If you were to determine which rap mecca was the epicenter of hip-hop during the genre’s rise, there’s no question that the throne was initially reserved for the East and West Coasts.
New York ran the rap game from the 1980s through the early 1990s, before Los Angeles became the capital of hip-hop on the strength of classic albums such as Dr. Dre’s 1992 LP The Chronic and Snoop Dogg’s 1993 effort Doggystyle. By the late-1990s, New York reclaimed the throne with the arrival of Nas, the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, and DMX, among others.
Meanwhile, down South, the 1990s saw the rise of Outkast and Goodie Mob in Atlanta, Houston’s Geto Boys and UGK, and Three 6 Mafia and 8Ball & MJG in Memphis. At the same time, No Limit and Cash Money were establishing Louisiana as a Southern rap mecca by way of future moguls like Master P and Birdman, both of which produced a stable of up-and-coming rappers such as Lil Wayne, Juvenile, B.G.. Mystikal, Soulja Slim, Silk The Shocker, Mia X, and C-Murder.
At the turn of the century, the South firmly established itself as the King of Rap on the strength of Atlanta, which defined the genre thanks to superstars like Ludacris, T.I., Young Jeezy, and Gucci Mane. The 2000s also featured Houston’s second golden age, as Texas produced countless crossover talents, such as Mike Jones, Chamillionaire, and Paul Wall.
Over the past decade, Atlanta has continued churning out A-list rappers (Future, Young Thug, 21 Savage, Lil Baby), while Memphis has usurped the ATL in recent years with its crowded stable of talent (Young Dolph, Moneybagg Yo, Pooh Shiesty, Key Glock, NLE Choppa, GloRilla).
In celebration of Southern hip-hop, let’s rank the top 50 Southern rappers of all time.
- The Top 50 Best New York Rappers of All Time
- The Top 10 Best Queens Rappers of All Time
- The Top 10 Best Detroit Rappers of All Time
- The Top 10 Best Atlanta Rappers of All Time
- The Top 10 Best Philly Rappers of All Time
50. Waka Flocka Flame
Albums: Flockaveli (2010), Triple F: Life, Fans & Family (2012)
It’s easy to forget how big Waka Flocka was when he first blew up. After signing with Gucci Mane’s 1017 record, Waka found his label boss in jail. No matter, though. He took the baton from Gucci in 2009, en route to a hot streak that would see Waka establish himself as the hottest rapper in the game on the strength of his 2010 debut Flockaveli, which produced hit singles like “O Let’s Do It,” “Grove St. Party,” and “No Hands.”
49. Kodak Black
Florida Rap Ranking: No. 4
Albums: Painting Pictures (2017), Dying to Live (2018), Bill Israel (2020), Back for Everything (2022)
Essential Mixtapes: Institution (2015), Lil B.I.G. Pac (2016), Project Baby 2 (2017), Heart Break Kodak (2018)
Since dropping his breakout mixtape Lil B.I.G. Pac in 2016, Kodak has quietly strung together one of the most prolific runs of the past half-decade.Beginning in 2017, the Florida rapper has released four official albums (2017’s Painting Pictures, 2018’s Dying to Live, 2020’s Bill Israel, 2022’s Back for Everything) and four commercial mixtapes (2017’s Project Baby 2, 2018’s Heart Break Kodak, 2021’s Haitian Boy Kodak, 2022’s Kutthroat Bill: Vol. 1)
48. Mike Jones
Houston Rap Ranking: No. 11
Albums: Who Is Mike Jones? (2005), The Voice (2007)
By the mid-2000s, Houston rap was struggling to compete with the hip-hop scenes in Atlanta and New Orleans, both of which had surpassed the Texas city by producing crossover stars such as Ludacris, T.I., Young Jeezy, and Lil Wayne, among others. By then, it’d been a decade since Houston’s forefathers (Scarface, Bun B, Pimp C) had established the city as a breeding ground for the genre. But the midpoint of the decade would produce a new generation of stars, led by Mike Jones, Chamillionaire, Paul Wall, and Slim Thug.
At the tail-end of 2004, Mike Jones joined forces with Wall and Thug on his debut single, “Still Tippin’.” The track would go on to peak inside the Top 20 of Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs chart, which increased the hype for the Swishahouse rapper’s debut LP Who is Mike Jones? When the album arrived the following spring, Mike Jones was solidified as the leader of Houston’s new generation of potential stars.
47. 2 Chainz
Atlanta Rap Ranking: No. 16
Essential Albums: Based on a T.R.U. Story (2012), B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time (2013), ColleGrove (2016), Pretty Girls Like Trap Music (2017), Rap or Go to the League (2019)
Classic Mixtapes: Codeine Cowboy (2011), T.R.U. REALigion (2011), Daniel Son; Necklace Don (2016)
After spending years on the outside looking in of ATL’s hip-hop scene, the rapper formerly known as Tity Boi returned in 2011 as 2 Chainz. After making waves with his breakout mixtape T.R.U. REALigion, Chainz dominated 2012 with one of the most prolific guest verse runs in hip-hop history. Over the course of that year, Chainz appeared on nearly 100 singles, including hits like A$AP Rocky’s “Fuckin’ Problems” (#8), Kanye West’s “Mercy” (#13), Juicy J’s “Bandz A Make Her Dance” (#29), Nicki Minaj’s “Beez In The Trap” (#48), and DJ Drama’s “My Moment” (#89). At the peak of his guest verse blitz, Chainz dropped his debut studio Based on a T.R.U. Story in September 2012. The LP debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and would spawn three Top 50 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 in “No Lie” (#24), “I’m Different” (#27), “Birthday Song” (#47).
46. Trae Tha Truth
Houston Rap Ranking: No. 10
Albums: 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)
In an era when Houston sat atop the rap universe, as the city produced crossover stars like Paul Wall, Chamillionaire, and Mike Jones, Trae Tha Truth quietly strung together an exceptional discography. An underground staple and local legend, Trae earned recognition for his first two full-length projects, 2003’s Losing Composure and 2004’s Same Thing Different Day, before catapulting into the national hip-hop community with his 2006 offering, Restless. From there, Trae continued his momentum by dropping a pair of great albums in the next two years, 2007’s Life Goes On and 2008’s The Beginning, and has added another seven LPs to his discography in the 15 years since.
45. Pastor Troy
Atlanta Rap Ranking: No. 15
Essential Albums: We Ready (I Declare War) (1999), I Am D.S.G.B. (2000), Face Off (2001), Hell 2 Pay (2002), Universal Soldier (2002), By Any Means Necessary (2004), Face Off, Pt. 2 (2005)
Pastor Troy solidified his claim as the King of Atlanta, at the same time that Outkast was operating at their peak, no less, on the strength of one song: “No Mo Play in G.A.” Though the 1999 single never made it onto any Billboard chart, “No Mo Play in G.A.” single-handedly made Pastor Troy a local legend, as the track blared out of every car and speaker box on HBCU campuses, minting the Atlanta rapper the universally beloved King of Georgia. Pastor Troy would follow the single’s success with a trio of street classics, 2001’s Face Off, 2002’s Hell 2 Pay, 2002’s Universal Soldier, and 2004’s By Any Means Necessary.
44. Boosie Badazz
Louisiana Rap Ranking: No. 10
Albums: Youngest of da Camp (2000), For My Thugz (2002), Bad Azz (2006), Superbad: The Return of Boosie Bad Azz (2009), Incarcerated (2010), Touch Down 2 Cause Hell (2015), BooPac (2017), Boosie Blues Cafe (2018), Badazz 3.5 (2019), Bad Azz Zay (2019), Talk Dat Sh*t (2019), Goat Talk (2019), In House (2020), Goat Talk 3 (2021), Heartfelt (2022)
It’s easy to forget the prolific run Boosie has been on since the beginning of the 2000s. At the turn of the century, the artist formerly known as Lil Boosie made waves with his first two albums (2000’s Youngest of Da Camp and 2002’s For My Thugz), before dropping his classic Trill Azz Mixes series. From there, Boosie continued his momentum with 2006’s Bad Azz LP, which peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard 200. The Baton Rouge rapper’s next three official releases (2009’s Superbad: The Return of Boosie Bad Azz, 2010’s Incarcerated, and 2015’s Touch Down 2 Cause Hell) would peak at No. 7, No. 13, and No. 3 on the Billboard 200, respectively.
43. Travis Scott
Houston Rap Ranking: No. 9
Albums: Rodeo (2015), Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight (2016), Astroworld (2018)
Mixtapes: Owl Pharaoh (2013), Days Before Rodeo (2014)
It wouldn’t be wrong to scoff at the fact that we’re calling Travis Scott a “rapper,” but no matter. There’s no denying the Houston artist has cemented his case as one of the best and most influential artists of his generation, as Travis dropped two classic mixtapes (2013’s Owl Pharaoh and 2014’s Days Before Rodeo), before delivering three straight classic albums with 2015’s Rodeo, 2016’s Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, and 2018’s Astroworld.
42. Slim Thug
Houston Rap Ranking: No. 8
Albums: 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)
At the midpoint of the 2000s, Houston established itself as the hotbed of hip-hop, producing crossover stars like Mike Jones, Paul Wall, and Chamillionaire. While he’d never reached the heights of the aforementioned trio, Slim Thug still cemented his status as a Houston rap legend on the strength of several underground classics.
Slim made a name for himself at the turn of the century by dropping a trio of collaborative albums with Southern rap titans: 2001’s Boss Hogg Outlawz with E.S.G., 2003’s The Big Unit with Lil Keke, and 2004’s Boyz-n-Blue with Boss Hogg Outlawz. After delivering a scene-stealing guest verse to Mike Jones’ iconic 2004 single “Still Tippin’,” Thug returned in 2005 with his underrated debut Already Platinum, an album that solidified his case as a contender in the King of Houston discussion.
Houston Rap Ranking: No. 7
Albums: Get Ya Mind Right (2002), The Mixtape Messiah (2004), Controversy Sells (2005), The Sound of Revenge (2005), Ultimate Victory (2007)
Leading up to his 2005 debut, Chamillionaire had already seen two of his Swishahouse counterparts drop Platinum-selling debuts: Mike Jones (2004’s Who Is Mike Jones?) and Paul Wall (2005’s The Peoples Champ). At the tail-end of 2005, though, Chamillionaire would usurp his peers as the King of Houston with his debut studio album The Sound of Revenge. Released in November 2005, the project would go on to sell more than 1.5 million copies by the end of the year, largely on the strength of his No. 1 hit “Ridin’.” Outside of his incredible commercial success, the Houston-born rapper-entrepreneur is a mixtape killer, especially with his Mixtape Messiah series.
Florida Rap Ranking: No. 3
Essential Albums: Da Baddest Bitch (2000), Diamond Princess (2002), Glamorest Life (2005), Still da Baddest (2008)
Arguably the most underrated female rapper of all time, Trina cemented her status as the Queen of Florida with her 2000 debut Da Baddest Bitch. Granted, Trina’s first solo offering’s commercial success would pale in comparison to its successors. Between 2004 and 2010, Trina delivered four albums that would perform well commercially, including 2002’s Diamond Princess, 2005’s Glamorest Life, 2008’s Still da Baddest, and 2010’s Amazin’.
39. Trick Daddy
Florida Rap Ranking: No. 2
Essential Albums: www.thug.com (1998), Book of Thugs (2000), Thugs Are Us (2001), Thug Holiday (2002), Thug Matrimony (2004)
The first King of South Florida, you could credit Trick Daddy with paving the way for an endless array of Florida rappers: Trina, Rick Ross, Plies, Ace Hood, Gunplay, Denzel Curry, Kodak Black, among others. And yet, Trick solidified his claim as the King of Florida in the early 2000s, when he delivered a string of classic LPs: 2000’s Book of Thugs, 2001’s Thugs Are Us, and 2002’s Thug Holiday.
38. YoungBoy Never Broke Again
Louisiana Rap Ranking: No. 9
Albums: Until Death Call My Name (2018), Top (2020), Sincerely, Kentrell (2021), The Last Slimeto (2022), I Rest My Case (2023)
Essential Mixtapes: AI YoungBoy (2017), 4Respect 4Freedom 4Loyalty 4WhatImportant (2018), Decided (2018), Realer (2018), AI YoungBoy 2 (2019), Still Flexin, Still Steppin (2020), 38 Baby 2 (2020), Until I Return (2020), Colors (2022), Realer 2 (2022), 3800 Degrees (2022), Ma I Got a Family (2022)
YoungBoy Never Broke Again cemented his status as a rising superstar at the tail-end of the 2010s with a handful of great projects, including 2017’s AI YoungBoy, 2018’s 4Respect 4Freedom 4Loyalty 4WhatImportant, 2018’s Decided, 2018’s Realer, and 2019’s AI YoungBoy 2. However, over the past three years, the Baton Rouge rapper has established himself as the Lil Wayne or Gucci Mane of his generation, what with his unmatched prolific output.
Since 2020, YoungBoy has dropped 19 projects: four official albums (Top, Sincerely, Kentrell, The Last Slimeto, and I Rest My Case), seven commercial mixtapes (38 Baby 2, Colors, Until I Return, Still Flexin, Still Steppin, Realer 2, 3800 Degrees, Ma I Got a Family), four collaborative offerings (Nobody Safe with Rich the Kid, From the Bayou with Birdman, Better Than You with DaBaby, and 3860 with Quando Rondo), and four compilations (Ain’t Too Long 2, Never Broke Again: The Compilation Vol. 1, Green Flag Activity, and Lost Files).
37. Young Dolph
Memphis Rap Ranking: No. 5
Albums: 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 Young Dolph’s tragic passing in 2021, the Memphis rapper had already established himself as one of the top Southern rappers in the game. 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.
36. Yo Gotti
Memphis Rap Ranking: No. 4
Albums: 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)
Yo Gotti has built up one of the most iconic and successful hip hop brands in the rap game, as Gotti’s label, Collective Music Group, has launched the careers of countless artists from the city, as well as outsiders like Detroit’s 42 Dugg and Louisville’s EST Gee. Meanwhile, Gotti has also established himself as a lead artist in recent years thanks to a string of albums and mixtapes that have showcased his potential, alongside hit singles like “Down in the DM” and “Rake It Up.”
35. Soulja Slim
Louisiana Rap Ranking: No. 8
Albums: Give It 2 ‘Em Raw (1998), The Streets Made Me (2001), Years Later (2002), Years Later…A Few Months After (2003)
After dropping his debut album, Give It 2 ‘Em Raw, via No Limit Records, Soulja Slim served a three-year stint in prison for armed robbery, before returning home en route to dropping his sophomore release, The Streets Made Me. Two years later, though, Slim would catapult into the mainstream with a guest verse on Juvenile’s No. 1 hit “Slow Motion.” The hit song topped the Billboard Hot 100 shortly after Soulja Slim was murdered on November 26, 2003, making him the sixth artist in history to have a posthumous number one single.
Louisiana Rap Ranking: No. 6
Albums: Mystikal (1994), Mind of Mystikal (1995), Unpredictable (1997), Ghetto Fabulous (1998), Let’s Get Ready (2000), Tarantula (2001)
New Orleans native Mystikal burst onto the scene in 1995 with his debut album Mind of Mystikal. A year later, the 25-year-old signed with Master P’s No Limit Records, and the rest was history. After his first two releases on No Limit went Platinum (1997’s Unpredictable and 1998’s Ghetto Fabulous), Mystikal kicked off the 21st century with his magnum opus, Let’s Get Ready. Released in September 2000, the album debuted atop the Billboard 200, selling 330,663 copies in its first week. The LP also produced a pair of Top 20 singles: “Shake Ya Ass,” which peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100; and “Danger,” which bowed out at No. 14.
33. Jay Electronica
Louisiana Rap Ranking: No. 5
Albums: A Written Testimony (2020), Act II: The Patents of Nobility (The Turn) (2020)
Mixtapes: Act 1: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge) (2007), What the Fuck Is a Jay Electronica (2008)
It’s easy to forget Jay Electronica is from the South, as the New Orleans native signed with Roc Nation in 2010 following the release of his career-defining debut single “Exhibit C.” However, Jay was born and raised in the infamous Magnolia Projects, which also produced Juvenile, Turk, and Soulja Slim. After dropping his debut mixtape Act 1: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge) in 2007, Jay’s hype reached a fever pitch with the release of 2008’s What the Fuck Is a Jay Electronica. From there, a bidding war ensued, which culminated in the most hyped rapper of the 2000s signing with the GOAT, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label in 2010.
32. Project Pat
Memphis Rap Ranking: No. 3
Albums: 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)
It’s hard to understand how an entire generation of hip-hop fans were introduced to Project Pat in 2021, more than 22 years after the Memphis rapper dropped his debut, by way of “Knife Talk” a standout track off Drake’s 2021 album Certified Lover Boy. Backed by 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.”
31. Paul Wall
Houston Rap Ranking: No. 6
Albums: Get Ya Mind Right (2002), Chick Magnet (2004), Controversy Sells (2005), The Peoples Champ (2005), Get Money, Stay True (2007), Fast Life (2009), Heart of a Champion (2010), #Checkseason (2013)
Paul Wall came up alongside fellow Swishahouse member Chamillionaire, with whom he dropped two classic collaborative albums, 2002’s Get Ya Mind Right and 2005’s Controversy Sells. Fresh off dropping the latter project, which arrived after Paul Wall gained recognition with his guest verse on Mike Jones’ 2004 classic single “Still Tippin’,” the South’s best white rapper established himself as a solo rapper with 2005’s The Peoples Champ. Released in September 2005, the album debuted atop the Billboard 200, selling nearly 200,000 copies in its first week, while producing a pair of Top 100 singles in “Girl” and “Sittin’ Sidewayz.” Two years later, Paul would earn his first No. 1 single alongside Nelly, on the St. Louis rapper’s smash hit “Grillz.”
30. 21 Savage
Atlanta Rap Ranking: No. 14
Solo Albums: The Slaughter Tape (2015), The Slaughter King (2015), Issa Album (2017), I Am > I Was (2018)
Collab Albums: Savage Mode w/ Metro Boomin (2016), Without Warning w/ Offset and Metro Boomin (2017), Savage Mode II w/ Metro Boomin (2020), Her Loss w/ Drake (2022)
It’s fair to argue that 21 Savage has become underrated, at least compared to peers like Lil Baby, Playboi Carti, and Lil Uzi Vert, all of which catapulted into the mainstream at the same time Savage was asserting himself atop the Atlanta rap universe. And yet, one could argue Savage is the best rapper of that cohort, if not the rapper in the aforementioned group who’s strung together the best discography. For context: Savage’s discography includes two classic albums (2017’s Issa Album and 2018’s I Am > I Was), as well as four solid collaborative projects: 2016’s Savage Mode, 2017’s Without Warning, 2020’s Savage Mode II, 2022’s Her Loss.
29. Lil Baby
Atlanta Rap Ranking: No. 13
Albums: Harder Than Ever (2018), My Turn (2020), It’s Only Me (2022)
Mixtapes: Perfect Timing (2017), Harder Than Hard (2017), 2 The Hard Way (2017), Too Hard (2017), Drip Harder (2018), Street Gossip (2018)
Lil Baby became the Prince of Atlanta in 2018 thanks to an unmatched prolific run that saw the upstart release seven full-length projects over an 18 month span (Perfect Timing, Harder Than Hard, 2 The Hard Way, Too Hard, Harder Than Ever, Drip Harder, Street Gossip). After solidifying himself as the undisputed Rap Rookie of the Year in 2018, Baby took a brief hiatus in 2019 before returning that fall with “Woah,” the first single from his next album, 2020’s My Turn. Lil Baby followed up his career-making 2020 by continuing his momentum in 2021, dropping a string of one-off singles en route to teaming up with Lil Durk for their joint album Voice of the Heroes, before dropping his third studio album It’s Only Me in 2022.
Louisiana Rap Ranking: No. 5
Essential Albums: This Ain’t No Mixtape (2009), Jet Files (2009), Pilot Talk (2010), Pilot Talk II (2010), Weekend at Burnie’s (2011), The Stoned Immaculate (2012), Pilot Talk III (2015), Canal Street Confidential (2015), Back at Burnie’s (2019), Collection Agency (2021), Still Stoned on Ocean (2021), Pilot Talk IV (2021)
It’s easy to forget that Currensy began his career with No Limit, before signing with Cash Money and Lil Wayne’s Young Money in 2004. Despite signing to hip-hop’s biggest New Orleans-based labels, Currensy wouldn’t hit his stride until he went off on his own and signed with independent label Amalgam Digital in 2009. From there, Currensy delivered one of the most prolific runs in recent rap history, Between 2010 and 2012, the New Orleans native dropped four official albums (2010’s Pilot Talk, 2010’s Pilot Talk 2, 2011’s Weekend at Bernie’s, 2012’s The Stoned Immaculate), four collaborative projects (2011’s Covert Coup, 2011’s Jet World Order, 2012’s Muscle Car Chronicles, 2012’s Jet World Order 2), and five mixtapes (2010’s Smokee Robinson, 2011’s Return to the Winner’s Circle, 2011’s Jet Life to the Next Life, 2011’s Verde Terrace, 2012’s Priest Andretti).
Houston Rap Ranking: No. 5
Essential Albums: 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)
After getting his start with Houston’s Screwed Up Click, Z-Ro solidified himself as a Houston legend in the early 2000s by stringing together one of rap’s most prolific runs. Over the course of the decade, Z-Ro dropped 12 official albums, six collaborative projects, nine compilation efforts, and 10 mixtapes. By the end of the 2000s, Z-Ro was firmly established as the King of Houston, if not the underground King of the South.
26. Devin the Dude
Houston Rap Ranking: No. 4
Essential Albums: 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)
Devin The Dude began his career signing to Rap-A-Lot, where he would help create the Odd Squad, a trio of stoners featuring Jugg Mug and the blind rapper DJ Rob Quest. After becoming a part of Scarface’s Facemob in the late 1990s, Devin went solo. Between 1998 and 2007, Devin released nine full-length projects, including classic albums The Dude (1998), Just Tryin’ ta Live (2002), To tha X-Treme (2004), and Waitin’ to Inhale (2007).
25. Big K.R.I.T.
Mississippi Rap Ranking: No. 1
Essential Albums: Live from the Underground (2012), Cadillactica (2014), 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time (2017), K.R.I.T. Iz Here (2019), Digital Roses Don’t Die (2022)
Classic Mixtapes: K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (2010), Return of 4eva (2011), 4eva N a Day (2012), King Remembered in Time (2013)
Perhaps the most underrated rapper of the 2010s, Big K.R.I.T. has quietly strung together one of the greatest discographies in recent memory. Since 2010, the Mississippi rapper has dropped five official albums (2012’s Live from the Underground, 2014’s Cadillactica, 2017’s 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time, 2019’s K.R.I.T. Iz Here, 2022’s Digital Roses Don’t Die), and nine mixtapes, including classic efforts like 2010’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, 2011’s Return of 4eva, 2012’s 4eva N a Day, and 2013’s King Remembered in Time.
24. Master P
Louisiana Rap Ranking: No. 3
Essential Albums: Get Away Clean (1991), Mama’s Bad Boy (1992), The Ghettos Tryin to Kill Me! (1994), 99 Ways to Die (1995), Ice Cream Man (1996), Ghetto D (1997), MP da Last Don (1998), Only God Can Judge Me (1999), Ghetto Postage (2000), Game Face (2001), Good Side, Bad Side (2004), Ghetto Bill (2005), The Gift (2013), Empire, from the Hood to Hollywood (2015), Louisiana Hot Sauce (2016)
While Master P won’t go down as one of the best rappers ever, there’s no denying his status as one of the greatest label heads in hip-hop history, as the New Orleans native founded one of the defining labels of the 1990s, No Limit. Meanwhile, as a solo artist, Master P dominated the ‘90s with a prolific output that featured eight albums, including certified classics like 1994’s The Ghettos Tryin to Kill Me!, 1996’s Ice Cream Man, 1997’s Ghetto D, and 1998’s MP da Last Don. In between his solo releases, Master P would join forces with the No Limit roster for classics like TRU’s Tru 2 Da Game and the I’m Bout It Soundtrack in 1997.
23. Rick Ross
Florida Rap Ranking: No. 1
Essential Albums: Port of Miami (2006), Trilla (2008), Deeper Than Rap (2009), Teflon Don (2010), God Forgives, I Don’t (2012), Mastermind (2014), Hood Billionaire (2014), Black Market (2015), Rather You Than Me (2017), Port of Miami 2 (2019), Richer Than I Ever Been (2021)
Classic Mixtapes: Ashes to Ashes (2010), Rich Forever (2012), The Black Bar Mitzvah (2012)
Rick Ross’ commercial success is often overlooked. Between 2006 and 2014, the Miami rapper notched five No. 1 albums (2006’s Port of Miami, 2008’s Trilla, 2009’s Deeper Than Rap, 2012’s God Forgives, I Don’t, and 2014’s Mastermind). Additionally, Ross earned eight Top 10 singles on Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs chart with “Aston Martin Music” (#1), “B.M.F.” (#4), “The Boss” (#2), “Here I Am” (#5), “Magnificent” (#5), “Hustlin’” (#7), “Push It” (#10), and “You The Boss” (#10). Ross has also delivered countless features on an endless array of DJ Khaled singles, such as “We Takin’ Over,” “I’m So Hood,” and “Out Here Grindin.”
Atlanta Rap Ranking: No. 12
Essential Albums: Yung Rich Nation (2015), Culture (2017), Culture II (2018), Culture III (2021), Only Built for Infinity Links (2022)
Classic Mixtapes: Y.R.N. (2013), No Label 2 (2014), Y.R.N. 2 (2016)
Three years after making waves with their breakout hit “Versace,” Migos catapulted into the mainstream in the fall of 2016 with “Bad and Boujee.” The track quickly rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and would go on to be certified four-times platinum. By the time the trio’s next album, Culture, arrived in January 2017, Migos had become a full on movement. In 2017, Migos experienced one of the most prolific hot streaks in recent memory, scoring six Top 30 hits on the Hot 100: “Bad and Boujee” (#1), “MotorSport” (#6), Gucci Mane’s “I Get the Bag” (#11), “T-Shirt” (#19), Calvin Harris’ “Slide” (#25), and “Slippery” (#29). Meanwhile, Quavo delivered several guest features of his own, including on Top 10 hits like DJ Khaled’s “I’m the One,” Post Malone’s “Congratulations,” and Drake’s “Portland.”
21. Juicy J
Memphis Rap Ranking: No. 2
Three 6 Mafia Albums: Mystic Stylez (1995), Chapter 1: The End (1996), Chapter 2: World Domination (1997), When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1 (2000), Choices (2001), Da Unbreakables (2003), Choices II: The Setup (2005), Most Known Unknown (2005), Last 2 Walk (2008)
Essential Solo Albums: Hustle Till I Die (2009), Stay Trippy (2013), Rubba Band Business (2017), The Hustle Continues (2020)
As a co-founder of Three 6 Mafia, Juicy J cemented his status as the King of Memphis in the 1990s, a decade which saw Juicy, DJ Paul, and Lord Infamous deliver countless classic albums. It wasn’t until the midpoint of the 2000s, though, that Three 6 Mafia would hit their commercial peak with the group’s eighth studio album. Released in September 2005, Most Known Unknown featured Three 6 Mafia’s two biggest hits, “Stay Fly” and “Poppin’ My Collar.” Over the next decade, Juicy J focused on his solo career, which peaked in 2013 with the rapper’s third solo effort, Stay Trippy. The album peaked inside the Top 5 of the Billboard 200 on the strength of the hit single “Bandz A Make Her Dance.” Juicy J continued his momentum throughout the rest of 2013 with guest spots on hits from Katy Perry (“Dark Horse”) and Mike Will Made It (“23”).
Atlanta Rap Ranking: No. 11
Goodie Mob Albums: Soul Food (1995), Still Standing (1998), World Party (1999), One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show (2004), Age Against the Machine (2013), Survival Kit (2020)
Essential Solo Albums: Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections (2002), Cee-Lo Green…Is the Soul Machine (2004), St. Elsewhere (2006), The Odd Couple (2008), The Lady Killer (2010)
It’s hard to accept that an entire generation of music fans only know CeeLo Green as one-half of Gnarls Barkley. The duo, which also featured producer Danger Mouse, released their debut album St. Elsewhere in 2006, minting CeeLo a true pop star on the strength of its chart-topping single “Crazy.” Before his time as a crossover star, though, CeeLo cemented his status as an Atlanta legend alongside T-Mo, Big Gipp, and Khujo. As Goodie Mob, the foursome arrived on the heels of Outkast, releasing their landmark debut Soul Food in 1995. After a few more projects, CeeLo tried his hand as a solo artist, which would see him drop five albums over the course of the 2000s.
Atlanta Rap Ranking: No. 10
Albums: The Never Story (2017), DiCaprio 2 (2018), Revenge of the Dreamers 3 (with Dreamville) (2019), Spilligion (with Spillage Village and EarthGang) (2020), The Forever Story (2022)
JID arrived on the scene around the same time as fellow Atlanta rappers such as Lil Baby and Gunna. And yet, while his counterparts are cut from the same cloth as recent legends like Young Thug, JID is more in line with one of the city’s pioneers, Andre 3000. A true wordsmith, JID established himself as one of the best lyricists of the new generation on the back of a trio of cult classic albums: 2017’s The Never Story, 2018’s Dicaprio 2, and 2022’s The Forever Story.
Louisiana Rap Ranking: No. 2
Essential Albums: Being Myself (1995), Solja Rags (1997), 400 Degreez (1998), Tha G-Code (1999), Project English (2001), Juve the Great (2003)
Hailing from the Magnolia Projects, Juvenile signed with Cash Money in 1997 en route to dropping his first regional smash hit, Solja Rags. In 1998, he returned with 400 Degreez, an album that single handedly marked the arrival of Cash Money on a national scale. On the strength of “Back That Azz Up,” 400 Degrees went quadruple platinum, thereby minting Juvenile a national star. After following his career-making LP with a pair of cult classics, Juvenile re-solidified his status in the mainstream with 2003’s Juve the Great, which produced his first and only No. 1 single, “Slow Motion.”
17. 8Ball & MJG
Memphis Rap Ranking: No. 1
Essential Albums: Comin’ Out Hard (1993), On the Outside Looking In (1994), On Top of the World (1995), In Our Lifetime (1999), Space Age 4 Eva (2000), Living Legends (2004), Ridin’ High (2007), Ten Toes Down (2010)
8Ball & MJG put Memphis on the map in the 1990s, solidifying their status as one of the greatest duos in rap history with Hall of Fame albums Comin’ Out Hard and On Top of the World. After the 1995 release of the latter LP, 8Ball and MJG dropped a pair of underrated solo albums, Lost and No More Glory, respectively, before returning in 1999 to end the decade with another underground classic, 1999’s In Our Lifetime. At the very least, 8Ball & MJG should be credited with putting Memphis hip-hop on the national radar, paving the way for local legends like Three 6 Mafia, Project Pat, Yo Gotti, Young Dolph, and Moneybagg Yo.
16. J. Cole
North Carolina Rap Ranking: No. 1
Essential Albums: Born Sinner (2013), 2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014), 4 Your Eyez Only (2016), KOD (2018), Revenge of the Dreamers III (2019), The Off-Season (2021)
Classic Mixtapes: The Warm Up (2009), Friday Night Lights (2010)
Though he gets hated on by some of the old heads, there’s no denying J. Cole is the third-best rapper of his generation, behind only Drake and Kendrick Lamar. As for his home of North Carolina, Cole is King, without a doubt. Over the past 13 years, the Fayetteville native has dropped a pair of classic mixtapes (2009’s The Warm Up and 2010’s Friday Night Lights), as well as a handful of iconic albums (2013’s Born Sinner, 2014’s Forest Hills Drive, 2018’s KOD, and 2021’s The Off-Season).
15. Killer Mike
Atlanta Rap Ranking: No. 9
Essential Albums: Monster (2003), I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind (2006), I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II (2008)
Classic Mixtapes: Home Alone Wit’ Dat Crack (2004), The Killer (2006), Ghetto Extraordinary (2008), Anger & Ambition: The Best of Killer Mike (2009)
Run The Jewels Albums: Run the Jewels (2013), Run the Jewels 2 (2014), Run the Jewels 3 (2016), RTJ4 (2020)
Coming up in the 1990s, Killer Mike crossed paths with Big Boi and began featuring on Outkast’s tracks such as“Snappin’ & Trappin’” and “The Whole World” as well as Jay-Z’s “Poppin’ Tags.” After spending much of the 2000s grinding away at his music with solid releases like Monster and the I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind, Killer Mike broke through on a national scale after joining with El-P, who produced the entirety of Mike’s 2012 album, R.A.P. Music, one of the best hip hop albums of the decade. The pair would go on to release four albums as Run The Jewels.
14. Missy Elliot
Virginia Rap Ranking: No. 2
Essential Albums: Supa Dupa Fly (1997), Da Real World (1999), Miss E… So Addictive (2001), Under Construction (2002), This Is Not a Test! (2003), The Cookbook (2005)
With no disrespect to the female rappers who owned hip-hop’s first two decades (Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill, Lil Kim, Foxy Brown), Missy Elliot’s reign as Queen of Hip-Hop is unmatched. Granted, that’s hard to comprehend in 2023, as the last decade has produced countless iconic female MCs, such as Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, and Rapsody. But at the turn of the century, Missy established herself as not only the undisputed Queen of rap but a bonafide pop star. From 2001 to 2005, Missy earned four straight platinum albums (2001’s Miss E… So Addictive, 2002’s Under Construction, 2003’s This Is Not a Test!, 2005’s The Cookbook), which produced four Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 (2001’s “Get Ur Freak On” (#7), 2002’s “Work It” (#2), 2003’s “Gossip Folks” (#8), and 2005’s “Lose Control” (#5).
13. Pimp C
Houston Rap Ranking: No. 3
UGK Albums:The Southern Way (1992), Banned (1992), Too Hard to Swallow (1992), Super Tight (1994), Ridin’ Dirty (1996), Dirty Money (2001), Underground Kingz (2007), UGK 4 Life (2009)
Solo Albums: The Sweet James Jones Stories (2005), Pimpalation (2006)
While helping Bun B cement UGK’s status as one the greatest duos in hip-hop history, Pimp C solidified himself as a legendary guest rapper, delivering iconic feature verses to classic songs like Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin’,” Master P’s “I Miss My Homies,” Three 6 Mafia’s “Sippin’ On Some Syrup,” and Bun B’s “Get Throwed,” among others.At the peak of UGK’s fame, though, Pimp C was incarcerated on a probation violation for a previous crime. After spending four years in prison he came back with his solo studio debut, 2006’s Pimpalation. Tragically, fate struck again. Soon after his record’s release, the Port Arthor, Texas MC was silenced too soon as the result of a purple drank overdose.
12. Young Thug
Atlanta Rap Ranking: No. 6
Essential Albums: Barter 6 (2015), Jeffery (2016), Beautiful Thugger Girls (2017), Super Slimey (2017), So Much Fun (2019)
Classic Mixtapes: 1017 Thug (2013), Rich Gang: Tha Tour Pt. 1 (2014), Slime Season (2015), Slime Season 2 (2015), I’m Up (2016), Slime Season 3 (2016), On the Rvn (2018)
It only took Young Thug five years to submit the most prolific commercial run of the entire 2010s. Between 2014 and 2018, Thugger dropped 14 full-length projects, including classics such as Tha Tour, Barter 6, Slime Season, Slime Season 2, Slime Season 3, Jeffery, and Beautiful Thugger Girls. By the end of last decade, there was no denying that Thug was the most influential rapper of the 2010s, as he single handedly paved the way for the next generation of A-listers: Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti, Lil Baby, and Gunna, among others.
11. Pusha T
Virginia Rap Ranking: No. 1
Clipse Albums: Lord Willin’ (2002), We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 1 (2004), We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2 (2005), Hell Hath No Fury (2006), We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 3 (2008),Til the Casket Drops (2009)
Solo Albums: Wrath of Caine (2013), My Name Is My Name (2013), King Push (2015), Daytona (2018), It’s Almost Dry (2022)
After establishing Clipse as one of the greatest duos in rap history, King Push strung together a Hall of Fame run as a solo artist. The streak began in 2012, when Pusha T signed with Kanye West’s GOOD Music en route to dropping his first official solo offering, 2013’s mixtape Wrath of Caine. From there, Push delivered four straight certified classics with 2013’s My Name Is My Name, 2015’s King Push, 2018’s Daytona, and 2022’s It’s Almost Dry. Even more, it didn’t hurt Push’s status to topple the biggest rapper of ever (Drake) in a head-to-head rap beef in 2018.
10. Young Jeezy
Atlanta Rap Ranking: No. 7
Essential Albums: Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 (2005), The Inspiration: Thug Motivation 102 (2006), The Recession (2008), TM103: Hustler’z Ambition (2011), Seen It All: The Autobiography (2014)
Classic Mixtapes: Streetz Iz Watchin (2004), Trap or Die (2004), I Am the Street Dream (2006)
Midway through the 2000s, Young Jeezy signaled a changing of the guard in the South, as he steered Atlanta into the “trap music” subgenre that would define the city’s next decade. While T.I. coined the phrase in 2003, Jeezy’s version of the sound was different. Even more, Jeezy arrived on the heels of the crunk music sound that’d dominated Atlanta the previous year by way of Lil Jon, Crime Mob, and Trillville.
After dropping his iconic mixtape Trap or Die in January 2005, Jeezy followed it up that summer with his major label debut Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101. The LP debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, selling 172,000 copies in the first week. Thug Motivation 101 also produced arguably the biggest hit of Jeezy’s career, the Akon-featuring “Soul Survivor,” which peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Atlanta Rap Ranking: No. 5
Essential Albums: Back for the First Time (2000), Word of Mouf (2001), Chicken-n-Beer (2003), The Red Light District (2004), Release Therapy (2006)
The first crossover star from Atlanta, Ludacris in the 2000s strung together one of the most commercially successful runs in rap history: five multi-platinum albums and 19 Top 40 singles, including seven Top 10 hits (“Move Bitch,” “Stand Up,” “Splash Waterfalls,” “Pimpin’ All Over the World,” “Money Maker,” “Runaway Love,” “How Low”).
In 2001, Luda surpassed OutKast as the King of Atlanta with his second studio album Word of Mouf. Released in November 2001, the album peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, and would go on to be certified four-times Platinum thanks to Top 25 hits like “Rollout,” “Saturday (Oooh! Oooh!),” and “Area Codes.” A few months after its release, Ludacris joined forces with local pioneer Jermaine Dupri for the defining Atlanta hip-hop anthem “Welcome to Atlanta.”
Atlanta Rap Ranking: No. 4
Essential Albums: Pluto (2012), Honest (2014), DS2 (2015), What a Time to Be Alive (2015), Evol (2016), Future (2017), Hndrxx (2017), Super Slimey (2017), The Wizrd (2019), High Off Life (2020), I Never Liked You (2022)
Classic Mixtapes: Dirty Sprite (2011), True Story (2011), Astronaut Status (2012), Monster (2014), Beast Mode (2015), 56 Nights (2015), Purple Reign (2016), Beast Mode 2 (2018)
Future made a name for himself in 2011 with a string of cult classic mixtapes (Dirty Sprite, True Story, Free Bricks, and Streetz Calling). From there, Future dropped another classic project, Astronaut Status, in January 2012, before catapulting into the mainstream that spring with his official studio debut album, Pluto. What transpired from there was one of the greatest mixtape runs of the past decade, as Future kicked ended 2014 with Monster, before joining forces with Zaytoven and DJ Esco for Beast Mode and 56 Nights, respectively. The hype surrounding the pair of tapes would climax in the summer of 2015 with Future’s third album, DS2.
7. Gucci Mane
Atlanta Rap Ranking: No. 8
Essential Albums: Trap House (2005), Hard to Kill (2006), Trap-A-Thon (2007), Back to the Trap House (2007), Murder Was the Case (2009), The State vs. Radric Davis (2009), The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted (2010), The Return of Mr. Zone 6 (2011), Everybody Looking (2016), The Return of East Atlanta Santa (2016), Woptober (2016), Mr. Davis (2017), Droptopwop (2017), Woptober II (2019)
Classic Mixtapes: Chicken Talk (2006), No Pad, No Pencil (2007), Bird Flu (2007), EA Sportscenter (2008), Mr. Perfect (2008), Gucci Sosa (2008), From Zone 6 to Duval (2008), The Movie (2008), Bird Flu (2009), Bird Money (2009), Writing on the Wall (2009), The Movie: Part 2 (2009), The Burrprint (2009), Burrrprint 2 (2010), Mr. Zone 6 (2010), Jewelry Selection (2010), Ferrari Music (2010)
It’s easy to forget Gucci Mane first made waves in 2005 with the release of his debut studio album, Trap House, which produced his first street hit “Icy.” A beef with Atlanta’s then-King, Young Jeezy, was not able to slow Gucci down. From 2008 to 2010, the Zone 6er delivered one of the most prolific runs in hip-hop history, as Gucci released 22 full-length projects.
Gucci, whose flood-the-market approach had made him the hottest street rapper in the game at the tail-end of the 2000s, transformed into a superstar in 2009. Gucci dropped nine mixtapes in the first 10 months of that year, including classics like Writings on the Wall and Burrrprint: The Movie 3D. From there, he exploded into the mainstream with a pair of hit singles in “Wasted” and “Lemonade,” both of which appeared on Gucci’s first big label album, The State vs. Radric Davis.
Atlanta Rap Ranking: No. 3
Essential Albums: Trap Muzik (2003), Urban Legend (2004), King (2006), Paper Trail (2008)
Classic Mixtapes: Down With The King (2004), The Leak (2006)
T.I. declared himself the King of the South on his career-defining 2003 album Trap Muzik, but it was in 2004 that he would catapult into the mainstream with 2004’s Urban Legend. Like its predecessor, T.I.’s third LP received positive reviews from critics. Even more, though, Urban Legend proved T.I.’s pop potential with its pair of big singles: “Bring ‘Em Out,” which peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100; and “U Don’t Know Me,” which bowed out at No. 23.
T.I.’s hot streak continued in 2006 with his magnum opus, King. The album, which featured the Atlanta rapper’s then-biggest single “What You Know,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling over 522,000 copies in its first week of release. Two years later, T.I. would make a full crossover onto the pop charts with his sixth studio LP Paper Trail. Released in the fall of 2008, the album produced four Top 5 hits on the Hot 100: “Whatever You Like” (#1), “Live Ya Life” (#1), “Dead and Gone” (#2), and “Swagga Like Us” (#5).
5. Big Boi
Atlanta Rap Ranking: No. 2
Outkast Albums: Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994), ATLiens (1996), Aquemini (1998), Stankonia (2000), Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003), Idlewild (2006)
Solo Albums: Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (2010), Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors (2012), Boomiverse (2017)
After spending years in Andre 3000’s shadow as one-half of Outkast, Big Boi proved himself worthy of being a lead artist with his critically acclaimed 2010 solo debut Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty. The album further solidified the flashes of brilliance he’d shown on his unofficial solo debut (2003’s Speakerboxxx). For those who weren’t convinced of his ability to sustain excellence without Andre, Big Boi followed-up Sir Lucious Left Foot with two more full length-offerings (2012’s Vicious Lies and 2017’s Boomiverse.
During a 2017 interview with GQ, Andre didn’t shy away from naming his counterpart the better rapper: “Big Boi can rap better than me—I always said that,” 3000 said. “If somebody said, ‘Pick who you want from OutKast to go to battle with you,’ it wouldn’t be me. ‘Cause like, what I’ma do? Say some mind shit? You can’t have thoughts in a battle—nobody gives a s**t about that.”
4. Bun B
Houston Rap Ranking: No. 2
UGK Albums:The Southern Way (1992), Banned (1992), Too Hard to Swallow (1992), Super Tight (1994), Ridin’ Dirty (1996), Dirty Money (2001), Underground Kingz (2007), UGK 4 Life (2009)
Solo Albums: Trill (2005), II Trill (2008), Trill OG (2010), Trill OG: The Epilogue (2013), Return of the Trill (2018)
Bun B and Pimp C rival Andre 3000 and Big Boi as the greatest hip-hop duo of all time. Over the course of the 1990s, UGK earned that right with classic albums such as 1994’s Super Tight and 1996’s Ridin’ Dirty. However, it wasn’t until Pimp C’s incarceration (2002-05) that Bun B surpassed his counterpart en route to cementing his case as the King of Houston, if not the King of the South.
While Pimp C was in prison, Bun B continued his momentum thanks to countless iconic guest verses, including on songs from Killer Mike (“Re-AKshon”), 8Ball & MJG (“The Streets”), Jim Jones (“End of the Road”), Slim Thug (“3 Kings”), Gucci Mane (“Black Tee”), and Chamillionaire (“Picture Perfect”), among others. From there, Bun B ended the 2000s by dropping a trio of Trill projects.
3. Lil Wayne
Louisiana Rap Ranking: No. 1
Essential Albums: Tha Block Is Hot (1999), Lights Out (2000), 500 Degreez (2002), Tha Carter (2004), Tha Carter II (2005), Like Father, Like Son (2006), Carter III (2008), Carter IV (2011), Carter V (2018)
Classic Mixtapes: The Prefix (2004), The Suffix (2005), The Dedication (2005), Lil Weezy Ana Vol. 1 (2006), Young Money: The Mixtape Vol. 1 (2006), Blow (2006), The W. Carter Collection (2006), Dedication 2 (2006), Da Drought 3 (2007), No Ceilings (2009)
From 2004 to 2008, Lil Wayne delivered one of the greatest five-year peaks in rap history. The run began in 2004, a year that featured Wayne’s first classic album (Tha Carter) and a trio of definitive mixtapes (Da Drought, Da Drought 2, The Prefix), and would hit a fever pitch the following year, as the New Orleans rapper leveled up in 2005 on the back of three straight classics: The Suffix, Dedication, and Tha Carter II.
What followed was Wayne’s true apex, an unmatched prolific hot streak in 2006 that saw Wayne drop seven official mixtapes: Lil Weezy Ana Vol. 1, Young Money: The Mixtape Vol. 1, Blow, The W. Carter Collection Vol. 1, The W. Carter Collection Vol. 2, The Carter Files, Dedication 2. Then came 2007, a year in which Wayne cemented his status as the Best Rapper Alive despite not releasing an official album. Instead, Weezy ran the rap game with an endless array of classic guest features, as well as countless Carter 3 leaks, en route to dropping his magnum opus, Da Drought 3.
Houston Rap Ranking: No. 1
Geto Boys Albums: Making Trouble (1988), Grip It! On That Other Level (1989), We Can’t Be Stopped (1991), Till Death Do Us Part (1993), The Resurrection (1996), Da Good da Bad & da Ugly (1998), The Foundation (2005)
Solo Albums: 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)
After establishing the Geto Boys as one of the greatest rap groups ever, Scarface cemented his status as the King of Houston with one of the most underrated solo discographies in the history of hip-hop. ‘Face’s solo run kicked off with 1991’s Mr. Scarface Is Back and 1993’s The World Is Yours, before he delivered his magnum opus, 1994’s The Diary.
Scarface’s next three projects, 1997’s The Untouchable, 1998’s My Homies, and 2000’s The Last of a Dying Breed, failed to match the critical claim of his first three efforts. But at the turn of the century, the Houston legend returned with 2002’s The Fix, which solidified ‘Face as one of the best rappers of hip-hop’s golden era.
1. Andre 3000
Atalanta Rap Ranking: No. 1
Outkast Albums: Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994), ATLiens (1996), Aquemini (1998), Stankonia (2000), Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003), Idlewild (2006)
Unlike Big Boi, who’s released three solo albums over the course of the duo’s post-Outkast career, Andre has yet to bless fans with a full-length offering. And yet, Andre’s more than proven his worth as a solo rapper on the strength of his endless array of Hall of Fame guest features.
In the years since Outkast dropped their sixth and final album Idlewild in August 2006, André has established himself as the greatest guest star in the history of rap. In 2007, André had one of the best feature runs ever, contributing iconic verses on remixes of Unk’s “Walk It Out,” Rich Boy’s “Throw Some D’s,” Jay Z’s “30 Something,” and Lloyd’s “You,” before delivering scene-stealing features on UGK’s “Int’l Players Anthem,” DJ Drama’s “Da Art of Storytellin’ Pt. 4,” and Devin The Dude’s “What A Job.”
Over the past decade, André has continually resurfaced to deliver more classic guest spots, including on Rick Ross’ “Sixteen,” Frank Ocean’s “Pink Matter,” Jeezy’s “I Do,” T.I.’s “Sorry,” Future’s “Benz Friends,” Erykah Badu’s “Hello,” Frank Ocean’s “Solo (Reprise),” Travis Scott’s “The Ends,” and most recently, Kanye West’s “Life Of The Party.”