5 Excellent Examples of Intellectual Hip-Hop

The closest I’ve come to hip-hop was two-years ago when I heard some tasteless beats about having your way with women and winning as much money as possible. Little did I know that hip hop can be an excellent form of artistic expression. I changed my mind about it when I first heard Macklemore sing. Since then I started listening to Grieves, Atmosphere and many more.

Once you go beyond what the masses listen to, you will discover some subtle variations of the hip hop genre that will definitely move you and send out  a powerful message. There are a select few artists that have managed to create absolutely brilliant intellectual hip-hop. Let’s take a look at their best songs and videos.


1. Atmosphere – Guarantees

But I don’t wan’t to go home yet, so I’m gonna talk to my cigarette and that television set / It doesn’t matter what brand or station, anything to take away from the current situation.”

People don’t require tragedies to be broken down. Sometimes, the struggles of every day life are more than enough to make them feel overwhelmed. In “Guarantees”, and through these lyrics, Atmosphere directly expresses the state of his life. He concludes with the only guarantee in life / is a life worth dying for. These two lyrics have been interpreted time and time again. Some said that they refer to his son, while other believe that it is only a depiction of his state of mind.

Video: Atmosphere – Guarantees

2. Grieves – Lightspeed

“Mom was a religion and happiness was a fact / It’s a shame how the time goes past / Movin’ so fast / It’s like I’m movin’ at light speed / Slow down.” 

When I was young, happiness was a fact for me. As I grew older, the struggles of life made my childhood feel like a distant and blissful past. This is probably also the reason why the song from Grieves, Lightspeed, touched me. The song is a recollection of memories, and an encouragement to see the beauty in all things. 

Video:Grieves – Lightspeed

3. Astronautalis – Contrails

‘ Lionel Terray said it the truest, I set it to music / We’re all Conquistadores of the Useless.”

Austronautalis is one of the deepest intellectual hip-hop bands out there. In this song they talk about the tale of a deceiving duo who pretend to be disabled in order to take advantage of generous souls of one city, before moving to another. The idea of the lyrics may sound improbable, but the way that the story is woven is brilliant.

Video: Austronautalis – Contrails

4. Sage Francis – The Best Times

‘ Don’t listen when they tell you that these are your best years / Don’t let anyone protect your tears / It’s best that you hear what they don’t want you to hear / It’s better to have pressure from peers than not have peers.”

Is there any need to comment on this superb song? The lyrics above already speak for themselves. “The Best Times” from Sage Francis is basically a lyrical memoir, and a home-run for the artist. He managed to deal with his childhood and re-tell his experiences while also reflecting on them. The message is also optimistic, because he tells future generations that it can only get better as you grow older, and they should never give up.

Video: Sage Francis – The Best of Times

5. Eyedea & Abilities – Smile

” I can only build if I tear the walls down / even if it breaks me I won’t let it make me frown / I’m falling but no matter how hard I hit the ground / I’ll still smile.’

Eyedea has passed on, but this music will live on forever. “Smile” is a superb example of compassion and optimism. The artists show that no matter how thick the walls are, or how much it will hurt to take them down, it is all worth it in the end. Whatever you do, you have to smile.

Video: Eyedea & Abilities – Smile

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