Hip Hop + Meditation - 10 Songs That Mention The Light & Their Meanings

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When things come to our minds we google them. Hip-hop + meditation came to mind and I did exactly that, I googled it. I knew that Russell Simmons would come up on the search results since he's so involved in the yogi community and has written a few books but that's besides the point. I wasn't surprised to see this article on RapGenius: "Top Ten Meditation Raps: An Introspective Look" as RapGenius has become the hip-hop encyclopedia. As a huge hip hop fan this means a lot to me, especially knowing that another hip hop fan had my same thoughts (we're all connected). For many of us, hip hop is a trip, one that takes us to get to know another side of ourselves. With every track that we like and every lyric we praise we get to know ourselves a little better. Just like meditation :)

Take a look at Adisa Banjoko's list of rappers who have mentioned meditation in their lyrics. These rhymes have helped them and are now helping me further my understanding of the power of meditation. Read the lyrics and their explanations below. I promise that you will learn a thing or two. Stay put for a follow up to this post as I create a list of contemporary artists that I follow such as Ab-Soul that too hint meditation. 

10. Zion I, “Sunshine Beatz and Rhymez”

For sure, mature, insight Deep into the night My man, meditate on beats I rhyme right Sunshine, beats and rhymes Yo, we motivate while your mind state climbs

Zion I is always amazing, positive without politically boring. They remain spiritually inviting without any off-putting dogmatism. This song is a perfect testament to hip-hop having a meditative purpose. Even the boom bap-style beat helps you zone in.

9. MF Doom, “Vomispit”

Well edjumacated, he heard it when he meditated In deep theta had her hate the create plata

MF Doom is dope. He drops a line about meditation but, just to prove he’s got his knowledge on, he mentions “deep theta”. Sounds to me like MF Doom really gets his meditation on!

8. Black Star, “Definition”

My presence felt, my name is Kweli from the Eternal Reflection People thinkin MC is shorthand for “misconception" Let me meditate, set it straight, came to the conclusion That most of these cats is featherweight, let me demonstrate

What’s not to like here? We’re talking Black Star! These two are so treacherous on the mic, its hard not to just jump around. Despite the fact that “meditation” here means something closer to “think deeply about” than a more formal practice, the lyric is still dope.

7. NWA, “Express Yourself”

I’m expressing with my full capabilities, And now I’m livin' in correctional facilities, Cause some don’t agree with how I do this. I get straight, meditate like a Buddhist

Clearly we all see the irony of Dre moving from this to the Chronic — especially given the part of this song where he disavows marijuana. However, if you notice he explicitly mentioned meditation and Buddhism. I promise, you few people in the hood knew about meditation outside of those who watched Kung-Fu movies. One of the beautiful things about meditation is that it does make one more complete within themselves and willing to express themselves with less fear of judgement of being mocked. Much respect to Dre for being a pioneer in yet another aspect of hip-hop.

6. Shamako Noble, “The Quest”

Meditating on summits and in pastures Facing trials blindfolded to disarm and resist masters Grappled within, mastered the Zen to live with the yin yang Slayed a renegade brigade because my teacher was betrayed

Shamako Noble is a nationally known battle MC. Over the past few years though, he has made quite a name for himself as a community activist. This track is from his first album, The Return of the Coming of the Aftermath. This particular track is simply one of the best battle related tracks out there. For the entire song, he speaks as the spirit of war itself taking you from ancient Egypt and India into Japan and China, Europe, America — its a masterful look at the history of battle itself.

The song is one of the finest examples of how the path of the battle MC and the way of the warrior are one in the same, and both require meditation to excel. If you are going to “grapple within, master the zen to live with the yin yang” you are one someKung Fu Panda 2 ish. You gotta respect that. This is something Bruce Lee would bump all day if he were still alive.

5. Game feat. Lil Wayne, “My Life”

I need some meditation so I can lead my people They asking why? Why did John Lennon leave the Beatles? And why every hood nigga feed off evil?

Game never quite gets enough props for his lyrical depth. A friend from my past first made me stop and take Game more seriously after he teamed with Nas for “Letter to the King”. But Game did not there. He gave us a pretty raw human moment right here. A lot of our pain in some way, is rooted in our parents treatment of us. Then we become parents and become the source of a new kind of pain. Game longed to have his fathers love, but that love was roadblocked by drug addiction. That loney state might lead some people to suicide. However, for Game, he wanted to look inside in hope of being a leader for others like him. Though he follows the line with more questions, ultimately meditation over time removes the need for answers. Reality is is sufficient for the consistent meditator.

4. Big K.R.I.T. Meditate

Let’s hope this journey that we take All these moves that we make Are the right ones, while I meditate

This song is amazing. First of all the groove and the hook is so melodic that he could have rapped about anything! Life has a way of taking over our brains with so many distractions you simple cannot see straight. The opinions of doubters, feelings of being underrated, not enough love in the house, too many worthless items in your home, a quest for joy though alcohol and getting high (only to find out it does not help us in the end). After all those things come and go, some time alone meditating clears the way for us to find and maintain the true self, the one we are afraid to be 99% of the time. Big K.R.I.T. made it so plain here.

3. 50 Cent, United Nations

They thought I’m going down — now look I’m levitating I’m with Deepak, meditating In Somalia and Kenya with United Nations

50 Cent is a hard man to understand. He came in the game tearing the industry up and making everybody who claimed to be hard shook. He ended a lot of peoples careers with what he did to them on the mic and on the streets. The most interesting thing about him, though, is his ability to change. 50 was recently on Katie Couric’s show telling her how he learned to meditate from Deepak Chopra, who is a well-respected teacher of meditation. The transformative impact of meditation is what strikes me here. Despite all the money talk and gangster vibe that we expect, he closes the verse talking about eradicating world hunger. It makes me wonder how much meditation and connecting to his African roots could get him to use his money and influence towards doing something good for the world.

2. T.I. Hallelujah

I felt the panic when they locked me in that cell again I had to pray and meditate, control my breath again*

Here, Tip speaks to two things that constantly come up in rap and in martial arts — meditation and breath control. Breath control comes up in the closing of Ghostface Killah’s “Mighty Healthy”, as we hear a Monk speaking to his pupils about its importance. Breath control is essential for jiu jitsu students as well as for anyone seeking to master their emotions.

1. RZA, Samurai Showdown

Kept his mind focused, meditation position half lotus Abbot’s sword novas couldn’t match his magnum opus Deluxe stroke, son move like a ghost Struck in an instance, unnoticed like a lamp post Radar sharp precision gunfire, explode Till his clips unload, it’s a samurai code

The Abbot of Wu-Tang always delivers. This is a violent tale of urban samurai culture, something luckily many of us do not have to live in. Men like Miyamoto Musashi, Mas Oyama, and others simply could not have been the men they were without meditation. On the chessboard, in the dojo, in the hood we must meditate. It is the way of the warrior. You don’t believe me? Ask Ghost Dog.

Adisa Banjoko is founder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation.