The history of Memphis hip hop is rich and complex, with a diverse range of artists and sounds that have helped shape the genre as we know it today. From the early days of DJ Spanish Fly and DJ Squeeky, to the rise of Three 6 Mafia and beyond, Memphis has always been a hotbed of talent and creativity.
When it comes to the best Memphis rappers of all time, we’re not just talking about chart-toppers and radio hits. These artists have all made significant contributions to the rap industry, both in terms of their sound and their cultural impact. From Juicy J’s pioneering work with Three 6 Mafia, to Project Pat’s hard-hitting rhymes and Lord Infamous’ unforgettable voice, these artists helped put Memphis on the map and solidified the city’s place in hip hop history.
If you think about some of the top artists on the rap scene right now, whether it’s Drake, A$AP Rocky, or Kendrick Lamar, you’ll find that their catalogue has been influenced by the Memphis rap scene in one way or another.
So let’s get right into it. From Juicy J to Project Pat and Lord Infamous, Yo Gotti to Young Dolph, here are the top 10 best Memphis rappers of all time.
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10. Blac Youngsta
Discography: 223 (2018), Church on Sunday (2019), 4LIFE (2022)
Blac Youngsta drops real-life stories of life on the street. He smooths the hard edges of his lyrics with a unique syncopated and poetic, lyrically-inclined flow. Since his debut on the scene the rapper’s sound has evolved to incorporate elements beyond just the usual trap vibes.
After early troubles with the law, which included a stint in prison for gun and drug charges, Blac Youngsta made a name for himself organizing block parties in his McMillan Street, Memphis neighborhood. His experiences both as a street-wise gangsta rapper and a business-savvy, party-throwing MC would later inform his work as he moved into a career in music.
After gaining the attention of Yo Gotti with his 2015 breakthrough single “Heavy,” Blac signed to the Memphis boss’ label, Collective Music Group, and has been a staple artist in the region ever since. While he might not be able to boast of the same type of resume as other rappers on the list, Blac Youngsta is a certified hustler who grinds hard and is definitely one of the best Memphis rappers in the game right now.
9. Moneybagg Yo
Discography: Reset (2018), 43va Heartless (2019), Time Served (2020), A Gangsta’s Pain (2021)
One of the hottest rappers in the game right now, Moneybagg Yo has always had an eclectic sound. His music mix elements of all regions and combine them with his Memphis roots to create his own, unique sound. In his early days he dropped hard gangsta rap rhymes, telling the stories of his young life in the hood. As his career progressed the rapper’s sound and lyrical content became more nuanced.
Over the years, Moneybagg has put in the work to make his name and build his brand, releasing countless mixtapes and collaborating with high-profile artists like Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Baby, Young Thug, Future, Kodak Black, Pooh Shiesty, Tyga, and more. The apex of his career thus far has been his 2021 album, A Gangsta’s Pain, a heartfelt release that combined the usual trap bangers with Moneybagg’s more sincere writing. Debuting at the top of the pop charts with over 100,000 units sold in the first week, the album also signified a new major player on the Memphis rap scene.
8. Lord Infamous
Discography: Lord of Terror (1994), The Man, The Myth, The Legacy (2007), Futuristic Rowdy Bounty Hunter (2010), Scarecrow Tha Terrible (2011), Legendary Hits (2012), King of Horrorcore (2012), Back From Tha Dead (Deadly Proverbs) (2012), Scarecrow Tha Terrible, Pt. Two (2013), Fire & Ice (2013), Voodoo (2013), Legend (2014), Anarchy (2016)
A hometown legend and one of the most influential Memphis rappers ever, Lord Infamous found success both as a solo artist and as part of Three 6 Mafia. Kicking off his rap career in the early ’90s with his uncle, DJ Paul, and fellow Memphis producer-rapper Juicy J, the group were integral in defining the Southern rap region through the late ’90s and early ’00s.
After legal issues led to him being in breach of contract with their record label, Lord Infamous was forced to leave Three 6 Mafia and hit the rap game on the solo tip. Wanting to set himself apart from the world of gangsta rap, Lord Infamous went darker than his peers with occult rhymes and horror-core content. He continued to release a string of successful solo records before his unexpected death in 2013, but not before he cemented his position as one of the best Memphis rappers ever.
Discography: Comin’ Out Hard (1993), On the Outside Looking In (1994), On Top of the World (1995), Lost (1998), In Our Lifetime (1999), Space Age 4 Eva (2000), Almost Famous (2001), Lay It Down (2002), Living Legends (2004), Light Up the Bomb (2006) The Vet & The Rookie (with Devius) (2007), Ridin’ High (2007), Doin’ It Big (with E.D.I.) (2008), 8Ball & Memphis All-Stars: Cars, Clubs & Strip Clubs (2009), Ten Toes Down (2010), Life’s Quest (2012)
As one half of the iconic rap duo 8Ball & MJG, Memphis native Premro Smith (8Ball) was, and still is, a pioneering voice in southern hip hop. With a career spanning more than thirty years, he has lived through and helped define every era of hip-hop from boom bap to trap.
8Ball brought a harder, deeper voice to the Memphis duo when he and a teenage MJG first started slinging mixtapes. He has released dozens of solo tracks and collaborations over the years and is still active as a solo artist. However, his work that stands the test of time is the 8Ball & MJG catalog that has influenced countless artists over the years, whether they’re from Memphis or not.
6. Gangsta Boo
Discography: Enquiring Minds (1998), Both Worlds *69 (2001), Enquiring Minds II: The Soap Opera (2003)
Fiercely independent and widely respected, Gangsta Boo is a female rapper from Memphis who goes as hard as any man on this list. As a pioneer female coming up in the ’90s, her early affiliation with Three 6 Mafia put her in the national spotlight, and she went on to pursue a moderately successful solo career with her first two albums – Enquiring Minds and Both Worlds *69 – achieving Billboard chart success.
Over the past twenty years since her debut, Gangsta Boo has remained on the rap scene, lending her old-school verbose lyrical style to countless mixtapes as well as branching out into R&B and jumping on tracks with artists like Run the Jewels – she’s featured on “Love Again (Akinyele Back)” in 2014 and “Walking in the Snow” in 2020. Not only has Gangsta Boo earned the respect from hip hop heads around the world, she’s a certified Memphis legend.
5. Yo Gotti
Discography: Youngsta’s on a Come Up (as Lil Yo( 1996), From Da Dope Game 2 Da Rap Game (2000), Self-Explanatory (2001), Life (2003), Back 2 da Basics (2006), Live from the Kitchen (2012), I Am (2013), The Art of Hustle (2016), I Still Am (2017), Untrapped (2020), CM10: Free Game (2022)
Outside of his hometown, Yo Gotti has built up one of the most iconic and successful hip hop brands that has impacted around the world. Still, he’s never forgotten Memphis. Through his label, Collective Music Group, Gotti has helped launch the careers of countless artists from the city, as well as outsiders like 42 Dugg who is from Detroit and EST Gee from Louisville.
As a businessman and record executive, Gotti has experienced sustained success for the past decade, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t kept his eye on rapping. Over the years, he’s released a string of albums and mixtapes that continue to showcase his straight-forward hustle talk over Memphis trap bangers. He’s also good for a hit single or two – whether it’s 2015’s “Down in the DM” or its successor “Rake It Up” in 2017.
4. Young Dolph
Discography: King of Memphis (2016), Bulletproof (2017), Thinking Out Loud (2017), Role Model (2018), Dum and Dummer (with Key Glock) (2019), Rich Slave (2020), Dum and Dummer 2 (with Key Glock) (2021)
Before he was tragically murdered in 2021 at the young age of 36 years old, Young Dolph had established himself, not only as one of the top Memphis rappers in the game but also as a leading independent artist paving his own way forward. After launching Paper Route Empire in 2010 and releasing Welcome 2 Dolph World that same year, Dolph combined his relentless work ethic, street hustle and unforgettable voice to become one of the most exciting artists in the game.
As a Memphis hero, he enjoyed success on his own terms for over a decade and always made sure to pay it forward, giving back to the community on a regular basis. A ceaselessly prolific rapper who was always putting out music, Dolph left behind a music legacy that includes a massive catalogue of albums, mixtapes and high-profile collaborations. Not to mention Paper Route Empire is still thriving – even with its head honcho gone – Dolph’s protege Key Glock hasn’t stopped putting out work.
3. Juicy J
Discography: Mystic Stylez (1995), Chapter 1: The End (1996), Chapter 2: World Domination (1997), When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1 (2000), Choices (2001), Chronicles of the Juice Man (2002), Da Unbreakables (2003), Choices II: The Setup (2005), Most Known Unknown (2005), Last 2 Walk (2008), Hustle Till I Die (2009), Stay Trippy (2013), Rubba Band Business (2017), The Hustle Continues (2020)
Juicy J’s influence n the Memphis hip hop scene, on the Southern region, and on rap music as a whole has been immeasurable. You could make a pretty strong argument for Juicy’s position in the top 10 most influential hip hop artists of all time. Ever since linking up with DJ Paul and Lord Infamous back in the late ’80s and debuting Three 6 Mafia a few years later, the rapper-producer has inspired countless artists and their careers.
With a laid-back drawl, gritty trap vibes and tales of purp-fuelled stories, Three 6 Mafia helped to define the the sound of the Dirty South. Along the way, they propped up local heroes like Project and Gangsta Boo, while being nominated for Grammys and winning an Academy Award for “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp” in 2006.
But even with all those achievements, the most amazing thing about Juicy J’s career is that he managed to reinvent himself for the new generation, linking up with the likes of A$AP Rocky and Mike WiLL Made It to keep the Memphis sound alive forever. It’s just a fact at this stage: Juicy J is one of the greatest Memphis rapper of all time, there’s just no doubt about it.
Discography: Comin’ Out Hard (1993), On the Outside Looking In (1994), On Top of the World (1995), No More Glory (1997), In Our Lifetime (1999), Space Age 4 Eva (2000), Living Legends (2004), Ridin’ High (2007), Pimp Tight (2008), This Might Be the Day (2008), Ten Toes Down (2010), Too Pimpin’ (2013), Too Pimpin’ 2.0 (2014)
Like his partner-in-rhyme, MJG has produced a sizeable volume of work, both as a duo and as a solo artist, dropping half a dozen releases and countless collaborations over the decades However in the minds of fans and critics alike, it’s his work with fellow Ridgeway Junior High alum, 8Ball.
MJG’s rapid-fire flow and often melodic style, paired with 8Ball’s mellow drawl, helped introduce a different side of southern hip hop to the rest of the world. The veteran rapper has thrived through constant reinvention and continuing to work with new generations of rappers and helping emerging Memphis artists find an audience. Not only is MJG one of the best Memphis rappers ever, he’s also one of the most influential.
1. Project Pat
Discography: Ghetty Green (1999), Murderers & Robbers (2000), Mista Don’t Play: Everythangs Workin (2001), Layin’ da Smack Down (2002), Crook by da Book: The Fed Story (2006), Walkin’ Bank Roll (2007), Real Recognize Real (2009), Loud Pack (2011), Mista Don’t Play 2: Everythangs Money (2015), M.O.B. (2017)
The first voice you hear on the standout track “Knife Talk” off Drake’s 2021 album Certified Lover Boy is that of Project Pat’s. Snatching a sample of Pat’s vocals from Juicy J’s 2017 cut “Feed the Streets,” the Toronto rapper knew exactly what he was doing by tapping into that energy. While the Memphis rapper never officially joined Three 6 Mafia, Project Pat was undeniably influential to the group – he provided the hook for the group’s hit single “Sippin’ on Some Syrup.”
With an even harder style than his affiliates, Project Pat’s solo career was deeper and darker, even for the Memphis rap region. With his gangsta bars delivered in an eerily calm tone, he was prone to drop creeping rhymes over bouncy yet haunting production. It was an unsettling mix and totally unique to Project Pat. Not only is he one of the best Memphis rappers of all time, he might be the city’s most underrated.
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