Watch These Now-Famous Rappers in Struggle Videos From Before They Blew Up

Gotta start from somewhere, right?

Paying dues isn’t quite the prerequisite it used to be when it comes to the rap game. Over the last few years, we’ve seen acts with limited rap experience come virtually out of nowhere to make a name for themselves. But longevity isn’t synonymous with this kind of success. Instead, it’s reserved for those who’ve dedicated years to the grind.

They say it takes years to become an overnight success, and that theory holds true to when it comes to these famed rappers who endured the strife and ultimately persevered. Luckily, these moments of struggle have been documented in the form of music videos, inadvertently serving as a source of inspiration for a future generation of aspiring rap go-getters.

  1. Wiz Khalifa

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    Released in 2008, “Say Yeah” was supposed to be Wiz’s official coming out party to the world. Things didn’t quite pan out that way, though. The song didn’t perform as expected, and Wiz was later dropped from Warner Bros.

    Wiz would have his redemption a few years later with “Black & Yellow,” and the rest is pretty much history.

  2. Big Sean

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    Talk about coming a loooooong way. Before he dodged that Naya Rivera bullet, Big Sean was using his music to help young teens escape life’s pitfalls. Who would’ve thought that this kid with the offbeat flow would one day become one of rap’s biggest names?

    We also can’t help but think that Sean’s video shared the same director as this classic viral video out of Detroit.

  3. Meek Mill

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    There’s a reason why Meek Mill named his label Dreamchasers Records; he’s living proof of what talent and resiliency can produce. Seeing Meek Milly in all his braided glory is a testament to how he rose above the struggle, in more ways than one.

  4. Jay Z

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    Even the mighty Shawn Carter had to start from somewhere, even if that somewhere was playing sidekick in a Hawaiian-themed video for rap mentor Jaz-O. The highlight of this gem is easily 36 seconds into the clip, when Jay unexpectedly pops into the scene via harness.

  5. Jeezy

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    This is probably the most bizarre of all of the videos listed, simply because of how over-the-top Jeezy, a.k.a Lil J, comes across here in comparison to his current persona. Luckily for Jeezy’s career, this terrible song and video were not his first impression on the game.

  6. Drake

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    The struggle in this video doesn’t reside in the production value, but rather the awkwardness of a young Drake still finding himself as an artist — stuck between Degrassi and a Jay Z impersonator. Young Aubrey Graham possessed the lyrical ability and flow that would help make him a household name, but it would take some time for his overall image to catch up with his abilities on the mic.

  7. Rick Ross

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    Before the beard fully prospered — and his shout-out to the pears, Ross spent years in the trenches as a ghostwriter. His time would eventually arrive thanks to the success of “Hustlin’.” Although this video is before the Maybachs and whatnot, Ross can still be seen hopping out of a big body Benz.

  8. Nicki Minaj

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    Say what you want about Ms. Minaj, but you can’t say she didn’t earn her spot. If you feel otherwise, take a gander at this clip of a pre-Young Money Nicki going for hers in the streets of New York. The colored wigs and Barbie antics may be absent, but the attitude and confidence have been there from the very beginning.