Many pop songs are about love, and many rap lyrics are about money. But these days, you can find both genres talking about … student loans.
That’s right. According to a report that analyzed lyrics on Spotify and Genius.com, references to student loans have climbed dramatically since 2001. Most released after 2014, and the later those lyrics are written, the more negative they are — which is understandable, since student loan debt recently surpassed $1.4 trillion.
How much is $1.4 trillion? More than the net worth of Jay-Z and Beyonce ($1.4 billion), Paul McCartney ($1.3 billion), Taylor Swift ($380 million), Lady Gaga ($275 million) and all the other top musicians you’ve ever heard of.
When a financial problem looms that large, it’s only natural that big-name artists will mention it. Here are our favorite 23 songs with student loan lyrics…
The rapper and pop artist who is best known for his suicide awareness anthem, “1–800–273–8255”
He raps about being young and owing money in his 2017 song, “Mos Definitely.” Among the lyrics: “I can’t afford a home ’cause I’m 25 and owe a hundred grand in student loans.”
If you’re in deep like Logic, check out “How to Get Out of Student Loan Debt.”
This song off West’s album Late Registration asks, “Will I make it from the student loans?” Basically, he’s rapping about making enough money from his music to pay off his own student loans.
When a band is as closely rooted to a college as Less Than Jake is, student loan debt is practically a given. The ska band is based out of Gainesville, home of the University of Florida, where the bandmates attended college. All those components come together in this song: “I use my credit card to buy alcohol, student loan spent at the mall, and I may be going broke, but I’m never broken down.”
This rap song from 2011, off Brown’s album XXX, focuses on a woman addicted to cocaine — so addicted, the song suggests she spent her student loan money on the drug. The lyrics go on to say, “She wiped out the debit card, owing on the credit for student loans, they call her phone, but she don’t sweat it.”
For a man who is best known by DIY punk communities — which center around making everything yourself, usually on a budget — it’s no surprise topics like student loans would get mentioned. That’s the case for Rosenstock’s 2015 song: “Yeah, what do we get for the friends we’ve met and the one we’ve left alone?” the lyrics ask. “We’re gonna give ’em a trip to the hospital, we’re gonna give ’em the bill for the funeral, we’re gonna give ’em the debt from our student loans.”
This 2014 single by the indie band Alvvays croons about modern love over traditional weddings: “You’ve expressed explicitly your contempt for matrimony, you’ve student loans to pay and will not risk the alimony.”
In Juicy J’s 2013 single, off the rapper’s album Stay Trippy, he takes a more playful approach to addressing student loans. Juicy J and A$AP Rocky rap about a college girl twerking for the money to get through school. “I’m tryna pay your student loans … Say you need some extra cash to pay for college with and it just so happens I got a lot of it.”
In what became the song of the summer in 2016, Twenty One Pilots’ single talks about how “out of student loans and treehouse homes, we all would take the latter.” The song, which focuses around reminiscing about easier times, peaked at №2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and spent 42 weeks on the chart.
The hip-hop group’s surprise 2008 hit takes on a second-person perspective, talking to a woman who’s just trying to pay the bills: “This clock tick tock and you still a waitress, tryin’ to pay them student loans, and the lights and the phone and the food and the home. And you ain’t quite broke, but you couldn’t afford that place on your own.” The song found success on both hip-hop and alternative charts.
Don’t wait around like the woman Atmosphere is rapping about, check out “How to Pay Off Student Loan Debt Fast.”
In her 2016 single, young female rapper Tasha the Amazon talks about selling marijuana to pay back her student loans, among other things: “Got a degree and I sold trees to pay my student loans and my gold teeth.” The Canadian artist is still pretty new on the scene, and has been called a sort of “darker, rawer” version of the British rapper, M.I.A.
A former graphic design student who didn’t know he had an interest in music until he was in his 20s, Witt Lowry raps about what he knows. The artist grew up “relatively poor,” and on this 2015 song, he raps, “Just found out we gotta leave our home, you see I’m tryna pay the bills in this student loan.” Elsewhere, Lowry talks about spreading coupons on the table to figure out how to pay for food and the bills.
In his 2016 song, dancehall artist Vybz Kartel picks a fight with Western Union as he raps about hustling money: “Student loan just call and a cuss,” Kartel says in the song. Noisey, Vice’s music outlet, went as far as to call this song a “summer anthem.”
In good company with his record label’s founder Kanye West, HXLT raps about life and it’s struggles, money included. On his 2016 single, he says: “It’s not really the school, they just want you to be successful. But the student loans and college tuition is way too stressful.”
Rapper Cam’ron’s fourth album, Purple Haze, dropped in 2004 and included this track. On it, the Harlem artist raps, “Better than college, after that, students home, at least after your bid, ain’t no student loans.” In the verse where the now-42-year-old talks about student loans, he’s living the high life — comparing his closet to the Macy’s men’s department — and how that beats having to deal with college or the money burden that would’ve come with it for him.
This is one of the few songs that mention student loans with a positive spin. And that’s probably because the lyrics are about not having any. The hardcore band Crime In Stereo sing, “Everywhere in vans and behind garage doors, a hospice ward of all the kids we know forgoing student loans to watch the joints play catch up with bored.”
Anti-folk artist Kimya Dawson talks about paying off her student loans: “There was a time in my life that I felt so all alone, that I never thought that someday I would have a happy home, a family and a four-track Radio Shack microphone, a backyard and a hammock and a paid off student loan.” The song was released in 2008, following Dawson’s success with her group, Moldy Peaches.
Tabi Bonney rapped about material girls and their facades in this 2011 song: “It’s all about that provolone, still paying back them student loans. But we don’t care.” Like most of Bonney’s songs, “Top Notch” takes jabs at people in the hip-hop scene who set out to look like they’re living the high life — even if they’re still paying off their student debt. The former pre-med student and science teacher is likely “rolling his eyes at hip-hop’s superficial glamour,” as noted by the Washington Post.
Country artist Ray Wylie Hubbard sings about a carefree woman in his 2010 single off the Billboard charting album called A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C). “Now I’ll never pay back my student loans,” Hubbard sings. “Smellin’ like Coors and cheap cologne.” The album spent three weeks on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart.
Worried you’ll never pay your debt back? Check out “What Happens if You Can’t Pay Your Student Loans?” (There are four options for student debt relief.)
The anomaly of this list of songs, Loyle Carner pines for his student loans. The English hip-hop artist raps, “I kind of miss my student loans, I miss sitting in the student home.” The 23-year-old’s 2017 single is raw and honest when he talks about not being able to afford his cellphone bill and missing school.
Members of this indie group hate student loans so much, the phrase has become a diss. The group’s 2013 song goes on to say, “You are the cops, you are my student loans, you are a head-shaped hole.” It’s familiar content for the New Jersey-based band, which often spits out lyrics about entering adulthood.
The oldest song in this slideshow, “Happy Guy” by punk band NOFX is from 1994 and says, “He’s just a man getting through life the best he can. He’s not a scientist, he programs a computer. Before that, he sold cars to pay a student loan. Now he receives pity from his family — his friends say, ‘how could he turn his back on reason worshiping.’”
This 2018 song documents a modern-age love story, full of text messages and gentrification. “Sure, it’s not the work you’d hope for — it’s your crushing student debt,” the Philadelphia-based indie group sings.
Documenting the all-too-familiar process of moving back home after college, twin musicians Nalani and Sarina sing about the struggle in their 2018 single: “Moved back home, heavy as a stone, boxes filled with clothes and piles of student loans.”
Originally published at a.msn.com.