When AndrÃ© 3000 declared over boos that âthe south got something to sayâ at The Source Awards in 1995, there was a shift in Hip-Hop. TheÂ region had just been added to what had beenÂ an exclusively east coast vs. west coast genre at the time. With thatÂ special focus put upon them, along with expectations that they really took off with, the south was now a viable powerhouse in hip hop.
Today, when weÂ talking about the south in Hip-Hop, no region has had quite as big of anÂ impact like Atlanta.
The best rappers from Atlanta are also some of the best rappers in the world, so figuring out who does and doesnât make the cut is an excruciatingly difficult, task. I thought long and hard about it, and in my opinion, below in alphabetical order, are some of the best rappers to come out ofÂ Atlanta.
3 Stacks is widely regarded as not just one of the best rappers that Atlanta has ever birthed, but one of the best to ever do it, period. The only debate about having AndrÃ© on a list like this is whether or not he should be there due to his lack of a solo album, which is fair. Iâve always believed that he has one in The Love Below, but admittedly itâs more an R&B album than anything else. But at the end of the day, DrÃ© doesnât need his own album to prove his skill as an MC. If youâre listing the best from Atlanta and 3 Stacks doesnât come up, youâre doing it wrong.
Big Boi only comes right after AndrÃ© 3000 on this list coincidentally because itâs in alphabetical order, but it couldnât be more perfect. All of his career, heâs been considered second fiddle to DrÃ© which is completely unfair. Itâs hard to recall Sir Lucious L. Leftfoot ever being completely washed and outclassed on an OutKast record, and many a time he got the better of his Rap partner. His solo career also speaks for itself.
The expression of some of his beliefs over the past few years has left Bobby Ray in a weird space with fans, but to me, his rapping has never been up for debate. At one point in that blog/backpack era, he was one of the key MCs to watch and he proved it with his May 25th mixtape. He also crossed over successfully to the mainstream with his singles. Remember Airplanes?! Fans are just cruel sometimes and the culture is unforgiving. But at the end of the day, there are many Hustle Gang posse cuts where B.o.B gets the best of some of our favorites and we should acknowledge him for that.
It should be some sort of crime to talk about Atlanta Hip-Hop for more than 10Â minutes without a member of the Dungeon Family coming up. Goodie Mob was a key piece of that puzzle and its youngest member CeeLo Green is ATL royalty. CeeLo is far superior to what his radio hits “Crazy”Â and “Fuck You”Â suggest, with the artist having a hand in collaborations with a whoâs who of music. Large scale diversity is a trait weâre seeing less and less of right now, but thatâs where Green shines.
I remember first hearing Childish Gambinoâs “Bonfire”Â from his Camp album and being blown away. He wasnât the type of rapper I expected would give listeners punchline after punchline Lil Wayne style, but he did it very well. The same thing happened a few times after that with a freestyle at HOT 97 and some of his mixtape songs and to me, it was clear that the world was sleeping on Donald Glover. His show Atlanta and the “This Is America”Â video have helped change that, but his new album 3.15.20 is far from a “Rap” album and might have fans confused about his ability as a rapper. But,Â I assure you, he is one of ATLâs finest.
Itâs unfortunate that many reading CyHiâs name on this list will only know him for his collaborations with Kanye West, most of which happened 10Â long years ago during the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy era. Even during that period, he was going toe to toe on songs with the likes of J. Cole, Pusha T, Big Sean and more and doing more than pulling his weight, coming out with standout verses on numerous records. But please respect CyHiâs solo work and go and listen to Black Hystori Project at the very least. The man is one of Atlantaâs best, bar for bar.
Like a few artists on this list, you can view Futureâs career in two halves. The rapper was caught up in Hollywood in the early 2010s, arguably getting stale, but then he went through a public breakup and really reinvented himself with his Monster mixtape in October of 2014. From then, he went on a run worthy of being in the Hall Of Fame with Beast Mode, 56 Nights and DS2, all in the span of under nineÂ months. He could make it on this list just off the strength of those four projects. His ear for melody and writing for BeyoncÃ© and Rihanna also puts him in a space of his own and proves his worth beyond that toxic and painful music that fans love him for.
There was a point in time when a lot of Atlanta artists (dubbed by many as The New Atlanta) were blowing up one after another, and almost all of them had some sort of connection to Gucci Mane. Guwop has had his hand in so many careers that itâs unbelievable and fans of his will tell you that his mixtape discography is one of the best out there. Gucci might be a legend based on work ethic alone. I remember him releasing three EPs in one day, all while behind bars.
T.I. might have been the one to name and really bring in the trap era and genre in music, but Jeezy took it and ran with it like no-one else. His 2005 mixtape Trap Or Die is an influential classic, as are a few of his albums. Hip-Hop fans have not been kind to Jeezy in terms of support for a few years now, and I understand and agree with the sentiment that his music feels a little uninspired and “samey” these days, but to not put him on a list like this considering his entire career would be a travesty.
The first time most of the world was introduced to J.I.D. was The Never Story, which we clicked play on because we knew he was J. Coleâs latest signee. But we stayed for his infectious flows and charisma, two things J.I.D. really continues to pull off effortlessly. When he raps, you just want to hear what he has to say next, because you have no idea what it could be. Itâs still early days for him, but the future is bright for Dreamvilleâs J.I.D. and he just might be Atlantaâs latest greatest best up-and-coming MC.
Killer Mikeâs resumÃ© both inside and outside of Hip-Hop is nothing to turn your nose up at. Along with El-P, heâs made some of the more respected Rap albums of the past decade with the Run The Jewels series and his activism is unrivaled. A lot of young RTJ fans also donât know that heâs been around since the early 2000s. Like Kendrick said, âcritics want to mention that they miss when Hip-Hop was rapping, motherfucker, if you did, then Killer Mikeâd be platinumâ.
This social media era means that not all rappers have to go through a grind for years and years before they get their big break anymore. Some people blow up off of their first batch of songs, and some have one foot in with rapping and become huge. Thatâs Lil Babyâs story. Becoming a rapper wasnât some passion of his and for many, that is enough to exclude him from any Hip-Hop lists, but it shouldnât be. His ability to capture your attention on a record is absurd and he makes anthemic-sounding songs. Baby already has some unforgettable moments in the bag (“Freestyle”, “Yes Indeed”) and itâll be fun to see where he goes next.
I remember being 12 or 13-years-old and swearing by Ludacris being a top-five rapper out, in around 2010. To be fair, this was almost entirely off the strength of him holding his own against my favorite rapper at the time, Lil Wayne, on âLast Of A Dying Breedâ, but either way, I got laughed at back then just like I would now. Itâs easy to dismiss him as an actor if youâre only familiar with this later stage of his career but go back and check the catalog, Luda is a legend.
For a long while, Quavo was considered the leading member of Migos, but “Bad And Boujee”Â changed some things. I havenât been the biggest fan of Migosâ rapping style, but when Offset shows up the way I know he can, he shows out. On the first song on his album FATHER OF 4, he pours his heart out in a way extremely unfamiliar to fans of Migosâ club records. Another one of my favorite verses from him is on 6LACKâs “Balenciaga Challenge”.
Melody wasnât always the thing in Hip-Hop. Mobb Deepâs The Infamous is one of my favorite albums of all time, but on it, Prodigy and Havoc donât do anything close to what you might call singing, holding a note, or even changing pitch that much. Kanye West, Drake and more helped the transition take place and Quavo is better off because of it. Along with Offset and Takeoff, Quavo was at the forefront of the New Atlanta movement and his musical ear is to be respected.
When you think of ATL in Hip-Hop culture, thereâs a good chance that T.I. is the first person that comes to mind. If he doesnât go to jail at the height of his popularity in 2008 (and then again soon after), maybe weâre having a completely different conversation about him in terms of being a mainstream artist, but Tip has had his fair share of commercial success regardless. As a rapper, he held his own with JAY-Z, Kanye West and Lil Wayne on the same song, which speaks for itself. He boasts classic Atlanta songs and last but not least, he helped usher in the trap era. Forget a list, put him on Atlantaâs Mount Rushmore.
Thugger had an entry into Hip-Hop like no other with âStonerâ and âDanny Gloverâ. For a while, the gimmick of not being able to understand what he said and his fashion sense was keeping him going, but more than half a decade later, itâs clear that heâs here to stay for a lot more than that. Thug has been more influential in his short career than many would care to admit, plus when he really raps (see Swizz Beatzâs â25 Soldiersâ and Drakeâs âSacrificesâ), the way he captures your attention and his unpredictability is undeniable.
If 2 Chainz doesnât make the bold decision to reinvent himself and come with the music to prove that we should care about his career again, he probably doesnât make this list. If heâs still Tity Boi, unfortunately, heâs probably remembered for being one of the other rappers on âDuffle Bag Boyâ. But heâs not, so he isnât. Instead, Chainz is the perfect example of why being young in Hip-Hop is overrated, hitting his stride decades into his career.
Iâll be the first one to admit that I was skeptical about 21 Savage when his name first started buzzing with Savage Mode in the summer of 2016. Like others, I heard snippets here and there, saw the reception to him, then wrote him off as just another rapper rapping about nothing new. But then I actually hit play on the project and I was humbled, slapped back into reality. At the end of the day, thereâs more to rapping than metaphors and double entendreÂ and 21 is the embodiment of that.
Yes, 6LACK is a singer, but what a lot of people donât know is that he started off as a battle rapper. On the internet, thereâs even footage of him battling Young Thug back in the day. One of my favorite displays of his rapping is on âNonchalantâ from his last album East Atlanta Love Letter. The world ran with the âIâm somewhere between humble and âHell Nahââ line, but the entire song is a goldmine of witty bars. I love his unique fusion of Hip-Hop and R&B, but Iâd be intrigued to hear how a 6LACK pure Rap album sounds.