daddy thuggin’ / So if her husband is a gangster, can’t be mad, I’ll love him,” he raps. Wanting his daughter to find an honorable husband leads Nas to consider his past, an introspective lesson echoed by Kanye West on the 2018 song “Violent Crimes.” In the end, Nas doesn’t want to control his daughter’s life; he’s just trying to express his love and admiration as best as he can. “‘Cause we think no one is good enough for our daughters,” Nas closes. As a young dad myself, I don’t envy this stage of life one bit.
“To Zion” — Lauryn Hill
The experience of a rap mom is wholly different from a rap dad. Rap dads are often praised when they put their careers on hold to support their families. On her 1998 song “To Zion,” Lauryn Hill portrays a different response, one often received by successful women: “I knew his life deserved a chance / But everybody told me to be smart / ‘Look at your career,’ they said / ‘Lauryn, baby use your head.’” Despite this egregious double standard, Hill gave birth to her son Zion in 1997, leading her to celebrate, “Now the joy of my world is in Zion.” The spiritual parallels are inescapable, as Hill relates her motherhood to that of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and sees her son as a “beautiful reflection of his grace.”