Memphis, Tennessee, has a reputation as the country music capital of the nation. But the truth is that it has been a mecca for all kinds of great popular music since at least the early 40s. It is the home of Graceland, Elvis Presley’s famous estate, making it at least as important to the history of rock and roll as Abby Road.
However, today, the rap music industry has taken hold of this city, and it is turning out rappers by the dozen. So, we decided to take a quick look at the best 27 rappers from Memphis.
1. Young Dolph
This Chicago native made a name for himself around the end of the 2010s, having released his debut album in 2016, King Of Memphis. He reached the 49th spot on the national billboard chart quickly. Sadly, Young Dolph was shot to death in 2021 at the age of 36 in Memphis, Tennessee. Despite his untimely demise, he remains one of, if not the most popular Memphis rapper to this day. His career was distinguished most by the suggested message behind his subsequent album, Rich Slave.
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2. Three 6 Mafia
Possibly the most widely known Memphis rap group on this or any other list of top rappers from the area, Three 6 Mafia has been in the business since 1991. They are distinguished by their unique horror-themed rap style, which was set in stone with their debut album Mystic Styles. Today, their appearance and sound have been transformed into a more down-to-earth kind of hip hop flavor. Despite the shift, their unequaled longevity gives them access to a dedicated audience spanning more than three decades.
3. Juicy J
Easily one of the most senior rappers on our list, Juicy J is the founder of Three 6 Mafia and has had a distinguished career of his own since the rise of that popular hip hop group. He is an Academy Award-winning hip hop artist with the support of his fans and critics. That’s a rare achievement in this industry, but it is what makes him and the Three 6 Mafia stand out among their contemporaries.
4. Moneybagg Yo
DeMario DeWayne White Jr. was born in the same year that the Three 6 Mafia came onto the scene. Nevertheless, he has managed to make a big impact on the rap industry under the name Moneybagg Yo. As a relatively young rapper, he was one of the first rap artists to independently make heavy use of the YouTube video-sharing platform as a way to get out from under the thumb of business executives and to gain access to an uncontrolled audience. Today, his good marketing sense has paid off, with a more diverse audience than any artist who works exclusively under a corporate label.
5. Key Glock
Markeyvius LaShun Cathey, also known as Key Glock, entered the rap scene in 2017 when he released a mixtape entitled Glock Season. His debut effort was strong enough to attract the attention of Young Dolph who both enhanced and drew off of Key Glock’s popular style before his untimely death in 2021. Born in 1997, he is part of the same generation of rappers as Moneybagg Yo, and both are known for their innovative approach to writing and performing, as well as to the business side of the rap music trade.
6. Project Pat
Born Patrick Earl Houston, Project Pat is a veteran of the rap game and is the older brother of Juicy J, co-founder of the Three 6 Mafia. He is also known as a seminal figure in the creation of the so-called dirty south subgenre of rap music and is considered a legend in the hip hop industry. His stage name comes from the fact he was born in the projects, but it is also indicative of the fact that he has been a key figure in a number of collaborative projects, bringing rappers together from different styles, groups, and parts of the country for many years.
7. Yo Gotti
Yet another senior of the Memphis dirty south rap game, Yo Gotti was born Mario Sentell Giden Mims in 1981. He entered the pop music scene in 1996 under the stage name Lil Yo with his debut album called Youngsta’s On A Come Up. Today, he is as well known for his music as he is for his romantic escapades with Angela Simmons, who is an Instagram influencer, actress, and model.
8. Pooh Shiesty
One of the younger names on our list, Lontrell Donell Williams Jr., also known as Pooh Shiesty, was born in 1999 and delivered his debut album in 2020. He is known for collaborating with several of his peers on the Memphis rap scene, as well as for his criminal exploits which have earned him up to five years in prison in 2022.
9. NLE Choppa
Bryson Lashun Potts entered the Memphis rap game in 2019 with his first album, Cottonwood. Better known by his stage name, NLE Choppa, this artist rose up the pop charts with his single release, Shotta Flow. He was born in 2002 and seems to be the youngest rapper working in the Memphis rap industry who is still both alive and not in prison on a multiple-year sentence.
As just one-half of the popular rap duo, 8Ball & MJG, MJG achieved unexpected success with his solo albums, all of which have made their own significant impacts on the Billboard charts. Born in 1971 as Marlon Jermaine Goodwin, he is one of the most mature and well-connected rap stars working in Memphis today. Interestingly, he has also made a mark with his own brand of electric match igniters, which have the unique selling point of delivering a high-quality product at an affordable price.
The other half of 8Ball & MJG, Eightball was born in 1972 as Premro Vonzellaire Smith. While he may be slightly younger than his musical partner, MJG, he is no less distinguished or talented. Eightball deserves much of the credit for the success of their duo as he is responsible for much of the writing, producing, and management work that goes on behind the scenes. While his solo work has been less well-received by fans, he remains an influential figure in the Memphis rap scene.
12. BlocBoy JB
BlocBoy JB hit the big time in 2018 with his hit song, Look Alive. Since then, he has made an impact on the charts with titles like Shoot, Rover, and Rover 2.0. Born as James Lee Baker in 1996, he is easily amongst the youngest rappers working in the Memphis scene today. His career is built on a number of innovative mixtape projects produced between 2016 and 2017. Today, he is looked on by industry professionals as one of the more promising stars working in the dirty south rap genre.
13. DJ Paul
Born Paul Duane Beauregard in 1977, DJ Paul is yet another of the more mature leadership figures among the many, many artists working in the Memphis rap scene today. He and his half-brother, Lord Infamous, are founding members of the Three 6 Mafia rap group. He is also a partial owner of the rap group known as the FaZe Clan. In 2001, he made his mark in the filmmaking business, and he has released a number of solo rap projects, which have a following of their own.
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14. 8Ball & MJG
Worthy of a ranking all its own the rap group 8Ball & MJG is an extremely popular hip hop team. Featuring the charisma and songwriting talent of MJG, backed up with the musical chops and management prowess of his partner, Eightball, the group enjoys success on its own merits. Both rappers are known for their musical and entrepreneurial pursuits outside their rap partnership, all of which have been financially successful.
15. Blac Youngsta
Born Sammie Marquez Benson in 1990, Blac Youngsta is one of the more senior members of the newest generation of Memphis rappers. As such, he has had an influence on newer rappers and is occasionally the one voice of reason among his energetic peers, many of which appear to have something to prove. He signed to Yo Gotti’s music label in 2015, making him one of the few young rappers to have signed under a name not directly associated with the Three 6 Mafia.
16. Lord Infamous
Yet another founding member of the Three 6 Mafia, Lord Infamous is the older brother of DJ Paul and has been credited for crafting the malevolent tone of the group’s musical style. Born Ricky T. Dunigan in 1973, he is one of the most prolific members of the horror rap group, who appear to have an extraordinary number of connections within the industry as well as enormous influence, and even creative control, over other younger rap artists in Memphis.
17. Playa Fly
Born Ibn Young in 1977, Playa Fly is yet another founding member of the Three 6 Mafia and is one of the most interesting members of the group due to his fallout with the band and the subsequent difficulty he has had working in the Memphis rap business. He broke off his relationship with members of the Three 6 Mafia, reportedly, due to a dispute over compensation.
After that, he attempted to record a solo album but was forced to do so under the guidance of the Three 6 Mafia. Needless to say, this triggered yet another dispute between him and the group which has sustained tensions between Playa Fly and Three 6 Mafia to this day.
18. Xavier Wulf
Xavier Beard was born in 1992 in East Tennessee. He first entered the rap music business in the early 2000s under the stage name Ethelwulf. His influences, according to him, include the Three 6 Mafia and 8Ball & MJG. He made much of his reputation as a member of the rap group known as the Raider Klan. He worked with them until 2012 when he released his solo project, The Wolf Gang’s Rodolphe.
19. Don Trip
Born as Christopher Don Wallace in 1985, this rapper appeared under the uniquely creative stage name Don Trip in the middle 2000s. During that time, he released a number of noteworthy mixtapes until he finally went solo in 2011. He remains one of the most independent rappers of his generation.
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20. Tommy Wright III
One of the few Memphis rappers not to use some kind of wacky pirate nickname, Tommy Wright III, got his start in the early 90s with his fast-paced rap style which few can match, much less sustain. He is a late bloomer in the rap game, having been born in 1976.
21. Chris Travis
The second of the only two rappers in Memphis to go on stage under his own name, Chris Travis is known for his unique sound and lyrical content. He is a one-time member of the Raider Klan and went solo in 2013. Since then, he has broken stereotypes and earned his following through hard work and talent.
22. Young Buck
Born David Darnell Brown in 1981, Young Buck delivers a distinctive southern flavor to the hip hop sounds of the 50 Cent-created group, G-Unit. Since then, he has been known for his solid studio work, supporting a number of talented artists with his distinct flavor. Today, his solo work is available on Apple Music.
23. Kingpin Skinny Pimp
Kingpin Skinny Pimp is one of the earliest and most well-known solo rappers to come out of the Memphis hip hop tradition. He has shared the stage with 8Ball & MJG, Three 6 Mafia, and Tela, among many other big Memphis rap names and has earned his place among them with his noteworthy solo work. Having emerged in the mid-90s, he remains one of the most influential Memphis rappers.
24. Gangsta Pat
Gangsta Pat, born Patrick Hall in 1973, is one of the best musical stylists to come out of the Memphis rap tradition. His work is considered some of the most unique among his peers. This may be due to the noticeable streak of humor and irony that runs through his work. Regardless of what sets him apart, he remains an amazing voice among his contemporaries.
25. Gangsta Boo
One of the exceedingly few female rap artists to emerge from the Memphis rap scene, Gangsta Boo is certainly unique among her peers. Born Lola Chantrelle Mitchell in 1973, she is one of the few female rappers on the Tennessee music scene. She is yet another former member of the Three 6 Mafia and enjoys a strong following to this day as a result of their collective success.
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26. Koopsta Knicca
Yet another co-founding member of the Three 6 Mafia, Koopsta Knicca died from a brain hemorrhage in October 2015. He was 40 years old when he was struck down by what was called a massive stroke by medical professionals. DJ Paul commented that he had worked alongside Koopsta Knicca for more than 20 years as the two created the group that established the tradition of Memphis rap.
27. Gangsta Blac
Our final entry is another one-time member of the Three 6 Mafia. Gangsta Blac is best known for his hit single, Powder, a repetitive composition extolling the dubious virtues of cocaine. The peak of his success as a solo artist came in the years between 1994 and 2001 after he took time off from Three 6 Mafia to launch his solo career. His greatest hits from that period were those produced by Three 6 Mafia, without exception.
So, what do you think of our top picks? Did you find your favorite Memphis rapper in our ranking? If not, let us know, and check back again to see how the industry shakes out over time. Keep in mind that our list is not strictly considered a ranking from best to worst. The number one spot is held by the most voted-for rapper, and so on down the list. However, always remember that things change quickly in the rap game.
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As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
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