15 Hip-Hop Songs That Reference Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou's importance to American culture runs deep. The legendary author, poet, and activist was easily one of the best and brightest voices of her generation. As influential as she was lauded, Angelou won countless awards throughout her career, and stood tall as a voice for women and for the Black community.
An American icon, Angelou unsurprisingly made a big impact in hip-hop, too. She made Tupac Shakur weep on the set of the 1993 film Poetic Justice after expressing how important he is to Black people—he later named his song "Still I Rise" after one of her most famous poems. (Nicki Minaj did the same years later.) Common tapped her to appear on his 2011 album The Dreamer/The Believer; Kendrick Lamar did the same for his 2012 masterpiece good kid, m.A.A.d city. Upon her death in 2014, Q-Tip cited Angelou as one of his greatest influences.
In 2013, Angelou spoke with TIME about feeling optimistic about the future of poetry. “All I have to do is listen to hip-hop or some of the rappers,” she said.
"Once you find your shoulders dropping/And your speech gets slow and hazy/You better change your way of being/Before you found your brain got lazy/You can build a better future when you join the winning team/If you desire a bright tomorrow, you must build a brighter dream" —Maya Angelou
"Maya Angelou spawn/Abandoned and raised by Nas/Raised by the sharks but I'm swimming with the prawns/I found my own lane/Meet Mr. Folarin" —Wale
"Langston Hughes with a blew fuse and a screw loose/Maya Angelou abused child with her notebook/Spitting like Kipling with a tooth missing/Tongue bring torture to men, women and children" —Danny Brown
"Mix Melissa Ford/With Maya Angelou/Become a top model/And Sojourner too" —Lupe Fiasco
"Word evangelist/Diabolical vandalist/Infamous/Maya Angelou with Marlon Brando shit" —Jean Grae
"So okey-dokey folks/Most provoke me I'll choke ya so hold your oats/Was rollin' 'cause I'm strollin' with the quotes/Like Shakespeare, Mark Twain, or Edgar Allan Poe/But since I'm a negro, I flows like Maya Angelou" —Malik Blunt
"Ridin in the phantom ghost/Yellow bone camel toe/Jewelry on tropicals/Call it Maya Angelou" —Ace Hood
"I'm on that Richard Pryor, Bruce Lee, Muhammad Ali/Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Salvador Dali/Now we rap Langston Hughes and Maya Angelous/Out the disco Xanadu/Hip-hop for the streets" —Rakaa Iriscience
"Can't you see?/You're like a book of poetry/Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni/Turn one page and there's my mommy" —Kanye West
"I spit like Maya's poems, palming chromers/For the buyers' chromosomes I got soma's/I got Vicodins, Valiums I ain't stopping/Got powder, heroin, ex, oxycontin" —Lil Wayne
"Gimme Sade's mystique, she gotta know her way in the streets/Like Billie Holiday in Harlem/Body from Ki Toy Johnson and Kenya Moore and Apple Bottoms/Maya Angelou's brain and some groove from Terry McMillan" —Nas
"It's something about that Nina Simone piano flow/It's like a Michaelangelo painted a portrait of Maya Angelou/And gave it to a sick poet for they antidote/If music get's you choked up this is the tree and a rope" —Kanye West
"But if you know you ain't a bitch, then you wouldn't get mad/You'se a fake Maya Angelou, stunt, get a job" —J-Zone
"Yo, she was like Rosario Dawson and Claudette Ortiz/With a little Halle Berry and Angelina Jolie/When she spoke it was like Lauryn Hill or Maya Angelou/All of those brains and body too hot to handle, too" —Akrobatik
"Picture me rollin', young, handsome and focused/Got that vision of 'Pac although I'm branded as Oprah/Michelangelo portrait meet Maya Angelou notebook/Michael Jordan performance nigga I'm picturing all of it" —Wale