Artists from the Streets who have conquered their corners

Image Credit: Laoise Tarrant

Isabella Ambrosio looks at the harsh upbringings of some of the most famous musicians in recent years

There’s a certain type of awe surrounding artists who have built their empire from the ground up. Artists who have fought homelessness, drug addiction, and often violent adversity bring something more to the table. They bring a passion, a certain view of life that isn’t common among most celebrities. Some of the most notable musicians have had to come from the ground up. 

Eminem – One of the most notorious stories of coming from nothing is Eminem. Named Marshall Mathers III, he didn’t stay in one place for more than a year or two at the maximum, mostly with family members. His mother’s drug addiction was apparent throughout his childhood: he even said she would sprinkle her Valium on his dinner. She would take money from his paychecks as he worked multiple jobs to survive while living in many public housing projects in Detroit. He ended up dropping out of school at 17, after failing the ninth grade three times. Eminem’s rough upbringing is mentioned throughout his music, “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”, “My Mom” and more. His painful upbringing led him to live a life where his net worth is $230 million, selling 220 million records worldwide, and even having a movie made about his childhood. 

Snoop Dogg – Snoop Dogg's, legally named Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr., net worth sits at a comfortable $150 million, selling nearly 40 million albums worldwide and having 14 singles in the Top 10 on Billboard’s Top 100 (and let’s not forget the additional 8 where he was a featured artist). But his fortune is self-made. His childhood was strenuous with an absentee father, and he faced multiple incarcerations for possession of narcotics when he was a teenager. He was a member of the Crips gang in the Eastside neighbourhood of Long Beach, California. Snoop Dogg was also arrested in 1993 in connection to a gang shooting, where he was charged with murder. He was acquitted in 1996. Before his trouble with the law, he was a dedicated student and worked at a young age in order to help support his mother and make ends meet. No matter his upbringing, he has remained with his high school sweetheart, having three kids and a grandchild. He is now known for his laid-back demeanour (due to his heavy cannabis use, which has become associated with Snoop Dogg’s brand) and party songs.

Bugzy Malone – Bugzy Malone, Aaron Davis, struggled with homelessness, poverty, and drugs through the entirety of his childhood. Growing up in Manchester, he was born into a family of known career criminals. He watched his stepfather physically abuse his mother, while never knowing his biological father. He was surrounded by gang activity, to the extent of having to watch his uncle get murdered, and started partaking in illegal activities when he was just eleven years old. He was arrested at the age of 16 and sent to prison. Upon release, he attempted to get into boxing. His career looked promising until he ultimately decided to take up music. His mixtapes gained him a popularity that saw him invited to feature on Charlie Sloth’s ‘Fire in the Booth’ series. The video currently has 25 million views and is the most popular video in the series. His music is candid – he speaks about his time in prison, his life of crime and depression that often lingered because of his traumatic upbringing. Songs like “Moving”, “Make or Break” and “Run” document the inner turmoil Malone faced. His net worth is currently £2 million with three separate collaborations with Supply & Demand and his trainers stocked in JD.

Hobo Johnson – Hobo Johnson, real name Frank Lopes Jr., adopted the stage name ‘Hobo Johnson’ after being homeless for several months at the age of 19, where he lived out of his car after his father kicked him out of the house. His stage name was originally ‘Homeless Johnson’, but after the time spent in his 1994 Toyota Corolla, he changed ‘Homeless’ to ‘Hobo’. He released his debut album in 2016 titled the ‘Rise of Hobo Johnson’ and was awarded four separate titles from the Sacramento Area Music Awards: Best Emcee, Best New Artist, Artist of the Year, and Best Hip-Hop/Rap. Afterwards, Johnson was a part of NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest in 2018. While he didn’t win, his career had only just begun. He appeared in several different festivals and had his song “Typical Story” featured in EA Sports video game NHL 20. His style of rap is categorised as ‘emo-rap’ and ‘spoken word’, where he addresses his own insecurities, battles with depression and failed relationships. While his net worth isn’t known, his tracks have begun to chart on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart. It surely isn’t long before one of his singles sits in the number one slot.

Jay-Z – Jay-Z, born Shawn Corey Carter, came from Brooklyn, New York, where he was raised in a housing project by his mother; his father deserting the family when Carter was young. His older brother, Eric, was a victim to the crack cocaine epidemic occurring in Brooklyn during the 1980s. He himself turned to the streets, selling crack and joining a gang. Carter even shot his brother when he was 12 – and when Carter went to visit his brother in the hospital, his brother apologised for what crack had turned him into. Drugs and firearms were easily accessible all throughout Carter’s upbringing. He spent 14 years selling, while never touching the drug himself, to support his family. Now, Jay-Z has a net worth of $1 billion and is married to one of the most famous pop stars in the world - Beyoncé. Jay-Z has sold over 50 million albums and has 22 Grammy Awards.

 Each of these artists has had successes beyond their wildest dreams and become world-renowned for their own reasons. Eminem’s brutal and often uncomfortable honesty, Snoop Dogg’s calm nature despite his violent upbringing, Bugzy Malone’s stories of selling drugs as a teenager, Hobo Johnson’s vulnerabilities, and Jay-Z’s cinematic recollections of his life experiences; it serves them all well. They bring humanity and struggle in a scene where much is glorified. It isn’t always just partying and about hooking up in clubs; struggles lie around so many street corners and each artist expresses them in their own way.