Rap Music

History of Southern Rap: Tennessee

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History of Southern Rap

While break dancing, graffiti, and most importantly the genre of music by the name of hip hop was all created on the East Coast, New York City specifically, southern rap has held the reign of being the most influential market in hip hop since the beginning of the 2000s.

When hip hop first began the focus was on the East Coast and later followed by the West Coast.  Eventually individuals from Luke Skywalker and the 2 Live Crew to J Prince and Rap-A-Lot to Master P and No Limit helped with the contribution of hip hop coming to the South.  What many do not know since the 1980s there were other executives and artists that helped with the contribution of southern hip hop south.

While southern rappers have hailed from cities and states from all over the south, the Last Mr. Bigg of Alabama or David Banner of Mississippi, the most important states that have help with the growth southern rap are Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Georgia.




History of Tennessee Hip Hop

Historically, rappers from Tennessee are from two places, either from Memphis or Nashville.  These two cities have always had strong music backgrounds whether it is blues in Memphis or country music in Nashville.

Tennessee rap began during the early and mid-1990s as southern rap was beginning to rise in the local music scenes of cities throughout the south with Memphis and Nashville being the main cities in Tennessee.

The underground Memphis scene probably started during the late 1980s, first with the likes of DJ Spanish Fly and then with Gangsta Pat followed by numerous others.  Many credited DJ Spanish Fly as the first to truly help develop a rap scene.


DJ Spanish Fly “Cement Shoes”

8Ball & MJG were probably the first mainstream Tennessee rap artists to reach a level that was outside of the city of Memphis as they linked with Houston, Texas based record label Suave House to release their music.

8Ball & MJG would later make a number of southern classics, especially with their album Coming Out Hard, and would leave their mark as being one of the greatest southern artists of all-time, along with one of the best hip-hop groups.

From 1993 to 1996 is the time that the Tennessee Hip Hop scene of Memphis began to rise as gangster rap and demonic horrorcore type of rap took off in a city that would eventually have too many artist to keep track of.


Gangsta Pat “Mo Murder”

The Migos’, a famous rap group from Atlanta, flow and their rap style is far from new as many Tennessee rappers from Memphis rapped liked them during the 1990s, especially Tommy Wright, Gangsta Pat or Lord Infamous.

Three 6 Mafia with Project Pat became the biggest artists to represent the Memphis rap scene, but rap members like Koopsta Knicca and Lord Infamous were originally the most known locally and the most respected as artists, even more than DJ Paul and Juicy J who actually just wanted to do production.

While many know DJ Paul and Juicy J as some of the top southern and Tennessee hip hop producers of all-time there are others that helped produce numerous Memphis artists, producers like DJ Squeeky, Blackout, DJ Sound, DJ Zirk, Slice T, DJ BK, Tommy Wright III and later Drumma Boy.


Tommy Wright III “Meet Yo Maker”


Kingpin Skinny Pimp “One Life 2 Live”


Playa Fly “Nobody Need Nobody”

A long list of some of Memphis’ top underground rappers during the 1990s includes Tommie Wright III, DJ Spanish Fly, Gangsta Pat, Playa Fly, Gangsta Blac, Kingpin Skinny Pimp and number of others:

Shawty Pimp, Playa G, Killa Klan Kaze with MC Mack, Tom Skee Mask, Princess Loko, Lil Gin, Ten Wanted Men, 187 Family, Riverside Click, Lil Ramsey, Low Key, Niggaz Of Destruction, The Legend Lady J, Immortal Lowlifes.

Criminal Manne, Al Kapone, Lil Grove, S.P.V. Click / Playa Posse, Lil Noid, Graveyard Productions, North Memphis Playa Click, Skimask Troopaz, Gimisum Family with the likes of Big Hill, the Frayser Click, 196 Clique, Trauma Center Killaz.

Into the late 1990s and the 2000s the style of demonic horrorcore and gangster rapping somewhat began to fade away as new artist came to the forefront with a more trap and commercial style of Tennessee rap, especially with artist like Yo Gotti who actually started during the mid-1990s as Lil Yo.

In the 2010s more new artist emerge like Young Dolph and the success of Yo Gotti increased.  This was along with a number of artists from their camps began to become top rappers.  With the new wave Memphis’ rap music began to have sounds that often imitated Atlanta’s hip hop.

While country music has always taken the spotlight of Nashville’s music scene, the local rap scene had the potential to be one of the biggest hip-hop markets in the south.

Before the emergence of Young Buck, who started with Cash Money and later linked with 50 Cent and G-Unit, or Starlito, who began as All Star and was first signed with Cash Money and linked up with Yo Gotti, the city had multiple artists during the 1990s.

Boogie “Concrete Jungle”

Kool Daddy Fresh “Its All True”

Pistol “Westside Sold Up”

Well respected Tennessee hip hop artists that called Nashville their home were Pistol, Kool Daddy Fresh, Boogie, Big Lou, South 8 Mafia, Quanie Cash and others that paved the way for the rising Nashville rap scene that still gets overlooked by the local country music scene to this day.

Currently, a number of Tennessee rap artists have a large platform in the rap game on a national level as some of the country’s most popular artists reside in the two cities of Nashville and Memphis.




*Feature Image Editorial Credit: S_Bukley/Shutterstock.com

History of Tennessee Hip Hop Related Topics:

1 Top Memphis Rappers List

2 Top Nashville Rappers List

3 History of Louisiana Rap

4 History of Texas Rap