Texas hip hop has had a long and rich history in the culture. The best Texas rappers have gone on to become some of the most influential hip hop artists of all time.
Ever since the Geto Boys emerged onto the scene in the late ’80s as Houston’s first rap act to gain mainstream popularity, Texas hip hop has made its way through the genre. With subsequent acts like UGK, DJ Screw, Z-Ro emerging on the scene, Texas slowly became a more formidable force.
This all culminated in the early-2000s when Southern hip hop began dominating airwaves and sales around the world, led by the success of Texas rappers like Mike Jones, Chamillionaire and Paul Wall. Since then, the Texas rap scene has remained vitally important to the culture, especially with the rise of Travis Scott as one of the biggest names in hip hop.
From Slim Thug, Z-Ro and Devin the Dude, to UGK, Scarface and Trae the Truth, here are the top 10 best Texas rappers of all time.
10. Travis Scott
Discography: Rodeo (2015), Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight (2016), Astroworld (2018)
Travis Scott isn’t the best lyricist or have the most technical skills (not that he would claim otherwise), but he sure knows how to put together masterpieces on a consistent basis. Ever since his 2013 breakthrough mixtape, Owl Pharaoh, the Houston-born rapper-producer has been able to bring together some of the most exciting and talented artists in the game for the purpose of creating great music.
Whether it’s Days Before Rodeo, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight or his superstar moment with Astroworld, Travis Scott has been putting together full bodies of work with the care and precision of someone like Kanye West, for the better part of a decade now. His continued success can be attributed to his ability and willingness to evolve.
Over the past few years, the Texas native has cultivated a genre-fluid hip hop symphony with his sounds. His style has become more nuanced as he has introduced elements of pop, r&b and psychedelic rock, and fans have come along for the ride every step of the way. From his early days under Kanye’s wing to his current position as one of the most popular rappers right now, there is no doubt that Travis Scott will go down as one of the best Texas rappers of all time.
9. Slim Thug
Discography: Already Platinum (2005), Boss of All Bosses (2009), Tha Thug Show (2010), Boss Life (2013), Hogg Life: The Beginning (2015), Hogg Life, Vol. 2: Still Surviving (2015), Hogg Life, Vol. 3: Hustler of the Year (2015), Hogg Life, Vol. 4: American King (2016), Welcome 2 Houston (2017), The World Is Yours (2017), Suga Daddy Slim: On tha Prowl (2019), Thug Life (2020), SDS Vibes (2021), BIGslim (2022)
Slim Thug is known both for his imposing physical presence and equally massive, rumbling guttural voice. He has been hard pimping Houston style for over twenty years now, dropping deceptively lyrical bar about gang life over bouncy, old school beats.
Musically, Slim Thug has branched out from boom-bap into trap and even West Coast funk over the years. However, his entire aesthetic is that of an OG emcee, still in the game. In both sound and style the Houston-born rapper embraces and promotes that image wholeheartedly.
While he may not have achieved the same commercial success as other Texas rappers on this list, Slim Thug’s relentless independent grind has granted him the financial and creative freedom to make whatever music he likes. With a loyal core audience who has been following him for decades, Slim Thug’s position as one of the best Texas rappers of all time is certified.
Discography: The Sound of Revenge (2005), Ultimate Victory (2007)
Texas hip hop lost one of its most talented and unique voices when Chamillionaire decided to take the tech venture route rather than put out more music. Known for his rapid-fire rapping technique and a knack for crafting infectiously catchy R&B and pop hooks – see “Ridin'” and “Good Morning” – the Texas rapper first started out with the Houston crew The Color Changin’ Click (formed with Paul Wall) before branching out as a solo artist.
While Chamillionaire has only dropped two albums over the course of his career, if you combine his album catalogue with his Mixtape Messiah series, you’ve got one of the most well-rounded Texas rappers ever – someone who can spit venomous bars, sing hooks and put together full songs. While Chamillionaire has become more known for his work in tech investments lately – via his Maker Studios, Upfront Ventures and social app Convoz – there is no question that when you talk about the best Texas rappers ever, his name belongs on the list.
7. Trae tha Truth
Discography: Losing Composure (2003), Same Thing Different Day (2004), Restless (2006), Life Goes On (2007), The Beginning (2008), Street King (2011), Tha Truth (2015), Tha Truth, Pt. 2 (2016), The Truth, Pt. 3 (2017), Hometown Hero (2018), Exhale (2019), Truth Season: The United Streets of America (2022)
Trae Tha Truth’s deep raspy voice, hard-truth lyrics and philanthropic endeavors have made the Houston rapper a living legend in his hometown. His name is so inseparable from that of the city that in 2008 the mayor officially designated July 22 as the annually recognized Trae Day. Trae is also the founder of the not-for-profit Relief Gang, a now international relief organization doing important social work in the community.
There is a dark thread of realism that runs through Trae Tha Truth’s music. Smart and lyrical, his rhymes dig deeper than your typical gangsta rap. After years of local success he stepped onto the national stage in 2012 when he was signed to T.I’s Grand Hustle Records which gave him a bigger platform to drop his seventh studio album Tha Truth. A staple artist of the Southern hip hop scene, you can’t talk about the best rappers from Texas without mentioning Trae tha Truth.
6. The D.O.C.
Discography: No One Can Do It Better (1989), Helter Skelter (1996), Deuce (2003)
Born in West Dallas, Texas, The D.O.C. first made his name one the West Coast as one of the writers for N.W.A., helping to pen some of their best-known songs including “Straight Outta Compton”, “Fuck tha Police” and “Parental Discretion Iz Advised.”
After N.W.A.’s game-changing debut album Straight Outta Compton dropped, it was D.O.C.’s turn to step up to plate. In 1989 he released No One Can Do It Better, an all-time classic and one of the best rap albums of the 80s which paired the Texas rapper’s superhuman lyrical skills with Dre’s bombastic funk production.
Tragically his rapping career was cut short just a few months after the release of his debut album when his larynx was crushed in a car accident, changing his voice and ability to spit forever. Even so, he played a foundational role in the forming of Death Row Records and continued to contribute dope bars to classics like The Chronic and Doggystyle.
It’s rare that a hip hop artist can have so much impact over the decades with just one album, but The D.O.C. is one of those rare figures who seem to transcend the music and is absolutely solidified as one of the greatest 80s rappers and best rappers from Texas.
5. Devin the Dude
Discography: The Dude (1998), Just Tryin’ ta Live (2002), To tha X-Treme (2004), Waitin’ to Inhale (2007), Landing Gear (2008), Suite 420 (2010), Gotta Be Me (2010), One for the Road (2013), Acoustic Levitation (2017), Still Rollin’ Up: Somethin’ to Ride With (2019), Soulful Distance (2021)
Soulful, melodic and laid-back, Devin the Dude represents Southern hip hop at its most beloved. A certified Texas OG, the Michigan-born artist has been in the Houston hip hop scene since the 1980s when he was rapping and breakdancing on street corners. An unusual rap star, he has never assumed the gangsta braggadocio of his peers, opting instead of weed talk and slice of life rhymes. His narratives are told with comedy, weed and downtempo boom-bap grooves.
He got his start in the studio as a member of the stoner hip-hop crew Odd Squad. They were sort of Houston’s answer to De-La Soul. The group’s debut album Fadanuf Fa Erybody flopped. However, Devin the Dude carried that laid-back THC vibe forward into an ongoing and prolific solo career. Over 20 years since he debuted with The Dude on Rap-A-Lot Records, Devin the Dude is still going strong out in the rap game and is definitely one of the greatest Texas rappers to ever do it.
Discography: Look What You Did to Me (1998), Z-Ro vs. the World (2000), King of da Ghetto (2001), Screwed Up Click Representa (2002), Z-Ro (2002), Life (2002), Z-Ro Tolerance (2003), The Life of Joseph W. McVey (2004), Let the Truth Be Told (2005), I’m Still Livin’ (2006), King of tha Ghetto: Power (2007), Crack (2008), Cocaine (2009), Heroin (2010), Meth (2011), Angel Dust (2012), The Crown (2014), Melting the Crown (2015), Drankin’ & Drivin’ (2016), Legendary (2016), No Love Boulevard (2017), Codeine (2017), Sadism (2018), Rohammad Ali (2020)
A certified Texas legend in these streets, Z-Ro can drop hard bars of chopping gangsta rap in one verse and then turn around some smooth R&B-infused melodies in the next. Houston’s Z-Ro got his start with a series of mixtapes and independent albums in the late 90s before hooking up with Rap-A-Lot Records in the early 2000s which helped put his music on a national platform.
Since then Z-Ro has kept up a steady pace of hit records. On some of his most successful albums like The Life of Joseph W. McVey, Let the Truth Be Told and I’m Still Livin’, he made a name for himself as a hard rapper with a softer and soulful side. In between his own albums, Z-Ro regularly stole the spotlight on other rapper’s tracks, most notably on “Get Throwed” with Bun B, Pimp C, Young Jeezy and Jay-Z. Often regarded as one of the most underrated rappers ever, Z-Ro has long established himself as one of the most important and best rappers from Texas.
3. Pimp C
Discography: Too Hard to Swallow (1992), Super Tight (1994), Ridin’ Dirty (1996), Dirty Money (2001), The Sweet James Jones Stories (2005), Pimpalation (2006), Underground Kingz (2007), UGK 4 Life (2009), The Naked Soul of Sweet Jones (2010), Still Pimping (2011), Long Live the Pimp (2015)
As one half of the legendary Underground Kingz – one of the greatest rap duos of all time – Pimp C was already a hip hop icon in Houston before his star slowly but surely rose nationally.
A lifelong singer and multi-instrumentalist, he and UGK partner Bun B layered their sound with a melodic sophistication not often heard in popular music, let alone hip hop. Their music incorporated original compositions on strings, horns and keys, with Pimp drawing on his extensive musical background to create rich tapestries for the duo to spit over.
At the peak of the group’s fame, Pimp C was incarcerated on a probation violation for a previous crime. After spending four years in prison he came back with the solo studio debut Pimpalation. Tragically, fate struck again. Soon after his record’s release, the legendary MC and supertalented musician was silenced too soon as the result of a purple drank overdose.
To understand Pimp’s influence on the rap game, just take look at current stars like A$AP Rocky and Drake who have idolised the Port Arthur icon with multiple tributes and references in their songs. One of the greatest hip hop producers of all time and one of the best Texas rappers of all time, Pimp C’s name is carved in eternity.
2. Bun B
Discography: Too Hard to Swallow (1992), Super Tight (1994), Ridin’ Dirty (1996), Dirty Money (2001), Trill (2005), Underground Kingz (2007), II Trill (2008), UGK 4 Life (2009), Trill OG (2010), Trill OG: The Epilogue (2013), Return of the Trill (2018)
TrillStatik (with Statik Selektah) (2019), Mo Trill (with Cory Mo) (2022)
The harder and lyrically-adept half of the Port Arthur duo, like his creative partner Pimp C, Bun B came from a musical if sometimes troubled background. With Pimp provided the syrupy vocals and funked-up production, Bun came with the street knowledge and nimble bars. The group embraced the outsider status implied by their name representing the underground. As a result they successfully took creative chances that set them apart from their peers.
Years of hard work paid off after a collaboration with Jay-Z sent UGK into the national spotlight, with Bun B spitting one of the greatest verses of his career to capture the moment. Although Pimp C’s death put an effective end to the duo, Bun B has continued to wave the UGK flag and represent for his late partner.
He spent the subsequent 15 years establishing a successful solo career built on smart, lyrical hip hop grounded by soulful, old school production, as well as supporting up-and-coming talent. One of the most important Southern rappers ever, Bun B is a certified Texas legend and one of the greatest to ever do it.
Discography: Mr. Scarface Is Back (1991), The World Is Yours (1993), The Diary (1994), The Untouchable (1997), My Homies (1998), The Last of a Dying Breed (2000), The Fix (2002), My Homies Part 2 (2006), Made (2007), Emeritus (2008), Deeply Rooted (2015)
Scarface’s importance to the Southern hip hop scene cannot be overstated. Nearly every other artist on this list has benefitted from a collaboration with the former Geto Boy or has been influenced by his music. At the peak of his career that influence extended throughout the wider hip hop community, beyond just the Southern borders.
Rap fans will remember Scarface for his important role in the Geto Boy’s 1991 smash hit “Mind Playing Tricks on Me,” as well as his multiple classics, most notably The Diary and The Fix, but those are just a few of his many incredible achievements from a career that has spanned over three decades. Not only is Scarface the best rapper to come from Texas, he’s quite possibly the most important Southern rapper of all time.