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Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella. Photo illustration by Srikar Poruri.
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella. Photo illustration by Srikar Poruri.

We Gon Be Alright: Rap's Most Inspirational Songs

A feel-good hip-hop playlist for Mental Health Awareness Month.

Inspiration can be found anywhere, and music has filled that role for a long time. When talking about hip-hop, a genre born out of creativity and necessity, it’s no surprise that so many songs can create motivation out of thin air. Life is tough, and many rappers have been through difficult life experiences and still found ways to persevere. For this Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re listing some of the most inspirational and moving rap songs of all time.

Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” (2015)

A Pharrell Williams and Sounwave-produced protest song by Kendrick Lamar? What a combo that turned out to be exactly what the people needed. A song that makes you feel unstoppable and hopeful, no matter your circumstances, Kendrick’s “Alright” is one of his best songs ever, and is perfectly crafted for anyone struggling with life’s difficulties.

Talib Kweli’s “Get By” (2003)

A song that became career-defining for Talib Kweli, “Get By” comments on a litany of things people do to survive, and the way that wears them down. From backbreaking nine-to-fives, monotonous office jobs with long commutes, going to jail for trying to make money illegally, and more, Kweli empathizes with those realities. We are all just trying to get by, after all.

Jadakiss and Styles P’s “We Gonna Make It” (2001)

Back in 2001, Jadakiss and his LOX brother-in-arms Styles P dropped a timeless classic in “We Gonna Make It.” Those soaring strings, courtesy of The Alchemist, and Jada and Styles emulated chemistry combined for one of the most inspiring songs in rap history. All lavish flexes and vows of loyalty to their team and each other, who doesn’t wanna live well with their close friends?

Ab-Soul and Zacari’s “Do Better” (2022)

Known for his personal and introspective music, Ab-Soul looks within (alongside fellow TDE signee Zacari) on “Do Better.” Here, Soul shares that he wants more from himself, and lists the ways he can get re-focused on his self-care. Later walking the listener through his troubles with depression, “Do Better” is honest, and shows that rappers go through the same things everyone else does.

The Notorious B.I.G. and 112’s  “Sky's the Limit” (1997)

Released after Biggie’s untimely death in 1997, “Sky’s The Limit” with 112 is one of his most moving songs. Going from The Notorious B.I.G.’s youth as a poor child turned drug dealer, to his adulthood in the streets, the rap legend goes through a litany of emotions, from regret, remorse, pride in his success, and more. Biggie simply never gave up and survived his drug dealing past to become an all-time MC.

Nappy Roots’ "Good Day" (2007)

One of those songs that sticks in your mind, Nappy Roots’ “Good Day” is refreshing, and feels like the song’s title. With children singing on the hook, the rappers of the Kentucky rap crew describe their versions of a perfect day, which includes shopping, getting love from their neighborhood, barbecuing with their friends, and more. It’s almost impossible to have a bad time after hearing this.

Nas’ "I Can" (2003)

Nas was already a rap veteran when this track came out, and he wanted to make something he felt comfortable letting his daughter hear. That song became the Beethoven sampling hit single “I Can,” where Nas speaks directly to the kids about the pitfalls of life and what to watch out for while telling them to believe in themselves. At the time of its release, the song was everywhere, and Nas’s honest, lived perspective was designed to uplift children all over the world.

Outkast and Goodie Mob’s “Git Up Git Out” (1994)

Sometimes, it takes a long time for the advice from your loved ones to resonate. Outkast and Goodie Mob’s classic song “Git Up Git Out” is all about living your life to the fullest and redirecting towards making the right decisions. All of the rappers deliver verses about the mistakes of their younger years and the wisdom they’ve acquired since to better themselves. It’s never too late to change.

J. Cole’s “Love Yourz” (2014)

A key song in J. Cole’s discography, “Love Yourz” delivers a message that will always be relevant. In the song, Cole is honest about his success and riches while stressing the importance of being happy, wherever your life is. Even someone like him, with a lot of resources and access, can get caught in the cycle of wanting more. The real value of life is the relationships you have, and Cole hasn’t forgotten this.

Scarface, 2Pac and Johnny P’s “Smile” (1997)

“Smile,” a particularly moving song that puts Scarface alongside 2Pac with a Johnny P hook, has stood the test of time. The track is about believing in yourself at your lowest moments, and pushing through it, with Scarface and Pac being seen as success stories born of struggle. Released after 2Pac died, the song speaks to his values, where he even shares his bout of depression, while also remembering he has to be aware of people targeting him, no matter how he feels. Scarface’s verse is about him turning to the streets as a way out of poverty, and how he used to dream about being rich and successful, long before it was reality. He ends it with a prayer for Pac’s journey through the afterlife.

Eminem’s "Lose Yourself" (2002)

A classic song about fully pouring yourself into the present and giving maximum effort, “Lose Yourself” is one of Eminem’s biggest songs. The popularity of “Lose Yourself” is due to Em’s passion for the track, and the importance of the message; taking the moment seriously, no matter how tough things are, can take you anywhere. Eminem’s life is a testament to that.

Jay-Z’s and Pharrell Williams’ "So Ambitious" (2009)

A laid-back cut off of Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3, “So Ambitious” featuring Pharell Williams is an ode to the haters. It’s well-known that a lot of people didn’t believe in Jay’s dream of becoming a famous rapper, and in this song, he details where the doubts came from. His teacher, his uncle, and record labels all didn’t feel that Jay had something special, but he still exceeded expectations in every way. On top of that, who can forget Pharell singing this hook?