I would have loved to see Led Zeppelin live or listen to Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life the day the record came out, but I still believe I've grown up during the most diverse period in music history. My lifetime started with Michael Jackson's Thriller, and the best of U2 and Guns N Roses, continued with Dr. Dre, Nirvana and later Biggie, Dave Matthews Band and Rage Against the Machine and now I can listen to everything from Jay-Z and Jill Scott to Girl Talk and Wilco.
The best thing about the music of my lifetime is how many inspirational and motivational songs have been recorded. I've been thinking about this more and more lately a) because I always searching for new ways to be inspired and motivated and b) Jay-Z's new album, The Blueprint 3, is packed with motivational cuts.
Inherently, hip-hop gives us the most inspirational and motivational records because the people who make rap music are so deeply rooted in situations not too different than mine as a child...low-income, underpriviliged, single parents, etc. Out of that strife and struggle must come drive and ambition and hope. Wu-Tang Clan's Better Tomorrowz may not strike you as a particularly inspirational record, but when you think about where those guys come from, it's definitely a much-needed song.
So here are my favorites alphabetical order:
Badly Drawn Boy - All Possibilities - Have You Fed the Fish? - "All possibilities are linin' at my feet, there's nothing I can't see, but possibilities."
Big Pun - Laughing at You - Yeaaah Baby - "Do you see me now, do you remember me, the guy from the back of the class, the one with the glasses that you used to laugh at...look at me now brother."
Blackalicious - Feel that Way - Blazin' Arrow - "Get promoted at your job, up to management, plot a long time, finally your plan is made, times I feel I wanna shout, man it's real that way, wanna think about the things that make you feel that way."
Charles Hamilton - Loser - Pink Lava Lamp - "I once was the loser, now I'm older, still the same loser, that's why I look so different to ya, you see the past, I see the future."
Coldplay - Strawberry Swing - Viva La Vida - "I remember, we were walking up to strawberry swing, I can't wait 'til the morning, wouldn't want to change a thing...People leaving all the time, inside a perfectly straight line, don't you wanna curve away, it's such, it's such a perfect day."
Dave Matthews Band - Dancing Nancies - Under the Table and Dreaming - "Could I have been anyone other than me, then I...look up at the sky, my mouth is open wide, lick and taste, what's the use in worrying, what's the use in hurrying..."
Drake - Successful - So Far Gone - "I want the money, the money and the cars, the cars and the clothes, the hos...I suppose, that I just wanna be, I just wanna be successful."
Eminem - Lose Yourself - 8 Mile Soundtrack - "You better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it, you better never let it go go, you only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo."
The Field - Silent - From Here We Go Sublime - There is no better song to wake up to.
The Game feat. 50 Cent - Hate It or Love It - The Documentary - "Hate it or love it don, the dog's on top, and I'm gonna shine homey until my heart stop."
Ice Cube - It Was a Good Day - The Predator - "Just wakin' up in the morning gotta thank God, I don't know but today seems kinda odd, no barkin' from the dog, no smog, and momma cooked the breakfast with no hog."
Jamiroquoi - Planet Home - Synkronized - "There's no time to worry about who's right or wrong, we're gonna need some help to get this straight, so come on, bring your friends along, cause sure enough there's no place like...planet home..."
Janet Jackson - Alright - Rhythm Nation - "Friends come and friends may go, my friend, you're real I know, true self you have shown, you're alright with me."
Jay-Z - Regrets - Reasonable Doubt - "On the rise to the top, many drop, don't forget, in order to survive, gotta learn to live with regrets."
Jay-Z feat. Rihanna & Kanye West - Run This Town - The Blueprint 3 - (Kanye) "Police escorts, everybody passports, this the life that everybody ask for, this a fast life, we are on a crash course, what you think I rap for, to push a f+cking Rav-4?!"
Jay-Z feat. Pharrell - So Ambitious - The Blueprint 3 - (Jay-Z) "I'm different. I can't base what I'm gonna be on what everybody isn't..." (Pharrell) "The motivation for me was them tellin' me what I cannot be."
Jill Scott - Golden - Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol. II - "I'm taking my freedom, pullin' it off the shelf, puttin' it on my chain, wearin' it on my neck, I'm takin' my freedom, puttin' it in my car, wherever I choose to go, it will take me far...I'm livin' my life like it's golden..."
Johnny Kemp - Just Got Paid - Secrets of Flying - "Friday night...just got paid...party huntin'...place is right."
Kanye West - We Don't Care - The College Dropout - "Cause ain't no tuition for havin' no ambition, and ain't no loans for sittin' your ass at home."
Kanye West feat. Really Doe & Nas - We Major - "Asked the reverend if the strip clubs cool, if my tips help send a pretty girl through school, that's all I want."
Lupe Fiasco - Kick, Push II - Food & Liquor - "And away he rolled, just a rebel to the world with no place to go, so he kicked, pushed, kicked, pushed, coast..."
Nas - The World is Yours - Illmatic - "Who's world is this, the world is yours."
The New Radicals - You Get What You Give - Maybe You've Been Brainwashed - "When the night is fallin', you cannot find the light, you feel your dreams are dyin'...hold tight...you've got the music in you."
Rick Ross - Rich off Cocaine - Deeper than Rap - "My women imported, I'm never extorted, I'm very important, 20 grand for the mortgage."
RJD2 - The Proxy - Deadringer - No lyrics, but the first 30 seconds alone are get out of bed motivated kind of stuff.
T.I. feat. Rihanna - Live Your Life - Paper Trail - "Ain't got no time for no haters, just live your life."
T.I. feat. Jay-Z Lil' Wayne, Kanye West & M.I.A. - Swagga Like Us - Paper Trail - (Kanye) "Why he so mad for, why he got to have it...cause I slaved my whole life, now I'm the master."
A Tribe Called Quest - Love - The Love Movement - "Love it when God keeps on over-lookin', do a tight show so promoters keep bookin'."
Wu-Tang Clan - Better Tomorrowz - Forever (Disc 1) - "You can't party your life away, drink your life away, smoke your life way, f*ck your life away, dream your life away, scheme your life away...cause your seeds grow up the same way."
Young Jeezy - Let's Get it / Sky's the Limit - Thug Motivation 101 - "The world is yours and everything in it, it's out there, get on your grind and get it."
Zion I - Innerlight - Mind Over Matter - "Life is one big room with lots of signs...let your innerlight shine."