fbpx

21 Best Detroit Rappers Of All Time

Last Updated On:

When most people think of Detroit music, their first thoughts tend to go to the likes of Motown or rock. After all, this city has produced the likes of Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger, and Jack White. Then, when rap is taken into consideration, most people from outside of Detroit will only be able to name Eminem. People should look into their rap scene more often, though, as it’s among the best in the nation.

Don’t believe us? Check out these 21 best Detroit rappers of all time (and Eminem, of course):

1. Eminem

Because we already mentioned it, it’s obvious that Eminem had to be at the top of the list for Detroit rappers. There’s really not much to say about Slim Shady that hasn’t already been said. Not only has he established himself as one of the biggest names in the hip hop industry, but music in general. His rap career started in the early 1990s, and toward the end of the decade, he became a household name, becoming an icon in the process.

Next: Top White/Caucasian Rappers of all time

2. Big Sean

Big Sean - Bounce Back (Official Music Video)

Outside of Eminem, no other Detroit rapper has enjoyed the type of mainstream success that Big Sean has over the years. His real name is Sean Anderson, and he started rapping as a child and followed in Eminem’s footsteps by appearing in Detroit’s rap battle scene. Eventually, he became locally famous and was discovered by Kanye West, launching a rap career that started with his debut studio album Finally Famous in 2011.

Next: Top rappers in the history of the genre (our picks)

3. Royce da 5’9”

Bad Meets Evil - Fast Lane ft. Eminem, Royce Da 5'9

Born as Ryan Montgomery, Royce da 5’9” teamed up with Eminem early on in his rap career to form the duo Bad Meets Evil, which produced popular songs like Fast Lane. He has worked with several other big names in rap, while also enjoying a fine solo career that includes several Grammy nominations. His first album came in 2002 with Rock City, and he hasn’t looked back since then.

4. Proof

D12 - Purple Hills (Official Music Video)

Speaking of those that have teamed up with Eminem, the late Proof, real name DeShaun Holton, was part of D12 after he and Eminem grew up together. He had also been in several other groups during his career, including 5 Elementz and Funky Cowboys. Typically a hype man, he also had several solo albums including his final works I Miss The Hip Hop Shop and Searching For Jerry Garcia shortly before his death.

5. Tee Grizzley

Tee Grizzley - No Effort [Official Music Video]

It wasn’t the easiest path to stardom for Terry Wallace Jr., better known as Tee Grizzley. After having a rough upbringing in Detroit, he made his way to Michigan State University where he was wanted for burglary and was eventually arrested after fleeing the state. Upon his release from prison, he released his first mixtape, and since then, has created multiple studio albums including My Moment. He also has had hits such as First Day Out and Satish.

6. Obie Trice

Obie Trice - Got Some Teeth

Hailing from Detroit’s west side, Obie Trice started out on the rap battle scene as a teenager before he met members of D12. This allowed him to get noticed by Eminem, who had just started his own record label at the time. Trice was signed to the label and released his first album Cheers in 2003. He has released several albums since then, along with hits including Got Some Teeth and The Setup (You Don’t Know).

7. 42 Dugg

Lil Baby x 42 Dugg - We Paid (Official Video)

Born as Dion Hayes in the east side of Detroit, 42 Dugg ran into trouble while growing up, being sentenced to prison as a teenager and having his time extended. He worked on his rapping skills while he was incarcerated and eventually achieved fame upon his release. With that, he released his first studio album in 2022 with Gangsta Art and had several mainstream hits early on.

8. Babyface Ray

Babyface Ray - What The Business Is (Official Video)

Marcellus Register was born and raised in Detroit where he started out his rap career and remained localized instead of trying to make it big on the national scene. Thanks to tracks like Trill Spill and They Think I Rap My Brother’s Life, he is a regional legend who would rather focus on using his resources to help those in Detroit rather than focus on getting a Top 10 song on the Billboard charts.

9. J Dilla

James Yancey was one of the spearheads of the Detroit rap movement during the 1990s under his stage name J Dilla. Setting the course for bands like The Roots, he was a soulful rapper that started to get recognition nationwide during the early 2000s. Sadly, he passed away at just 32 years old in February 2006 due to cardiac arrest.

Next: Famous rappers from the 1990s (our list of top picks)

10. Sada Baby

Sada Baby & Drego "Bloxk Party" (WSHH Exclusive - Official Music Video)

Originally a gospel singer who wanted to be a basketball player, Casada Sorrell took on the name Sada Baby. He struggled to find his footing in the local rap scene before honing his craft and getting noticed on YouTube. In 2020, he finally released his first album called Skuba Sada 2, which put him on the map. Now, more people are aware of his great music and have called him one of the best of his generation.

11. Xzibit

Xzibit - What U See Is What U Get (Video)

Of course, a lot of people think of the show Pimp My Ride when hearing about Xzibit, but as a rapper, he’s had a very solid career. Born Alvin Joiner, he may have spent much of his childhood in New Mexico and Los Angeles, but he was born in Detroit. He has several successful albums including 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz and Restless and his biggest singles include What U See Is What U Get and X.

12. Danny Brown

DANNY BROWN - 25 BUCKS FEAT. PURITY RING (OFFICIAL VIDEO)

Though Danny Brown doesn’t actually sound like a stage name, it is for the man born Daniel Sewell in Detroit where his father was a DJ. He wanted to be a rapper from a very young age but went down a wayward path in his teenage years. Fortunately, he was able to get his life together and released his first album, The Hybrid, in 2010. Brown, along with several other names on the list, was included along with several rappers from Detroit in the hit song, Detroit Vs. Everybody

13. Dej Loaf

DeJ Loaf - No Fear (Video)

Another rapper featured in Detroit Vs. Everybody, Dej Loaf, real name Deja Trimble, is from Detroit’s east side where she grew up performing. She almost didn’t get into music, though, moving up to Saginaw for nursing school before reversing course and going into music full-time. Working with the likes of Nicki Minaj and Eminem, she has found mainstream success and released her first solo album in 2020, Sell Sole II.

14. MC Breed

MC Breed- Ain't No Future In Yo Frontin

The late Eric Breed was born in nearby Flint but spent much of his life in Detroit where he helped the city’s rap scene get recognized by national audiences. He was an independent artist in the early 1990s when he released his debut album 20 Below and spent the rest of the decade churning out popular albums, including 1994’s Funkafied. Sadly, MC Breed passed away suddenly in 2008 at his home in Ypsilanti at just 37 years old.

15. Trick Trick

Trick Trick ft. Eminem - Welcome 2 Detroit (Official Video)

Almost every major city has a rap anthem, and for Detroit, you could argue that it’s Welcome 2 Detroit or Detroit Vs. Everybody. Either way, Trick Trick is responsible for both tracks. The former was released in 2005 along with Eminem while the latter was part of a 2014 collective. Born Christian Mathis, he has released a quartet of albums including his popular debut, The People Vs.

16. Insane Clown Posse

Insane Clown Posse - Tilt-A-Whirl

You can “clown” on Insane Clown Posse or ICP all you want, but you can’t argue that the duo of Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope has been good enough to acquire a massive following both in Detroit and around the nation. With their legion of Juggalos, the ICP has helped boost sales of Faygo soda and has released albums in the top five of the Billboard 200 several times. 

17. Esham

Esham – Black Sheep (2017)

Speaking of the Insane Clown Posse, they had a major influence on the horrorcore style of rap music that’s popular in the Motor City along with the likes of Esham, who actually came first. Born in Long Island, New York, he moved to Detroit at a young age where he combined his love of rock and rap. He performed with multiple groups, releasing several albums along the way including Judgement Day and Closed Casket.

Next: Greatest NY rappers of all time

18. Illa J

Illa J - Sam Cook | A COLORS SHOW

Illa J was born in Detroit in 1986 as John Yancey. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he is the younger brother of J Dilla. Illa J is the youngest of his family and went to work for himself as a solo artist, releasing his first album in 2008 called Yancey Boys. He has released several albums since then, including Home with songs such as Quicksand and Universe.

19. Boldy James

Nicholas Craven & Boldy James - Power Nap

James Jones III, also known as Boldy James, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but moved to Detroit as an infant. He would drop out of school at a young age, pursuing a rap career to get away from the rough neighborhood he was raised in. He then found success with his mixtapes and released his first album in 2013 titled My 1st Chemistry Set when teaming up with The Alchemist.

Next: The best rappers from Atlanta (our picks)

20. Bizarre

Bizarre - Rockstar (Music Video)

Another entry onto the list from Detroit’s D12, Bizarre, real name Rufus Johnson, was only in fifth grade when he started pursuing a rap career. Along with the other eventual D12 members, he would get involved in rap battles and saw his career take off with the rest of the group. Though his solo career didn’t quite reach the same heights as Eminem’s, he is still a prominent figure in Detroit’s rap scene.

21. Kash Doll

Kash Doll - For Everybody [Produced By: Blasian Beats]

The final entry onto the list is Arkeisha Knight, better known as Kash Doll. From a young age, she was freestyle rapping and used social media to garner attention for her rap career to the point where she opened up for Drake during his stop in Detroit. From there, she released an album called Stacked and collaborated with some of the biggest names in the industry.

Read Next:

The top rappers from the UK of all time