Every region of the country brings a little something different to the table when it comes to the rap game. But despite the East and West Coasts dominating the scene for years, DC rappers are on the rise. Their unique blends of trap, drill, R&B, gangsta rap, and storytelling have produced some of the most unique rap artists in the country. In this article, we’ll look at the 25 best rappers from Washington DC.
Logic probably is the absolute best rapper to come out of DC, but he’s also an outstanding record producer. On his own, he’s produced eight studio albums. He got his start in 2010 with a debut mixtape titled Young, Broke, And Infamous, but his Young Sinatra demos were what earned him a record contract with Def Jam Records. His first two studio albums would both peak within the top five of the Billboard 200, but it was 2017 that saw him rise to stardom.
His Everybody album made it to number one on the Billboard 200 and its lead single 1-800-273-8255 made it to number three on the Billboard Hot 100. That track would also earn two Grammy nominations, one for Song of the Year and one for Best Music Video.
Wale found stardom starting in 2006 with his song Dig Dug (Shake It) getting popular in the DC area. He slowly gained popularity as he made music for his hometown audience, eventually joining Allido Records in 2007. Several of his mixtapes with that label got him more recognition, with a track titled Ridin’ In That Black Joint featured in the video game Saints Row 2.
By 2008, a bidding war for his services began that resulted in him signing with Interscope Records. His debut studio album saw features from big names like Lady Gaga and Gucci Mane. As he shifted around labels, he continued to produce excellent music and work alongside some of the biggest names in the world. His 2018 single On Chill spent 23 weeks on the Hot 100 chart and rose as high as number 22.
GoldLink started making music as a hobby after graduating from high school, releasing several free tracks on his SoundCloud. By 2014, he released a mixtape that was named one of the best projects of 2014 by Complex, and Spin placed it at number 19 on their list of the best hip hop albums of the year.
In 2015, he began collaborating with Rick Rubin and signed a major deal with RCA in 2016. From there, he would release several successful studio albums and earn a Grammy nomination for his verses on Christina Aguilera’s song Like I Do.
Cordae may have been born in North Carolina, but he grew up in DC. At the age of 15, he began rapping, releasing three mixtapes as a teenager and eventually starting his career in earnest. His first album netted him two Grammy nominations, one for Best Rap Song and another for Best Rap Album. WolrdStarHipHop would be the place his singles found the most exposure during his early career, but both of his albums would rise to number 13 on the Billboard 200 upon release.
5. Shy Glizzy
Shy Glizzy found his first taste of fame with his 2012 mixtape Law, which featured legendary DC rapper Wale. His best song would become a signature for him, with the 2014 hit Awwsome reaching number 45 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts. The remix of that track saw some of the best in the game join up with him such as 2 Chainz and A$AP Rocky. He would also work with GoldLink on the Grammy-nominated single Crew.
6. Rico Nasty
Rico Nasty is the first of two female rappers coming out of the DMV that we’re going to recognize on this list. She definitely has something of a provocative image, but her work alongside the likes of Doja Cat, XXXTentacion, and IDK helped her find mainstream success. Her unique blend of styles brings trap, punk, metal, and rap together in an aggressive and fun one, paving the way for her to continue producing music at an incredible rate.
7. Fat Trel
Fat Trel made a name for himself in 2012 when he collaborated with Chief Keef on the single Russian Roulette. That song got him a deal with Maybach Music Group after Rick Ross noticed him on it the following year. Since 2009, he has released a new mixtape and consistently uploads videos that go viral, the best of which include My Bruvas and Mo Trilla. His tapes have slowed down in recent years, as legal troubles have kept him out of the recording studio for various stints.
IDK stands for Ignorantly Delivering Knowledge, and he’s another DC rapper on the come-up. He’s been putting out music to the mainstream since 2015, and his most recognizable work came when he worked on Shoot My Shot alongside Offset. The best songs of his career include Digital, 24, and Just Like Martin.
YungManny feels a bit like the reincarnation of Bobby Shmurda because while he has a playful rap flow, he very much discusses violence and street life in his work. In the rap industry as a whole, he’s considered to be a rising star, so you should expect to see quite a bit more of him on a national stage going forward. Perhaps his best track was Moana, a 2018 hit that made the list of the best DMV rap songs that year.
Oddisee feels like a throwback rapper, drawing heavily on the work of artists like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. Very much a socially conscious rap artist, much of his work deals with real-world problems and highlights the plights of the communities he’s lived in. His 2011 mixtape Rock Creek Park generated a lot of buzz, but he hit his peak in 2017 with his full-length album The Iceberg.
Xanman brings the trap elements to the DC rap scene like no other rapper in the area. Despite talking about living on the streets and the struggles he’s endured throughout his life, he has a soft delivery that hides a lot of the darker tones of his music. His single Many Men was one of the best DMV rap songs of 2018, but it’s his stage presence that makes him so special. He’s a high-energy performer who has earned a dedicated fan base in the DC area.
12. Chaz French
Chaz French gained a lot of popularity in the DC area when he released his 2014 mixtape Happy Belated, but his work alongside other DC rappers has made him a mainstay of the city’s rap scene. Soon after that mixtape, he began touring with Wale and would collaborate frequently with GoldLink. After signing a deal with Motown Records in 2017, he would release a full album titled True Colors.
13. Q Da Fool
Q Da Fool isn’t a drill rapper, but his tracks parallel the level of grittiness you expect of that genre. Songs like Fax, Numbers, and Right There helped put him on the map and even got the attention of mogul Jay-Z, earning him a record deal and putting the hip hop world on notice that he was on his way to the top. Several of his tracks would be included on the Washington Post’s list of the best DMV Rap Songs as well.
14. Chelly the MC
Chelly The MC is the second female rapper from the DMV to grace our list, and she’s just as good as Rico Nasty. Her 2013 single Set Em Up would find her national recognition, but her most successful song to date has to be Northeast Baby. That one was a massive hit in the DC area and owned the radio stations in 2017 after it was released. She is known for producing empowering tracks that match her powerful persona.
15. Shabazz PBG
If you’re looking for an aggressive rapper who perfectly blends melodic elements into their work, look no further than Shabazz PBG. He’s known for his work with trap and drill, but the melodic side of it takes his verses to the next level. On top of that, his unique gravelly voice only adds to the quality of his music, making him sound incredibly angry as he raps without ever having to raise his voice and shout.
16. Phil Ade
Phil Ade may be the most philosophical and introspective artist on the list. His songs are full of self-reflection, ambition, and details of his personal relationships. No flow is out of his range, and he’s a master of blending R&B into his heavier rap singles, producing a lot of his own music and making a name for himself with his lyrical complexity.
MoneyMarr is known for his authentic approach to the game, something that has garnered him numerous collaborations with other DMV rappers throughout his career. But his collabs aren’t the best thing he has to offer, as he has released several outstanding mixtapes and singles over recent years. He’s at his best with a storyteller hat on, vividly weaving tales and backing them with his confident and catchy delivery style.
18. Tabi Bonney
A lot of the DMV rappers have huge local followings but don’t get the national attention that they deserve. Not so for Tabi Bonney, as his 2007 single Pocket would make it onto MTV Jams and several other music streaming services, helping introduce DC rap to mainstream audiences. That song was what spawned the hip hop phrase about putting someone in your pocket. Another thing about him that stands out is his quirky fashion sense, as he always brings something new and out of pocket to the table.
19. 3oh Black
Rapper 3oh Black spent a long time making a name for himself, but his 2019 track All Talk was the song that earned him a record deal with Capitol Records. From 2014 until then, he issued several mixtapes and worked alongside several up-and-coming DC rappers. It would become a viral TikTok trend after its release, and after signing a deal with Capitol Records, he would release Avirex and Drive The Boat in 2020.
Noochie made a name for himself with the 2016 single Guttaz, ultimately signing with Atlantic Records after spending years releasing mixtapes in the local DMV area. He would go on to work with some of the bigger names in the hip hop world such as Big Homie Quan. Today, he is a rapper on the rise and someone to look out for over the next few years as he releases full-length studio albums.
21. Black Fortune
Black Fortune got his first big success in 2018 with the single OsshWop. The next year, he’d follow it up with an even better song in Gorillaz. He’s best known for his chaotic style and the fact that his music is served best at parties, so it isn’t always as heavy as much of the other work coming out of the area.
22. Premo Rice
Premo Rice started off producing music in 2013, but he wasn’t happy with the results. In reality, he didn’t like the quality of other rappers using his beats, so he decided to produce a tape of his own with them. With that said, a lot of his music uses his own beats, and he handles his own production. Most of his work revolves around pimping, but in his own words “It’s bigger than that, it’s about pimping the system.” As of right now, his latest work Gorilla Pimpin’ 2 is available online.
23. Ras Nebyu
Ras Nebyu brings something unique to the table when it comes to DMV rap music. His Ethiopian heritage permeates his work as he’s blended those sounds into his trap and hip hop styles. His songs are meant to be thought-provoking and socially conscious, but he layers intricate lyricism into those messages in a masterful way. He’s never forgotten where he came from and that thoughtfulness has helped him shine.
Ciscero works alongside GoldLink quite often, which has helped buoy his career. While much of the DMV focuses on the gangsta rap genres, he takes a different approach. Much of his work has a soulful element to it that incorporates more R&B elements than heavier rap beats. A couple of his best songs include Good To Know and Fall In Love.
WillThaRapper might be the bluntest and honest rapper coming up in the DMV right now. His lyrics paint the picture of a world full of gang violence; something he has lived through himself that he wants the world to know about. While he’s a local star, his best work on a national scale came in a 2017 collaboration with Gucci Mane Pull Up, Hop Out (Remix).
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.