Tennessee Hip Hop
List of All-Time Best Tennessee Rappers
Historically, Tennessee rappers have come from two places, either Memphis or Nashville, as the Tennessee hip hop scene began as early as the 1980s. These two cities have always had strong musical backgrounds, whether it has been blues music in the city of Memphis or country music in the city of Nashville.
The underground rap scene of Memphis was started during the 1980s, first with the likes of DJ Spanish Fly and later followed by others, while 8Ball & MJG became the first nationally known rappers from Tennessee. Along with artists, the city of Memphis has produced dozens of producers, many who were originally DJs. The main producers have always been DJ Paul and Juicy J, but also DJ Squeeky, Blackout, DJ Sound, DJ Zirk, Slice T, DJ BK, Tommy Wright III and later with Drumma Boy and Jazze Pha.
Memphis rappers within the Tennessee hip hop scene had various eras, from the 1990s with the horrorcore, demonic, and raw and uncut street music, to the 2000s with more trap and club bangers. While Memphis held the spotlight, Nashville has been also slowly coming along. Rappers like Pistol, Kool Daddy Fresh, Boogie, Big Lou, South 8 Mafia, Quanie Cash, Young Buck and Dtay, and several others helped paved the way for the rising rap scene of Nashville.
Top 20 Tennessee Hip Hop Artists
1. Three 6 Mafia
DJ Paul, Juicy J, Gangsta Boo, Lord Infamous, Crunchy Black, and Koopsta Knicca were the six artists that helped create one of the greatest rap groups of all-time. Beginning their careers in the early 1990s, or possibly the 1980s, DJ Paul and Juicy J were two DJs on the South Side and North Side of the city. Eventually the two would link and form Three 6 Mafia and Hypnotize Minds, while each individually bringing over several artists themselves.
Debuting in 1995 with Mystic Stylez and later following with Chapter 1: The End, not until their classic Chapter 2: World Domination did Triple Six became recognized. While songs like “Hit a Muthafucka,” “Late Nite Tip,” “Tear Da Club Up ’97,” were certified hits, When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1 is when Three 6 Mafia became household names. Continuing to release music until the late 2000s, Three 6 Mafia helped produced dozens of hits for southern hip hop, “Stay Fly,” “Sippin On Some Syrup,” “Poppin My Collar,” “Where’s The Bud,” “Slob on My Knob”, and many more.
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2. 8Ball & MJG
Representing Orange Mound, Eightball and MJG are kings of southern hip hop, especially the very first kings of Tennessee hip hop music. The first Memphis and Tennessee rappers that gained nationwide success, Ball & G opened doors from many southern rappers from across the South, and not just Memphis. Comin Out Hard, On Top of the World, In Our Lifetime, Space Age 4 Eva, and many more, 8ball and MJG’s legacy has long been solidified, playing an important role in the growth of southern rap music.
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3. Project Pat
Under the umbrella of Three 6 Mafia, Project Pat emerged as the number one rap artist from Memphis and one of the top southern rappers during his prime in the rap game. One of hip-hop’s greatest storytellers, Project Pat debut with the classic Ghetty Green, and followed with one of the greatest southern rap albums, Mista Don’t Play. In all, Project Pat built a legendary career as one of the main contributors to the success of Hypnotize Minds.
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4. Yo Gotti
Beginning his career as Lil Yo during the 1990s, long before establishing one of the top independent rap labels of CMG, Yo Gotti slowly found his way as one of the top rising southern rap stars. Projects like Life, Back 2 da Basics, and mixtapes I Told U So and Cocaine Music 2, propelled Yo Gotti’s successful rap career into the 2010s, becoming one of the country’s top rap artists.
5. Young Dolph
Releasing mixtape after mixtape, beginning with Welcome 2 Dolph World, Young Dolph would gradually move up the ranks of the rap game. Through constant persistence, Young Dolph gained thousands of fans, and finally leaped into national success following the hit song “Preach.” Before his unfortunate death, Young Dolph became not only a mogul and an executive, but an inspiration and motivation to many across the country.
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Not only a legend in hip hop, but Yelawolf has become one of the most impactful rappers of our time. Grinding for years during the 2000s, Yelawolf finally reached stardom with his southern classic Trunk Muzik. Since his 2009 release, Yelawolf has built his own brand and label of Slumerican, released dozens of projects, collaborated with some of hip hop’s biggest names, has given numerous artists opportunities, and has built his own core following.
7. Young Buck
Beginning his career with Cash Money and later with Juvenile and UTP, Young Buck would finally get his chance after linking with 50 Cent and G-Unit, becoming one of the main artists on the label. Debuting in 2004 with his first solo project, Straight Outta Cashville, Young Buck would become a solid figure for southern hip-hop during its rise in the rap game, eventually overtaking East Coast and West Coast hip-hop.
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8. DJ Spanish Fly
The man that started it all, and motivated and inspired many to become part of the Memphis and the Tennessee hip hop scene. DJ Spanish Fly may not have the hits or the fame, or even the success as other rappers on the list, but much credit deserves to go to the Memphis native as pioneering the city’s rap scene.
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9. Gangsta Pat
Possibly Memphis’ first major rap star, at least locally and regionally. While debuting during the early 1990s with #1 Suspect, All About Comin Up, and Sex, Money, and Murder, 1995’s Deadly Verses is what set the Tennessee hip hop legend apart from the rest, especially with songs like “I Wanna Smoke” and “Mo Murder.” Raw and uncut, Gangsta Pat was on top of Memphis rap for the 1990s.
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10. Tommy Wright III
While not the biggest name in hip-hop, but Tommy Wright III is one of the most legendary underground rap artists from the South. Known for his raw, grimy, and vivid lyrics, Tommie Wright III was one of the city’s top rap artists during the 1990s, releasing projects like Ashes 2 Ashes, Dust 2 Dust, Runnin-N-Gunnin, On The Run, and more.
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11. Playa Fly
Songs like “Crownin Me” and “Nobody Needs Nobody” certified Playa Fly’s stance in the Tennessee hip hop scene and among Tennessee rappers. Beginning his career as Lil Fly, and linking with DJ Paul and Juicy J, Playa Fly dropped two southern classics, Fly Shit and Movin’ On, to begin the legacy of one of Memphis’ greatest all-time rappers.
12. Kingpin Skinny Pimp
The OG of Memphis’ rap scene, Kingpin Skinny Pimp came onto the scene with Hypnotize Minds with his first release of King of Da Playaz Ball in 1996. A regional classic, Kingpin Skinny Pimp would continue to make a name for himself throughout the late 1990s and 2000s. Some of the ideas from Three 6 Mafia’s most notarized songs came from Kingpin Skinny Pimp’s King of Da Playaz Ball.
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Originally named All Star, the Nashville rapper was linked to numerous legends in the rap game. From constant collaborations with Yo Gotti and Young Buck, to having one of the biggest songs on Young Jeezy’s classic Trap or Die mixtape, to linking and signing with Cash Money Records, to eventually becoming Starlito and building his own solid career and imprint, Grind Hard.
A Tennessee legend, this country rap star debuted through collaborating with Hypnotize Minds and Three 6 Mafia affiliate Lil Wyte. Since beginning during the early 2010s, Jelly Roll has now transitioned to becoming a much more seasoned artist, showcasing versatility with a mixture of hip hop music over country melodies.
15. Kool Daddy Fresh
While Memphis is heavily representing, one of the main pioneers for the Nashville rap scene was the man by the name of Kool Daddy Fresh. Albums like Plottin’, Licensed to Chill, and the 1994 classic It’s All True, helped bring hip hop music into the streets of Nashville from a native. Along with rappers like Pistol, Quanie Cash, Boogie, South 8 Mafia, Kool Daddy Fresh was one of the first faces of Nashville’s Tennessee hip hop scene.
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16. Gangsta Blac
South Memphis own, Gangsta Blac brightest moment within the Tennessee hip hop scene was 1996’s Can I Be, his classic debut album. While his debut was one of his most known projects, Gangsta Blac remained one of the top Tennessee rappers with albums like I am Da Gangsta and 74 Minutes of Bump.
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17. Al Kapone
The Memphis legend and Get Buck artist, Al Kapone had one of the most solid careers out of most Memphis and Tennessee rappers. While one of his most known projects was Da Resurrection of 1995, Al Kapone began during the early 1990s and continued into the 2000s. With music placements in movies like Hustle & Flow and Stomp The Yard, as well co-writing credits with a few hip-hop legends.
18. Indo G
Another Three 6 Mafia affiliated, but Indo G was long in the game before his 1998 release of Angel Dust under Hypnotize Minds and DJ Paul and Juicy J production. Once signing with Luke Records, Indo G kickoff his career as a duo with Lil Blunt, releasing The Antidote and Up In Smoke. Few local and underground hits, Indo G earned the right to be a Tennessee hip hop legend.
Suave House and Rap-A-Lot affiliate, Tela had one of the biggest hits of the 1990s, “Sho Nuff.” One of the first rappers to work with legendary producer Jazze Pha, Tela released several well acclaimed albums, Piece of Mind and The World Ain’t Enuff between the late 1990s and early 2000s.
20. Lil Wyte
During Three 6 Mafia’s and Hypnotize Minds’ transitioning period Lil Wyte became one of the focal points for the labels new era. In 2003, Lil Wyte released one of the hottest albums of the years, Doubt Me Now. Since, Lil Wyte continued to be one of the top artists of Hypnotize Minds, but also would begin his own brand, Wyte Music, and help start and continue the careers of a number of rappers.
Tennessee Hip Hop Related Topics:
*No Order. Artists placement is a combination of a number of hits, longevity, impact, legacy, and current streams and views.