What happens when you’re tired of the very profession that brought you riches and success? This is especially true if everyone associates that job with who you are, making it hard for you to walk away without disappointing people. Over the years, a few rappers fell into that category because in the middle of their career, while fans were still streaming their music, going to their shows, and praising them on social media, they called it quits. Of course, reasons for these rappers hanging up their microphones vary, because some felt that fame was too much for them and others simply wanted to go another direction in life, like Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino.
In 2015, while on “Today,” the actor and rapper said he loved making music but felt like the “Childish Gambino is a period that should come to a close.” But Glover later changed his mind because in 2016 he released his album “Awaken, My Love!” and many still called him Childish Gambino. However, unlike Glover, some rappers quit music and never returned, and there are others like him who dropped new material after hinting at retirement. So here are some of the rappers throughout the years who’ve called it quits.
Azealia Banks dreamt of singing
There was a time when most of the talk surrounding Azealia Banks was about her music, especially after she dropped her 2014 album “Broke with Expensive Taste” and played the music festival circuit. Then, over time, the Harlem native became more associated with starting social media beef, getting into it with people like Iggy Azalea, T.I., Nicki Minaj, Lana Del Rey, Russell Crowe, and Cardi B. But it’s possible the beefs weren’t the only thing that had people talking less about Banks being a rapper, as she started backing away from the rap title in 2016.
“I’m honestly tired of rapping, the rap scene and the whole rap-girl persona,” she wrote on Facebook then. “And stop referring to me as a rapper !! I don’t want to be called a rapper or a fem-cee, or a ‘spitta’ or any of that sh*t,” Banks added. “I want to be called a singer now … The rapping and rap-girl persona is overshadowing my real dream, which is to be a singer.” Since those messages, Banks hasn’t released a singing project or much music at all. In fact, her last album was “Broke with Expensive Taste” but who knows? She could surprise everyone and drop a project out of nowhere that highlights her singing chops.
Big Sean discovered his true passion through depression
There’s certainly been a bunch of changes to rap music since its 1973 inception. At first, rappers made songs about partying and having a good time, then political rap became popular, then Gangsta rap, which opened the door for anything under the sun to be addressed in a rap verse. Also along the way, artists became more introspective in their songs, and they were able to address topics like depression and anxiety without being called strange.
One person who can be credited with helping to normalize discussing such topics in hip-hop is Big Sean, who talked about being depressed in songs and interviews, while also admitting that depression kept him out of the entertainment scene for much of 2018. “I stepped back from everything I was doing,” he said in a 2019 Instagram message. “Everything I had going on, because somewhere in the middle of it, dawg, I just felt lost.” Then in a 2020 interview with the “Jemele Hill is Unbothered” podcast, Sean said he was “Going through crazy depression, crazy, like, anxiety … I felt like broken inside. I for sure was thinking about [quitting rap music],” he explained. “You know because I was so frustrated sometimes … I realized that rapping wasn’t necessarily my passion all the way. My passion is to inspire.”
Jay-Z walked away on top
Over the years, there have been some celebrities who’ve chosen to walk away from their field while sitting at the very top of it. Michael Jordan did it when he retired from the NBA in the prime of his career in 1993, although he returned a couple of years later. And Actor Cameron Diaz stepped away from the film industry while she was one of Hollywood’s top money-makers. So, why do people in their position go that route? In Jordan’s case, he retired because he was still grieving the 1993 murder of his father, while Diaz said being a movie star for so long robbed her of a personal life and affected relationships. But when it comes to Jay-Z, who retired from making music in 2003 after releasing the “Black Album,” he gave another reason.
“Got to admit a little bit, I was sick of rap/But despite that the boy is back,” he rapped on the 2006 song “Kingdom Come,” after ending his retirement. Then after that cut, there would be no more retirement talk from Jay, and he dropped the album “American Gangster” in 2007, “The Blueprint 3” two years later, and a collaboration LP with Kanye West called “Watch the Throne” in 2011. From there, Jay released two more albums, 2013’s “Magna Carta… Holy Grail” and 2017’s “4:44.” Oh, yeah, he accomplished this tiny thing, which was announced in May of 2021: That he’d be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Bow Wow never liked being a rapper
If you’ve noticed, a lot of child actors stop acting once they become an adult. Take former “Hannah Montana” star Morgan York, who in May of 2021, on TikTok, said she stopped acting when adulthood came because it stopped being “fun.” Plus, her passion for acting didn’t “outweigh all the costs” involved, like being away from family members while onset for long hours. Bow Wow, who’s been rapping since he was 5 years old, gave a similar reason as to why he wanted to stop being a rapper: It was never his true passion. “My whole life I hated rapping. Folks don’t know that. I always wanted to be a comedian growing up. I wanted to act,” he tweeted in 2016.
Then in February of 2021, the former “CSI: Cyber” star said he’d release one more album, before jumping into a new profession. “Now I know this might sound crazy… BUT… after I drop my last album. I will focus on tv and film. And joining the @WWE,” he tweeted. “Its been a life long childhood dream to wrestle in the WWE!!!!”
In January of 2021, Bow also told the hosts of New York radio station Hot 97 that his final album will be called “Before 30” and it will be narrated by Snoop Dogg, who discovered him. As of this writing, a release date hasn’t been given.
Tupac Shakur was tired of controversy
Powerful songs, a never-back-down kind of attitude, and embracing a rebel-like image are just some of the things that made Tupac Shakur a rap legend after he was shot and killed in Las Vegas in September of 1996. And all of the controversy that surrounded the rapper also kept him in the press since he was involved in a famous beef with The Notorious B.I.G and had a few run-ins with police. But that same level of controversy eventually tired Shakur, to the point that he didn’t want to rap anymore. Plus, in his opinion, everything that it took to sell records just wasn’t worth it anymore.
“Rap is getting too political,” he told Access Hollywood while on the set of his 1997 film “Gang Related.” I want to be somebody new … Not somebody that’s … so part of the controversy that you can’t even appreciate my new work … Controversy, selling records, it’s not fun. But acting, I can be somebody else.” Sadly, Shakur wouldn’t have a lot of time left after that interview to fully reinvent himself as an actor, as “Gang Related” was his last starring role before his death at 25 years old. One could say, however, that at least he partially accomplished his goal of having his acting work appreciated because it seems that it’s talked about almost as much as his music.
Kid Cudi wanted to sing and play the guitar
Some artists seem to get into the music business because they love creating songs, and once they no longer feel creatively fulfilled they might bolt or switch the kind of music they’re making. That was the case with Kid Cudi back in 2010 because he admitted that rapping did absolutely nothing for him at that time, and he’d prefer to just lay down choruses for his frequent collaborator Kanye West. “I’m just over rapping. I don’t get any fulfillment out of it anymore,” Cudi told MTV News. “I really don’t get any fulfillment out of writing a 16 [bar verse]. That’s why you never really hear me on Kanye joints like that.”
“I’m more passionate when he be like ‘Yo Cudi, come up with a hook,'” he added. “[Because] he asks me to put verses down [and] I’ll try to procrastinate or disappear or something … I get more fulfillment now out of singing and learning to play the guitar.” But a lot can change in a decade because by 2020, the Ohio raised-artist wanted credit for being a top rapper, which he felt he doesn’t get. “I felt like in hip-hop, I’m slept on as a rapper, as a lyricist,” he told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe.
Lil Wayne felt like he was more of a rock star
Lil Wayne has been rapping since he was 14 years old, being he was the youngest member of the Hot Boys when the New Orleans group released their debut album “Get It How U Live!!” in 1997. He then broke out as a solo artist with his “Tha Block Is Hot” LP two years later, and over time he was considered to be one of the top rappers of his era. But then, the New Orleans native got sick of rapping, which he talked about to Rolling Stone in 2009 while working on his first Rock album “Rebirth.” Moreover, the interview came after Wayne referred to himself as the “Best Rapper Alive” in various songs and interviews, but that title no longer interested him. “Honestly? I don’t want to be the best rapper in the world,” he explained.
Wayne then said his desire to no longer rap was attached to his changing lifestyle, because before he became super famous being a rapper suited him, but once he had more success he felt like a rock star and wanted to make music that matched that feeling. He made that decision after having a tryst with three women one night and receiving a text message from a famous female right afterward. “When I went in the studio that night, I couldn’t just rap,” Wayne recalled.
Royce Da 5'9" may just needs some rest
If there’s anyone who’s clocked in a lot of hours as a rapper it’s Royce Da 5’9″ since he’s been rapping since age 18. But during a live Instagram chat in May of 2021 that was captured by Lyrically Rap, the Detroit rapper — who was 43 when recording the video — said he lost his enthusiasm to write and record. “No, I haven’t been rapping,” Royce admitted, according to the site. “A little bit. I’m tired of rapping … You know, unless someone comes up in here and reminds me why we did this sh*t. Remind me when it was fun.”
Royce’s fatigue may come from just simple rapper wear and tear because it took him many years to reach his current level of success. Because when he first appeared on the scene, he was closely associated with Eminem since they’re longtime friends but a falling out would eventually affect Royce’s career, which he talked about with MTV in 2002. “I don’t really talk to Slim that much no more like I used to,” said Royce, using Eminem’s nickname. “I really just feel like I need to do things myself … The things that Slim did for me in the past, I feel it’s coming back to haunt me … If I go to a label [now], they want to know Eminem’s involvement, or ‘This is Eminem’s man.’ I’m just trying to break away from that.” Hopefully, for Royce’s fans, he’ll soon recharge, be inspired to write again, then deliver new material.
Nicki Minaj wanted to start a family
It was the tweet that probably had Nicki Minaj’s passionate fan base, the Barbz, feeling awful. The day was September 5, 2019, and Minaj said that she wanted to have a little one. But instead of announcing that she was going on a hip-hop maternity leave, the native New Yorker said she was done with rap for good. “I’ve decided to retire & have my family. I know you guys are happy now,” she wrote in a now-deleted tweet shared by The Guardian. “To my fans, keep reppin me, do it til da death of me … Love you for LIFE.”
Of course, Minaj’s tweet caused a frenzy among her fans, so she sent another message later that day. “The tweet was abrupt & insensitive,” she wrote. “I apologize babe.” Then a couple of months after that tweet, she spoke with Billboard and said she needed a break from not only music but the glaring spotlight she’s been under for several years. “I love music and interacting with fans, so I can’t really see taking myself completely away. But I want to be open to other possibilities in my life. I do believe it is important to become a woman outside of the magnifying glass. I have to make sure that I’m well-rounded as a human being.”
“Whew!, At least she’s not totally quitting,” some of her fans must’ve thought after reading that interview.
Tyler, The Creator doesn't want to be put in a box
It’s safe to say that most people don’t want to be put in a box and Tyler, The Creator is one of them. Because in 2014, during an interview with Larry King, the former Odd Future member said he wanted to do other forms of music and no longer be a rapper. “I hate rapping,” Tyler admitted. “Only because it puts you in this box.” Tyler then said he really wants to be a singer but felt insecure about his deep voice, so to help gain confidence, he began listening to other deep-voiced singers like Isaac Hayes and Barry White. “I’m pretty bored with it,” Tyler said about rap music. “It’s not interesting.” Plus, the California native said he wanted to be a filmmaker and wanted his name to be next to people like Quentin Tarantino, not other rappers.
After that interview, Tyler stayed true to his word because he kept expanding his sound while not rapping as much. Then in 2019, his album “Igor” received a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, and while Tyler said he appreciated the honor, he still had a problem with how his project was categorized. “I’m very grateful that what I made could just be acknowledged in a world like this,” he said in his post-Grammy speech. “But also, it sucks when … guys that look like me do anything genre-bending … they always put it in a rap or urban category … Why can’t we just be in pop?”
Joe Budden decided to cover rap instead of rapping himself
There are some rappers like Ludacris who first covered hip-hop before transitioning into being artists (he was a radio personality before releasing albums). But Joe Budden did the opposite, he went from being a rapper to reporting and discussing rap music. These days, he’s a full-time podcaster, hosting his own show, while working at other places like RevoltTV’s “State of the Culture.” As a rapper, Budden found success early in his career with his debut single “Pump It Up,” which landed in the top 40 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. He was then released by Def Jam but kept making albums while becoming a member of the supergroup Slaughterhouse with members Royce Da 5’9″, Joell Ortiz, and Crooked I.
For many, the first sign that Budden was giving up his rap career was probably in 2016 when he announced that he played his final concerts. “To whom it may concern, those are the last Budden shows ever … Thx to all of you that helped me live out my dreams,” he tweeted. Then in 2019, the artist turned podcaster alluded to bad business deals taking away his passion for rap, and that’s why he also left Slaughterhouse, who are signed to Eminem’s Shady Records. “I can’t speak for why they’re not doing it,” Budden said on the YouTube series “Pull Up.” When I suggested that they find probably another rapper to take my place and still put out music, they didn’t think that was the greatest idea.”
Logic didn't like all the trolling
Fatherhood, being constantly criticized, and a seven-figure deal with the gaming platform Twitch are the main reasons why Logic walked away from rap music in 2020. For those unfamiliar with how the man born Sir Robert Bryson Hall II came to hip-hop prominence, it began with a series of popular mixtapes, then a record deal with Def Jam. Off the bat, Logic’s music received a ton of strong reviews, but he was also criticized by those who thought his songs were too preachy and lacked the proper amount of edginess. People also tend to hurl insults at Logic for no reason at all and he admitted the negative speech influenced his decision to retire.
“It happens all the time,” he said in 2020 while playing his “No Pressure” album online. “They’ll sh*t on me … It’s gonna happen. They’re gonna call my baby ugly. They’ve already sh*t on my wife, made accounts, and called her ugly … It’s crazy … This is why I’m leaving.” Then there’s that massive deal with Twitch, which also seemed to influence Logic’s decision to stop rapping for a while, saying he’s more of a “nerd” than a “rapper guy” (via The Verge).
In April of 2021, Logic came out of retirement by releasing the song “Tired in Malibu,” which shows walking away from something that you’ve been doing for a long time isn’t that easy.
Lil Xan wanted to do fashion
These days, at least the way it seems, there’s not a lot of pressure for people in their 20s to settle on a lifelong career since it’s expected they’ll develop new passions down the road. So, with that in mind, it may not be surprising to know that at 23 Lil Xan went back and forth about quitting rap music to focus his efforts in another field. “I quit rapping and I’m only gonna focus on moving forward with the Xanarchy clothing line and brand too,” he wrote on Instagram in 2019, which was later published by XXL.
But that wasn’t the first time that Xan made a career jump, because he used to be a photographer before being a rap artist and used to take pictures of rappers in his local Redlands, California rap scene. The decision to become a rapper himself came after his camera was stolen since he started recording songs afterward. As far as his 2019 message about quitting, Xan didn’t indicate why he suddenly chose fashion over music, but whatever his reason it didn’t last, because one day after, (per NME), he quickly did an about-face and on Instagram wrote: “Not quitting.”
J. Cole implied he'd be retiring after his album 'The Off-Season'
In 2021, many say out of the younger generation of rappers, Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and J. Cole are the best. So just imagine the fuss that Cole caused when he implied that he’d be retiring after dropping his 2021 album “The Off-Season.” While explaining himself, Cole said that he made “The Off-Season” similar to how he crafted his 2009 mixtape “The Warm Up” by pushing for excellence. “That’s where ‘The Warm Up’ came from,” he explained to Atlanta rapper 21 Savage in “Applying Pressure: The Off-Season Documentary.” “Every day I woke up, wrote verses, made beats. All that to say, ‘The Off-Season’ was like the same concept. One more time before I leave, before I feel fulfilled in this game, let me try to reach new heights from a skill level standpoint.”
As people panicked online after hearing Cole’s words, he might’ve made them feel better by what he told Slam in an interview that was published in May of 2021. But he also doubled down on possibly leaving rap for good, which was probably confusing for his fans. “I’m super comfortable with the potential of being done with this sh*t,” Cole admitted. “But I’m never going to say, ‘Oh, this is my last album.’… Because I never know how I’m going to feel two years, three years, four years down the line, 10 years down the line … [But] If I never did another album, I’m cool.”
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