nelly country music influence

29+ Rappers and Their Unexpected Muses


| LAST UPDATE 01/03/2022

By Manny Ray

We already know Kanye loves Kanye. But that doesn't mean he hasn't turned to others for inspiration over the years. From Kidz Bop to Selena, we've rounded up some of the most unexpected influences in hip-hop.

Jack Harlow: Harry Potter

It's hard to imagine Jack Harlow was once a shy schoolkid, "buzzcut, eyeglasses, crooked teeth." But that's exactly what he claims his reality once looked like. That was, until he decided to hit the books...

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Timothy Norris/Contributor via Getty Images/IMDb-Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) via Warner Bros.

"I read all the Harry Potter books. Boy, [they were] worth some points," the Industry Baby artist recalled. As he put it, the famed wizard eventually inspired him to make magic of his own. "That reading is what made me the writer I am now... it's what's going to make me the Hitmaker of Tomorrow."

Lil Uzi Vert: Marilyn Manson

Lil Uzi loves Marilyn Manson. Like really loves him. So much so, that the XO TOUR Llif3 rapper splashed out over $200 racks for a custom gold chain with the rocker's face on it. Yep. But if, by some chance, that doesn't say it all, let's hear from the man himself...

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"I will leave this Earth for this man right here. He's the pale Emperor," the rapper confessed to OTHERtone of his love for the heavy-metal star. Apparently, Uzi first discovered Manson after watching MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch as a kid. And suddenly, we've got lots of questions.

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iLoveMakonnen: Shania Twain

On paper, rap and country might not go hand-in-hand - but as far as iLoveMakonnen is concerned? He's got Shania Twain to thank for his music. That's right. The Tuesday rapper hasn't been shy about his love for the country singer, an artist he practically grew up on.

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"Shania Twain—yes, Shania Twain," the rapper revealed to Vogue when asked about his influences. "There's a few songs that I can really dig. I love that one, You're Still the One. When I meet her, I'm going to fan out." We'd love to see that exchange go down.

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Coi Leray: Kidz Bop

Aight, this one practically speaks for itself: Love her or hate her, Coi Leray doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. And perhaps with good reason. After all, her signature sound is pretty hard to miss. But as the TWINNEM artist confessed, she's been gaining inspiration in the oddest of places.

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"Well, you know, I grew up around Kidz Bop," the rapper revealed. As Leray put it, her time toying with new beats stems from the children's group's colorful range. "Kidz Bop had like a hundred different varieties… So you'll go from listening to Outkast to Justin Timberlake to Paramore like quick." To each their own, right?

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Future: Jimi Hendrix

Future loves Jimi Hendrix. So much so, that he even calls himself the modern-day Hendrix. "I feel like I'm a rock star. Jimi Hendrix, he was a rock star," the rapper once explained. But his unexpected love for the late rocker actually doesn't end there.

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"He's just an icon all around," the Mask Off artist explained. Not only does he have his friends call him "Future Hendrix," but Future strongly identifies with the rocker's rebellious nature. "I took to his character, specifically being someone who's different, not afraid to try new things in music." Honestly, we respect it.

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Lizzo: Sister Rosetta Tharpe

It's hard to imagine that the same rapper who sings a song called Water Me was once a nerdy Evangelical, scared of eternal damnation (her words, not ours). But as far as Lizzo is concerned, that's exactly what her strict childhood looked like. And she's since turned it into a source of inspiration.

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"I only listened to Gospel music," she confessed. From the Perfected Praise Choir to Sister Rosetta Tharpe - a woman who meant "everything" to her, Lizzo's music taste has shaped her into the larger-than-life persona we know and love today. "Because of that, I'm able to find that common thread… I have to find the soul in everything."

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Kevin Gates: Taylor Swift

He might not seem like a guy who's got Taylor Swift on repeat, but hey - don't judge a book by its cover. Right? In fact, as the Big Gangsta rapper himself once put it, Swift's music might just be "the best thing." But why don't we let him do all the talking here...

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"Like Taylor Swift says, 'And my daddy said stay away from Juliet,' I can understand what she meant by that metaphorically," Gates explained. "I've been through that situation… It resonated with me." While we don't quite see her influence translated into his tracks, we applaud the guy for giving credit where credit is due?

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A$AP Ferg: Selena

As one of the Mob's most famed members, A$AP Ferb has made quite the name for himself. But forget the millions in the bank or mobs of fans he's since welcomed. When it comes to the Harlem legend, he's only got one thing and one thing only on his mind: continuing Selena's legacy.

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"She was a pop icon," the rapper revealed of his love for the late Tex-Mex singer. "I feel like people don't give her as much respect as she deserves. So I'm here - I'm the voice that [makes sure] her legacy is still living." And he wasn't lying. He's even shouted her out at several concert gigs.

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Soulja Boy: Shakespeare

Where art thou, Soulja Boy? The controversial rapper has been laying relatively low since his breakout album iSouljaBoyTellem. But while he hasn't been topping the charts lately, don't worry - he's not lacking inspiration or motivation. And he's got another famed lyricist to thank for that one.

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Much like 2Pac, Soulja Boy has also been harboring a soft spot for Shakespeare. "The quote, 'To be or not to be' represents having no fear in whatever you do," he explained. "When I decide what type of music I'm going to create in the studio, I think about that saying and what I'll be representing." Aaaand we've officially heard it all.

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Cardi B: Madonna

She's no regular, shmegular, degular girl anymore. But she'll never forget where she came from. In fact, despite her newfound fame and fortune, Bardi still gets starstruck just like the rest of us. "I met my real life IDOL, Madonna," she revealed back in 2018.

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As the UP rapper revealed, she's been keeping up with her idol for as long as she can remember. "I grew up with my mom listening to Madonna for hours," she explained. "I performed Material Girl freshman year in high school, listen to her on all my photo shoots to have super confidence, and always mentioned her in my interviews."

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50 Cent: Maroon 5

It's no secret this legend has raked in a long list of enemies over the years. But if there's one guy we won't catch him beefing with any time soon? It's Adam Levine. "Low key, I used to play his music all the time," the rapper confessed of his admiration for Maroon 5's frontman.

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Kevin Winter/Staff via Getty Images/Kevin Winter/Staff via Getty Images

"He has a joint called Till The End Of Time... I don't have favorite artists... [But] when I heard that, I was like, 'Damn, he was in his pocket.'" He's even invited Levine into the studio, when the two linked up for their 2012 collab My Life. Point is, always expect the unexpected when it comes to Fiddy.

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Snoop Dogg: Peanuts

Uncle Snoop has been showing us how it's done for decades now - which is exactly why we're having a hard time believing he once turned to children's cartoons for inspiration. Why don't we let the baller explain himself here? Go ahead, keep scrolling.

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Amy Sussman via Getty Images/IMDB-Peanuts (2014) via Warner Bros. Television

As Snoop revealed, his love for the famed Peanuts cartoon is what helped him become the legend he is today. "I used to love Peanuts and Charlie Brown... Snoopy was my favorite cartoon character..." the rapper explained of how he came to land his famous stage name. "I watched so much, I started to look like him."

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Kanye West: Ozzy Osbourne

He might have once said, "his power is his ability to not be influenced." But if there's one thing 'Ye has taught us from his time in Hollywood? It's to expect the unexpected, of course. No doubt, we never expected to hear the rapper's been taking inspiration from heavy metal rockers - more specifically, Ozzy Osbourne.

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Sure enough, 2010's H*ll of a Life called for just that. Not only did the rapper's latest track include a sample of Black Sabbath's single Iron Man, but his admiration has already rubbed off onto his eldest. "She puts fake tattoos on... listens to Black Sabbath," Kim Kardashian revealed of their daughter, North.

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Mac Miller: John Lennon

Mac might be gone, but he'll never be forgotten. The late legend left a mark in the music world as colorful as his famous ink. But according to the rapper, he didn't act alone. In fact, as he once revealed, he had one Beatles member in specific to thank for his time topping the charts.

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"I just love Lennon man, I'm a huge John Lennon fan," Miller once revealed of his idol. "He's like the background to my phone and some weird stuff." Not only did Mac have a tattoo of the British star, but he even sampled Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds in the studio.

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Post Malone: Bob Dylan

He might be feeling like a rockstar, but let's face it - Posty's music doesn't exactly fit into the Rock 'n Roll genre. Perhaps that's why we never expected to hear the Rockstar rapper's got Bob Dylan on repeat when he's not busy "poppin' pillies" or working his magic in the studio.

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As Malone once revealed, he's actually been keeping up with the rock legend's music since he was 15 years old. "Whenever I want to sit down and have a nice cry, I'll listen to some Bob Dylan," the rapper confessed of his muse, a man he refers to as "god." Take what ya want from that one...

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Eminem: Jim Carrey

He's a lyrical genius, with the beats and bars to match. But when Slim dropped his 4th studio album back in 2002, he had one person and one person only to thank: Jim Carrey. Not the guy we were expecting to hear, huh? Let's let Eminem clear things up for us...

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"The concept 4 The Eminem Show was inspired by The Truman Show because my life felt like it was becoming a circus around that time, and I felt like I was always being watched," the rapper confessed. Which, well, he's got a point. "Basically, Jim Carrey wrote my album." Does Mr. Carrey know about this?

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Nelly: Kenny Rogers

He's always been pushing boundaries in the hip-hop world. But according to Nelly, his knack for music actually came from... listening to Kenny Rogers with his uncle. Granted, he's not shy about his love for the South. But we never expected to hear this one.

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"My uncle is the one that got me into music," the Ride Wit Me artist explained. "He used to play Kenny Rogers a lot, and that was kind of like how my love affair for Country music started... it's one of the purest art forms that still exists to this day." It all makes sense now...

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Lil Yachty: Chris Martin

Lil Yachty's always been one to do things differently. And his Spotify playlist is no exception. "Most of my [music] influences aren't rap," the iSpy hitmaker confessed. As for who he is turning to for inspiration? Coldplay, more specifically, Chris Martin.

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"I love Coldplay," the rapper explained. "Just [Chris Martin's] voice, the way he uses it as an instrument." Not only does Yachty call himself an "obsessive fan," but he even recorded his own spin of The Scientist. Anyone else smell a future Lil Yachty x Coldplay collab?

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Tupac: Shakespeare

For most, he was and will always remain one of the G.O.A.T.S. Whether he was spitting bars or spitting facts in the process, Pac's music held so much meaning. But the late legend's poetic abilities actually trace back to another lyrical mastermind: Shakespeare.

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"I love Shakespeare. He wrote some of the rawest stories, man," the late rapper once revealed. As a matter of fact, he even studied the writer's work during his time at the Baltimore School for the Arts. "I mean, look at Romeo and Juliet. That's some serious ghetto ****."

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The Notorious BIG: Willie Nelson

Of course, where there was Pac, there was Biggy. But their West Coast vs. East Coast rivalry wasn't the only place they differed. As Wallace's mother once explained, this late legend actually grew up on... country music. A whole lot of it. That's right.

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"When he was a little boy and was growing up, I always had the radio on... tuned in to the country music station," Ms. Wallace recalled. "I love my Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Waylon Jennings. He listened to it all with me." We can't quite picture Biggy jamming out to Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain, but we certainly respect it.

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Drake: Bow Wow

We might know him as the 6 God. But we never knew about his angel in disguise: as Drizzy welcomed his latest win this past summer, he took a sec to call out the man who made it all possible: Bow Wow. "Everybody wants to celebrate and turn up, but I just had to see Wizzle in person," he explained.

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How did he put it? "If it wasn't for you, there wouldn't be no me, and that's why I'm a rapper," Drake revealed. "That's why — you know the rest — that's why I'mma rock with y'all forevermore." While Bow Wow has had his fair share of Ls recently, we're sure this one's gotta feel nice.

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Tekashi 6ix9ine: Japanese Anime

Granted, he's not one for subtlety - we all know that much. But what we didn't know, was that self-titled King of New York's heart actually lies thousands of miles away. That's right. Believe it or not, Tekashi is a major fan of Japan and its infamous anime.

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As a matter of fact, the rapper loves the genre so much, he decided to name himself after it: "The 'Tekashi' part was inspired by Japanese anime, of which Danny was a big fan," the artist's longtime pal, Andrew "TrifeDrew" Green once revealed to Rolling Stones.

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24KGoldn: Lego Rock Band

Most kids view Legos as a way to kill time. But for 24kGoldn, it isn't all fun and games when it comes to the famed children's toy. In fact, it was actually a Lego-themed video game that helped morph him into the successful rapper he is today. But don't quote us on that one…

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"I used to play this game, Lego Rock Band on my Nintendo DS, and that's how I got put onto a lot of mid-2000s early-2000s rock, punk - that alternative emo sound that you hear in my music today," the Mood artist confessed. Hey, whatever gets the job done...

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The Game: Ed Sheeran

A Compton rapper and a British guitarist, famous for his love songs, might not go hand in hand. But as far as The Game is concerned? He and Ed Sheeran couldn't be more compatible. Not only does he have a soft spot for the Bad Habits artist, but they've even linked up in the past.

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"Acoustically, he's a genius, man," the Hate It or Love It rapper explained. "So when he does that, what comes out of me is songs like Dreams and Hate It or Love It and My Life." Sure enough, the two have dropped over 10 songs together, so perhaps he wasn't wrong after all?

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MGK: Eminem

We've heard them swipe diss tracks endless times. So much so, that we almost forgot there was actually once a time where MGK had nice words for Slim. But that's not all. As if that wasn't wild enough, Eminem was once hailed as Kelly's idol. That's right.

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"That's my idol," the Bad Things rapper once confessed. "Of course, I'mma love anything he does, I would hope people would be the same way with me." Well, we all know how this story ends. Maybe there's a chance of reconciliation at some point down the line? 

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Tyler, The Creator: Joy Division

There's only one Tyler Okonma. But the rapper's colorful tracks and quirky persona have actually been influenced by another creative genius: Joy Division. As for where a British punk band and an offbeat L.A. rapper see eye to eye? It's actually quite simple - at least where Tyler is concerned.

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"It's the music I've always wanted to make," he explained of his long-standing admiration for the British group. In fact, he's even named-dropped their lead singer in several tracks. "F****** modern day Ian Curtis I oughta been... How can he move on Waka Flocka and back to Joy Division?" he sings in Leather Head.

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Tyga: Tiger Woods

We already know how much Tyga enjoys the finer things in life. But forget about his growing car collection and flashy getaways. Let's talk about something we haven't seen documented on the 'gram: the rapper's admiration for another big-timer, Tiger Woods.

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Not only has the rapper been keeping up with the pro-golfer for years now, but he's actually been looking up to Woods since he was a young boy. According to several sources, Tyga's stage name actually came after earning the nickname "Little Tiger Woods" as a child.

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Lil Wayne: Kurt Cobain

Like any good artist, Wheezy has been looking up to those who came before him for some great inspiration. No, we're not talking Hova or 50-Cent. In fact, we're not talking any hip hop legends here. We're talking about Nirvana's late rocker, Kurt Cobain.

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How did he see it? "I was young, and I actually listened to the lyrics," the rapper recalled of Smells Like Teen Spirit's influence on his life - and of course, music. "I was rebelling, and I can associate myself with that. [I could] relate to the things [Kurt Cobain] was talking about in the songs."

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Logic: Frank Sinatra

Back in 2009, Logic was another teen with a dream of making it big as a rapper. As he recalled, the plan was to form a hip-hop collective, like several that came before him. But as we all know, he opted to go solo. What changed? 2 words: Frank Sinatra.

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"I just thought about how much I love Sinatra, his music, the debonair [vibe] to him, the honor," he recalled of his admiration for the king of blues. "I wanted to be that dude and bring that to hip-hop." Sure enough, he soon introduced us to his alter-ego, Young Sinatra, and the rest is now history.

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Desiigner: His Grandfather

We've seen movie characters, Madonna and Shakespeare pave the way for some of hip-hops finest. But perhaps the one muse we never expected to make it to our list? Sidney "Guitar Crusher" Selby, otherwise known as Desiigner's grandpa. Endearing, right?

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As the Panda rapper revealed, his pops is the reason he's doing music in the first place. "He formed that old soul, that old blues, that old rock that I put on my songs. He bluesed it out," Desiigner explained. "He played that old funk. I fell in love with that old style."

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