By Chris Yuscavage
In the world of hip-hop, it’s easy to fall off. Just ask Ja Rule, DMX, Lil Kim, Nelly and the countless other rappers who have enjoyed massive amounts of mainstream success over the course of their careers—only to see it all disappear in what seems like a day.
Unlike the aforementioned MCs, Nelly has managed to bounce back. After taking nearly five years off after dropping his platinum-selling albums Sweat and Suit in 2004, the St. Louis rapper dropped the dud Brass Knuckles in 2008. Game over, right?
Not so fast.
Last month, he released the Jim Jonsin-produced “Just A Dream,” the first single from his forthcoming album Nelly 5.0 and it’s been nothing short of a dream. The track steadily climbed the Billboard Hot 100 chart, landing as high as No. 7 so far, and it’s given Nelly’s career a second life that almost no one expected.
Surprisingly, though, he’s not the first rapper to do this.
Though so many rappers never get a chance to relive the same kind of success they enjoyed early on in their careers, a handful have managed to do it. RapFix rounded up ten MCs that accomplished the feat. Feel free to call these comebacks.
The Rapper: Mase
When He Fell Off: Before he decided to become a pastor, (Murda) Ma$e released his awful 1999 sophomore album, Double Up.
How He Reemerged: After taking almost five years off, Diddy’s former partner-in-rhyme returned to drop the appropriately-titled Welcome Back in 2004 and moved more than 500,000 copies. Not bad for a guy who traded in a spot in the studio for a place at the pulpit.
The Rapper: Raekwon
When He Fell Off: After Wu-Tang Clan dropped their last decent album Iron Flag in 2001, Rae’s solo projects, including 2003’s The Lex Diamond Story, proved to be commercial and critical failures.
How He Reemerged: In one of the most unlikely rap comebacks of all-time, Rae had the audacity to record Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2… last year—the follow-up to his classic debut, OB4CL, that was released alllllll the way back in 1995. Miraculously, it was exactly what the rap world wanted (and needed) and The Chef was welcomed back into the kitchen with open arms.
The Rapper: Jay-Z
When He Fell Off: He didn’t “fall off,” per se, but he did quit the rap game in 2003 after dropping his eighth album, The Black Album.
How He Reemerged: Unhappy with the way things were looking in the rap world, Jigga stepped back into the booth after a three-year hiatus and released his ninth album, Kingdom Come, which was his highest-selling album within a one-week period. We still think American Gangster was a better comeback move though.
The Rapper: Big Boi
When He Fell Off: After recording OutKast’s last group project Idlewild and starring in the movie, Who’s Your Caddy?
How He Reemerged: It’s unfair to say Big Boi fell off—he simply took an extended hiatus that looked like it’d be hard to rebound from. Add a whole lot of label drama into the mix and it looked like the ATLien might be caught into limbo for the rest of his career. But his stellar 2010 solo debut Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty put him right back into the thick of things and impressed a whole bunch of rap fans out there.
The Rapper: Cam’Ron
When He Fell Off: After dropping his fifth album, Killa Season, and releasing an accompanying film (if you want to call it that!) of the same title.
How He Reemerged: Three years after instigating an online beef with 50 Cent and then completely falling off the face of the Earth, Killa Cam jumped back onto the scene with 2009’s Crime Pays before introducing the world to his new artist Vado, reuniting with Dipset and successfully restarting his career.
The Rapper: Eminem
When He Fell Off: Sometime shortly after the release of his 2004 album, Encore.
How He Reemerged: You might not want to admit it, but Slim Shady’s act was on its last legs back in ’04 (“Ass Like That”? “Just Lose It”? “Puke”? Really, man?). However, after going through a host of personal issues, Em got back into his groove last year by releasing Relapse and following it up with Recovery, an even better effort. Good to see you doing well again, Slim.
The Rapper: Cassidy
When He Fell Off: After releasing his 2005 album, I’m A Hustla, and then catching a murder charge that put him behind bars for eight months.
How He Reemerged: It’s hard to say Cass has been the same since doing his bid, but he achieved some commercial success through his post-prison album, B.A.R.S. The Barry Adrian Reese Story, which featured the hit single, “Drink N My 2 Step.”
The Rapper: Black Rob
When He Fell Off: After the success of his hit single, “Whoa!,” and his debut album, Life Story, started to wear off.
How He Reemerged: Taking five years off is never a good idea for a rapper, especially a rapper who has a hit that’s so big that he could be written off as a one-hit wonder. Yet, BR managed to produce a strong sophomore project, The Black Rob Report, in 2005—more than five years after his debut hit stores. Maybe absence really does make the heart grow fonder?
The Rapper: Kanye West
When He Fell Off: After he embarrassed himself by interrupting Taylor Swift’s speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
How He Reemerged: Powerfully. First, he dropped his single “Power” to the world in May 2010. As if that weren’t enough, he also launched his G.O.O.D. Friday campaign in late August and started releasing new music at least once a week. And that’s all before he drops his much-anticipated fifth album, Dark Twisted Fantasy, in November.
The Rapper: T.I.
When He Fell Off: After he released his 2008 album Paper Trail, Tip had to serve a one-year prison sentence on federal gun charges. It put the “King of the South” on ice for a minute.
How He Reemerged: Shortly after he was released from prison earlier this year, Tip burst back onto the scene with the very appropriately-titled “I’m Back,” an aggressive track that allowed him to get a lot off his chest.
When He Fell Off (Again): Unfortunately, not all comeback stories have happy endings. Earlier this month, T.I. and his wife Tameka “Tiny” Cottle were arrested on drug possession charges, which will undoubtedly delay T.I.’s forthcoming King Uncaged album and put him back into the “fell off” category—for now.
What is your favorite hip-hop comeback story of all-time? Vote and tweet us at @MTVRapFix and let us know.