Tupac Amaru Shakur ( TOO-pahk shə-KOOR; born Lesane Parish Crooks, June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996), better known by his stage name 2Pac and later by his alias Makaveli, was an American rapper and actor. Considered one of the most influential rappers of all time, Shakur is among the best-selling music artists, having sold more than 75 million records worldwide. Much of Shakur’s music has been noted for addressing contemporary social issues that plagued inner cities, and he is considered a symbol of activism against inequality.
Shakur was born in New York City to parents who were both political activists and Black Panther Party members. Raised by his mother, he relocated to Baltimore in 1984 and to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1988. With the release of his debut album 2Pacalypse Now in 1991, he became a central figure in West Coast hip hop for his conscious rap lyrics. Shakur achieved further critical and commercial success with his follow-up albums Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z… (1993) and Me Against the World (1995). His Diamond certified album All Eyez on Me (1996), the first double-length album in hip-hop history, abandoned his introspective lyrics for volatile gangsta rap. In addition to his music career, Shakur also found considerable success as an actor, with his starring roles in Juice (1992), Poetic Justice (1993), Above the Rim (1994), Bullet (1996), Gridlock’d (1997), and Gang Related (1997).
In 1995, Shakur served eight months in prison on sexual abuse charges, but was released pending an appeal of his conviction. Following his release, he signed to Marion “Suge” Knight’s label Death Row Records and became heavily involved in the growing East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry. On September 7, 1996, Shakur was shot four times by an unidentified assailant in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas; he died six days later. Following his murder, Shakur’s friend-turned-rival, the Notorious B.I.G., was at first considered a suspect due to their public feud, but was also murdered in another drive-by shooting six months later in March 1997 while visiting Los Angeles.Five more albums have been released since Shakur’s death, all of which have been certified Platinum in the United States. In 2002, Shakur was inducted into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame. In 2017, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Rolling Stone magazine ranked Shakur among the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
The Notorious B.I.G.
Christopher George Latore Wallace (May 21, 1972 – March 9, 1997), better known by his stage names the Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls, or simply Biggie, was an American rapper and songwriter. Rooted in the New York rap scene and gangsta rap traditions, he is widely considered one of the greatest rappers of all time. Wallace became known for his distinctive laidback lyrical delivery, offsetting the lyrics’ often grim content. His music was often semi-autobiographical, telling of hardship and criminality, but also of debauchery and celebration.Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City, Wallace signed to Sean “Puffy” Combs’s label Bad Boy Records as it launched in 1993, and gained exposure through features on several other artists’ singles that year. His debut album Ready to Die (1994) was met with widespread critical acclaim, and included his signature songs “Juicy” and “Big Poppa”. The album made him the central figure in East Coast hip hop, and restored New York’s visibility at a time when the West Coast hip hop scene was dominating hip hop music. Wallace was awarded the 1995 Billboard Music Awards’ Rapper of the Year. The following year, he led his protégé group Junior M.A.F.I.A., a team of himself and longtime friends, including Lil’ Kim, to chart success.
During 1996, while recording his second album, Wallace became ensnarled in the escalating East Coast–West Coast hip hop feud. Following Tupac Shakur’s death in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in September 1996, speculations of involvement in Shakur’s murder by criminal elements orbiting the Bad Boy circle circulated as a result of Wallace’s public feud with Shakur. On March 9, 1997, six months after Shakur’s death, Wallace was murdered in a drive-by shooting while visiting Los Angeles. The assailant remains unidentified. Wallace’s second album Life After Death, a double album, was released two weeks later. It reached number one on the Billboard 200, and eventually achieved a diamond certification in the United States.With two more posthumous albums released, Wallace has certified sales of over 28 million copies in the United States, including 21 million albums. Rolling Stone has called him the “greatest rapper that ever lived”, and Billboard named him the greatest rapper of all time. The Source magazine named him the greatest rapper of all time in its 150th issue. In 2006, MTV ranked him at No. 3 on their list of The Greatest MCs of All Time, calling him possibly “the most skillful ever on the mic”. In 2020, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones (; born September 14, 1973), better known by his stage name Nas (), is an American rapper, songwriter, and entrepreneur. Rooted in the New York hip hop scene, he is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential rappers of all time. Nas has released fourteen studio albums since 1994, seven of which are certified platinum and multi-platinum in the U.S.The son of jazz musician Olu Dara, Jones’s musical career began in 1989 as he adopted the moniker of “Nasty Nas” and recorded demos for Large Professor. He was a featured artist on Main Source’s “Live at the Barbeque” (1991), also produced by Large Professor. Nas’s debut album Illmatic (1994) received universal acclaim upon release, and is considered to be one of the greatest hip hop albums of all-time; in 2021, the album was inducted into the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry. His second album It Was Written (1996) debuted atop the Billboard 200 and charted for four consecutive weeks; the album, along with its single “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” (featuring Lauryn Hill), catapulted Nas into international success. Nas’s albums I Am (1998) and Nastradamus (1999) were criticized as inconsistent and too commercially oriented, and critics and fans feared that his output was declining in quality.
From 2001 to 2005, Nas was involved in a highly publicized feud with Jay-Z, popularized by the diss track “Ether”. It was this feud, along with Nas’s albums Stillmatic (2001), God’s Son (2002), and the double album Street’s Disciple (2004), that helped restore his critical standing. After quashing the feud, Nas signed to Jay-Z’s Def Jam Recordings in 2006 and went in a more provocative, politicized direction with the albums Hip Hop Is Dead (2006) and his untitled 9th studio album (2008). In 2010, Nas released Distant Relatives, a collaboration album with Damian Marley, donating all royalties to charities active in Africa. His 10th studio album, Life Is Good (2012), was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards. After receiving thirteen nominations, his 12th studio album, King’s Disease (2020), won him his first Grammy for Best Rap Album at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards; he then followed it by releasing his 13th studio album, King’s Disease II (2021), as the album’s sequel. In the same year, his 14th studio album, Magic, was released on Christmas Eve.
In 2012,The Source ranked him second on their list of the “Top 50 Lyricists of All Time”. In 2013, Nas was ranked 4th on MTV’s “Hottest MCs in the Game” list. About.com ranked him first on their list of the “50 Greatest MCs of All Time” in 2014, and a year later, Nas was featured on the “10 Best Rappers of All Time” list by Billboard. He is also an entrepreneur through his own record label; he serves as associate publisher of Mass Appeal magazine and the co-founder of Mass Appeal Records.
Kendrick Lamar Duckworth (born June 17, 1987) is an American rapper, songwriter and record producer. Since his mainstream debut in 2012 with Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, Lamar has been regarded as one of the most influential rappers of his generation. Aside from his solo career, he is also known as a member of the hip hop supergroup Black Hippy alongside his Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) label-mates Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, and Schoolboy Q.
Raised in Compton, California, Lamar embarked on his musical career as a teenager under the stage name K.Dot, releasing a mixtape that garnered local attention and led to his signing with indie record label Top Dawg Entertainment. He began to gain recognition in 2010 after his first retail release, Overly Dedicated. The following year, he independently released his first studio album, Section.80, which included his first single “HiiiPoWeR”. By that time, he had amassed a large online following and collaborated with several prominent hip hop artists.
Lamar’s major-label debut album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, was released in 2012 to critical acclaim. It would go on to be certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). His third album To Pimp a Butterfly (2015) incorporated elements of funk, soul, jazz, and spoken word. It became his first number one album on the Billboard 200, and was the most acclaimed album of the 2010s, according to statistics from Metacritic. It was followed by Untitled Unmastered (2016), a collection of unreleased demos that originated during the recording sessions for To Pimp a Butterfly. He released his fourth album, Damn (2017) to further acclaim; its lead single “Humble” topped the US Billboard Hot 100, while the album became the first non-classical and non-jazz album to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music. In 2018, he wrote and produced 14 songs for the soundtrack to the superhero film Black Panther, which also received critical acclaim.
Lamar has received many accolades over the course of his career, including 13 Grammy Awards, two American Music Awards, six Billboard Music Awards, a Brit Award, 11 MTV Video Music Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, and an Academy Award nomination. In 2012, MTV named him the Hottest MC in the Game on their annual list. Time named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2016. In 2015, he received the California State Senate’s Generational Icon Award. Three of his studio albums have been listed in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (2020).
Jahseh Dwayne Ricardo Onfroy (January 23, 1998 – June 18, 2018), known professionally as XXXTentacion (often stylized as XXXTENTACION) and commonly referred to as simply X, was an American rapper, singer, and songwriter. Though a controversial figure due to his widely publicized legal troubles, XXXTentacion gained a cult following among his young fanbase during his short career with his depression and alienation-themed music. Critics and fans often credit him for his musical versatility, with his music exploring emo, drill, trap, lo-fi, indie rock, nu metal, hip hop, R&B, and punk rock. He is considered to be a leading figure in the emo-rap and SoundCloud rap genres which garnered mainstream attention during the mid-late 2010s.Born in Plantation, Florida, XXXTentacion spent most of his childhood in Lauderhill. He began writing music after being released from a juvenile detention center and soon started his music career on SoundCloud in 2013, employing styles and techniques that were unconventional in rap music such as distortion and heavy guitar-backed instrumentals, drawing inspiration from third-wave emo and grunge. In 2014, he formed the underground collective Members Only and alongside other members of the collective soon became a popular figure in SoundCloud rap, a trap music scene that takes elements of lo-fi music and harsh 808s.XXXTentacion gained mainstream attention with the single “Look at Me”. His debut album 17 (2017) is certified double-platinum in the US and reached number two on the Billboard 200. His second album ? (2018) debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and is certified triple-platinum in the US. Its lead single, “Sad!”, reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and had amassed more than 1.3 billion views on YouTube and 1.7 billion streams on Spotify by November 2021, as well as being certified Diamond by the RIAA in August 2021. He is also the bestselling emo rapper of all time.XXXTentacion had faced a variety of legal issues throughout his lifetime, most notably the controversy that arose from the battery charges which were levied against him in 2016 when he was 18-years old. XXXTentacion’s history of legal issues and alleged violence has been described by some as defining his legacy, while others have criticized the media’s portrayal of him, saying that his perceived improvements in character later in life have made his legacy into a tale of the power of second chances and redemption.On June 18, 2018, XXXTentacion was murdered at the age of 20 when he was fatally shot near a motorcycle dealership in Deerfield Beach, Florida. The attackers fled the scene in an SUV after stealing a Louis Vuitton bag containing $50,000 from him; four suspects were arrested. No trial date has been set for the accused and the motive for the murder remains under investigation.XXXTentacion has RIAA-certified sales of 61 million units in the US and BPI-certified sales of over 7 million units in the UK, bringing his total to 68 million certified records sold in the two countries. Since his death, he has won an American Music Award and a BET Hip Hop Award and received 11 Billboard Music Award nominations. Two posthumous albums were released, Skins (2018) and Bad Vibes Forever (2019); the former became his second number-one album on the Billboard 200 while the latter entered the top 5.
André Lauren Benjamin (born May 27, 1975), better known as André 3000, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, actor, and record producer. He is best known for being a part of southern hip hop duo Outkast alongside fellow rapper Big Boi.
Benjamin has also acted in films and television series such as Families, The Shield, Be Cool, Revolver, Semi-Pro, High Life, Four Brothers, and in the lead role of Jimi Hendrix in All Is by My Side. He currently plays Fredwynn on the AMC series Dispatches from Elsewhere. He is also known for his work on the Cartoon Network animated series Class of 3000 (2006–2008). He has additionally been an entrepreneur and an advocate for animal rights. In the spring of 2008, he launched a clothing line called Benjamin Bixby.Benjamin has been ranked as one of the top 10 rappers of all time by publications including Showbiz Cheat Sheet, Billboard, and Complex.
William Michael Griffin Jr. (born January 28, 1968), better known by his stage name Rakim (), is an American rapper and record producer. One half of golden age hip hop duo Eric B. & Rakim, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential and most skilled MCs of all time.Rakim is considered a transformational figure in hip hop for raising the bar for MC technique higher than it had ever been. Rakim helped to pioneer the use of internal rhymes and multisyllabic rhymes, and he was among the first to demonstrate the possibilities of sitting down to write intricately crafted lyrics packed with clever word choices and metaphors rather than the more improvisational styles and simpler rhyme patterns that predominated before him. Rakim is also credited with creating the overall shift from the more simplistic old school flows to more complex flows. Rapper Kool Moe Dee explained that before Rakim, the term ‘flow’ wasn’t widely used – “Rakim is basically the inventor of flow. We were not even using the word flow until Rakim came along. It was called rhyming, it was called cadence, but it wasn’t called flow. Rakim created flow!” Rakim released four albums with DJ Eric B.: Paid in Full, Follow the Leader, Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em and Don’t Sweat the Technique. He has released three solo albums: The 18th Letter, The Master and The Seventh Seal.
Paid in Full was named the greatest hip hop album of all time by MTV in 2006, while Rakim himself was ranked No. 4 on MTV’s list of the Greatest MCs of All Time. Steve Huey of AllMusic stated that “Rakim is near-universally acknowledged as one of the greatest MCs – perhaps the greatest – of all time within the hip-hop community”. The editors of About.com ranked him No. 2 on their list of the ‘Top 50 MCs of Our Time (1987–2007)’. In 2012, The Source ranked him No. 1 on their list of the “Top 50 Lyricists of All Time”.
Dennis Coles (born May 9, 1970), better known by his stage name Ghostface Killah, is an American rapper, songwriter and actor and lead member of the hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan. After the group achieved breakthrough success in the aftermath of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), the members went on to pursue solo careers to varying levels of success. Ghostface Killah debuted his solo career with Ironman, which was well received by music critics, in 1996. He has enjoyed continued success in the years that have followed, releasing critically acclaimed albums such as Supreme Clientele (2000) and Fishscale (2006). His stage name was taken from one of the characters in the 1979 kung fu film Mystery of Chessboxing. He is the founder of his own record label, Starks Enterprises.
Ghostface Killah is critically acclaimed for his loud, fast-paced flow, and his emotional stream-of-consciousness narratives containing cryptic slang and non-sequiturs. In 2006, MTV included him as an “honourable mention” on their list of the “Greatest MCs of All Time”, while the editors of About.com placed him on their list of the “Top 50 MCs of Our Time (1987–2007)”, calling him “one of the most imaginative storytellers of our time.” Q magazine called him “rap’s finest storyteller.” Pitchfork Media has stated that “Ghostface has unparalleled storytelling instincts; he might be the best, most colorful storyteller rap has ever seen.” NPR has called him “a compulsive storyteller”, and asserts that “his fiction is painterly.”
Lauryn Noelle Hill (born May 26, 1975) is an American singer, songwriter, and rapper. She is often regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time, as well as being one of the most influential singers of her generation. Hill is credited for breaking barriers for female rappers, popularizing melodic rapping and for bringing hip hop and neo soul to popular music. She is known for being a member of Fugees and her solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998), which became one of the best-selling albums of all-time. Hill has won many awards, including eight Grammy Awards, the most for a female rapper.
Raised mostly in South Orange, New Jersey, Hill began singing with her music-oriented family during her childhood. She appeared in the 1993 film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit alongside Whoopi Goldberg. In high school, Hill was approached by Pras Michel for a band he started, which his cousin Wyclef Jean soon joined. They renamed themselves the Fugees and released the albums Blunted on Reality (1994) and the Grammy Award-winning The Score (1996), which sold seven million copies in the U.S. Hill rose to prominence for her African-American and Caribbean music influences on her rapping and singing as well as her performance on the Fugees version of “Killing Me Softly”. She began to focus on solo projects, writing and producing “A Rose Is Still a Rose” by Aretha Franklin, then featuring on the Grammy Award-nominated songs “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” by Nas and Guantanamera by Wyclef Jean. Her tumultuous romantic relationship with Jean led to the split of the band in 1997, after which she began work on her solo album.
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998) remains Hill’s sole solo studio album. It received widespread critical acclaim for showcasing a representation of life and relationships and locating a contemporary voice within the neo soul genre. The album debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 and has sold approximately ten million copies there, being certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America. This included the singles “Doo Wop (That Thing)”, “Ex-Factor”, and “Everything Is Everything”. At the 41st Grammy Awards, the record earned her five awards, including Album of the Year and Best New Artist. During this time, she won several other awards and became a common sight on the cover of magazines.Soon afterward Hill dropped out of the public eye, dissatisfied with the music industry and suffering from the pressures of fame. Her last full-length recording, the new-material live album MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 (2002), sold approximately one million copies in the U.S. and sharply divided critics upon its release, but has received retrospective praise. Hill’s subsequent activity, which includes the release of a few songs and occasional festival appearances, has been sporadic. Hill has six children, five of them with Rohan Marley. In 2012, she pleaded guilty to tax evasion and served a three-month prison sentence the following year.
Lawrence “Kris” Parker (born August 20, 1965), better known by his stage names KRS-One (; an abbreviation of “Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone”) and Teacha, is an American rapper, lyricist and occasional producer from New York. He rose to prominence as part of the hip hop group Boogie Down Productions, which he formed with DJ Scott La Rock in the mid-1980s. KRS-One is best known for his top hits, “Sound of da Police”, “Love’s Gonna Get’cha (Material Love)”, and “My Philosophy”, among others. Boogie Down Productions received numerous awards and critical acclaim in their early years. Following the release of the group’s debut album, Criminal Minded, fellow artist Scott La Rock was shot and killed, but KRS-One continued the group, effectively as a solo project. He began releasing records under his own name in 1993. He is politically active, having started the Stop the Violence Movement after Scott’s death. He’s also a vegan activist, expressed in songs such as “Beef”. He is widely considered an influence to many hip hop artists, including 2Pac and Eminem.
Tariq Trotter (born October 3, 1973), better known as Black Thought, is an American rapper, actor and the lead MC of the Philadelphia-based hip hop group the Roots, which he co-founded with drummer Questlove (Ahmir Thompson). Regarded as “one of the most skilled, incisive, and prolific rappers of his time”, he is widely lauded for his live performance skills, continuous multisyllabic rhyme schemes, complex lyricism, double entendres, and politically aware lyrics. With the Roots, he is a singer and rapper on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, frequently playing games with Fallon and his guests.
Jacques Bermon Webster II (born April 30, 1991), known professionally as Travis Scott (formerly stylized as Travi$ Scott), is an American rapper and record producer. His stage name is the namesake of a favorite uncle combined with the first name of one of his inspirations, Kid Cudi (whose real name is Scott Mescudi).In 2012, Scott signed his first major-label contract with Epic Records. In November of the same year, Scott signed a publishing deal with Kanye West’s GOOD Music, as part of its production wing Very GOOD Beats. In April 2013, Scott signed a recording contract with T.I.’s Grand Hustle imprint. Scott’s first full-length project, the mixtape Owl Pharaoh, was self-released in 2013. It was followed with a second mixtape, Days Before Rodeo, in August 2014. His debut studio album, Rodeo (2015), was led by the hit single “Antidote”. His second album, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight (2016), became his first number one album on the Billboard 200. The following year, Scott released a collaborative album with Quavo titled Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho under the group name Huncho Jack.
In 2018, his third studio album, Astroworld, was released to critical acclaim and produced his first Billboard Hot 100 number one single, “Sicko Mode” (featuring Drake). In late 2019, Scott’s record label Cactus Jack Records released the compilation album JackBoys which became the first number one album on the Billboard 200 of the 2020s. After the release of his single “Franchise” (featuring Young Thug and M.I.A.) in September 2020, Scott became the first artist on the Hot 100 to have three songs debut at number one in less than a year. He has been nominated for eight Grammy Awards and won a Billboard Music Award and a Latin Grammy Award.
Scott has gained notoriety for controversies and legal issues regarding safety at his concerts. On November 5, 2021, ten people died and hundreds were injured in a crowd crush moving toward the stage during Scott’s performance at his Astroworld Festival in his hometown of Houston, Texas.
Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr. (born October 20, 1971), known professionally as Snoop Dogg (previously Snoop Doggy Dogg and briefly Snoop Lion), is an American rapper, songwriter, media personality, actor, and entrepreneur. His fame dates to 1992 when he featured on Dr. Dre’s debut solo single, “Deep Cover”, and then on Dre’s debut solo album, The Chronic. Broadus has since sold over 23 million albums in the United States and 35 million albums worldwide.Broadus’ debut solo album, Doggystyle, produced by Dr. Dre, was released by Death Row Records in November 1993, and debuted at number one on the popular albums chart, the Billboard 200, and on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Selling 800,000 copies in its first week, Doggystyle was certified quadruple-platinum in 1994 and bore several hit singles, including “What’s My Name?” and “Gin & Juice”. In 1994, Death Row Records released a soundtrack, by Broadus, for the short film Murder Was the Case, starring Snoop. In 1996, his second album, Tha Doggfather, also debuted at number one on both charts, with “Snoop’s Upside Ya Head” as the lead single. The next year, the album was certified double-platinum.
After leaving Death Row Records in January 1998, Broadus signed with No Limit Records, releasing three Snoop albums: Da Game is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told (1998), No Limit Top Dogg (1999), and Tha Last Meal (2000). In 2002, he signed with Priority/Capitol/EMI Records, releasing Paid tha Cost to Be da Boss. In 2004, he signed to Geffen Records, releasing his next three albums: R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece, then Tha Blue Carpet Treatment, and Ego Trippin’. Priority Records released his album Malice ‘n Wonderland during 2009, followed by Doggumentary during 2011. Snoop Dogg has starred in motion pictures and hosted several television shows, including Doggy Fizzle Televizzle, Snoop Dogg’s Father Hood, and Dogg After Dark. He also coaches a youth football league and high-school football team. In September 2009, EMI hired him as the chairman of a reactivated Priority Records.In 2012, after a trip to Jamaica, Broadus announced a conversion to Rastafari and a new alias, Snoop Lion. As Snoop Lion he released a reggae album, Reincarnated, and a documentary film of the same name, about his Jamaican experience, in early 2013. His 13th studio album, Bush, was released in May 2015 and marked a return of the Snoop Dogg name. His 14th solo studio album, Coolaid, was released in July 2016. Snoop has had 17 Grammy nominations without a win. In March 2016, the night before WrestleMania 32 in Arlington, Texas, he was inducted into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame, having made several appearances for the company, including as master of ceremonies during a match at WrestleMania XXIV. In 2018, Snoop announced that he was “a born-again Christian” and released his first gospel album Bible of Love. On November 19, 2018, Snoop Dogg was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He released his seventeenth solo album, I Wanna Thank Me, in 2019.
Marshall Bruce Mathers III (born October 17, 1972), known professionally as Eminem (; formerly stylized as EMINƎM), is an American rapper, songwriter, and record producer. Eminem is among the best-selling music artists of all time, with estimated worldwide sales of over 220 million records. He is credited with popularizing hip hop in Middle America and is critically acclaimed as one of the greatest rappers of all time.Eminem’s global success and acclaimed works are widely regarded as having broken racial barriers for the acceptance of white rappers in popular music. While much of his transgressive work during the early 2000s made him hugely controversial, he came to be a representation of popular angst of the American underclass. He has been influential for many artists of various genres. After his debut album Infinite (1996) and the extended play Slim Shady EP (1997), Eminem signed with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment and subsequently achieved mainstream popularity in 1999 with The Slim Shady LP. His next two releases, The Marshall Mathers LP (2000) and The Eminem Show (2002), were worldwide successes and were both nominated for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. After the release of his next album, Encore (2004), Eminem went on hiatus in 2005, partly due to a prescription drug addiction. He returned to the music industry four years later with the release of Relapse (2009) and Recovery was released the following year. Recovery was the best-selling album worldwide of 2010, making it Eminem’s second album, after The Eminem Show in 2002, to be the best-selling album of the year worldwide. In the following years, he released the US number one albums The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013), Revival (2017), Kamikaze (2018) and Music to Be Murdered By (2020).
Eminem made his debut in the film industry with the musical drama film 8 Mile (2002), playing a fictionalized version of himself, and his track “Lose Yourself” from its soundtrack won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, making him the first hip hop artist ever to win the award. Eminem has made cameo appearances in the films The Wash (2001), Funny People (2009) and The Interview (2014) and the television series Entourage (2010). He has also developed other ventures, including Shady Records, a joint venture with manager Paul Rosenberg, which helped launch the careers of artists such as 50 Cent, Yelawolf and Obie Trice, among others. He has also established his own channel, Shade 45, on Sirius XM Radio. In addition to his solo career, Eminem was a member of the hip hop group D12. He is also known for collaborations with fellow Detroit-based rapper Royce da 5’9″; the two are collectively known as Bad Meets Evil.
He was the best-selling music artist in the United States of the 2000s and the best-selling male music artist in the United States of the 2010s, third overall. Billboard named him the “Artist of the Decade (2000–2009)”. The Marshall Mathers LP, The Eminem Show, “Lose Yourself”, “Love the Way You Lie” and “Not Afraid” have all been certified Diamond or higher by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Rolling Stone has included him in its lists of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time. He has won numerous awards, including 15 Grammy Awards, eight American Music Awards, 17 Billboard Music Awards, an Academy Award and an MTV Europe Music Global Icon Award. He has had ten number-one albums on the Billboard 200—which all consecutively debuted at number one on the chart, making him the first artist to achieve this—and five number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100.
LL Cool J
James Todd Smith (born January 14, 1968), known professionally as LL Cool J (short for Ladies Love Cool James), is an American rapper, record producer, and actor. With the breakthrough success of his single “I Need a Beat” and the Radio LP, LL Cool J became an early hip hop act to achieve mainstream success along with Kurtis Blow and Run-DMC.
LL Cool J has released 13 studio albums and two greatest hits compilations. His twelfth album Exit 13 (2008), was his last for his long-tenured deal with Def Jam Recordings. LL Cool J has appeared in numerous films, including In Too Deep, Any Given Sunday, Deep Blue Sea, S.W.A.T., Mindhunters, and Edison. He currently plays NCIS Special Agent Sam Hanna in the CBS crime drama television series NCIS: Los Angeles. LL Cool J also is the host of Lip Sync Battle on Paramount Network.A two-time Grammy Award winner, LL Cool J is known for hip hop songs such as “Going Back to Cali”, “I’m Bad”, “The Boomin’ System”, “Rock the Bells”, and “Mama Said Knock You Out”, as well as R&B hits such as “Doin’ It”, “I Need Love”, “All I Have”, “Around the Way Girl” and “Hey Lover”. In 2010, VH1 placed him on their “100 Greatest Artists Of All Time” list. In 2017, LL Cool J became the first rapper to receive the Kennedy Center Honors. In 2021, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with an award for Musical Excellence.
O’Shea Jackson Sr. (born June 15, 1969), known professionally as Ice Cube, is an American rapper, actor, and filmmaker. His lyrics on N.W.A’s 1988 album Straight Outta Compton contributed to gangsta rap’s widespread popularity, and his political rap solo albums AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (1990), Death Certificate (1991), and The Predator (1992) were critically and commercially successful. He has also had an active film career since the early 1990s. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of N.W.A in 2016.A native of Los Angeles, Jackson formed his first rap group called C.I.A. in 1986. In 1987, with Eazy-E and Dr. Dre, he formed the pioneering gangsta rap group N.W.A. As its lead rapper, he wrote some of Dre’s and most of Eazy’s lyrics on Straight Outta Compton, a landmark album that shaped West Coast hip hop’s early identity and helped differentiate it from East Coast rap. N.W.A was also known for their violent lyrics, threatening to attack abusive police and innocent civilians alike, which stirred controversy. After a monetary dispute over the group’s management by Eazy-E and Jerry Heller, Cube left N.W.A in late 1989, teaming with New York artists and launching a solo rap career.Ice Cube entered cinema by playing Doughboy in director John Singleton’s feature debut Boyz n the Hood, a 1991 drama named after a 1987 rap song that Ice Cube wrote. Ice Cube also cowrote and starred in the 1995 comedy film Friday; it premised a successful franchise and reshaped his persona into a bankable movie star. His directorial debut was the 1998 film The Players Club. As of 2020, he has appeared in about 40 films, including the 1999 war comedy Three Kings, family comedies like the Barbershop series, and buddy cop comedies 21 Jump Street, 22 Jump Street, and Ride Along. He was an executive producer of many of these films, as well as of the 2015 biopic Straight Outta Compton.
Andre Romelle Young (born February 18, 1965), known professionally as Dr. Dre, is an American rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur. He is the founder and CEO of Aftermath Entertainment and Beats Electronics, and previously co-founded, co-owned, and was the president of Death Row Records. Dr. Dre began his career as a member of the World Class Wreckin’ Cru in 1985 and later found fame with the gangsta rap group N.W.A. The group popularized explicit lyrics in hip hop to detail the violence of street life. During the early 1990s, Dre was credited as a key figure in the crafting and popularization of West Coast G-funk, a subgenre of hip hop characterized by a synthesizer foundation and slow, heavy beats.
Dre’s solo debut studio album The Chronic (1992), released under Death Row Records, made him one of the best-selling American music artists of 1993. It earned him a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance for the single “Let Me Ride”, as well as several accolades for the single “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang”. That year, he produced Death Row labelmate Snoop Doggy Dogg’s debut album Doggystyle and mentored producers such as his stepbrother Warren G (leading to the multi-platinum debut Regulate…G Funk Era in 1994) and Snoop Dogg’s cousin Daz Dillinger (leading to the double-platinum debut Dogg Food by Tha Dogg Pound in 1995), as well as mentor to upcoming producers Sam Sneed and Mel-Man. In 1996, Dr. Dre left Death Row Records to establish his own label, Aftermath Entertainment. He produced a compilation album, Dr. Dre Presents the Aftermath, in 1996, and released a solo album, 2001, in 1999.
During the 2000s, Dre focused on producing other artists, occasionally contributing vocals. He signed Eminem in 1998 and 50 Cent in 2002, and co-produced their albums. He has produced albums for and overseen the careers of many other rappers, including 2Pac, the D.O.C., Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, Knoc-turn’al, the Game, Kendrick Lamar, and Anderson .Paak. Dre has also had acting roles in movies such as Set It Off, The Wash and Training Day. He has won six Grammy Awards, including Producer of the Year, Non-Classical. Rolling Stone ranked him number 56 on the list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. He was the second-richest figure in hip hop as of 2018 with an estimated net worth of $800 million.
Accusations of Dre’s violence against women have been widely publicized. Following his assault of television host Dee Barnes, he was fined $2,500, given two years’ probation, ordered to undergo 240 hours of community service, and given a spot on an anti-violence public service announcement. A civil suit was settled out of court. In 2015, Michel’le, the mother of one of his children, accused him of domestic violence during their time together as a couple. Their abusive relationship is portrayed in her 2016 biopic Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel’le. Lisa Johnson, the mother of three of Dr. Dre’s children, stated that he beat her many times, including while she was pregnant. She was granted a restraining order against him. Former labelmate Tairrie B claimed that Dre assaulted her at a party in 1990, in response to her track “Ruthless Bitch”. Two weeks following the release of his third album, Compton in August 2015, he issued an apology to the women “I’ve hurt”.
Big Daddy Kane
Antonio Hardy (born September 10, 1968), better known by his stage name Big Daddy Kane, is an American rapper who began his career in 1986 as a member of the Juice Crew. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential and skilled MCs in hip hop.
The name Big Daddy Kane came from a variation on Caine, David Carradine’s character from the TV show Kung Fu (1972-1975), and a character called “Big Daddy” whom Vincent Price played in the film Beach Party (1963). Rolling Stone ranked his song “Ain’t No Half-Steppin'” number 25 on its list of The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time, calling him “a master wordsmith of rap’s late-golden age and a huge influence on a generation of MCs”.
Earl Simmons (December 18, 1970 – April 9, 2021), known by his stage name DMX (“Dark Man X”), was an American rapper and actor. He began rapping in the early 1990s and released his debut album It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot in 1998, to both critical acclaim and commercial success, selling 251,000 copies within its first week of release. DMX released his best-selling album, … And Then There Was X, in 1999, which included the hit single “Party Up (Up in Here)”. His 2003 singles “Where the Hood At?” and “X Gon’ Give It to Ya” were also commercially successful. He was the first artist to debut an album at No. 1 five times in a row on the Billboard 200 charts. Overall, DMX sold over 74 million records worldwide.DMX was featured in films such as Belly, Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds, Cradle 2 the Grave, and Last Hour. In 2006, he starred in the reality television series DMX: Soul of a Man, which was primarily aired on the BET cable television network. In 2003, he published a book of his memoirs entitled E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX.
Christopher Lee Rios (November 10, 1971 – February 7, 2000), better known by his stage name Big Pun (short for Big Punisher), was an American rapper and songwriter. Pun’s lyrics are notable for their technical efficiency, having exceptional breath control, heavy use of alliteration, as well as internal and multi-syllabic rhyming schemes. He is frequently cited as one of the best MCs of all time. Emerging from the underground hip hop scene in the Bronx borough of New York City in the early 1990s, he came to prominence during the latter half of the decade for his work with Fat Joe and the Terror Squad.
Big Pun was initially discovered by Fat Joe, and made his earliest appearance on Fat Joe’s 1995 album Jealous One’s Envy. In 1997, he signed with Loud Records as a solo artist, and released his Grammy-nominated debut studio album Capital Punishment in April 1998 to critical acclaim and commercial success, peaking at #5 on the Billboard 200 and becoming the first solo hip hop record by a Latino artist to go Platinum.
Aubrey Drake Graham (born October 24, 1986) is a Canadian rapper, singer, and actor. Gaining recognition by starring in the teen drama series Degrassi: The Next Generation (2001–08), Drake pursued a career in music releasing his debut mixtape Room for Improvement in 2006; he subsequently released the mixtapes Comeback Season (2007) and So Far Gone (2009) before signing with Young Money Entertainment.Drake released his debut studio album Thank Me Later in 2010, which debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200. He achieved major critical success with Take Care (2011), and commercial success with Nothing Was the Same (2013) and his first commercial mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (2015); the latter two were certified multi-platinum in the US. Drake’s fourth album Views (2016) sat atop the Billboard 200 for 13 nonconsecutive weeks, becoming the first album by a male solo artist to do so in over a decade, and featured the chart record-setting lead single “One Dance”. His second solo commercial mixtape More Life (2017) set then-multiple streaming records, and in 2018, he released the double album Scorpion, which contained the Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles “God’s Plan”, “Nice for What”, and “In My Feelings”. Leaving Young Money in 2018, Drake’s third commercial mixtape Dark Lane Demo Tapes was released in 2020, and featured the chart-topping “Toosie Slide”. In 2021, the EP Scary Hours 2 included the number one “What’s Next” and set chart records, and preceded his delayed sixth album Certified Lover Boy (2021); the album set the record for most U.S. top-ten entries from one album, with lead single “Way 2 Sexy” becoming his ninth number one.As an entrepreneur, Drake founded the OVO Sound record label with longtime collaborator 40 in 2012. In 2013, Drake became the new “global ambassador” of the Toronto Raptors, joining the executive committee of the NBA franchise, while owning naming rights to its practice facility. In 2016, he began collaborating with American entrepreneur Brent Hocking on the bourbon whiskey Virginia Black; it eventually broke sale records in Canada. Drake has also designed fashion, the most notable including a sub-label collaboration with Nike, alongside other business ventures. In 2018, he was reportedly responsible for 5 per cent (CAD$440 million) of Toronto’s CAD$8.8 billion annual tourism income.Among the world’s best-selling music artists, with over 170 million records sold, Drake is ranked as the highest-certified digital singles artist in the United States by the RIAA. He has won four Grammy Awards, six American Music Awards, a record 29 Billboard Music Awards, two Brit Awards, and three Juno Awards, and holds several Billboard Hot 100 chart records; Drake has the most top 10 singles (54), the most charted songs (258), the most simultaneously charted songs in one week (27), the most Hot 100 debuts in one week (22), and the most continuous time on the Hot 100 (431 weeks). He additionally has the most number-one singles on the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Hot Rap Songs, and Rhythmic Airplay charts.
Curtis James Jackson III (born July 6, 1975), better known by his stage name 50 Cent, is an American rapper, actor, and entrepreneur. Known for his impact in the hip hop industry, he has been described as a “master of the nuanced art of lyrical brevity”.Born in the South Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, Jackson began selling drugs at age 12 during the 1980s crack epidemic. He later began pursuing a musical career and in 2000 he produced Power of the Dollar for Columbia Records, but days before the planned release he was shot and the album was never released. In 2002, after 50 Cent released the compilation album Guess Who’s Back?, he was discovered by Eminem and signed to Shady Records, under the aegis of Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records.
With the aid of Eminem and Dr. Dre (who produced his first major-label album Get Rich or Die Tryin’), 50 Cent became one of the world’s best selling rappers and rose to prominence as de facto leader of East Coast hip hop group G-Unit. In 2003, he founded G-Unit Records, signing his G-Unit associates Young Buck, Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo. 50 Cent had similar commercial and critical success with his second album, The Massacre, which was released in 2005. He underwent musical changes by his fifth album, Animal Ambition (2014), and is currently working on his sixth studio album. He executive-produced and starred in the television series Power (2014–2020) and is slated to produce its spin-offs.50 Cent has sold over 30 million albums worldwide and won several awards, including a Grammy Award, thirteen Billboard Music Awards, six World Music Awards, three American Music Awards and four BET Awards. As an actor, Jackson appeared in the semi-autobiographical film Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2005), the war film Home of the Brave (2006), and the crime thriller film Righteous Kill (2008). 50 Cent was ranked the sixth-best artist of the 2000s and the third-best rapper (behind Eminem and Nelly) by Billboard. Rolling Stone ranked Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and “In da Club” in its lists of the “100 Best Albums of the 2000s” and “100 Best Songs of the 2000s” at numbers 37 and 13, respectively.
Jermaine Lamarr Cole (born January 28, 1985) is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer. Born on a military base in Germany and raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Cole initially gained recognition as a rapper following the release of his debut mixtape, The Come Up, in early 2007. Intent on further pursuing a musical career, he went on to release two additional mixtapes, The Warm Up (2009) and Friday Night Lights (2010) both to critical acclaim, after signing to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation imprint in 2009. Cole is regarded as one of the most influential rappers of his generation.Cole released his debut studio album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, in 2011. It debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200. His next album, Born Sinner (2013), also topped the Billboard 200. Moving into more conscious themes, 2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014) topped the Billboard 200 and earned Cole a Best Rap Album nomination at the 2015 Grammy Awards. His jazz influenced fourth album, 4 Your Eyez Only (2016), debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. Cole’s fifth album, KOD (2018), became his fifth number-one album on the Billboard 200 and featured a then-record six simultaneous top 20 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, tying The Beatles. His sixth studio album, The Off-Season, was released on May 14, 2021.
Self-taught on piano, Cole also acts as a producer alongside his rap career, producing singles for artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Janet Jackson, as well as handling the majority of the production in his own projects. He has also developed other ventures, including Dreamville Records, as well as a non-profit organization called the Dreamville Foundation. Dreamville’s compilation album Revenge of the Dreamers III (2019) debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 2020 Grammy Awards. In January 2015, Cole decided to house single mothers rent-free at his childhood home in Fayetteville, North Carolina.Cole has won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Song, a Billboard Music Award for Top Rap Album, three Soul Train Music Awards, and 8 BET Hip Hop Awards. All five of his albums have been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), as well as Revenge of the Dreamers III.
Dana Elaine Owens (born March 18, 1970), known professionally as Queen Latifah, is an American singer-songwriter, rapper, actress, and producer. Born in Newark, New Jersey, she signed with Tommy Boy Records in 1989 and released her debut album All Hail the Queen on November 28, 1989, featuring the hit single “Ladies First”. Nature of a Sista’ (1991) was her second and final album with Tommy Boy Records.
Latifah starred as Khadijah James on the FOX sitcom Living Single from 1993 to 1998. Her third album, Black Reign (1993), spawned the single “U.N.I.T.Y.”, which was influential in raising awareness of women’s rights and the perspective of women in communities worldwide. The record won a Grammy Award and peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100. She then starred in the lead role of Set It Off (1996) and released her fourth album, Order in the Court, on June 16, 1998, with Motown Records. Latifah garnered acclaim with her role of Matron “Mama” Morton in the musical film Chicago (2002), receiving a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Latifah released her fifth album The Dana Owens Album in 2004. In 2007 and 2009, she released two more studio albums – Trav’lin’ Light and Persona. She created the daytime talk show The Queen Latifah Show, which ran from 1999 to 2001, and again from 2013 to 2015, in syndication. She has appeared in a number of films, such as Bringing Down the House (2003), Taxi (2004), Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2005), Beauty Shop (2005), Last Holiday (2006), Hairspray (2007), Joyful Noise (2012), 22 Jump Street (2014) and Girls Trip (2017) and provided voice work in the Ice Age film series. Latifah received critical acclaim for her portrayal of blues singer Bessie Smith in the HBO film Bessie (2015), which she co-produced, winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie. From 2016 to 2019, she starred as Carlotta Brown in the musical drama series Star. In 2020, she portrayed Hattie McDaniel in the miniseries Hollywood.
She has been described as a “feminist” rapper. Latifah received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006, as the first hip hop artist to do so. Latifah’s work in music, film and television has earned her a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, two NAACP Image Awards, an Academy Award nomination and sales of over two million records.
Jarad Anthony Higgins (December 2, 1998 – December 8, 2019), known professionally as Juice Wrld (pronounced “juice world”; stylized as Juice WRLD), was an American rapper, singer, and songwriter. He is considered to be a leading figure in the development and popularity of emo-rap and SoundCloud rap. His stage name is derived from the film Juice (1992) and he stated it represents “taking over the world”.Higgins began his career as an independent artist in 2015 and signed a recording contract with Grade A Productions and Interscope Records in 2017. He gained recognition with his 2018 single “Lucid Dreams”, which peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100. It was included on his triple platinum debut studio album Goodbye & Good Riddance (2018), alongside the singles “All Girls Are the Same”, “Lean wit Me”, “Wasted”, and “Armed and Dangerous”, all of which charted on the Hot 100. He then collaborated with Future on the mixtape Wrld on Drugs (2018), and released his second album, Death Race for Love, in 2019; it contained the platinum singles “Robbery” and “Hear Me Calling” and became Higgins’ first number one debut on the US Billboard 200.
Higgins died following a drug overdose on December 8, 2019. His first posthumous album, Legends Never Die (2020), matched chart records for most successful posthumous debut and for most U.S. top-ten entries from one album, while the single “Come & Go” (with Marshmello) became Higgins’ second song to reach number two on the Hot 100. His second posthumous album, Fighting Demons, was released in 2021 alongside the documentary film Juice Wrld: Into the Abyss, and contained the US top 20 single “Already Dead”.
Dominique Armani Jones (born December 3, 1994), known professionally as Lil Baby, is an American rapper. He rose to mainstream fame in 2017 following the release of his mixtape Perfect Timing.Lil Baby’s debut studio album Harder Than Ever (2018) was certified RIAA Platinum and included the song “Yes Indeed” (with Drake), which peaked at six on the Billboard Hot 100. He went on to release two more mixtapes in 2018, Drip Harder and Street Gossip, the former containing his most popular song “Drip Too Hard”, which peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100, and the latter peaking at number two on the US Billboard 200. Lil Baby’s second studio album, My Turn (2020), peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 and is certified three times platinum by the RIAA. The song “We Paid” (with 42 Dugg) charted at number ten on the Hot 100. In June 2020, he released the single “The Bigger Picture”, which peaked at number three on the Hot 100, becoming the highest-charting song as a lead artist of his career. In 2021, Lil Baby and Chicago rapper Lil Durk released the collaborative album The Voice of the Heroes, which became his second number one project on the Billboard 200.
Throughout his career, Lil Baby has been nominated for three Grammy Awards, two American Music Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards, and seven BET Awards. He was crowned as the biggest all-genre ‘Artist of the Year’ at the Apple Music Awards 2020.
Ski Mask The Slump God
Stokeley Clevon Goulbourne (born April 18, 1996), known professionally as Ski Mask the Slump God (formerly stylized as $ki Mask “The Slump God”), is an American rapper and songwriter. He initially rose to prominence alongside XXXTentacion and their collective Members Only. In 2017, he released the singles “Catch Me Outside” and “Babywipe”, both of which were featured on his mixtape You Will Regret (2017), which was certified Gold by the RIAA.Goulbourne’s mixtape, Beware the Book of Eli, was released in May 2018 and peaked at No. 50 on the Billboard 200 chart. His debut album Stokeley (2018) peaked at number 6 on the US Billboard 200.
Austin Richard Post (born July 4, 1995), known professionally as Post Malone, is an American rapper, singer, and songwriter. Known for his introspective songwriting and variegated vocal styles, Malone has gained acclaim for blending genres and subgenres of pop, hip hop, R&B, and trap. His stage name was derived from inputting his birth name into a rap name generator.Malone began his music career as an independent artist in 2013 and attained recognition with his 2015 debut single “White Iverson”, which peaked at number 14 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Malone soon signed a recording contract with Republic Records and released his debut studio album, Stoney, in 2016, which contained the diamond hit single “Congratulations”. The album set the record for most weeks (77) on the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Malone’s second album, Beerbongs & Bentleys (2018), debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 and set several streaming records. It also contained the Hot 100 number-one singles “Rockstar” and “Psycho”, and was nominated for Album of the Year at the 2018 Grammy Awards.
His third number one, “Sunflower” (with Swae Lee), was the promotional and lead single to the soundtrack for the film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), and was included on Malone’s third album, Hollywood’s Bleeding (2019), which became Malone’s second number one. Its second single, “Circles”, also reached number one and set the record for the most weeks (39) in the top ten on the Hot 100.Among the best-selling music artists with over 80 million records sold, Malone has won 10 Billboard Music Awards, three American Music Awards, and one MTV Video Music Award, and has received six Grammy Award nominations. He holds several Billboard chart records: he is the first solo artist to top the Rap Airplay and Adult Contemporary charts, while “Circles” set the record for longest climb to number one (41 weeks) on Adult Contemporary chart by a solo artist.
Tione Jayden Merritt (born April 30, 2001), known professionally as Lil Tjay, is an American rapper and singer. His stage name is derived from the first letter of his first name and first three letters of his middle name.
In 2018, Lil Tjay signed to Columbia Records. Lil Tjay’s debut studio album, True 2 Myself, was released in 2019. The following year, he released the mixtape State of Emergency that features only drill artists from New York City. True 2 Myself debuted at number 5 on the Billboard 200, marking the album his first charted release. His second studio album, Destined 2 Win, was released in 2021 and included the single “Calling My Phone”, a collaboration with American singer 6lack, his highest-charting song yet.
Clifford Smith, Jr. (born March 2, 1971), better known by his stage name Method Man, is an American rapper, songwriter, record producer, and actor. He is known as a member of the East Coast hip hop collective Wu-Tang Clan. He is also half of the hip hop duo Method Man & Redman. He took his stage name from the 1979 film Method Man. In 1996, Smith won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, for “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By”, featuring American R&B singer Mary J. Blige, whom he currently stars with in Power Book II: Ghost, a spin-off of its original show Power.
Smith has appeared in films such as 187 (1997), Belly (1998), How High (2001), Garden State (2004), The Wackness (2008), Venom (2005), Red Tails (2012), Keanu (2016), and The Cobbler (2014). On television, he and frequent collaborator, fellow East Coast rapper Redman, co-starred on the short-lived Fox sitcom Method & Red. He has also had recurring roles in three HBO series, as Tug Daniels in Oz, Melvin “Cheese” Wagstaff in The Wire, and Rodney in The Deuce. Method Man also appears in the TBS comedy The Last O.G..
Anthony Criss (born December 2, 1970), better known by his stage name Treach, is an American rapper and actor. He is perhaps best known as the lead rapper of the hip hop group Naughty by Nature.
Anthony Cruz (born March 9, 1972), better known by his stage name AZ, is an American rapper from Brooklyn, New York. He is known for being a longtime and frequent music partner of East Coast rapper Nas and also a member of hip hop group The Firm alongside Nas, Foxy Brown, Cormega and Nature. Online magazine About.com listed AZ as the “Most Underrated [Rapper] of All Time”, and made it onto the sites’ “Top 50 MCs of Our Time (1987–2007)”, where he was reiterated as “arguably the most underrated lyricist ever.”
AZ first became known by appearing on Nas’s landmark 1994 album Illmatic on the song “Life’s a Bitch”, as well as featuring vocals on the opening track “The Genesis”. AZ signed with EMI, and soon released his debut album, Doe or Die, in 1995, to critical acclaim. The album’s lead single, “Sugar Hill”, became AZ’s major commercial success as a solo artist, reaching #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and achieving Gold status. AZ’s EMI contract was transferred to sister label Noo Trybe Records and Virgin Records when the EMI Label Group was shut down.
In 1997, AZ joined the group The Firm with Nas, Nature and Foxy Brown and released their only album as a group, The Album. In 1998, AZ released his second solo album, Pieces of a Man. The album fared well but did not chart quite as well as his debut and did not feature a crossover single like “Sugar Hill”.
After this album’s release, AZ signed with Motown and Universal Records and released 9 Lives. In 2002 he released Aziatic. A single from the album, “The Essence” (featuring Nas), was nominated at the 2003 Grammy Awards for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi (born January 30, 1984), known professionally as Kid Cudi ( KUDD-ee; often stylized as KiD CuDi), is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, and actor. He has widely been recognized as an influence on several contemporary hip hop and alternative acts. His music is often autobiographical, telling of his childhood hardships dealing with depression, loneliness and alienation, his struggle with alcohol and drugs into adulthood, as well as themes of heartbreak, dissipation and celebration. Cudi began to gain major recognition following the release of his first official full-length project, a mixtape titled A Kid Named Cudi (2008), which caught the attention of American musician Kanye West, who subsequently signed Cudi to his GOOD Music label imprint by late 2008.
In early 2008, Cudi had risen to prominence with the release of his debut single “Day ‘n’ Nite”, which became a worldwide hit. The song was later featured on Cudi’s seminal debut album, Man on the Moon: The End of Day (2009), which was eventually certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 2017. The album also included the singles “Make Her Say” and “Pursuit of Happiness”, both of which achieved significant chart success. In 2010, Cudi released his second album Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager, which also attained platinum status and features the singles “Erase Me” and “Mr. Rager”. Later that year he formed WZRD, a rock band, with his long-time collaborator Dot da Genius. Their eponymous debut album (2012) debuted at number one on the Billboard Top Rock Albums chart.Cudi has since released the solo albums Indicud (2013), Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon (2014), Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven (2015), and Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ (2016). Cudi’s joint album with Kanye West, under the eponymous name Kids See Ghosts (2018), was met with widespread critical acclaim and was named among the best albums of 2018. In 2020, Cudi earned his first number-one song on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart with “The Scotts”, a collaboration with Houston rapper Travis Scott. Man on the Moon III: The Chosen, issued in 2020, became his most commercially successful album to date, with the RIAA certifying it gold status later that year.
Cudi has sold 22 million certified records in the United States and has won two Grammy Awards from five nominations. He has worked with numerous prominent artists spanning several different genres in the music industry, such as Jay-Z, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, David Guetta, Steve Aoki, MGMT, Mary J. Blige, Shakira, Ariana Grande and Michael Bolton, among others. After signing to GOOD Music, Cudi has since gone on to launch his own vanity labels, the now-dissolved Dream On and current label imprint Wicked Awesome Records. Cudi also ventured into acting when he was cast in the HBO series How to Make It in America. He has since appeared in several feature films, including Goodbye World (2013), Need for Speed (2014), Entourage (2015), Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020), Don’t Look Up (2021) and more. In addition, he has made appearances on television shows such as One Tree Hill, The Cleveland Show, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Westworld. In 2015, he was the bandleader on the IFC series Comedy Bang! Bang! and in 2020 was added as a cast member for the HBO mini-series We Are Who We Are.
Tyler, the Creator
Tyler Gregory Okonma (born March 6, 1991), better known as Tyler, the Creator, is an American rapper and record producer.
Following a large contribution to Odd Future’s early work, Tyler released his debut solo mixtape, Bastard, in 2009. After releasing his debut studio album, Goblin, via XL Recordings in April 2011, he signed a joint deal with RED Distribution and Sony Music Entertainment for himself and his label, Odd Future Records. With his gritty, horrorcore-influenced earlier releases, Tyler was often criticized for his use of homophobic and misogynistic slurs in his lyrics. He released the albums Wolf (2013) and Cherry Bomb (2015), the latter of which was considered to be a contrast from his previous releases as he experimented with melody-focused and jazz-fused sounds. Tyler’s following albums, Flower Boy (2017), Igor (2019) and Call Me If You Get Lost (2021), were all released to widespread critical acclaim, with the latter two also debuting at number one on the Billboard 200.
Tyler has won a Grammy Award, a BRIT Award, and an MTV Video Music Award. He created the cover art for all of Odd Future’s releases, and has also designed the group’s clothing and other merchandise. In 2011, Tyler started the clothing company, Golf Wang. In 2012, he began hosting an annual music festival called Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival. He created his own streaming service app named “Golf Media,” which ran from 2015 to 2018 and contained original scripted series from Tyler and a livestream of each Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival.
Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. (born September 27, 1982), known professionally as Lil Wayne, is an American rapper and record executive. He is regarded by many contemporaries as one of the most influential hip hop artists of his generation, and often cited as one of the greatest rappers of all time. His career began in 1995, at the age of 12, when he was signed by rapper Birdman, joining Cash Money Records as the youngest member of the label. From then on, Wayne was the flagship artist of Cash Money Records before ending his association with the company in June 2018.In 1995, Wayne was put in a duo with label-mate B.G. (at the time known as Lil Doogie) and they recorded an album, True Story, released that year, although Wayne (at the time known as Baby D) only appeared on three tracks. Wayne and B.G. soon joined the southern hip hop group Hot Boys, with Cash Money label-mates Juvenile and Turk in 1997; they released their debut album Get It How U Live! in October that year. The Hot Boys became popular following the release of the album Guerrilla Warfare (1999) and the song “Bling Bling”.
Lil Wayne’s solo debut album Tha Block Is Hot (1999) was his solo breakthrough, and he reached higher popularity with his fourth album Tha Carter (2004) and fifth album Tha Carter II (2005), as well as several mixtapes and collaborations throughout 2006 and 2007. He gained more prominence within the music industry with his sixth album Tha Carter III (2008), with first-week sales of over one million copies in the US. The album won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album and included successful singles “A Milli”, “Got Money” (featuring T-Pain), and “Lollipop” (featuring Static Major)—the latter being his first single to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100. In February 2010, Wayne released his seventh studio album, Rebirth, which experimented with rap rock and was met with generally negative reviews. A month later in March 2010, Lil Wayne began serving an 8-month jail sentence in New York after being convicted of criminal possession of a weapon stemming from an incident in July 2007. His eighth studio album I Am Not a Human Being (2010) was released during his incarceration, while his 2011 album Tha Carter IV was released following his release. Tha Carter IV sold 964,000 copies in its first week in the United States. His twelfth studio album Tha Carter V was released in 2018 after multiple delays. Wayne’s thirteenth album, Funeral, was released in early 2020.Lil Wayne has sold over 120 million records worldwide, including more than 20 million albums and 70 million digital tracks in the United States, making him one of the world’s best-selling music artists. He has won five Grammy Awards, 11 BET Awards, four Billboard Music Awards, two MTV Video Music Awards and eight NAACP Image Awards. On September 27, 2012, he became the first male artist to surpass Elvis Presley with the most entries on the Billboard Hot 100, with 109 songs. Lil Wayne also currently serves as the chief executive officer (CEO) of his own label, Young Money Entertainment.
Richard Martin Lloyd Walters (born January 14, 1965), better known as Slick Rick, is an English-American rapper and record producer.
He rose to prominence with Doug E. Fresh & the Get Fresh Crew in the mid-1980s. Their songs “The Show” and “La Di Da Di” are considered early hip hop classics. “La Di Da Di” is one of the most sampled songs in history.In 1986, Slick Rick became the third artist signed to Def Jam Records. He has released four albums: The Great Adventures of Slick Rick (1988), The Ruler’s Back (1991), Behind Bars (1994) and The Art of Storytelling (1999). His music has been sampled and interpolated over 1,000 times, in dozens of songs by artists, including Eminem, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, the Beastie Boys, TLC, Nas, Miley Cyrus, Kanye West, Black Star, The Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, MC Ren, Montell Jordan and Color Me Badd. In the process, Slick Rick has become one of the most-sampled hip-hop artists ever. Many of these songs based on Slick Rick samples went on to become hit singles.
He was one of the very first hip-hop artists to be covered, when Snoop Dogg (then Snoop Doggy Dogg) rapped Rick’s lyrics from his record “La Di Da Di” almost in their entirety on the track ‘Lodi Dodi’ on his debut album Doggystyle in 1993. At the time it was very uncommon for rappers to use complete song lyrics from another artist.Slick Rick has been a VH-1 Hip Hop Honors honoree, and About.com ranked him No. 12 on their list of the Top 50 MCs of Our Time, while The Source ranked him No. 15 on their list of the Top 50 Lyricists of All Time. He has acted and cameo-ed in 10 movies and videos.
He makes an appearance as a playable character in the video games Def Jam: Fight for NY and Def Jam Fight for NY: The Takeover.
Carlton Douglas Ridenhour (born August 1, 1960), known professionally as Chuck D, is an American rapper. As the leader of the rap group Public Enemy, which he co-founded in 1985 with Flavor Flav, Chuck D helped create politically and socially conscious hip hop music in the mid-1980s. The Source ranked him at No. 12 on their list of the Top 50 Hip-Hop Lyricists of All Time.
Albert Johnson (November 2, 1974 – June 20, 2017), better known by his stage name Prodigy, was an American rapper. With Havoc, he was one half of the hip hop duo Mobb Deep.
Terrence LeVarr Thornton (born May 13, 1977), better known by his stage name Pusha T, is an American rapper and record executive. He initially gained major recognition as half of hip hop duo Clipse, alongside his brother and fellow rapper No Malice, with whom he founded Re-Up Records. In September 2010, Thornton announced his signing to Kanye West’s GOOD Music imprint, under the aegis of Def Jam Recordings. Later that year, he was featured on West’s single “Runaway,” which peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In March 2011, he released his first solo project, a mixtape titled Fear of God. Thornton released his debut solo album, My Name Is My Name, in October 2013. In November 2015, Kanye West appointed Pusha T to take over his role as president of GOOD Music. In December 2015, he released his second studio album King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude. In 2018, he released his third studio album Daytona to critical acclaim.
Reginald Noble (born April 17, 1970), better known by his stage name Redman, is an American rapper, DJ, record producer, and actor. He rose to fame in the early 1990s as an artist on the Def Jam label.
He is well known for his collaborations with his close friend Method Man, as one-half of the rap duo Method Man & Redman, including their starring roles in films and sitcoms. He was also a member of the Def Squad in the late 1990s.
Lamont Coleman (May 30, 1974 – February 15, 1999), known professionally as Big L, was an American rapper and songwriter.Emerging from Harlem in New York City in the early to mid-1990s, Coleman became well known amongst underground hip-hop fans for his freestyling ability. He was eventually signed to Columbia Records, where, in 1995, he released his debut album, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous. On February 15, 1999, Coleman was shot nine times in his East Harlem neighborhood and later died from his injuries.
Noted for his use of wordplay, multiple writers at AllMusic, HipHopDX and The Source have praised Coleman for his lyrical ability, and he has also been described as “one of the most auspicious storytellers in hip-hop history.” Regarding Coleman’s legacy in an interview with Funkmaster Flex, Nas claimed “[Coleman] scared me to death. When I heard [his performance at the Apollo Theater] on tape, I was scared to death. I said, ‘Yo, it’s no way I can compete if this is what I gotta compete with.'”
Clifford Joseph Harris Jr. (born September 25, 1980), better known by the stage names T.I. and Tip (often stylized as TIP or T.I.P.), is an American rapper, record executive, and actor. Harris, one of the highest selling hip-hop artists of all time, is also known as one of the pioneers of the hip hop subgenre trap music, along with fellow Atlanta-based rappers Jeezy and Gucci Mane. Harris signed his first major-label record deal in 1999 with Arista Records subsidiary LaFace. In 2001, he released his debut album and only project with the label, I’m Serious, as well as forming the southern hip hop group P$C. Upon being dropped from Arista, Harris signed to Atlantic and soon co-founded his own label imprint, Grand Hustle Records, which he launched in 2002.Harris, a three time Grammy Award winner, has released 11 studio albums, with seven of them reaching the top five of the US Billboard 200 chart. During his career, Harris has also released several highly successful singles, including Billboard Hot 100 number-one hits “Whatever You Like” and “Live Your Life” (featuring Rihanna), the latter replaced the former atop the chart and helped Harris join a select group of artists to replace themselves at number one and simultaneously occupy the top two positions. Harris began to gain major recognition in 2003 following his first high-profile feature on fellow Atlanta-based rapper Bone Crusher’s single “Never Scared”. Harris earned more prominence with the release of Trap Muzik (2003), which included the Top 40 songs “Rubber Band Man” and “Let’s Get Away” (featuring Jazze Pha). The following year, Harris appeared on Destiny’s Child’s international hit “Soldier” (alongside Lil Wayne), and capitalized on it with the release of his Urban Legend (2004) album. His subsequent albums, King and T.I. vs. T.I.P., generated high record sales and were supported by popular singles, such as “What You Know” and “Big Shit Poppin’ (Do It)”, respectively.
Harris’ sixth album, Paper Trail (2008), became his most successful project, with the album being certified gold for first-week sales of over 500,000 copies in the United States, additionally making it his third consecutive number one album. In 2013, Harris was featured on Robin Thicke’s single “Blurred Lines” (alongside Pharrell Williams), which peaked at number one on several major music charts. In November 2013, Harris announced that he had signed with Columbia Records after his 10-year contract with Atlantic came to an end. He released his Columbia debut Paperwork, in October 2014. In February 2016, Harris signed a distribution deal with Roc Nation and another deal with Epic Records in September 2018. The former served as a means to release his political Us or Else EP series, while the latter released his long-delayed tenth album Dime Trap in October of that year.
Harris has served two terms in county jail, twice for probation violations and a federal prison bid for a U.S. federal weapons charge. While serving 11 months in prison, he released his seventh studio album No Mercy (2010). Harris branched out into entrepreneurship with his label, Grand Hustle Records, which he co-founded in 2003 with longtime business partner Jason Geter. Prominent industry acts have been signed to T.I. through the label, including Travis Scott, B.o.B, and Iggy Azalea. Harris has also had a successful acting career, starring in the films ATL, Takers, Get Hard, Identity Thief, and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films Ant-Man and its sequel. He is also a published author of two novels, Power & Beauty (2011) and Trouble & Triumph (2012), both of which were released to moderate success. Harris has also starred in the American reality television series T.I.’s Road to Redemption, T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle, and The Grand Hustle. In 2009, Billboard ranked him as the 27th best artist of the 2000s decade.
Melissa Arnette Elliott (born July 1, 1971) is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer. She embarked on her music career with R&B girl group Sista in the early-mid 1990s and later became a member of the Swing Mob collective along with childhood friend and longtime collaborator Timbaland, with whom she worked on projects for American R&B acts Aaliyah, 702, Total, and SWV. Following several collaborations and guest appearances, she launched her solo career in 1997 with her debut album Supa Dupa Fly, which spawned the top 20 single “Sock It 2 Me”. The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, the highest charting debut for a female rapper at the time.Elliott’s second album, Da Real World, was released in 1999 and produced the singles “She’s a Bitch”, “All n My Grill”, and top five hit “Hot Boyz”. The remix of the latter song broke the record for most weeks at number-one on the US R&B chart on the issue dated January 15, 2000, as well as spending 18 weeks at number one on the Hot Rap Singles chart from December 1999 to March 2000. With the release of Miss E… So Addictive (2001), Under Construction (2002), and This Is Not a Test (2003), Elliott established an international career that yielded hits including “Get Ur Freak On”, “One Minute Man”, “4 My People”, “Gossip Folks”, and “Work It”. The latter won her a Grammy Award for Best Female Rap Solo Performance.Elliott went on to win four Grammy Awards and sell over 30 million records in the United States. She is the best-selling female rapper in Nielsen Music history, according to Billboard in 2017. In 2019, she released her first extended play, titled Iconology, became the first female rapper inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and received the MTV VMAs Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award for her impact on the music video landscape. In 2020, Billboard ranked her at number five on the 100 Greatest Music Video Artists of All Time. In 2021, she was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Cameron Jibril Thomaz (born September 8, 1987), better known by his stage name Wiz Khalifa, is an American rapper and singer. He released his debut album, Show and Prove, in 2006, and signed to Warner Bros. Records in 2007. His Eurodance-influenced single “Say Yeah” received urban radio airplay, charting on the Rhythmic Top 40 and Hot Rap Tracks charts in 2008, becoming his first minor hit.Thomaz parted with Warner Bros. and released his second album, Deal or No Deal, in November 2009. He released the mixtape Kush and Orange Juice as a free download in April 2010; he then signed with Atlantic Records. Thomaz then adopted a more radio-friendly, pop-oriented approach with his debut single for Atlantic, “Black and Yellow”. The song, a tribute to his hometown of Pittsburgh, debuted at number 100 and eventually peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song became the lead single for his third album Rolling Papers, which was released in March 2011, and also had the Top 40 singles “Roll Up” and “No Sleep”.The album’s success was followed up with O.N.I.F.C. in December 2012, which was backed by the singles “Work Hard, Play Hard” and “Remember You” (featuring the Weeknd). Wiz released his fifth album Blacc Hollywood in August 2014, backed by the lead single “We Dem Boyz”. In March 2015, he released “See You Again” (featuring Charlie Puth) for the soundtrack of the film Furious 7 and the song peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for 12 non-consecutive weeks.
Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph (born October 22, 1992), known professionally as 21 Savage, is a rapper based in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. Born in London, he moved to Atlanta with his mother at age seven. He became known after releasing two mixtapes in 2015, before attaining international attention with the release of the collaborative EP Savage Mode (2016) with Metro Boomin; its singles “X” (featuring Future) and “No Heart” peaked within the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 and 21 Savage’s profile also later increased with a guest feature on Drake’s 2016 single “Sneakin'”. He then signed a recording contract with Epic Records in January 2017.21 Savage’s debut studio album, Issa Album (2017), peaked at number two on the U.S. Billboard 200 and its lead single “Bank Account” reached number 12 on the Hot 100. He then released the collaborative album Without Warning (2017) with Offset and Metro Boomin, with the song “Ric Flair Drip” peaking at number 13 on the Hot 100. 21 Savage featured on Post Malone’s 2017 single “Rockstar”, which reached number one on the Hot 100 and nominated for Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance at the 2019 Grammy Awards. His second album, I Am > I Was (2018), became his first U.S. number one album and spawned the hit song “A Lot” (featuring J. Cole), which won Best Rap Song at the 2020 Grammy Awards. 21 Savage’s highly anticipated third album, Savage Mode II (2020), a sequel collaboration with Metro Boomin to their 2016 EP, debuted atop the Billboard 200, and spawned the U.S. top 10 singles “Runnin” and “Mr. Right Now”.21 Savage was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on February 3, 2019. Officials revealed his status as a British citizen who entered the U.S. in July 2005 and unlawfully overstayed a H-4 visa that expired in 2006. He was granted bond on February 12 and released the next day, pending the outcome of an expedited deportation hearing, which was initially scheduled for April 9, but was later postponed indefinitely, with 21 Savage’s lawyers stating he was legally residing in the U.S. for several years prior to the 2005 H-4 visa.
Sir Robert Bryson Hall II (born January 22, 1990), known professionally as Logic, is an American rapper and record producer. He has released six studio albums and received two Grammy Award nominations.
Logic began his music career in 2010, releasing the mixtape Young, Broke & Infamous; he gained popularity with his Young Sinatra mixtape series, with the response to its third iteration, Young Sinatra: Welcome to Forever (2013), helping Logic secure a recording contract with Def Jam Recordings. Logic’s first two studio albums — Under Pressure (2014) and The Incredible True Story (2015) — both peaked within the top five on the U.S. Billboard 200, while the former was ultimately certified platinum.Logic achieved mainstream popularity in 2017 with Everybody; the album charted at number one in the United States and was certified platinum, while its lead single, “1-800-273-8255”, reached number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and was a top-ten hit internationally. He also released the commercial mixtape series Bobby Tarantino. His fourth and fifth albums, YSIV (2018) and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2019), achieved similar commercial success, with the latter containing the single “Homicide”, which peaked at number 5 on the Hot 100. After his sixth album No Pressure (2020), Logic retired from music; he returned to music in 2021.
As an author, Logic released the novel Supermarket (2019), which was accompanied by a soundtrack of the same name. The book became a New York Times Best Seller, but both works received generally mixed to negative critical reception. He published his memoir, This Bright Future, in 2021. Logic is also a streamer and is signed exclusively with Twitch, the first musician to do so.
Shawn Corey Carter (born December 4, 1969), known professionally as Jay-Z (stylized as JAY-Z), is an American rapper, songwriter, record executive, entrepreneur, and media proprietor. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential hip-hop artists in history and is also well known for being the former CEO of Def Jam Recordings, cultivating major industry artists such as Kanye West, Rihanna, and J. Cole.Born and raised in New York City, Jay-Z first began his musical career in the late 1980s; he co-founded the record label Roc-A-Fella Records in 1995 and released his debut studio album Reasonable Doubt in 1996. The album was released to widespread critical success, and solidified his standing in the music industry. He went on to release twelve additional albums, including the acclaimed albums The Blueprint (2001), The Black Album (2003), American Gangster (2007), and 4:44 (2017). He also released the full-length collaborative albums Watch the Throne (2011) with Kanye West and Everything Is Love (2018) with his wife Beyoncé, respectively.A billionaire, Jay-Z has attained significant success and media attention for his career as a businessman. In 1999, he founded the clothing retailer Rocawear, and in 2003, he founded the luxury sports bar chain 40/40 Club. Both businesses have grown to become multi-million-dollar corporations, and allowed him to start-up the entertainment company Roc Nation in 2008. In 2015, he acquired the tech company Aspiro and took charge of their media streaming service Tidal. In 2020, he launched “Monogram”, a line of cannabis products.One of the world’s best-selling music artists, with over 125 million records sold, Jay-Z has won 23 Grammy Awards, the most by a rapper, and holds the record for the most number-one albums by a solo artist on the Billboard 200 (14). Ranked by Billboard and Rolling Stone as one of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, Jay-Z was the first rapper honored in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the first solo living rapper inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Ye ( YAY; born Kanye Omari West, June 8, 1977) ( KAHN-yay), commonly known by his birth name, is an American rapper, record producer, and fashion designer. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential rappers of all time. Born in Atlanta and raised in Chicago, he gained recognition as a producer for Roc-A-Fella Records in the early 2000s, producing singles for several artists and developing the “chipmunk soul” sampling style. Intent on pursuing a solo career as a rapper, he released his debut studio album, The College Dropout (2004), to critical and commercial success, and founded the record label GOOD Music.
West explored diverse musical elements such as orchestral arrangements, synthesizers, and autotune on the albums Late Registration (2005), Graduation (2007), and 808s & Heartbreak (2008). Drawing inspiration from maximalism and minimalism respectively, his fifth album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010) and sixth album Yeezus (2013) were also released to further critical and commercial success. He further diversified his musical styles on The Life of Pablo (2016) and Ye (2018), and explored Christian and gospel music on Jesus Is King (2019). After a series of delays, his highly anticipated tenth album Donda (2021) was released to mixed critical reception. Additonally, his discography also includes the full-length collaborative albums Watch the Throne (2011) with Jay-Z and Kids See Ghosts (2018) with Kid Cudi.
West’s outspoken views and life outside of music have received significant media coverage. He has been a frequent source of controversy for his conduct on social media, at award shows, and in public settings—West’s comments on the music and fashion industries, U.S. politics, race, and slavery have been generally polarized. His Christian faith, mental health, and marriage to Kim Kardashian have also been sources of further media attention. As a fashion designer, he has collaborated with Nike, Louis Vuitton, The Gap, and A.P.C. on clothing and footwear, and leads the Yeezy collaboration with Adidas. In 2020, he launched an unsuccessful independent presidential campaign that primarily advocated for a consistent life ethic. He is the founder and head of the creative content company DONDA.
One of the world’s best-selling music artists, with over 160 million records sold, West has won 22 Grammy Awards, the joint tenth-most of all time. He is frequently lauded as one of hip hop’s greatest artists, with his music among the most critically acclaimed. Among his other awards are the Billboard Artist Achievement Award, a joint-record three Brit Awards for Best International Male Solo Artist and the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. Six of his albums were included on Rolling Stone’s 2020 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list with the same publication naming him one of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time. He holds the joint record (with Bob Dylan) for most albums (4) topping the annual Pazz & Jop critic poll, and has the 5th most appearances on the Billboard Hot 100 (133 entries). Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2005 and 2015. Forbes estimates his net worth at $1.8 billion as of 2021, making him a billionaire.
Yasiin Bey (; born Dante Terrell Smith, December 11, 1973), previously known by his stage name Mos Def (), is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, and actor. Bey began his hip hop career in 1994, alongside his siblings in the short-lived rap group Urban Thermo Dynamics (UTD), after which they appeared on albums by Da Bush Babees and De La Soul. He subsequently formed the duo Black Star, alongside fellow Brooklyn-based rapper Talib Kweli, and in 1998 they released their eponymous debut album, featuring the singles “Definition” and “Respiration”. He was featured on the roster of Rawkus Records and in 1999 released his solo debut, Black on Both Sides. His debut was followed by The New Danger (2004), True Magic (2006), and The Ecstatic (2009). The editors of About.com listed him as the 14th greatest rapper on their “50 Greatest Rappers of All Time” list. Some of his top hits include “Oh No”, “Ms. Fat Booty” and “Mathematics”.Prior to his career in music, Mos Def entered public life as a child actor with roles in television films, sitcoms, and theater. Since the early 2000s, he has appeared in the films Something the Lord Made, Next Day Air, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 16 Blocks, Be Kind Rewind, The Italian Job, The Woodsman, Bamboozled, and Brown Sugar and in television series such as Dexter and House. He is also known as the host of Def Poetry Jam, which aired on HBO between 2002 and 2007.
Mos Def has been vocal on several social and political causes, including police brutality, the idea of American exceptionalism and the status of African Americans.
Bernard James Freeman (born March 19, 1973), known professionally as Bun B, is an American rapper. He is best known as one half of the southern rap duo UGK (UnderGround Kingz), a group he formed in 1987 alongside Pimp C. Aside from his work with UGK, Bun B has released five solo albums, including 2010’s Trill OG, which received the rare 5-mic rating from The Source.He is also a guest lecturer at Rice University, located in Houston, Texas.
Royce da 5’9
Ryan Daniel Montgomery, known professionally as Royce da 5’9″ (or simply Royce 5’9″), is an American rapper, songwriter, and record producer. Montgomery is currently one half of the rap duo Bad Meets Evil with fellow Detroit rapper Eminem, and is one half of the hip hop duo PRhyme with producer DJ Premier. He was also one quarter of the Shady Records hip hop group Slaughterhouse with Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz and Kxng Crooked. Alongside his recording career, Montgomery served as a ghostwriter for the likes of Puff Daddy and Dr. Dre. Online magazine About.com ranked the rapper as one of the “Top 50 MCs of Our Time (1987–2007)”.
Michael Santiago Render (born April 20, 1975), better known by his stage name Killer Mike, is an American rapper, actor, and activist. Mike made his debut on Outkast’s 2000 LP Stankonia, and later appeared on their Grammy-winning single “The Whole World” from their greatest hits album Big Boi and Dre Present… Outkast (2001). He has since released five full-length albums as a solo artist. He is the founder of Grind Time Official Records, which he launched through SMC and Fontana Distribution.
In December 2008, Mike signed to fellow Atlanta-based rapper T.I.’s Grand Hustle Records. In 2012, he released R.A.P. Music, produced entirely by American rapper and producer El-P. Killer Mike and El-P subsequently formed the duo Run the Jewels in 2013; they were signed to Fool’s Gold Records and released their self-titled debut in June of that year.
Mike is also known as a social and political activist, focusing on subjects including social inequality, police brutality, and systemic racism. In addition to addressing themes of racism and police brutality in his music, he has also delivered several lectures at colleges and universities, written about social justice topics for publications such as Billboard, and been the subject of interviews regarding police misconduct and race relations. He was a visible and vocal supporter of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, refusing to support Hillary Clinton after Sanders left the race, and again supporting Sanders in his 2020 presidential campaign.
Mike has appeared in films such as Idlewild, Baby Driver, and ATL. The documentary series Trigger Warning with Killer Mike, in which he explores issues in the U.S. that affect the black community, premiered on Netflix in January 2019.
Troy Donald Jamerson (born October 31, 1967), better known by his stage name Pharoahe Monch, is an American rapper from South Jamaica, Queens, New York. He is known for his complex lyrics, intricate delivery, and internal and multisyllabic rhyme schemes.
Aaron Dontez Yates (born November 8, 1971), better known by his stage name Tech N9ne (pronounced “tech nine”), is an American rapper and singer. In 1999, he and business partner Travis O’Guin founded the record label Strange Music. He has sold over two million albums and has had his music featured in film, television, and video games. In 2009, he won the Left Field Woodie award at the mtvU Woodie Awards.His stage name originated from the TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun, a name given to him by rapper Black Walt due to his fast-rhyming chopper style. Yates later applied a deeper meaning to the name, stating that it stands for the complete technique of rhyme, with “tech” meaning technique and “nine” representing the number of completion. Despite minimal mainstream success himself, he has featured many mainstream artists on his albums including E-40, Ice Cube, Three 6 Mafia, B.o.B., Twista, Busta Rhymes, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, T-Pain, Snoop Dogg, The Game, Wiz Khalifa, CeeLo Green, T.I., 2 Chainz, Corey Taylor of Slipknot, Eminem, Logic, and Boyz II Men.
Cameron Ezike Giles (born February 4, 1976), better known by his stage name Cam’ron, is an American rapper, record executive, and actor from Harlem, New York. Beginning his career in the mid-1990s as Killa Cam, Giles signed to Lance “Un” Rivera’s Untertainment under the aegis of Epic and released his first two studio albums Confessions of Fire and S.D.E. (Sports Drugs & Entertainment) in 1998 and 2000 respectively; the former achieved Gold status by the RIAA. After demanding his release from Epic, Giles signed to Roc-A-Fella Records in 2001 and released his third studio album Come Home with Me the following year; it achieved Platinum status by the RIAA, and also contained Cam’ron’s highest-charting singles to date; “Oh Boy” and “Hey Ma”, which peaked at #4 and #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 respectively. His fourth studio album and final release on Roc-A-Fella, Purple Haze was released in 2004 to critical acclaim and commercial success, being certified gold by the RIAA.
After separating his label, Diplomat Records from Roc-A-Fella in 2005 due to disagreements between himself and label-head Jay-Z, Cam’ron signed the label to a distribution deal with Asylum Records. In 2006 Cam’ron released his fifth studio album, Killa Season, which contained a film of the same name, in which Cam’ron made his director-screenwriter debut and starred as the main character. In 2009, after taking a hiatus due to his mother’s health, Cam’ron returned to music and released his sixth studio album Crime Pays. It reached number 3 on the Billboard 200.
Aside from his solo career, he is the leader of the Diplomats (also known as Dipset), a group he formed in 1997 with his childhood friend Jim Jones and his cousin Freekey Zekey. He was also one half of the duo U.N. (Us Now), and a founding member of the Children of the Corn before they disbanded in 1997. Giles has also occasionally worked as an actor, starring in the Roc-A-Fella films Paper Soldiers and Paid in Full in 2002.
Duval Clear (born December 4, 1966), known better by his stage name Masta Ace, is an American rapper and record producer from New York City. He appeared on the classic 1988 Juice Crew posse cut “The Symphony”. He is noted for his distinct voice and rapping proficiency, and has influenced several MCs.
Eric Lynn Wright (September 7, 1964 – March 26, 1995), known professionally as Eazy-E, was an American rapper who propelled West Coast rap and gangsta rap by leading the group N.W.A and its label, Ruthless, pushing the boundaries of lyrical content. He is often referred to as the “Godfather of Gangsta Rap”.Born and raised in Compton, California, Wright had several legal troubles before founding Ruthless in 1987. After a short solo career with frequent collaboration with Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, they joined, forming N.W.A, later that year.
N.W.A’s debut studio album, Straight Outta Compton, was released in 1988. Controversial upon release, it is now ranked among the greatest and most influential albums ever. The group released its third and final studio album, Niggaz4Life, in 1991, and soon after disbanded.
During N.W.A’s splintering, largely by disputes over money, Eazy-E became embroiled in bitter rivalries with Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, who had departed for solo careers in 1989 and 1991, respectively. Resuming his solo career, Eazy-E released two EPs. Yet he remained more significant behind the scenes, signing and nationally debuting the rap group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony from 1993 to 1994.
Rakim Athelaston Mayers (born October 3, 1988), known professionally as ASAP Rocky (stylized as A$AP Rocky; , AY-sap), is an American rapper and record producer from Manhattan. He is a member of the hip hop collective A$AP Mob, from which he adopted his moniker.
In August 2011, Rocky’s single “Peso” was leaked online and within weeks received radio airplay. Rocky released his debut mixtape Live. Love. A$AP later that year to widespread critical acclaim. The success of his mixtape led to a record deal with Polo Grounds Music, RCA Records, and Sony Music Entertainment. His debut studio album Long. Live. A$AP (2013) debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and became certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The album was preceded by Rocky’s breakout single, “Fuckin’ Problems” (featuring Drake, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar), which was nominated for Best Rap Song at the 2014 Grammy Awards. In 2015, Rocky released his second album, titled At. Long. Last. A$AP. The album was Rocky’s second consecutive album to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 and received mostly positive reviews from music critics. The album’s single, “L$D”, was nominated for Best Music Video at the 2016 Grammy Awards. In 2018, Rocky released his third album, Testing, which peaked in the top five of seven countries, including the Billboard 200.
Rocky has won a BET Award, two BET Hip Hop Awards, an MTV Video Music Award Japan and an MTVU Woodie Award, as well as being nominated for two Grammy Awards, six World Music Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards and two MTV Europe Music Awards. Rocky has also directed music videos for himself, Danny Brown, and other A$AP Mob members. Furthermore, he is a noted record producer, producing under the pseudonym Lord Flacko.
Nathaniel Dwayne Hale (August 19, 1969 – March 15, 2011), known professionally as Nate Dogg, was an American singer and rapper. He gained recognition for providing guest vocals for a multitude of hit rap songs between 1992 and 2007, earning the nickname “King of Hooks”.Hale began his career in the early 1990s as a member of 213, a trio formed in 1990 with his friends Snoop Dogg and Warren G. In 1994, he co-wrote and sang as the featured performer on Warren G’s hit single “Regulate”, which reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and served as a breakout success for both artists. Nate Dogg would soon become a fixture in the West Coast hip-hop genre, regularly working with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Xzibit in the 1990s; his deep vocals became sought after for hooks, and he would expand to work with a larger variety of artists in the 2000s, such as Eminem, 50 Cent, Fabolous, Mos Def and Ludacris. As a featured artist, Nate charted 16 times on the Billboard Hot 100, and in 2003 reached number one via 50 Cent’s “21 Questions”. Nate Dogg also was notably featured on Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode” and Eminem’s “‘Till I Collapse”. In addition to his guest work, Nate Dogg released three studio albums, as well as a string of moderately successful singles of his own in the 1990s.
In December 2007, Nate had a stroke, weakening his body’s left side, while his cognition and voice remained intact. Several months later, he had another stroke. In 2011, he died of heart failure at age 41.
Lil Uzi Vert
Symere Bysil Woods (born July 31, 1995), known professionally as Lil Uzi Vert, is an American rapper and singer. Woods is characterized by his facial tattoos, facial piercings, eccentric hairstyles and androgynous fashion, imagery built on a melodic emo approach to trap. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Lil Uzi Vert gained initial recognition following the release of the commercial mixtape Luv Is Rage (2015), which led to a recording contract with Atlantic Records, to whom he signed under DJ Drama’s Generation Now imprint.Lil Uzi Vert attracted mainstream attention following the release of his debut single “Money Longer” in 2016. The song would act as the lead single for the subsequent mixtape Lil Uzi Vert vs. the World (2016), which also contained the song “You Was Right”. After releasing two additional mixtapes in 2016 and 2017, including one in collaboration with Gucci Mane, Lil Uzi Vert was featured on the Billboard Hot 100 chart-topping Migos’ single “Bad and Boujee”. He later secured his first top ten single with “XO Tour Llif3”, which won the MTV Video Music Award for Song of Summer.
“XO Tour Llif3” acted as the lead single to Lil Uzi Vert’s debut studio album Luv Is Rage 2 (2017), which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). At the 2018 Grammy Awards, Lil Uzi Vert was nominated for Best New Artist. His second studio album, Eternal Atake (2020), was among the most anticipated albums in contemporary trap and rap when it was finally released following years’ worth of delays. Eternal Atake, much like Luv Is Rage 2, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200.
Gary Maurice Lucas Jr. (born August 17, 1988), better known by his stage name Joyner Lucas, is an American rapper, singer, and songwriter.
Lucas first received widespread exposure and critical acclaim after the release of his single “Ross Capicchioni” in 2015. In June 2017, he released his fourth mixtape, 508-507-2209, which was his first on a major label. On November 28, 2017, Lucas released his single “I’m Not Racist”, which quickly went viral, gaining him further mainstream attention. The video was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Music Video at the 61st Grammy Awards. Lucas was briefly signed to Atlantic Records, until he announced his departure from the label in December 2018.
Since 2016, Lucas has also become known for remixing popular hip hop songs like “Gucci Gang” by Lil Pump, “Bank Account” by 21 Savage, “DNA” by Kendrick Lamar and many others. In October 2018, he announced his debut studio album ADHD, which was released on March 27, 2020.
Taurus Tremani Bartlett (born January 6, 1999), known professionally as Polo G, is an American rapper. He rose to prominence with his singles “Finer Things” and “Pop Out”. His debut album Die a Legend (2019) received generally positive reviews and peaked at number six on the US Billboard 200 and was certified platinum by the RIAA.Bartlett’s second studio album, The Goat (2020), peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 and charted ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. His mainstream success continued with his third studio album Hall of Fame (2021), which became Bartlett’s first chart topping album and included his first number-one single “Rapstar”.
Nathan John Feuerstein (born March 30, 1991), known by his initials NF (stylized as ИF), is an American rapper, singer and songwriter. He has released two EPs, I’m Free (2012), and a self-titled EP in 2014 with Capitol CMG. NF has released five studio albums: Moments (2010), Mansion (2015), Therapy Session (2016), Perception (2017), and The Search (2019), and has released a mixtape: Clouds (The Mixtape) (2021). His albums have earned several accolades, some of which include: the Gospel Music Association Dove Award for Rap/Hip Hop Album of the Year (Therapy Session); two No. 1 debuts on the Billboard 200 charts (Perception and The Search); and a triple-platinum certified single in the United States which also charted internationally (“Let You Down”).
Kool G Rap
Nathaniel Thomas Wilson (born July 20, 1968), better known by his stage name Kool G Rap (or simply G Rap), is an American rapper from Queens, New York City. He began his career in the mid-1980s as one half of the group Kool G Rap & DJ Polo and as a member of the Juice Crew. He is often cited as one of the most influential and skilled MCs of all time, and a pioneer of mafioso rap/street/hardcore content and multisyllabic rhyming. On his album The Giancana Story, he stated that the “G” in his name stands for “Giancana” (after the mobster Sam Giancana), but on other occasions he has stated that it stands for “Genius”.He has also been cited as a major influence to some of hip-hop’s most critically acclaimed figures such as The Notorious B.I.G.,
Nas, Eminem and Jay-Z, as well as many underground rappers.
Kimberly Denise Jones (born July 11, 1974 or 1975), better known by her stage name Lil’ Kim, is an American rapper, actress, model, and reality television personality. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City, she lived much of her adolescent life on the streets after being expelled from home. In her teens, Jones would freestyle rap, influenced by fellow female hip hop artists like MC Lyte and The Lady of Rage. In 1994, she was discovered by fellow rapper The Notorious B.I.G., who invited her to join his group Junior M.A.F.I.A.; their debut album, Conspiracy, generated two top 20 singles in the United States and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Lil’ Kim’s debut studio album, Hard Core (1996) was certified double platinum, has since sold more than six million copies worldwide, and spawned three successful singles: “No Time”, “Not Tonight (Ladies Night)”, and “Crush on You”. Her following albums, The Notorious K.I.M. (2000) and La Bella Mafia (2003) were also certified platinum. In 2001, she was featured on the single “Lady Marmalade” (a remake of the 1974 hit single of the same name, originally recorded by LaBelle), alongside Mýa, Pink, and Christina Aguilera, which topped the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Other notable singles from this period include “The Jump Off” and “Magic Stick”, the latter of which reached number two on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, becoming Kim’s 2nd-highest-charting single as a lead artist.
In 2005, Lil’ Kim served a one-year prison sentence for lying to a jury about her friends’ involvement in a shooting four years earlier. During her incarceration, her fourth album, The Naked Truth, was released to positive reviews from critics. A reality series covering her sentence, Lil’ Kim: Countdown to Lockdown, premiered on BET in 2006. She released her first mixtape, Ms. G.O.A.T., in 2008 and returned to the public eye in 2009 with an appearance on Dancing with the Stars. Throughout the 2010s, she continued to release music and perform sporadically, collaborating with artists such as Faith Evans, Remy Ma, and Fabolous. Her fifth studio album, 9, was released in 2019.
Lil’ Kim has sold more than 15 million albums and 30 million singles worldwide. Her songs “No Time”, “Big Momma Thang”, and “Not Tonight (Ladies Night)” were each listed on Complex’s list of the 50 Best Rap Songs By Women. In 2012, Lil’ Kim was listed on VH1’s 100 Greatest Women in Music list at number 45, the second highest position for a solo female hip-hop artist. Aside from music, Lil’ Kim is also known for her risk-taking and luxurious approach to fashion that inspired many artists; she has been cited as a fashion icon. She has been noted for helping women embrace their “sexuality and femininity” in a way that was a stark contrast at the time from other female artists.
Fredrick Jamel Tipton (born June 14, 1982), better known by his stage name Freddie Gibbs, is an American rapper from Gary, Indiana. After initially being signed to Interscope Records in 2006, Gibbs recorded his debut studio album under the label. However, he was eventually dropped and the album was cancelled. Gibbs later signed with Young Jeezy’s CTE World and released a number of mixtapes through the label, including 2012’s highly acclaimed Baby Face Killa.After leaving CTE in early 2013, Gibbs formed his own label, ESGN, which was also the name of his debut studio album released in June of that year. Since then, he has gone on to release four solo studio albums, as well as four collaborative albums, two with Madlib (as MadGibbs): Piñata (2014) and Bandana (2019), and two with The Alchemist: Fetti (2018) (also a collaboration with rapper Currensy) and Alfredo (2020), the latter of which received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Album at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards.
Malcolm James McCormick (January 19, 1992 – September 7, 2018), known professionally as Mac Miller, was an American rapper and record producer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Miller began his career in Pittsburgh’s hip hop scene in 2007, at the age of fifteen. In 2010, he signed a record deal with independent label Rostrum Records and released his breakthrough mixtapes K.I.D.S. (2010) and Best Day Ever (2011). Miller’s debut studio album, Blue Slide Park (2011), became the first independently distributed debut album to top the US Billboard 200 since 1995.
In 2013, he founded the record label imprint REMember Music. After his second studio album, Watching Movies with the Sound Off (2013), he left Rostrum and signed with the major label Warner Bros. Records in 2014. With them, he released four studio albums: GO:OD AM (2015), The Divine Feminine (2016), Swimming (2018), and the posthumous Circles (2020). For Swimming, he was posthumously nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album. He also served as a record producer for various artists, including himself, under the pseudonym Larry Fisherman.
Miller struggled with addiction and substance abuse, which was often referenced in his lyrics. On September 7, 2018, Miller died from an accidental drug overdose of cocaine, fentanyl, and alcohol at his home, aged 26.
Jayceon Terrell Taylor (born November 29, 1979), better known by his stage name the Game or simply Game, is an American rapper. Born in Compton, California, he initially released a series of mixtapes under the wing of fellow West Coast rapper JT the Bigga Figga. After releasing his debut independent album Untold Story in 2004, he was eventually discovered by record producer Dr. Dre and signed to his Aftermath Records label imprint. The Game rose to fame in 2005 with the success of his major-label debut album The Documentary and found continued success with the 2006 follow-up Doctor’s Advocate. The Recording Industry Association of America certified The Documentary Double Platinum in March 2005.
A rising artist in the 2000s, the Game was considered to be a driving force in bringing back the West Coast hip hop scene into the mainstream and competing with many of his East Coast counterparts. The Game was placed into G-Unit by Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine. As a result of his disputes with 50 Cent, Game left Aftermath and signed with Geffen, another label under Universal’s Interscope Geffen A&M unit, to terminate his contractual obligations with G-Unit in the summer of 2006. The Game’s second major label album Doctor’s Advocate was released on November 14, 2006 and it became his second album to debut at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. Doctor’s Advocate did not feature any production from Dr. Dre. Pitchfork Media placed The Documentary at number 35 on their list of Top 50 Albums of 2005. The Game was nominated with a total of two nominations, including Grammy Award for Best Rap Song and Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for the smash single “Hate It or Love It”. The New York Times named Doctor’s Advocate best hip-hop album of 2006.His next album LAX was released in 2008. With his fourth studio album The R.E.D. Album, the Game again debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. In addition to music, the Game has starred in motion pictures and founded The Black Wall Street Records. In September 2011, the Game started working on his fifth studio album, Jesus Piece, which was released on December 11, 2012, his final album released by Interscope. In 2015, the Game released two albums, The Documentary 2 on October 9, and a week later on October 16, The Documentary 2.5. His next album 1992 was released on October 14, 2016, and spawned two official singles. In 2019 he released Born 2 Rap, which he announced to be his final studio album.
Sean Michael Leonard Anderson (born March 25, 1988), known professionally as Big Sean, is an American rapper.
Anderson began his music career in 2007 and gained popularity in 2010 with his third mixtape Finally Famous Vol. 3: Big. He then signed a recording contract with GOOD Music and Def Jam Recordings and released his debut studio album, Finally Famous in 2011, which included the US top 10 single “Dance (Ass)” (featuring Nicki Minaj). Anderson followed it with his second album, Hall of Fame (2013), while his third album, Dark Sky Paradise (2015), debuted atop the US Billboard 200. It also included the hit singles “I Don’t Fuck with You” (featuring E-40) and “Blessings” (featuring Drake and Kanye West). His fourth album, I Decided (2017), contained “Bounce Back”, his highest-charting US single, while his fifth album Detroit 2 (2020) was his third consecutive platinum album.
Rodrick Wayne Moore Jr. (born October 22, 1998), known professionally as Roddy Ricch, is an American rapper from Compton, California. He rose to fame in 2018 with his single “Die Young”, which peaked at number 98 on the Billboard Hot 100. Ricch’s first two mixtapes, Feed Tha Streets (2017) and Feed Tha Streets II (2018), also received widespread acclaim. In 2019, Ricch was featured on Nipsey Hussle’s single “Racks in the Middle”, which earned him a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance, and on Mustard’s Grammy-nominated single “Ballin'”, which reached the top 20 of the Hot 100.
Ricch’s debut studio album Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial (2019) was released through Atlantic Records and Bird Vision Entertainment and debuted atop the Billboard 200. It spawned the Hot 100 number-one single “The Box”, which earned him a Diamond certification by the RIAA, as well as the single “High Fashion” (featuring Mustard). Later in 2020, Ricch’s feature on DaBaby’s single “Rockstar” became his second number-one single on the Hot 100. His second album Live Life Fast was released in 2021.
Ricch has won several accolades, including a Grammy Award from nine different nominations, as well as two BET Awards, two BET Hip Hop Awards, and an American Music Award.
Robert Rihmeek Williams (born May 6, 1987), known professionally as Meek Mill, is an American rapper. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he embarked on his music career as a battle rapper, and later formed a short-lived rap group, The Bloodhoundz. In 2008, Atlanta-based rapper T.I. signed Meek Mill to his first record deal. In February 2011, after leaving Grand Hustle Records, Mill signed with Miami-based rapper Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group (MMG). Mill’s debut album, Dreams and Nightmares, was released in 2012 under MMG and Warner Bros. Records. The album, preceded by the lead single “Amen” (featuring Drake), peaked at number two on the U.S. Billboard 200.
In October 2012, Mill announced the launch of his own label imprint, Dream Chasers Records, named after his mixtape series. Meek Mill often collaborates with MMG label-mates; he has made notable appearances on MMG’s Self Made compilation series, with his first two singles, “Tupac Back” (featuring Rick Ross) and “Ima Boss” (featuring Rick Ross), being included on volume one. He released his second album, Dreams Worth More Than Money, in 2015 and his third album, Wins & Losses, in 2016. His fourth studio album, Championships, was released in November 2018 and debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 chart. Its lead single, “Going Bad” (featuring Drake), peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100, marking Mill’s highest charting single to date. Meek’s fifth album, Expensive Pain, was released on October 1, 2021.
In November 2017, he was sentenced to two to four years in prison for violating parole and served five months at the State Correctional Institution – Chester in Chester, Pennsylvania, before being released while his trial continues. In August 2019, a documentary series about his battle with the criminal justice system, Free Meek, was released on Amazon Prime Video. Mill served as executive producer on the series alongside fellow rapper Jay-Z. The two also became the co-founders of nonprofit organization Reform Alliance, which focuses on justice, parole, and probation reform.
Keith Farrelle Cozart (born August 15, 1995), better known by his stage name Chief Keef, is an American rapper. Cozart’s music first became popular during his teen years in the early 2010s among high school students from Chicago’s South Side. In 2012, his popular local single “I Don’t Like” was remixed by American rapper Kanye West and reached the Billboard Rap Top 20, further raising Cozart’s profile. A bidding war between major labels resulted in Keef signing with Interscope. His debut album Finally Rich was released in December 2012, and featured the singles “I Don’t Like” and “Love Sosa”, which would popularize the Chicago rap subgenre drill.Chief Keef has faced ongoing legal issues during his career, including weapons possession charges, house arrest sentences, and a performance ban imposed by Chicago authorities. Though he was dropped from Interscope in late 2014 and later signed to 1017 Records, he continued self-releasing projects through his own Glo Gang label. These included: Nobody (2014), Back from the Dead 2 (2014), Bang 3 (2015), and Thot Breaker (2017).
By the late 2010s, critics have pointed to Chief Keef as a major influence on contemporary hip hop through his innovation with the drill subgenre and the impact of his music on other artists.
Jeffery Lamar Williams (born August 16, 1991), known professionally as Young Thug, is an American rapper. He is considered to be an influential figure of his generation, with his music impacting the modern sound of hip hop and trap music. Known for his eccentric vocal style and fashion, Thug initially released a series of independent mixtapes beginning in 2011 with I Came from Nothing. In early 2013, he signed with Gucci Mane’s 1017 Records, and later that year he released his label debut mixtape 1017 Thug to critical praise.Young Thug received mainstream recognition in 2014 with the singles “Stoner” and “Danny Glover” in addition to appearances on several singles, including T.I.’s “About the Money”, Tyga’s “Hookah”, and Rich Gang’s “Lifestyle”. That year, he also signed to Lyor Cohen’s 300 Entertainment and collaborated on the mixtape Rich Gang: Tha Tour Pt. 1. In 2015, he amassed a number of mixtapes, including Barter 6 and two installments of his Slime Season series. Subsequently in 2016, Thug issued commercial mixtapes I’m Up, Slime Season 3, and Jeffery. In 2017, Thug featured on the hit song “Havana” by Cuban pop singer Camila Cabello, which became his first number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2018, he released a compilation album Slime Language with his label YSL Records. In 2019, he won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for his songwriting contribution on “This Is America”.Young Thug’s debut studio album, So Much Fun (2019), debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 and included the Billboard Hot 100 top-twenty singles “The London” and “Hot”. The following year, his single “Go Crazy” with Chris Brown from the collaborative mixtape Slime & B (2020) peaked at number three on the Hot 100, becoming his first top-ten single as a lead artist. Additionally, he reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for the second time in his career with his feature on Travis Scott’s single “Franchise”. In 2021, Thug released the compilation album Slime Language 2 which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. His second studio album, Punk, was released on October 15, 2021. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, becoming his third number one album, as well as his second chart topping project of 2021.
Lorenzo Jerald Patterson (born June 16, 1969), better known by his stage name MC Ren, is an American rapper, songwriter and record producer from Compton, California. He is the founder and owner of the record label Villain Entertainment.
MC Ren began his career as a solo artist signed to Eazy-E’s Ruthless Records in early 1987, while still attending high school. By the end of 1987, after having written nearly half of Eazy-Duz-It, he became a member of N.W.A. After the group disbanded in 1991, he stayed with Ruthless, releasing 3 solo albums including the controversial Shock of the Hour before leaving the label in 1998.
Onika Tanya Maraj-Petty (born December 8, 1982), known professionally as Nicki Minaj (), is a Trinidadian-born rapper, singer, and songwriter. She is known for her animated flow in her rapping and versatility as an artist.
Born in the Saint James district of Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago and raised in Queens of New York City, she gained public recognition after releasing the mixtapes Playtime Is Over (2007), Sucka Free (2008), and Beam Me Up Scotty (2009). Early in her career, Minaj became known for her colorful costumes and wigs, her distinct flow, and the use of alter egos and accents, primarily British cockney. In 2010, Minaj released her debut studio album, Pink Friday (2010), which was certified triple-platinum by RIAA, and peaked at number-one on the Billboard 200 chart. Minaj’s first top-five single “Super Bass” peaked at number three on the Hot 100. At the time, it was the highest-charting solo song by a female rapper since 2002, and it was certified diamond by RIAA in 2021. Her second album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (2012), saw Minaj move towards a dance-pop and pop rap sound. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, with its lead single, “Starships”, peaking at number five on the Hot 100. Minaj’s third and fourth studio albums, The Pinkprint (2014) and Queen (2018), marked a departure from her previous style and a return to her hip hop roots. The former’s second single “Anaconda” peaked at number two on the Hot 100.
Her feature on the remix of Doja Cat’s “Say So” and her collaboration with 6ix9ine, “Trollz”, both released in 2020, marked her first and second number-one singles on the Hot 100, respectively, with the latter making her the second female rapper to debut at number one, following Lauryn Hill in 1998. Including features, Minaj is the female artist with the second-most entries on the Hot 100, behind singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, with each accumulating over 100. She has nineteen top 10 singles on the chart, the most for any female rapper so far, with four of those being solo songs. Her collaboration with Karol G, “Tusa”, became the longest-running number-one single in Argentina, with a total of over five months. Her 2021 rerelease of her 2009 mixtape Beam Me Up Scotty debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, becoming the highest debut for a female rap mixtape on the chart.
Minaj is one of the best selling female artists of all time with 100 million records sold worldwide. Her accolades include eight American Music Awards, five MTV Video Music Awards, twelve BET Awards, four Billboard Music Awards, a Brit Award, and a Guinness World Record. Billboard ranked her as the top female rapper of the 2010s, as well as seventh among the top female artists of the decade. In 2016, Time included Minaj on their annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Outside of music, Minaj’s film career has included voice roles in the animated films Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012) and The Angry Birds Movie 2 (2019) as well as supporting roles in the comedy films The Other Woman (2014) and Barbershop: The Next Cut (2016). She also appeared as a judge on the twelfth season of American Idol in 2013.
Sean John Combs (born November 4, 1969), also known by his stage name Puff Daddy (previously known as P. Diddy, Diddy, or Puffy), is an American rapper, songwriter, record executive, record producer, and entrepreneur. Born in New York City and raised in the suburb of Mount Vernon, he worked as a talent director at Uptown Records before founding his own record label, Bad Boy Records in 1993. Combs has produced and cultivated artists such as The Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, and Usher.
Combs’ debut album, No Way Out (1997), has been certified seven times platinum. The album was followed by Forever (1999), The Saga Continues…, (2001) and Press Play (2006), all of which were commercially successful. In 2009, Combs formed the musical group Dirty Money; together, they released their highly successful debut album Last Train to Paris (2010). Combs’ upcoming album, Off the Grid Vol. 1, has been in production since 2015 and set to release in 2021.
Combs has won three Grammy Awards and two MTV Video Music Awards and is the producer of MTV’s Making the Band. In 2019, Forbes estimated his net worth at $740 million. A billionaire, he has attained significant success and media attention for his career as a businessman. In 1998, he launched his own clothing line Sean John. He was nominated for the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) award for Menswear Designer of the Year in 2000 and won in 2004.
Bradley Terrence Jordan (born November 9, 1970), better known by his stage name Scarface, is an American rapper and record producer best known as a member of the Geto Boys, a hip hop group from Houston, Texas. He grew up in Houston and is originally from the city’s South Acres (Crestmont Park) neighborhood. In 2012, The Source ranked him #16 on their list of the Top 50 Lyricists of All Time, while About.com ranked him #6 on its list of the 50 Greatest MCs of Our Time (1987–2007).
Jason Terrance Phillips (born May 27, 1975), better known by his stage name Jadakiss, is an American rapper from Yonkers, New York. He began his career in 1990s as a member of the rap trio The Lox, managed by Ruff Ryders and signed with Bad Boy. After leaving the label in 1999, they signed a joint venture deal between Interscope and Ruff Ryders. He is currently signed to Def Jam and D-Block.
Jadakiss’ debut solo album, Kiss Tha Game Goodbye, was released in 2001. He has released three more solo studio albums, another album with the Lox, and an album with fellow rapper Fabolous. In 2007, Jadakiss signed with Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella and Def Jam, which, with Ruff Ryders, co-released his 2009 album The Last Kiss. Altogether, he has released five studio albums, most recently Ignatius in 2020.
Donald McKinley Glover Jr. (born September 25, 1983), also known by the stage name Childish Gambino, is an American actor, rapper, singer, writer, comedian, director, and producer. After working on Derrick Comedy while studying at New York University, Glover was hired at age 23 by Tina Fey as a writer for the NBC sitcom 30 Rock. He later rose to fame for portraying college student Troy Barnes on the NBC sitcom Community from 2009 to 2014. Since 2016, Glover stars in the FX series Atlanta, which he created and occasionally directs. For his work on Atlanta, Glover won various accolades, including two Primetime Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards.Glover has starred in several successful films, including the supernatural horror The Lazarus Effect (2015), the comedy-drama Magic Mike XXL (2015), and science fiction film The Martian (2015). He played Aaron Davis in the superhero film Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), and played Lando Calrissian in the Space Western Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018). He also provided the voice of adult Simba in The Lion King (2019). A filmmaker, Glover starred in and produced the short film Guava Island (2019).Following independently released albums and mixtapes, Glover signed with Glassnote Records in 2011, and released his first studio album, Camp, that year; he followed this with his second album, Because the Internet, in 2013. Glover’s third album, “Awaken, My Love!” (2016), spawned the single “Redbone”, which peaked at number twelve on the Billboard Hot 100 and eventually earned him his first Grammy Award. In 2018, Glover released “This Is America”, which debuted at number-one on the Hot 100, and won four Grammy Awards, including for Best Music Video. Glover’s fourth album, 3.15.20, was released in 2020.
Jo-Vaughn Virginie Scott (born January 20, 1995), better known by his stage name Joey Badass (stylized as Joey Bada$$), is an American rapper, singer, and actor. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he is a founding member of the hip-hop collective Pro Era, with whom he has released three mixtapes, as well as his numerous solo projects.
Joey Badass released his debut mixtape, 1999, in June 2012 to critical acclaim and recognition, followed by Rejex in September, and Summer Knights in July 2013. His debut studio album, B4.Da.$$, was released in January 2015. In 2016, he made his television debut on the USA Network series Mr. Robot. His second studio album, All-Amerikkkan Badass, was released in April 2017.
Chance the Rapper
Chancelor Johnathan Bennett (born April 16, 1993), known professionally as Chance the Rapper, is an American rapper, singer, and record producer.
Born in Chicago, Chance the Rapper released his debut mixtape 10 Day in 2012. He began to gain mainstream recognition in 2013 after releasing his second mixtape, Acid Rap. He then released his third mixtape, Coloring Book in 2016, which garnered further critical acclaim and attention. It earned him three Grammy Awards, including the award for Best Rap Album; upon winning, it became the first streaming-only album to win a Grammy Award, and peaked at number eight on the Billboard 200. His debut studio album The Big Day was released in 2019.Alongside his solo career, Chance the Rapper is a member of the Chicago collective Savemoney, and is the vocalist for the band the Social Experiment; they released the album Surf in 2015, led by trumpeter Nico Segal. He is also involved in social activism in the Chicago community where he resides.
Ol' Dirty Bastard
Russell Tyrone Jones (November 15, 1968 – November 13, 2004), better known by his stage name Ol’ Dirty Bastard (often abbreviated as ODB), was an American rapper. He was one of the founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan, a rap group primarily from Staten Island, New York City, which rose to mainstream prominence with its 1993 debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).His professional success was hampered by frequent legal troubles, including incarceration. He died on November 13, 2004, of an accidental drug overdose, two days before his 36th birthday.Ol’ Dirty Bastard was noted for his “outrageously profane, free-associative rhymes delivered in a distinctive half-rapped, half-sung style”. His stage name was derived from the 1980 Chinese martial arts film Ol’ Dirty and the Bastard (also called An Old Kung Fu Master, starring Yuen Siu-tien).
Willard Carroll Smith Jr. (born September 25, 1968) is an American actor, rapper, and film producer. Smith has been nominated for five Golden Globe Awards (winning one), and two Academy Awards, and has won four Grammy Awards.
During the late 1980s, he achieved modest fame as a rapper under the name the Fresh Prince. In 1990, his popularity increased dramatically when he began starring in the NBC television series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which ran for six seasons until 1996. After the series ended, Smith transitioned from television to film and went on to star in numerous blockbuster films, including Independence Day (1996) and Men in Black (1997). He is the only actor to have starred in eight consecutive films which grossed over $100 million in the United States box office, eleven consecutive films which grossed over $150 million internationally, and eight consecutive films which opened at the number one spot in the US box office tally.In 2013, Forbes named Smith the most bankable star in the world. In April 2007, Newsweek called him “the most powerful actor in Hollywood”. As of 2014, 17 of the 21 films in which he had leading roles have accumulated worldwide gross earnings of over $100 million each, with five taking in over $500 million each in global box office receipts. As of 2016, his films have grossed $7.5 billion at the global box office. For his roles as boxer Muhammad Ali in Ali (2001) and stockbroker Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), Smith received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor.
Marcus Jamal Hopson (born July 18, 1985), known professionally as Hopsin, is an American rapper, songwriter, and record producer from Los Angeles.
In 2007, he was signed to Ruthless Records, and had founded his own record label, Funk Volume, in 2009. He would then go on to found another record label, Undercover Prodigy, in 2016. Hopsin has released five studio albums, Gazing at the Moonlight through Ruthless Records, Raw, Knock Madness and Pound Syndrome along with the collaborative project Haywire with SwizZz through Funk Volume and No Shame. He is well known for his use of white colored eye contacts in music videos, performances, and interviews.
Pharrell Lanscilo Williams (; born April 5, 1973), is an American rapper, record producer, singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur. Alongside close colleague Chad Hugo, he formed the hip hop and R&B production duo The Neptunes in the early 1990s, with whom he has produced songs for various recording artists. In 1999, he became lead vocalist of the band N.E.R.D., which he formed with Hugo and drummer Shay Haley. Williams has been widely referred to as one of the most influential and successful music producers of the 21st century, having had a significant impact on the sound of modern popular music.Williams released his debut solo album, In My Mind, in 2006. In 2013, he was featured on the song “Blurred Lines” with Robin Thicke and T.I., and his song “Happy” was the lead single for the soundtrack of the film Despicable Me 2. In the same year, he was featured on Daft Punk’s single “Get Lucky”, which won Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 56th Grammy Awards. His second album, Girl, was released in 2014.Williams has received numerous accolades and nominations. He has won 13 Grammy Awards, including three for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical (one as a member of the Neptunes). He is also a two-time Academy Award nominee: in 2014 for Best Original Song, for “Happy” (from Despicable Me 2); and in 2017 for Best Picture, as a producer of Hidden Figures.
Gary Earl Grice (born August 22, 1966), better known by his stage names GZA ( JIZ-ə) and The Genius, is an American rapper, songwriter and actor. A founding member of the hip hop group the Wu-Tang Clan, GZA is the group’s “spiritual head”, being both the first member in the group to receive a record deal and being the oldest member. He has appeared on his fellow Clan members’ solo projects, and has maintained a successful solo career starting with Liquid Swords (1995).
His lyrical style often dismisses typical rap story lines in favor of science and wide-ranging philosophies and has been characterized as “armed with sharp metaphors and a smooth flow”. An analysis of GZA’s lyrics found that he has the second largest vocabulary in popular hip hop music. He teamed up with an education group to promote science education in New York City through hip hop.
Christopher Brian Bridges (born September 11, 1977), known professionally as Ludacris (), is an American rapper and actor. After forming his own label, Disturbing tha Peace in the late 1990s, Ludacris later signed with Def Jam South and would go on to become one of the first Dirty South rappers to achieve mainstream success with his subsequent releases. For his music, Ludacris has won an MTV Video Music Award and three Grammy Awards.
Born in Champaign, Illinois, Ludacris moved to Atlanta, Georgia, at age nine, where he first began rapping. After a brief stint as a DJ, he independently released his first album Incognegro in 1999 to local success, but achieved national attention the following year when the album was repackaged and re-released as his major label debut, Back for the First Time. It contained the hit singles “Southern Hospitality” (featuring Pharrell), which wasn’t on Incognegro, and “What’s Your Fantasy” (featuring Shawnna). In 2001, he released Word of Mouf, followed by Chicken-n-Beer in 2003 and The Red Light District in 2004, all of which were certified multi-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). He took a more serious approach with his next two albums, Release Therapy (2006), and Theater of the Mind (2008). His next record, Battle of the Sexes, was released in 2010 and featured a return to the more lighthearted tone of his previous albums. His most recent effort, Ludaversal, was released on March 31, 2015.
As an actor, Ludacris is best known for his role as Tej Parker in the Fast and Furious film series, with his first appearance in the franchise coming in 2003. His other notable roles include Crash (2004), Gamer (2009), and New Year’s Eve (2011). For his performance in the ensemble of Crash, Ludacris was co-awarded a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Critic’s Choice Award for Best Cast.
Trevor George Smith Jr. (born May 20, 1972), known professionally as Busta Rhymes, is an American rapper and actor. Chuck D of Public Enemy gave him the moniker Busta Rhymes, after NFL and CFL wide receiver George “Buster” Rhymes. He has received 12 Grammy Award nominations for his work, making him one of the most-nominated artists without winning.
About.com included him on its list of the 50 Greatest MCs of Our Time (1987–2007), while Steve Huey of AllMusic called him one of the best and most prolific rappers of the 1990s. In 2012, The Source placed him on their list of the Top 50 Lyricists of All Time. MTV has called him “one of hip-hop’s greatest visual artists”.Busta Rhymes was an original member of Leaders of the New School, a group that attracted national attention when they opened on tour for Public Enemy. His breakout performance was as a guest rapper on the Tribe Called Quest track “Scenario”. Shortly thereafter, the group broke up, and Rhymes became an in-demand guest rapper, appearing on numerous tracks for other artists before his solo debut album, The Coming, was released in 1996, peaking at number 6 on the Billboard 200 album chart, reaching platinum status and earning Rhymes a Grammy nomination. He has released nine total solo albums, the most recent being 2020’s Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God. His list of hit singles include “Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check”, “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See”, “Dangerous”, “Turn It Up” (Remix)/”Fire It Up”, “Gimme Some More”, “What’s It Gonna Be?”, “Pass the Courvoisier, Part II”, “I Know What You Want” and “Touch It”.
Among his other ventures, he founded the record label Conglomerate (initially Flipmode Entertainment) and the production crew The Conglomerate (formerly Flipmode Squad).
Wasalu Muhammad Jaco (born February 16, 1982), better known by his stage name Lupe Fiasco ( LOO-pay), is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, and entrepreneur. He rose to fame in 2006 following the success of his debut album, Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor. He also performs as the frontman of rock band Japanese Cartoon under his real name. As an entrepreneur, Fiasco was the chief executive officer of 1st and 15th Entertainment.
Raised in Chicago, Jaco developed an interest in hip hop after initially disliking the genre for its use of vulgarity and misogyny. After adopting the name Lupe Fiasco and recording songs in his father’s basement, 19-year-old Fiasco joined a group called Da Pak. The group disbanded shortly after its inception, and Fiasco soon met rapper Jay-Z who helped him sign a record deal with Atlantic Records. In September 2006, Fiasco released his debut album Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor on the label, which received three Grammy nominations. He released his second album, Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool, in December 2007. The lead single “Superstar” became his first top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. After a two-year delay, his third album, Lasers, was released in May 2011 to mixed reviews; however, it became his first album to debut at number one on the Billboard 200. The album was preceded by his highest charting single, “The Show Goes On”, which peaked at number 9. His latest album, Drogas Wave, was released in September 2018.
In addition to music, Fiasco has pursued other business ventures, including fashion. He runs two clothing lines, Righteous Kung-Fu and Trilly & Truly; he has designed sneakers for Reebok. He has been involved with charitable activities, including the Summit on the Summit expedition, and in 2010 he recorded a benefit single for victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Fiasco is also noted for his anti-establishment views, which he has expressed in both interviews and his music.
Kamaal Ibn John Fareed (born Jonathan William Davis, April 10, 1970), better known by his stage name Q-Tip, is an American rapper, record producer, singer, actor and DJ. Nicknamed The Abstract, he is noted for his innovative jazz-influenced style of hip hop production and his philosophical, esoteric and introspective lyrical themes. He embarked on his music career in the late 1980s, as an MC and main producer of the influential alternative hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest. In the mid-1990s, he co-founded the production team The Ummah, followed by the release of his gold-certified solo debut Amplified in 1999. In the 2000s, he released the Grammy Award-nominated album The Renaissance and the experimental album Kamaal the Abstract.
As an actor, Q-Tip has appeared in various films such as Poetic Justice, She Hate Me and Prison Song, the latter of which he co-wrote and played the lead role. As a DJ, he has hosted the Apple Music 1 radio show Abstract Radio since 2015. In 2016, Q-Tip was named the artistic director for hip hop culture at the Kennedy Center, and in 2018, he became the instructor of a jazz and hip hop course at New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music.
Q-Tip is one of the most acclaimed figures in hip hop. John Bush of AllMusic called him “the best rapper/producer in hip-hop history”, while About.com placed him #17 on their list of the Top 25 Hip-Hop Producers, as well as placing him #38 on their list of the 50 Greatest Rappers of All Time. In 2012, The Source ranked him #20 on their list of the Top 50 Lyricists of All Time.
Lana Michele Moorer (born October 11, 1970), better known by her stage name MC Lyte, is an American rapper, DJ, actress and entrepreneur. Considered one of the pioneers of female rap, Lyte first gained fame in the late 1980s, becoming the first solo female rapper to release a full album with 1988’s critically acclaimed Lyte as a Rock. She released a total of eight solo studio albums (2015’s Legend being her latest) and an EP with Almost September.With songs like “Cha Cha Cha”, “Paper Thin”, “10% Dis”, “Ruffneck” (with which she became the first female solo rapper to achieve a gold certification) and “Poor Georgie”, MC Lyte has influenced the work of later female rap figures such as Queen Latifah, Lil’ Kim, Da Brat, Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill and Eve, among others. She has also had collaborations with mainstream artists such as Sinéad O’Connor, Janet Jackson, Brandy, Boyz II Men, Xscape, Mary J. Blige, Moby, Beyoncé and will.i.am. In addition to her career as a rapper, she has worked in parallel as a writer, DJ, has done various voice-over work and has more than a dozen credits as an actress in film and television. Lyte also has her own foundation, Hip Hop Sisters, and has worked with several other charities.MC Lyte was recognized for her career with the “I Am Hip Hop” Icon Lifetime Achievement from the BET Hip Hop Awards and was honored at the VH-1 Hip Hop Honors. Also About.com was ranked No. 26 on their list of the 50 Greatest MCs of Our Time (1987–2007) and No. 6 in the Greatest Rappers Ever survey organized by NME.
Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn (born November 20, 1983), better known by his stage name Future, is an American rapper and singer, born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He is considered one of the most successful and influential figures in 2010s hip hop, particularly for his influence on trap music. After amassing a series of mixtapes between 2010 and 2011, Future signed a major record label deal with Epic Records and Rocko’s A1 Recordings, which helped launch Future’s own label imprint, Freebandz.
Future released his debut album, Pluto, in April 2012 to commercial success. Future’s second album, Honest, was released in April 2014, surpassing his debut on the Billboard 200. Between late 2014 and early 2015, he released a trio of mixtapes to critical praise: Monster (2014), Beast Mode (2015), and 56 Nights (2015). His next releases, DS2 (2015), What a Time to Be Alive (2015, in collaboration with Drake), Evol (2016), Future (2017), Hndrxx (2017), The Wizrd (2019), and High Off Life (2020) would all debut number one on the Billboard 200. Future and Hndrxx made him the first artist since 2014 to debut two albums in consecutive weeks atop of that chart. The albums contained a multitude of singles certified gold or higher by the RIAA, including “Turn On the Lights”, “Move That Dope” (featuring Pusha T and Pharrell), “Fuck Up Some Commas”, “Where Ya At” (featuring Drake), “Jumpman” (with Drake), “Low Life” (featuring The Weeknd), “Mask Off”, and “Life Is Good” (featuring Drake), with the latter becoming his highest-charting single as a lead artist. He achieved his first Billboard Hot 100 number one position on Drake’s 2021 single “Way 2 Sexy”, which also features Young Thug; as such, he broke the record for the longest wait to have a #1 hit on the chart, after 125 entries.
Denzel Rae Don Curry (born February 16, 1995) is an American rapper. Born and raised in Carol City, Florida, Curry started rapping while in sixth grade and began working on his first mixtape in 2011. Influenced by underground Florida rapper SpaceGhostPurrp, the mixtape was later featured on Purrp’s social media, giving Curry local attention and resulting in Curry joining Purrp’s hip-hop collective, Raider Klan.
Curry left Raider Klan in 2013, releasing his debut studio album, Nostalgic 64, in September of that year, while still in high school. He has gone on to release four more projects, 32 Zel/Planet Shrooms on June 9, 2015, Imperial on March 9, 2016, and Ta13oo on July 27, 2018, which debuted at number 28 on the Billboard 200 chart. His fourth studio album, Zuu, was released on May 31, 2019, and a collaborative project with Kenny Beats, Unlocked, was released on February 7, 2020. All of his projects have garnered significant acclaim.
Tauheed K. Epps (born September 12, 1977), known professionally as 2 Chainz, is an American rapper. Born and raised in College Park, Georgia, he initially gained recognition for being one-half of the Southern hip hop duo Playaz Circle, alongside his longtime friend and fellow rapper Earl “Dolla Boy” Conyers. The duo was signed to fellow Georgia-based rapper Ludacris’ Disturbing tha Peace label, and are best known for their debut single “Duffle Bag Boy” (featuring Lil Wayne).
In February 2012, Epps signed a solo record deal with Def Jam Recordings, an imprint of Universal Music Group. The following August, he released his debut studio album Based on a T.R.U. Story on August 14, 2012, to commercial success despite mixed reviews. The album spawned three successful singles: “No Lie” (featuring Drake), “Birthday Song” (featuring Kanye West), and “I’m Different”, all of which charted in the top 50 of the Billboard Hot 100 and were certified Gold or higher by the RIAA, along with the album being certified Gold. His second studio album B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time was released on September 11, 2013; supported by the lead single “Feds Watching” (featuring Pharrell Williams). Epps began working with TV network Viceland on a show called Most Expensivest, which debuted on November 15, 2017, and aired for three seasons.
Quincy Matthew Hanley (born October 26, 1986), better known by his stage name Schoolboy Q (stylized as ScHoolboy Q), is an American rapper from South Central Los Angeles, California. In 2009, Hanley signed to Carson-based independent record label Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) and in late 2011, secured a recording contract with major label Interscope Records. Hanley is also a member of the hip-hop supergroup Black Hippy, alongside label-mates and fellow California-based rappers Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, and Kendrick Lamar.
In 2008, Hanley released his first full-length project, a mixtape titled ScHoolboy Turned Hustla. He later released a follow-up in 2009, titled Gangsta & Soul. He then returned in January 2011, with his first independent album, titled Setbacks. The project, released under TDE, to digital retailers only, reached number 100 on the US Billboard 200 chart. A little over a year later, his second independent album Habits & Contradictions, was also released exclusively to digital retailers. The album received generally favorable reviews and debuted at number 111 on the US Billboard 200.
After signing with Interscope, Hanley subsequently began recording his major-label debut studio album, titled Oxymoron (2014). The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 and was preceded by the singles “Collard Greens” (featuring Kendrick Lamar), “Man of the Year”, “Studio” (featuring BJ the Chicago Kid) and “Hell of a Night”. The first three singles all charted on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, with “Studio” remaining his best-performing as a lead artist to date.
Jonathan Lyndale Kirk (born December 22, 1991), known professionally as DaBaby (formerly known as Baby Jesus), is an American rapper. After releasing several mixtapes between 2014 and 2018, he rose to mainstream prominence in 2019.
DaBaby’s debut studio album Baby on Baby (2019) peaked at number seven on the Billboard 200, while his second studio album, Kirk (2019), debuted at number one. The former album featured the Billboard Hot 100 top-ten single “Suge”, while the latter featured the multi-platinum records “Intro” and “Bop”. His third studio album, Blame It on Baby (2020), became his second consecutive number-one album in the US. The album included his highest-charting song, “Rockstar” (featuring Roddy Ricch), which spent seven non-consecutive weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
Cornell Iral Haynes Jr. (born November 2, 1974), better known by his stage name Nelly, is an American rapper, singer, and entrepreneur. He embarked on his music career with Midwest hip hop group St. Lunatics in 1993 and signed to Universal Records in 1999. Under Universal, Nelly began his solo career in the year 2000, with his debut album Country Grammar, of which the featured title track and the single “Ride wit Me” were top ten hits. The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 and went on to peak at number one. Country Grammar is Nelly’s best-selling album to date, selling over 8.4 million copies in the United States. His following album, Nellyville, produced the number-one hits “Hot in Herre” and “Dilemma” (featuring Kelly Rowland). Other singles included “Work It” (featuring Justin Timberlake), “Air Force Ones” (featuring Murphy Lee and St. Lunatics), “Pimp Juice” and “#1”.
With the same-day dual release of Sweat and Suit (2004) and the compilation Sweatsuit (2006), Nelly continued to generate many chart-topping hits. Sweat debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 342,000 copies in its first week. In the same week of release, Suit debuted at number one, selling around 396,000 copies in its first week on the same chart. Nelly’s fifth studio album, Brass Knuckles, was released on September 16, 2008, after several delays. It produced the singles “Party People” (featuring Fergie), “Stepped on My J’z” (featuring Jermaine Dupri and Ciara) and “Body on Me” (featuring Akon and Ashanti). In 2010, Nelly released the album 5.0. The lead single, “Just a Dream”, was certified triple platinum in the United States. It included the singles “Move That Body” (featuring T-Pain and Akon) and “Gone” (a sequel to the 2002 single “Dilemma” in collaboration with Kelly Rowland).
Nelly won Grammy Awards in 2003 and 2004 and had a supporting role in the 2005 remake film The Longest Yard with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. He has two clothing lines, Vokal and Apple Bottoms. He has been referred to by Peter Shapiro as “one of the biggest stars of the new millennium”, and the RIAA ranks Nelly as the fourth best-selling rap artist in American music history, with 21 million albums sold in the United States. On December 11, 2009, Billboard ranked Nelly the number three Top Artist of the Decade (2000s).
Tracy Lauren Marrow, better known by his stage name Ice-T, is an American rapper, songwriter, actor and producer. He began his career as an underground rapper in the 1980s and was signed to Sire Records in 1987, when he released his debut album Rhyme Pays—reportedly the first hip-hop album to carry an explicit content sticker. The following year, he founded the record label Rhyme $yndicate Records (named after his collective of fellow hip-hop artists called the “Rhyme $yndicate”) and released another album, Power, which would go platinum. He also released several other albums that went gold.
Ice-T co-founded the heavy metal band Body Count, which he introduced on his 1991 rap album O.G. Original Gangster, on the track titled “Body Count”. The band released their self-titled debut album in 1992. Ice-T encountered controversy over his track “Cop Killer”, the lyrics of which discussed killing police officers. He asked to be released from his contract with Warner Bros. Records, and his next solo album, Home Invasion, was released later in February 1993 through Priority Records. Body Count’s next album, Born Dead, was released in 1994, and Ice-T released two more albums in the late 1990s.
As an actor, Ice-T played small parts in the films Breakin’ and its sequels, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo and Rappin’, during the 1980s, before his major role debut, starring as police detective Scotty Appleton in New Jack City (1991). He received top billing for his role in Surviving the Game (1994) and continued to appear in small roles in TV series and other films throughout the 1990s. Since 2000, he has portrayed NYPD Detective/Sergeant Odafin Tutuola on the NBC police drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. A reality television show titled Ice Loves Coco ran for three seasons (2011–2013) on E!, featuring the home life of Ice-T and his wife Coco Austin. In 2018, he began hosting the true crime documentary In Ice Cold Blood on the Oxygen cable channel, which as of 2020 is in its third season.
Darold Durard Brown Ferguson Jr. (born October 20, 1988), known professionally as ASAP Ferg (stylized as A$AP Ferg), is an American rapper from New York City’s Harlem neighborhood. Aside from his solo career, he is a member of the hip hop collective A$AP Mob, from which he adopted a record deal with Polo Grounds and RCA, the same labels that helped launch A$AP Worldwide. Two years prior, Ferg’s A$AP Mob cohorts A$AP Rocky and A$AP Yams, negotiated their own respective deal in 2011. His debut studio album Trap Lord was released on August 20, 2013, and was met with generally positive reviews. On April 22, 2016, Ferguson released his second studio album, Always Strive and Prosper. On August 18, 2017, Ferguson released his second mixtape, Still Striving, which was preceded by the single, “Plain Jane” (featuring Nicki Minaj). His debut EP Floor Seats was released on August 16, 2019 featuring the single “Dreams, Fairytales, Fantasies. In 2021, Ferguson signed an additional management deal with Roc Nation.Outside of music, Ferguson is the founder of the street fashion brand Traplord, namesake of his debut album.
Darryl Matthews McDaniels (born May 31, 1964), better known by his stage name DMC, is an American rapper. He is a founding member of the hip hop group Run-DMC, and is considered one of the pioneers of hip hop culture.
Radric Delantic Davis (born February 12, 1980), known professionally as Gucci Mane, is an American rapper and record executive. He helped pioneer the hip hop subgenre of trap music alongside fellow Atlanta-based rappers T.I. and Young Jeezy, particularly in the 2000s and 2010s. In 2005, Gucci Mane debuted with Trap House, followed by his second album, Hard to Kill in 2006. His third studio album Back to the Trap House was released in 2007.
Following a string of critically and commercially successful mixtape releases in 2009, Gucci Mane released his fourth studio album, The State vs. Radric Davis, his first gold-certified album. Following time spent in prison between 2014 and 2016, he re-emerged with several new retail projects, including Everybody Looking (2016), which was released to critical praise. His 2016 collaboration with Rae Sremmurd, titled “Black Beatles”, provided Gucci Mane with his first number-one single on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. He has since released numerous albums; his latest one, Woptober II, was released on October 18, 2019.Gucci Mane has released 14 studio albums and over 71 mixtapes throughout his career. In 2007, he founded his own label, 1017 Records. He has worked with artists such as Drake, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown, Selena Gomez, Mariah Carey, Usher, Bruno Mars and Marilyn Manson. His mixtape releases and trap music has influenced Atlanta rappers like Young Thug, Migos, Rich Homie Quan, 21 Savage and Lil Yachty, and he has been called an “avatar of East Atlanta,” and the most influential underground rapper of the 2000s.
Warren Damonte Griffin III (born November 10, 1970), known professionally as Warren G, is an American rapper and producer known for his role in West Coast rap’s 1990s ascent. Along with Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg, he formed the hip-hop trio 213, named for Long Beach’s area code. A pioneer of G-funk, he attained mainstream success with the 1994 single “Regulate”, a duet with Nate Dogg. The younger stepbrother of producer Dr. Dre, he introduced him to Snoop Dogg, who was later signed by him.
His debut album, Regulate… G Funk Era, was certified 3x multi-platinum. “Regulate” spent 18 weeks in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, with three weeks at No. 2, while “This D.J.”, reached No. 9. Both songs earned Grammy nominations.
Three songs from his second album, Take a Look Over Your Shoulder, reached the Top 40, as did his 1998 duet with Nate Dogg, “Nobody Does It Better”. Both Take a Look Over Your Shoulder and his next album, I Want It All, were certified gold, the last of his albums to attain certification. His 2001 comeback attempt, The Return of the Regulator, failed to reach his earlier heights despite a star-studded collaborator list, and he was criticized for undermining from his strengths by trying to exceed them.
His next two albums, 2005’s In the Mid-Nite Hour and then 2009’s The G Files, released independently, were self-produced and escaped popular notice. In the 2010s, he experienced a resurgence in popularity amid the digital age. In 2015, he released Regulate… G Funk Era, Pt. II, an EP featuring archived recordings of Nate Dogg, who died in 2011. In 2017, “Regulate”, platinum since 1994, went 2x multi-platinum, propelled by digital downloads.
William Leonard Roberts II (born January 28, 1976), known professionally as Rick Ross, is an American rapper and record executive.Prior to releasing his debut single, “Hustlin'”, in 2006, Ross was the subject of a bidding war, receiving offers from Diddy’s Bad Boy Entertainment and Irv Gotti’s Murder Inc., until signing a multimillion-dollar deal with Jay-Z on Def Jam Recordings. Ross released his debut album Port of Miami through the label later that year, debuting at the top spot on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart, with sales of 187,000 units during the first week. Ross released his second studio album, Trilla in 2008, once again debuting atop the Billboard 200.Outside of his solo career, Ross was a lead member of the hip hop group Triple C’s, alongside fellow Florida rappers Gunplay and Torch in 2005. Ross founded the record label Maybach Music Group in 2009, on which he released his studio albums Deeper Than Rap (2009), Teflon Don (2010), God Forgives, I Don’t (2012), Mastermind, Hood Billionaire (2014), Black Market (2015), and Rather You Than Me (2017). His tenth album, Port of Miami 2 was released in August 2019 and peaked at number 2 on the Billboard 200 charts. Prominent industry acts have also been signed to Rick Ross through the Maybach Music label, including Meek Mill, Wale, and French Montana, among others. In early 2012, MTV named Ross as the Hottest MC in the Game.
Carl Terrell Mitchell (born November 27, 1973), better known by his stage name Twista (formerly Tung Twista), is an American rapper. He is best known for his chopper style of rapping and for once holding the title of fastest English-speaking rapper in the world according to Guinness World Records in 1992, being able to pronounce 598 syllables in 55 seconds.In 1997, after appearing on Do or Die’s hit single “Po Pimp”, produced by the Legendary Traxster, Twista signed with Big Beat and Atlantic Records, where he released his third album Adrenaline Rush and formed the group Speedknot Mobstaz, in 1998. His 2004 album Kamikaze reached the top of the US Billboard 200 album chart, after the success of the Billboard Hot 100 #1 single “Slow Jamz”.
Robert Fitzgerald Diggs (born July 5, 1969), better known by his stage name RZA ( RIZ-ə), is an American rapper, actor, filmmaker and record producer. He is the de facto leader of the hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan, having produced most albums for the group and its respective members. He is a cousin of two other original Wu-Tang Clan members: GZA and Ol’ Dirty Bastard. He has also released solo albums under the alter-ego Bobby Digital, along with executive producing credits for side projects. After forming the Wu-Tang Clan, RZA was a founding member of the horrorcore group Gravediggaz, where he went by the name The RZArector.
RZA has been heavily involved in filmmaking since the late 90s. He has scored a number of films, most notably Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003) and Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004). He has written and directed in film and television, starting with his directorial debut, The Man with the Iron Fists, in 2012. He has also acted in numerous films and TV series, including the films American Gangster and Brick Mansions, and the TV series Gang Related and Californication.
He is especially known for his music production, with a style that includes the use of soul samples and sparse beats that has proved highly influential. The magazine The Source placed him on its list of the 20 greatest producers in the magazine’s twenty-year history. Vibe listed him among the top 8 greatest hip-hop producers of all time, and NME placed him on their list of the 50 Greatest Producers Ever.
Alvin Nathaniel Joiner (born September 18, 1974), better known by his stage name Xzibit (pronounced “exhibit”), is an American rapper, actor, songwriter, television presenter, and radio personality.
Xzibit began his musical career after the release of his debut studio album At the Speed of Life on October 15, 1996. The album generated both critical and commercial success, peaking at number 74 on the Billboard 200. It also contained the single “Paparazzi”, which peaked at number 83 on the Billboard Hot 100. This success allowed Xzibit to secure a recording contract with Loud Records later that year.
Xzibit released his second album 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz on August 25, 1998, which peaked at number 53 on the Billboard 200. The album also contained the single “What U See Is What U Get”, which peaked at #50 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album’s success caught attention from West Coast rapper Dr. Dre who acted as the executive producer on Xzibit’s third album Restless which was released on December 12, 2000.
Restless debuted at number 14 on the Billboard 200, and was later certified platinum in the U.S. The album contained the singles “Front 2 Back”, “X”, and “Get Your Walk On”. His follow-up album Man vs. Machine (2002) also enjoyed success; it debuted at number 3 on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold. Weapons of Mass Destruction (2004) also became certified gold. After the release of Full Circle in 2006, Xzibit underwent a hiatus, not releasing music until the release of his seventh studio album Napalm on October 9, 2012. Since 2013, he is part of the hip-hop supergroup Serial Killers.
Xzibit has also gained fame as an actor and television host, for his role as Shyne Johnson in the television series Empire, and as the host for the reality television series Pimp My Ride. He has starred in the films Gridiron Gang (2006), The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008), Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009) and Sun Dogs (2017).
Joseph Antonio Cartagena (born August 19, 1970), better known by his stage name Fat Joe, is an American rapper from New York City. He began his music career as a member of hip hop group Diggin’ in the Crates Crew (D.I.T.C.), then forged a solo career and set up his own label, Terror Squad, to which he signed Big Pun, Remy Ma, Tony Sunshine, Cuban Link, Armageddon, Prospect, Triple Seis, and a then-unknown DJ Khaled, as well as discover producers Cool & Dre.
Fat Joe’s debut solo album, Represent, was released in 1993 and spawned the single “Flow Joe”, which reached number one on the Billboard Hot Rap Songs chart. His most commercially successful album to date was Jealous Ones Still Envy (J.O.S.E.) (2001); it was certified platinum by the RIAA and internationally certified silver by the BPI, as well as reaching the top 100 on multiple music charts.
He is best known for the songs “Lean Back” (2004; with Terror Squad), “What’s Luv?” (2002; featuring Ashanti and Ja Rule), “Make It Rain” (2006; featuring Lil Wayne), and “All the Way Up” (2016; with Remy Ma featuring French Montana and Dre).
Fat Joe has appeared in several films, including Scary Movie 3 and Happy Feet, as well as Spike Lee’s Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It.
In 2018 he began hosting a podcast on Tidal, Coca Vision, where he discusses music, friendships, and pop culture with various guests. His album Family Ties was released in December 2019.
Faheem Rasheed Najm (born September 30, 1984), better known by his stage name T-Pain, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer. Throughout his career as a singer, T-Pain popularized the creative use of the Auto-Tune pitch correction effect, used with extreme parameter settings to create distinctive vocal sounds. His success with the effect has influenced several other major artists to adopt it as well, namely Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Future and Travis Scott, among others. After signing with American singer Akon’s Konvict Muzik, T-Pain subsequently founded his own vanity label imprint, Nappy Boy Entertainment, established in 2005.
His debut album, Rappa Ternt Sanga, was released in 2005. In 2007, T-Pain released his second album, Epiphany, which reached number one on the US Billboard 200 chart. His third album, Three Ringz, was released in 2008. The albums included a string of hit singles, including “I’m Sprung”, “I’m ‘n Luv (Wit a Stripper)”, “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)”, “Bartender”, “Can’t Believe It”, and “5 O’Clock”. T-Pain has earned two Grammy Awards from 12 nominations, one with Kanye West for “Good Life” and the other with Jamie Foxx for “Blame It”. From 2006 to 2010, T-Pain was featured on more than 50 chart topping singles. His most successful feature to date was on Flo Rida’s debut single “Low”, which has since been certified diamond (10x platinum) by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Quavious Keyate Marshall (born April 2, 1991), known professionally as Quavo (), is an American rapper and record producer. He is best known as the co-founder and current frontman of hip hop trio Migos. Quavo is related to his fellow Migos members, being Takeoff’s uncle and Offset’s cousin. He is also a partial owner of the FCF Glacier Boyz.
Outside of Migos, Quavo has been featured on four singles that have peaked within the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, including DJ Khaled’s “I’m the One” and “No Brainer” the former of which reached number 1 along with “Congratulations”, which peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2018, he released his debut solo album Quavo Huncho which peaked at number 2 on the Billboard 200.
Destin Choice Route (born October 31, 1990), better known by his stage name JID (also stylized J.I.D), is an American rapper and singer. He is part of the musical collective Spillage Village, founded by EarthGang in 2010, with Hollywood JB, JordxnBryant, and 6lack, among others. He is also signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville Records and Interscope Records. He is also a member of the hip-hop supergroup Zoink Gang, with Smino, Buddy and Guapdad 4000.JID began gaining recognition after releasing several independent projects such as Route of Evil (2012), Para Tu (2013) and DiCaprio (2015). His debut studio album, The Never Story, was released in 2017 to public praise and included the single “Never”. He released his second album, DiCaprio 2, in 2018; it contained the singles “151 Rum” and “Off Deez” and also received critical acclaim.
Earl Tywone Stevens Sr. (born November 15, 1967), better known by his stage name E-40, is an American rapper. He is a founding member of the rap group the Click, and the founder of Sick Wid It Records. He has released 28 studio albums to date, appeared on numerous movie soundtracks, and has also done guest appearances on a host of other rap albums. Initially an underground artist, his 1995 solo album In a Major Way opened him up to a wider audience. Beginning in 1998, he began collaborating with mainstream rappers outside the San Francisco Bay Area. He rose to higher mainstream popularity in 2006 with his single “Tell Me When to Go”, which was produced by Lil Jon.
Artis Leon Ivey Jr. (born August 1, 1963), known professionally as Coolio, is an American rapper, singer, record producer, and actor. Coolio achieved mainstream success in the mid-to-late 1990s with his albums It Takes a Thief (1994), Gangsta’s Paradise (1995), and My Soul (1997). He is best known for his 1995 Grammy Award-winning hit single “Gangsta’s Paradise”, as well as other singles “Fantastic Voyage” (1994), “1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin’ New)” (1996) and “C U When U Get There” (1997).
He was also known for rapping the theme song (“Aw, Here It Goes!”) for the late 1990s Nickelodeon series Kenan & Kel. Coolio has since gone on to release albums independently and has also become a chef, creating a web series titled Cookin’ with Coolio and releasing a cookbook. Ivey originally rose to fame as a member of the Gangsta rap group WC and the Maad Circle alongside WC and his brother, Crazy Toones.
David Andrew Burd (born March 15, 1988), better known by his stage name Lil Dicky, is an American rapper, comedian, and actor. He came to prominence with the release of the music video for his song “Ex-Boyfriend” in 2013, which became popular with more than one million views on YouTube in 24 hours. He released his debut album, Professional Rapper, in 2015.
In 2018, his song “Freaky Friday”, featuring Chris Brown, became a worldwide hit. He also gained attention for his 2019 music video “Earth”, which featured many singers and actors including Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, Kevin Hart, Wiz Khalifa, Charlie Puth, Katy Perry, and Leonardo DiCaprio. The song was made to raise awareness about the environment, pollution, and climate change. Burd stated that a portion of the song’s proceeds are being donated to a variety of environmental charities.In 2020, Burd and producer Jeff Schaffer created a television comedy series based on Burd’s life called Dave, which premiered on FXX in March 2020. The show’s second season aired in 2021.
Keenon Dequan Ray Jackson (born March 9, 1990), better known by his stage name YG (short for Young Gangsta), is an American rapper from Compton, California. In 2010, he released his debut single, “Toot It and Boot It” (featuring Ty Dolla Sign), which peaked at number 67 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single’s success resulted in his signing to Def Jam Recordings. In the following years, YG released mixtapes such as The Real 4Fingaz, Just Re’d Up, Just Re’d Up 2, 4 Hunnid Degreez, among others.
In June 2013, YG signed an additional deal with Young Jeezy’s imprint CTE World. His 2013 single, “My Nigga” (featuring Jeezy and Rich Homie Quan), peaked at number 19 on the US Billboard Hot 100. He then released the singles “Left, Right” (featuring DJ Mustard) and “Who Do You Love?” (featuring Drake), leading up to the release of his debut studio album in 2014. The album, My Krazy Life, was released on March 18 of that year by Pu$haz Ink, CTE World and Def Jam, and receiving commercial success and critical acclaim. Later in 2014, he was featured on his highest-charting single to date, “Don’t Tell ‘Em”, with American singer Jeremih, peaking at number 6 on the Hot 100. On June 17, 2016, he released his second album, Still Brazy, to further acclaim.
On August 3, 2018, he released his third studio album, Stay Dangerous, to generally positive reviews. It included the single, “Big Bank” (featuring 2 Chainz, Big Sean and Nicki Minaj), his highest charting solo single, peaking at number 16 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. His fourth studio album, 4Real 4Real, was released on May 24, 2019 in memory of deceased rapper and close colleague Nipsey Hussle. His fifth studio album, My Life 4Hunnid, was released on October 2, 2020.
A Boogie wit da Hoodie
Artist Julius Dubose (born December 6, 1995), known professionally as A Boogie wit da Hoodie (or simply A Boogie), is an American rapper and singer. He is signed to Atlantic Records, as well as his own label imprint, Highbridge the Label. His stage name is derived from the character “Ace Boogie” from the 2002 film Paid in Full, and because he was wearing hoodies all the time, friends gave him the nickname “A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie”.His highest charting singles are “Numbers” (which debuted at number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100), “Look Back at It” (number 27), and “Drowning” (number 38). His debut studio album, The Bigger Artist (2017), debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 chart. He released his second studio album, Hoodie SZN (2018), which became his first number one album on the Billboard 200. His third studio album, Artist 2.0 (2020), debuted at number two on the Billboard 200. He is set to release his fourth studio album, A Boogie vs. Artist in 2022.
Gerald Earl Gillum (born May 24, 1989), better known by his stage name G-Eazy, is an American rapper and record producer. His first major-label album, These Things Happen, was released on June 23, 2014, and peaked at number 3 on the US Billboard 200. His second studio album, When It’s Dark Out, was released on December 4, 2015. It featured the single “Me, Myself & I” (with Bebe Rexha), which reached the top 10 of the US Billboard Hot 100. His third album, The Beautiful & Damned, was released on December 15, 2017, preceded by the single “No Limit” (featuring Cardi B and ASAP Rocky), which reached number 4 of the US Billboard Hot 100. His EP B-Sides, released on June 27, 2019 (updated on August 22 and September 19, 2019), included all the songs that did not make it to his fourth studio album These Things Happen Too, released on September 24, 2021.
Lonnie Rashid Lynn (born March 13, 1972), known by his stage name Common (formerly Common Sense), is an American rapper and actor. He debuted in 1992 with the album Can I Borrow a Dollar?, and gained critical acclaim with his 1994 album Resurrection. He maintained an underground following into the late 1990s. He achieved mainstream success through his work with the Soulquarians.Common’s first major-label album Like Water for Chocolate (2000), received commercial success. In 2003, he won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Song for the Erykah Badu single “Love of My Life”. His 2005 album Be was also a commercial success and was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 2006 Grammy Awards. Common received his second Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for “Southside” (featuring Kanye West), from his 2007 album Finding Forever. His best-of album, Thisisme Then: The Best of Common, was released in late 2007. In 2011, Common launched Think Common Entertainment, his own record label imprint, having previously released music under various other labels including Relativity, Geffen, and GOOD Music.
Common won the 2015 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and the Academy Award for Best Original Song, for his song, co-written and performed with John Legend, “Glory” from the 2014 film Selma, in which he co-starred as Civil Rights Movement leader James Bevel. Common’s acting career also includes roles in the films Smokin’ Aces, Street Kings, American Gangster, Wanted, Terminator Salvation, Date Night, Just Wright, Happy Feet Two, New Year’s Eve, Run All Night, Being Charlie, Rex, John Wick: Chapter 2, Smallfoot and Hunter Killer. He also narrated the documentary Bouncing Cats, about one man’s efforts to improve the lives of children in Uganda through hip-hop/b-boy culture. He starred as Elam Ferguson on the AMC western television series Hell on Wheels.
Dayvon Daquan Bennett (August 9, 1994 – November 6, 2020), known professionally as King Von, was an American rapper and serial killer from Chicago, Illinois. He had multiple bodies against his opps. He was signed to Lil Durk’s record label Only the Family and Empire Distribution. On November 6, 2020, he was shot and killed in Atlanta, Georgia. Bennett was born on August 9, 1994, in Chicago, Illinois. He had six half-siblings from his father, Walter E. Bennett, and three siblings from his mother, Taesha. He was raised mostly by his mother, as his father was in and out of his life due to his incarcerations. When Von was 11 years old his father was killed by gunfire. Von would later pay tribute to his father in multiple songs, notably in the song “Exposing Me”.
Bryson Lashun Potts (born November 1, 2002), known professionally as NLE Choppa (previously YNR Choppa), is an American rapper from Memphis, Tennessee. He rose to fame with his 2019 single “Shotta Flow”, which was certified platinum by the RIAA and peaked in the top-40 of the Billboard Hot 100. The song was included on his debut EP titled Cottonwood, released the same year.
Tyler-Justin Anthony Sharpe (born August 26, 2002), known professionally as Lil Tecca, is an American rapper and singer. He rose to mainstream fame with the release of his 2019 single “Ransom”, which peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single was included on his debut mixtape We Love You Tecca (2019) which peaked at number 4 on the US Billboard 200 and included the follow-up singles “Love Me” and “Did It Again”. His debut studio album, Virgo World (2020), debuted at number 10 on the Billboard 200 and followed up with his second and third albums, We Love You Tecca 2 (2021) and Tec (2023).