"Imagery" In Hip-Hop: A Look At The Rappers Who Are Doing It The Best

By: Andrew Barnett
Auburn University at Montgomery
Department of Communication & Dramatic Arts

In a recent interview on the “Sway In The Morning” show, Curren$y made a statement saying that he writes his songs like movies.

[T]his made me think of other rappers who have cinematic writing. The definition of “imagery” is “to use figurative language to represent objects, actions and ideas in such a way that it appeals to our physical senses.” There are some rappers who are experts at bringing their raps to life.
The ones who have mastered the art of imagery do so not only with their writing but with their flow, delivery, and vocal presence.


The first person that comes to mind is the Street Narrator, Nas.

From the young age of 19, Nas has been staring out of his Queensbridge window to bring us dramatic stories from the hood. However, Nas’ imagery is not limited to the streets. He can make just about any situation come to life in his raps. So much so that there are scenes in the movie, “Belly” based solely off of some Nas songs.

The next person to come to mind is Mr. Scarface himself.

Not only is he named after the 1983 movie, but one of his most revealing albums is properly named “The Diary.” Scarface, who hails from Houston Texas, uses his chilling vocal delivery and meshes it with intense lyrics detailing serious situations.

Beanie Sigel is as raw of a rapper that I’ve ever heard.

The fact that he never aspired to be a rapper from the beginning confirms that he has an undeniable natural poetic talent. The way that he evokes emotions in a song is almost unmatched. Beanie’s stories of prison from the song “What Ya Life Like” are almost like nightmares on record. The best thing about his kind of imagery is that it is so raw and authentic that you know Beanie has experienced what he is rapping about.

Pusha T may often be looked at as one-dimensional “drug dealing” rapper, but his writing is so intricate that he cannot be generalized.

There is no other rapper that brings the drug game to life the way that Pusha T does. His bone-chilling delivery and visualizations bring cocaine dealing right to your front door.

Imagery is a skill that few rappers have mastered, but when done right it is a beautiful thing.

There’s nothing better than listening to a song and having a vivid image painted in your mind. Not only does it make the listening experience better, but it evokes emotions from a listener that can only come from the music.