The ability to write a quality rap song is quite remarkable and requires its very own set of skills. Since hip hop’s inception, rappers have been able to tell their life stories through rap songs. Rap music is often very autobiographical, but many notable rappers have penned memoirs to tell their stories in a way that is completely separate from music.
Rapper memoirs are becoming increasingly popular, with Black Thought recently announcing his book for a November release date. JAY-Z, Raekwon, Common, U-God, 50 Cent, and Fat Joe have all told their stories from childhood to success as adults in their books. Some rappers have also taken unique approaches to write non-autobiographical books, such as Russ’s It’s All In Your Head, which inspires readers to follow one’s passions through reflective chapters of motivational material. Wretch 32’s Rapthology: Lessons in Life and Lyrics book takes a unique approach as well, as he takes a look back at his career through particular songs and lyrics. Hip hop musicians like DJ Khaled, Timbaland, and Questlove have also written books, especially the latter, who has also published other non-music related books.
LL Cool J - I Make My Own Rules (1997)
As one of hip hop’s first superstars, it was only right for LL Cool J to be one of the first rappers to write a memoir. I Make My Own Rules was published in 1997 and was written alongside Karen Hunter. The book takes the reader through his life, from struggles during childhood to success as a hip hop star. He details his journey from the creation of his name to his successful albums.
DMX - E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX (2003)
It does not get more autobiographical than E.A.R.L. as DMX vividly paints a picture of some of the darkest times in his life growing up. With the help of Smokey D Fontaine, DMX wrote a captivating memoir that depicts his rough upbringing, how he fell in love with rhyme, and what made him want to pursue music.
RZA - The Tao of Wu (2009)
The Tao of Wu was not RZA’s first book. 2004’s The Wu-Tang Manual provided the ultimate guide for all things Wu-Tang Clan. The Tao of Wu, on the other hand, is RZA’s own personal story. The book starts with a depiction of his childhood and how his method of thinking eventually evolved into the wisdom he has as the leader of hip hop’s most iconic group. The book includes stories of the Wu-Tang Clan’s inception and the personal hardships he endured along the way.
Prodigy - My Infamous Life (2011)
Prodigy had so many stories to tell, which is what makes My Infamous Life an essential read for any hip hop fan. The book consists of Prodigy’s time in the streets as a kid, how he developed his relationship with Havoc to create Mobb Deep, as well as his battle with sickle-cell anemia. The book was released following Prodigy’s time in prison and tells first-hand accounts of the rap legend’s ups and downs, including hit songs and rap beefs.
Lecrae - Unashamed (2016)
The first of two books that Lecrae has written, Unashamed is his memoir that tells his story. In the book, Lecrae details his childhood and hardships as a young adult that led him to religion. The book is an in-depth look into Lecrae’s life and dedication to Christianity. He channeled his faith into music and became the biggest name in the Christian rap community.
Gucci Mane - The Autobiography of Gucci Mane (2018)
With the help of Neil Martinez-Belkin, Gucci Mane reveals a lot about himself in his autobiography, which is not what listeners normally get from his music. He details his life as a kid and how he was raised, his deep criminal history, and how music was an outlet to express himself. Gucci Mane’s autobiography is also a story of transformation from one of the South’s most notorious gangsta rappers to a reformed man fresh out of prison.
Rick Ross - Hurricanes: A Memoir (2019)
Much like Gucci Mane’s autobiography, Rick Ross’s memoir, Hurricanes also sees him more transparent than ever. Coincidentally, the book was also co-written by Neil Martinez-Belkin. Rick Ross touches upon growing up in Miami and wanting a more affluent lifestyle. He gets into his criminal past, addresses his past controversies, and tells the story behind every single album. Ross also gets into his most significant collaborations and famous success stories.
Rakim - Sweat the Technique: Revelations on Creativity from the Lyrical Genius (2019)
With a long career and profound influence on hip hop, Rakim’s memoir was long overdue. His 2019 book sees the hip hop pioneer breaking down his writing process. He looks at music from a unique perspective while providing personal anecdotes. It is a first-hand account of Rakim’s influence that still permeates hip hop culture today.
Talib Kweli - Vibrate Higher: A Rap Story (2020)
Vibrate Higher is a story about Talib Kweli as a rapper and person. Throughout the book, he discusses his Brooklyn roots, how his parents raised him, and what got him into hip hop. The Brooklyn legend started his career at such a pivotal time in hip hop, witnessing history in real-time, which he talks about in his memoir. Kweli writes about his albums, collaborations, and relationships in the book and addresses his most controversial views.
Action Bronson - F*ck It, I'll Start Tomorrow: A True Story (2021)
Action Bronson has written books about his love for food and weed, but F*ck It, I’ll Start Tomorrow is about him. Most rapper memoirs focus on the span of the artist’s entire life but Bronson’s book hones in on his recent weight loss journey. He provides stories about his upbringing and his deep connection to food. Bronson goes into what made him want to start living a healthier lifestyle and how he has accepted himself no matter his appearance.
Logic - This Bright Future: A Memoir (2021)
By the time he had published his memoir, Logic was already a New York Times best-selling author for his novel, Supermarket. Logic has chronicled his childhood trauma and turbulent relationship with his parents in music and interviews, but this book is Logic at his most revealing. Published under his government name, This Bright Future tells Logic’s success story, breaking the cycle of poverty and dealing with the struggles of fame.