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Each One Teach One | 19 times artists expressed gratitude through music

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, REVOLT takes a look at the art of weaving lyrical thank-yous into a track.

As KRS-One articulated throughout his catalog and in his many teachings, “Rap is something you do, hip hop is something you live.” As the culture continues to evolve today, many feel it’s not only important, but vital to preserve and honor the fundamental elements: Graffiti, emceeing, breakdancing, deejaying and knowledge. This column called “Each One, Teach One” aims to do exactly that. It will highlight various lessons that can be passed between new and old generations alike.

Thanksgiving is arguably one of the better holidays to experience as a digital family in the era of social media. Although an argument can be made for Halloween and Christmas, there’s just something about Thanksgiving that hits differently. After all, the traditional spirit of the gratuitous holiday in its contemporary form is centered on breaking bread, giving thanks, and spending quality time with loved ones.

From peeping the plates of friends, family and strangers alike that appear in generous quantities on the timeline to yelling at the television screen with your impassioned (and possibly intoxicated) family members to eating until the itis takes over, Thanksgiving is typically held in high regard for being an opportunity to be glutenous, lazy, and cozy. However, outside of long-commercialized cultural signifiers, the annual date also presents an opportunity to confront the true history of the events that led to the holiday’s origin in the first place and have serious conversations that acknowledge the truth of the past, in hopes to ensure that the exploitation, genocide and overall oppression of Native Americans and other disenfranchised groups is not repeated.

Given the holiday’s complexities, a handful of artists in the hip hop community have used their platforms to wax poetic about the brutality of Thanksgiving’s dark past, while others have opted to follow the tradition of weaving gratitude into their lyricism instead. While Thanksgiving itself hasn’t necessarily materialized as a common subject for rappers to tackle in their music, the topic of gratitude in general has appeared in countless tracks and in a multitude of other ways throughout hip hop history.

Expressing thanks for the blessings that each year brings is an integral part of living one’s best life, and doing so can be an act that is as therapeutic as it is relatable and inspiring. Many artists turn to their music to share their personal come-up stories, reflecting on the challenges that helped them build character and tested their perseverance. As we deepen our relationships with ourselves and with others, gratitude helps us to acknowledge the goodness in our lives, and in turn, helps us to reconnect with a higher power. For some of us, that’s as simple as a reminder that the world is a lot bigger than ourselves as individuals.

As research further reinforces, a lot of good can come from expressing gratitude; including improved health, stronger relationships, a more positive outlook, and even the ability to deal with adversity. Most studies focusing on the subject find that there is a direct connection between gratitude and an individual’s well-being. From remembering to say “thank you” on a daily basis to grandiose gestures that take expressing gratitude to a greater level of intention, placing a focus on the art of being grateful is one that can yield multiple benefits.

On the hip hop side specifically, we’ve seen gratitude being expressed in a multitude of ways, from the likes of DJ Khaled landing on the word “Grateful” for the title of his tenth studio album to artists such as Big Sean, Drake, JAY-Z and countless others carving a lyrical lane of their own by consistently keeping it 100, and giving praise to their blessings. While arguably there is no shortage of songs that check the “gratitude” box, there is a generous helping of standout songs that address the topic head on.

In accordance with the “giving thanks” element of the annual affair that is Thanksgiving, let’s take a look at 19 lyrical gems from songs that are fitting contenders to soundtrack the holiday and express different shades of gratitude.

Big Sean - “Blessings” featuring Kanye West and Drake

Blessings on blessings on blessings

Look at my life, man, that’s lessons on lessons on lessons

Nicki Minaj - “Moment 4 Life” featuring Drake

In this very moment, I’m king

In this very moment, I slayed Goliath with a sling

This very moment I bring

Put it on everything, that I will retire with the ring

And I will retire with the crown, - yes!

No, I’m not lucky, I’m blessed, - yes!

Clap for the heavyweight champ - me!

But I couldn’t do it all alone - we!

Drake - “Lose You”

Excitin’ times, revitalized

Trust this little light of mine is gonna shine positively

I’m just takin’ what God will give me

Grateful like Jerry, Bob and Mickey

Better attitude, we’ll see where it gets me

I know catchin’ flies with honey is still sticky

I wrote the book on world-class finesses

And tasteful gestures and makin’ efforts

And never placin’ second

And even better knowin’ you’re first but then takin’ second

Inspirin’ and never takin’ credit

I know I deserve more, I just never said it

Two middle fingers as I make a exit, yeah

JAY-Z - “Nickels and Dimes”

Something ‘bout the struggle so divine

This sort of love is hard to define

When you scratching for every nickel and dime

Got me itching to do this shit for my mom

Do this shit for my town

Leave the door open hoping they kick it down

The purest form of giving is anonymous to anonymous

We gon’ make it there, I promise this

Lil Wayne - “Grateful” featuring Gudda Gudda

I still got love for my enemy

Cause I know its tough to be interesting

I know its tough to be anything, but be grateful

DJ Khaled - “(Intro) I’m So Grateful” featuring Sizzla

I’m so grateful for all you’ve done to bless your soul

With the riches of love forever

Happiness shine as a burning sun

It’s a blooming blessing, hey

Let it flow, it’s a pleasure

Beastie Boys - “Gratitude”

Good times gone, but you feed it

Hate’s grown strong, you feel you need it

Just one thing, do you know you

What you think? That the world owes you?

What’s gonna’ set you free

Look inside and you’ll see

When you’ve got so much to say

It’s called gratitude, and that’s right

Talib Kweli - “Gratitude”

When you think success is based on Illuminati membership

Fuck the money, that’s my new fuckin’ attitude

This the Earth, wind and fire, this gratitude

Whether in paradise or ghetto avenues

I stay inspired by my longitude and latitude

Recordin’ in the rainforest in Puerto Rico

Nas - “Not For Radio” featuring 070 Shake and Diddy

And who y’all comparin’ me to is nonsense

Show gratitude in the presence of dominance

Little Simz - “Gratitude”

Put my feet in the studio and call it my home

While others have got no way out

How blessed am I? Nothing left to find

Your life’s on the line, don’t question mine

Take my advice, don’t stress in life

Arms out to you, you can rest your head in mine

I’m prepared to fly with no landing

I might just be the last one standing

Kanye West - “Paranoid” featuring Mr. Hudson

All of the time

You wanna complain about the nights alone

So now you’re here with me, show some gratitude

Leave the attitude way back at home

J. Cole - “Cost Me A Lot”

Well look, I’m back, bitch, back with an attitude

Buyin’ out the bar, cause I feel like this the shit I gotta prove

Last year the cashier told me my card was not approved

Now I’m tippin’ the server a hundred to show my gratitude

Oddisee - “Own Appeal”

Hunger for knowledge and I miss no meals, I stay

High off life and I miss no pills

I’m addicted to the thrill of walking along the edge

Not knowing what lies ahead but always knowing the deal

I’m good with my decisions, the set backs and gains

Is all a part of the game, I’m ready to spin the wheel

What ever is in store, I’m ready for it, for sure

With the attitude of wealth and the gratitude of the poor

The balance is the challenge and I sit so still between

Mick Jenkins - “Vibe”

Feel the vibe, I got some Gil Scott I know you like to snap to/too

Talk a couple black thoughts, spit ‘em through this gap tooth

Just for the sheer thought that you listening, let me express my gratitude

How can you hate on an attitude?

Anderson .Paak - “The Season/ Carry Me”

How did you find me here? It must be perfect timing

(Forever grateful)

If I didn’t love you then I damn sure love you now

(Fruit of your labor)

Eminem - “You’re Never Over”

To have a guardian angel like you, Lord, I’m so thankful

Please don’t think that I don’t feel grateful, I do

Just grant me the strength that I need

For one more day to get through

Logic - “Wu-Tang Forever”

When we create wars, everybody is a gangbanger

We killin’ each other, but we all got the same anger

Never go against the grain, homie, that’s hateful

Another day in the life for us to be grateful

Spread love, homie, yeah, get a plateful

It’s better to stay full, so let’s make moves

Tupac - “Me Against The World”

The message I stress: to make it stop, study your lessons

Don’t settle for less, even the genius asks his questions

Be grateful for blessings

Don’t ever change, keep your essence

The power is in the people and politics we address

Always do your best, don’t let this pressure make you panic

And when you get stranded

And things don’t go the way you planned it

Young Thug - “Real In My Veins”

I got latitude, I got gratitude

And if you look up at the moon, you’ll see my attitude

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