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80s Rap Can Teach You Something About Storytelling

Back in the day, I started listening to Run DMC, NWA, Kool Moe Dee, Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, the list goes on… and it changed me. (I also listened to the Bee Gees but that is for another day...). The way these artists told stories, expressed themselves… in a way that drew you in with bass, samples, scratching and incredible lyrics.

“He’s the better of best, best believe he’s the baddest,
Perfect timin’ when I’m climb, I’m a rhyming apparatus”


"Peter Piper" is one of my favorites. It starts with no music and no beat, just an up tempo set of rhymes that instantly grabs you and tells you to hold on for a killer tune. And then, the best back-beat comes tearing in. The impact of the beat is even stronger 'cause we are left waiting for it in anticipation. The big hook is that the song captures you. Your social storytelling, articles and blogs should do the same. Use words like "love", "strong", and "important"… seize your audience and shake them up. Drag them in with strong opinion and theories.


“They did the job, money came with ease
But one couldn't stop, it's like he had a disease”

The song "Children’s Story" is also amazing on every level. Slick Rick tells an intense, lyrically beautiful story of what he is observing in the 80s to a strong beat, with the concept that he is telling his nephews a bedtime story. By having the scene play out this way, we are immersed into a personal story, sharing experiences, observations and realities. But the whole thing is from the heart… if your audience doesn’t know you, your struggles, or successes then they will never get connected.


“The beat is slow in order to dance,
I wanna hear ‘I dos’ and no ‘I cants’


I have always been in awe of the Beastie Boys and how they tell the complicated story of their lives while also making sure you don’t forget they are the best at their craft. They tell you how they would rhyme on the way to school on the subway, and that no one could tough them. You should do the same. An architecture firm, for example, needs to tell a complex story of choices, decisions, research, related to a project and then layer in why they are the best.


I try to use music as motivation and a guidepost when I write. If you do too, then I hope this pushes you to write with more emotion and prose.

Look for shanedavis27 on Spotify for this playlist called 80s Motivate:


Can I Kick It – Tribe

Pepper Piper – Run DMC

Drop – The Pharcyde

Chief Rocka – Lords of the Underground

It’s a Heat Up – King Sun

Crossover – EPMD

Doowhutchyalike -  Digital Underground

Supersonic – JJ Fad
Do It To The Crowd – Twin Hype

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