Where does the struggle is real come from?
The struggle is real is a phrase used to describe a small, everyday frustrating situation or setback, similar to the complaint of first-world problems.
Its origin, however, is much more serious. The struggle is real begins in hip-hop culture, where the struggle refers to the oppression and poverty faced by black Americans, especially in the inner-city. Use of this struggle dates to the 1990s, but it was likely influential rapper 2pac who popularized the phrase the struggle is real on his 2002 posthumous track, “Fame”: “No, we ain’t blood, but we still real brothers. / The struggle is real, nothin’ can steal what we build.”
The original, earnest sense of the struggle is real followed as it appeared on social media, and by 2011, the phrase was established enough on its own that the rap group DTMD released a song called “The Struggle is Real” in late 2011, which further boosted the phrase.
Real talk: black women please support your black men because the struggle is real.
— John Holmes II (@johnholmesii) December 9, 2009
Humor soon took over, as is common in slang and social media. By early 2012, black observers were using the struggle is real to make wry observations about the creative workarounds for life with limited means.
— Barry O. (@TheRegularShow_) March 20, 2012
the. struggle. is. real. pic.twitter.com/ePlrqszW
— .dank princess. (@helloMFkittyo_O) July 3, 2012
By late 2012, the struggle is real went full meme, with users captioning photos of hilarious jury-rigging with the phrase.
— Rigo Rojas (@NotRigoRojas) December 17, 2012
Like I said the struggle is real pic.twitter.com/nEnQb8qo
— Matt Nav (@hype_beastnav) December 11, 2012
2013 saw the struggle is real go mainstream as commentary on mild inconveniences—where the “struggle” is … really mild.
Taking the elevator to the 4th floor…. The struggle is real
— Morgan Long (@PrincessMorgiee) January 31, 2013
the struggle is real….. pic.twitter.com/kFEspJ2DG8
— victoria lopez (@Vict0rial0pez) February 25, 2013
Having trouble choosing between a chicken biscuit or chicken minis at Chickfila this morning… The struggle is real, friends.
— brandon carter (@backtobrandon) February 1, 2013
Examples of the struggle is real
Who uses the struggle is real?
As the humorous the struggle is real spread into the mainstream, its more hard-knock parent became less common, though Lil Wayne notably used it in his 2015 “Street Chains”: This is victory lane, now do I need a horn? / The struggle is real, and the Bible too long.”
Most often, the struggle is real is found online about silly, minor annoyances—definitely not the kinds of challenges many rappers overcame while growing up in the inner-city.
It’s so hard to diet in a Mexican household!! I’m over here preparing my grilled chicken while my mom is making some bomb ass enchiladas, the struggle is real 😩
— karen 🤓 (@nerakstagram) July 21, 2018
The struggle is real. pic.twitter.com/0u398aVTKY
— Marc Jacobs (@themarcjacobs) July 30, 2018
The struggle is real right now. pic.twitter.com/E0J7BF28fb
— Gaming Humor & News (@VGFGamers) July 28, 2018
— goodreads (@goodreads) July 21, 2018
This is not meant to be a formal definition of the struggle is real like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of the struggle is real that will help our users expand their word mastery.