What rap legends have in common with Nina Simone

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Maybe this is why Nina Simone is one of the most sampled musicians in hip-hop music. Her art resonates with the underdog story. In addition to her remarkable talent, she remained unapologetically true to her authenticity. But being (and remaining) true came with a price.

The price Nina faced is waiting until time ran out to get wholeheartedly recognized for her cultural influence, daring take on social issues and incredible vision as an artist. What do I mean by this? Let me just make one quick example. The queen just got inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll hall of fame last year when she was qualified to be inducted in 1986.

How does that happen? I call that long overlooked. Just like what so many hip-hop legends experience during their lifetime. Not feeling widespread love ‘til it’s too late (unless you’re one of the lucky ones).

The reason why I’m making the comparison between Nina and rap legends can be best explained by Kanye West’s lyrics from his song ‘Big Brother.’

‘If you admire somebody, you should go ahead and tell them. People never get the flowers while they can still smell them.”

I wonder if the late New York rapper Craig Mack got a chance to smell the flowers. I spent the whole day reading beautiful tributes about Mack who helped lay the foundation for Puff’s dynastic label Bad Boy Records. He died at the age of 46.  

Although Craig Mack voluntarily walked away from the rap game, I wonder if being reminded of just how much love millions of hip-hop fans still have for him would convince him to bless the mic once again. Yes, he didn’t reach the success Biggie Smalls experienced as a labelmate, but he was a pioneer like BIG even if he didn’t make it as big as he could have.

Craig Mack joins so many others who probably didn’t get the praise they deserved for their creative contributions to hip-hop and so many other rappers who left us too soon.

Hip-hop artists often talk about the struggles of coming up as an underdog and not feeling the love throughout their career. Sometimes the love is felt when they’re no longer there to see the standing ovations. Sometimes the awards and mainstream recognition comes after they’re gone. Just like Nina Simone.

It’s heartwarming to see all the artists coming forward to say they were influenced by Craig Mack, how he gave them a solid foundation for success and how much he meant to them. If only he heard at least 5% of that just a few days earlier.

Here’s to the samples not created yet that may keep that legacy going for future generations to appreciate. Just like our queen.

Story by: Neima Abdulahi, instagram: @NeimerDreamer