Memphis, Tennessee, has long been an underrepresented city in hip-hop. Located in the southwest region of the state, Tennessee has been chiefly associated with country music. However, the hip-hop scene has been making somewhat of a revival in recent years.
As a part of the South, akin to Texas, Georgia and other Southern states, Tennessee took a long time to gain respect in a culture controlled by the gatekeepers of New York. Figures such as Kool DJ Red Alert had no time for artists from Tennessee, and it took a long time for DJs such as Mr Magic to even play music from the likes of Ice-T in the 1980s.
When the culture turned a cold shoulder to the South, the region began cultivating its own sound and began producing its own DJs, such as DJ Screw, the icon who put the Houston Chopped-and-Screwed sonic on the map.
Memphis, however, was an outlier in the sense that it was still a tiny city in comparison to the Atlanta’s and Houston’s of the South. With a population of around 776,000 during hip-hop’s golden age, it took a while for the city to penetrate the scene. However, when it did, it brought some fantastic acts to the public. Below, you can see the top five rappers that Memphis has produced.
The five best rappers from Memphis:
5. Gangsta Boo
The late female emcee Gangsta Boo was one of the only female rappers from the South during the 1990s. While New York and New Jersey were churning out rappers such as Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Queen Latifah and Lauryn Hill, Gangsta Boo was representing for women from the South.
Gangsta Boo worked to break into the industry for years, releasing three solo albums and five with Three Six Mafia. Unfortunately, due to the dismissal of the South, she never reached the heights of MCs such as Lauryn Hill or Foxy Brown. As such, earlier this year was found dead on the front porch of her mother’s home in Memphis after overdosing on fentanyl, cocaine and alcohol. Regardless of this, she has been hailed as a legend and has gained the title ‘The Queen Of Memphis’.
4. Yo Gotti
Yo Gotti is one of the most influential music executives to come out of Memphis. The city has been having a revival in recent years, and the likes of GloRilla, Moneybagg Yo and the now-incarcerated Pooh Shiesty have revived the city’s hip-hop scene, and Yo Gotti has been a massive part of this.
Yo Gotti emerged in the early-2000s and made his major label debut in 2003 with his project, Life. However, it received a lukewarm reception from critics and didn’t do much commercially.
His second album, Back 2 Da Basics, was also not huge but saw him collaborate with some legends, including Lil Wayne, Birdman, Jazze Pha and Scott Storch. Fortunately for the act (real name Mario Mims), in the 2010s, he began to gain traction, and his 2012 body of work, Live From The Kitchen, saw him shoot up to number 12 on the Billboard 200. His first ever appearance on the chart.
Bolstered by the likes of Nicki Minaj, Wiz Khalifa and Big Sean, the album was well-received by critics. However, Mims slowly but surely transitioned into the music business and, after founding Collective Music Group in 2012, began breaking Memphis acts such as Moneybagg Yo, GlorRilla and Blocboy JB, all of whom have achieved an unfathomable amount of success.
3. 8Ball & MJG
The duo 8Ball & MJG are known as Memphis legends. Formed in the early-1990s, the duo came out of the city and almost instantly became a hit. Unlike Three 6 Mafia, a lot of their music was influenced by G-Funk, and their debut project, Comin’ Out Hard, debuted at number 40 on the Billboard 200, which is very high for a Tennessee act with only one album.
However, it was in 1995 that they really made an impact when they dropped On Top Of The World through Suave House Records. The album reached number eight on the Billboard 200 and got certified gold by the RIAA shortly after. The group even signed with Bad Boy Entertainment at the turn of the millennium as a result of their success and were featured on the epic body of work Harlem World by Mase.
2. Juicy J
As part of Three 6 Mafia, Juicy J (real name Jordan Houston) received a vast amount of exposure and shared a lot of accolades with his Memphis peers. His 2002 debut album, Chronicles of the Juice Man, wasn’t commercially successful but is considered a Tennessee hip-hop classic and is still an epic body of work with appearances from the likes of Crunchy Black and Lord Infamous.
However, when he decided to go solo in 2009 as Three 6 Mafia hit a low, Houston began to ascend to levels he could have never as part of the collective. In 2009, he began collaborating with the likes of Chevy Woods and Ty Dolla $ign, as a part of Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang crew.
When he joined forces with the highly relevant and mainstream act, he received more notoriety and began to surpass his brother (Project Pat) and his former crewmates Gangsta Boo and Lord Infamous. As he continued to feature on tracks with Khalifa and others regularly, he eventually decided to release an album in 2012, which became a hit.
Stay Trippy boasted the chart-topping hit ‘Bandz a Make Her Dance’ featuring 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne. Following this, he signed with Columbia Records and his career accelerated at lightning-speed, getting to work with the likes of Nicki Minaj, The Weeknd and more. Juicy J is a Memphis icon.
1. Project Pat
Project Pat is undoubtedly one of the most impactful rappers from Memphis. As the older brother of Juicy J, the act (real name Patrick Houston) co-founded the city’s biggest and most exciting exports, Three 6 Mafia. Comprised of DJ Paul, Koopsta Knicca, Crunchy Black, Lord Infamous, Juicy J, and Gangsta Boo, the collective put their city on the map and put a new spin on hip-hop.
Formed in the early-1990s, the clique released some incredible songs such as ‘Tear Up The Club’ and ‘Stay Fly’. Houston was an integral part of the crew but had a lot of success as a solo artist, too.
Houston was known for his dark beats. His lyrics were often extremely raw. His song ‘Red Rum’ includes lines such as “I executed me some punks that deserved it / They had a warrant for they death, so I served it.” Pat’s 2001 album, Everythangs Workin’ debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 and was recorded and produced in Memphis by DJ Paul, Juicy J and Houston.