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Top Ten Southern Rappers of All Time

Absurdism, Andre 3000, Best Rappers Ever, Rappers

While hip-hop was born on the East Coast, some of the best and most popular rappers these days hail from the Southern states.

In no particular order, here are the best rappers from the South, judged by lyrics, consistency, influence and impact, charisma, and number of classic/albums:

1. Andre 3000 – Lil Wayne, Q-Tip and Cee Lo notwithstanding, he’s the rapper everyone wishes would permanently stop singing if it would result in more rap albums. Practically every verse he’s released in the past few years has been a cut above. He’s a poet, pure and simple and his use of metaphor may be unmatched in rap music today. Definitely one of the top five rappers ever from the South-if not top three, he’s a lyricist par excellence who sets the bar higher with every verse. Jay-Z calls him a genius. Eminem calls him the best rapper in the June 2009 issue of Vibe magazine. And he doesn’t even have any music out now.

2. Bun B – Quietly clever with every verse, Bun B was first introduced to the national spotlight with a show stealing verse on Jay-Z’s hit single Big Pimpin’ off Vol. 3 The Life and Times of S. Carter. But he’d been honing his craft on UGK albums since 1992. Known for his distinctive multisyllabic flow as much as his humility, he can rip a beat as few others can. His two solo albums coupled with his work as one half of UGK on seven albums qualify him as one of the best rappers from the South.

3. Scarface – He’s Southern rap royalty and one of the best rappers ever in or out of the South. Throughout the late eighties and early nineties, he was a member of the seminal group The Geto Boys; since 1991, as a solo artists he’s been providing thought-provoking lyrics, and gritty street tales. His storytelling ability matches that of Slick Rick, Nas, and Biggie, and he’s influenced every rapper on this list. He’s also worked with nearly everyone here as well as other legends such as Tupac, KRS-One, Nas, Jay-Z, and LL Cool J. He’s perhaps the greatest rapper from the South, and one of the best rappers ever.

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4. Lil Wayne – His transformation from mediocre rapper in a shallow but popular group to one of the most watched and studied emcees in the game has been nothing short of extraordinary. His deceptively simple, free-associating verse bespeaks a mastery of craft few rappers can match. While his ascendancy has been a recent phenomenon, Lil Wayne has been releasing albums for at least a decade and shows no signs of slowing. He’s definitely one of the best Southern rappers, and may one day even make it onto that vaunted top five dead or alive list, if he continues to deliver superior material.

5. Ludacris – His cartoonish persona and rhymes often overshadow the artifice of his verses. A master of punchlines, Ludacris has released six albums over the past decade, more than most rappers will ever release. He’s also spent most of those ten years either holding his own on tracks with accomplished vets like Scarface, Jay-Z and Nas, or making other newer rappers look bad on their own tracks. His flow dominates practically any beat and his lyrics often lead listeners to hit the rewind button. Having somewhat toned down the absurdism of early work earned him a Grammy for Release Therapy in 2007, but it did not at all diminish his bite. Check out War with God from that album, for proof that Ludacris is one of the best Southern rappers in the game.

6. T.I. – Six albums in, T.I. has crafted body of work at 28 years old that is the envy of most rappers everywhere. Platinum sales notwithstanding, his mastery of internal rhyme and metaphor are masked by his conversational style, allowing him to craft seemingly simple verses à la Jay-Z. He’s battle-tested, more than holding his own against other Southern rappers Lil Flip, Ludacris and Shawty Lo. If neither his ability to stand up on tracks with the likes of Scarface, Jay-Z and Eminem, or to effortlessly toss out album after album of hits earns him the right to call himself “King of the South” then it at the very least earns him a spot on the list of best Southern rappers of all time.

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7. Cee-Lo Green – If you want proof of his mic mastery check out One for the Road from his first album. While he, like his fellow Dungeon Family member Andre 3000, may do more singing then rapping these days, it’s definitely by choice. His use of metaphor, internal rhyme scheme and alliteration are superb, at least the equal of any emcee on this list. While he’s only put out two solo albums (and two as a part of the duo Danger Mouse, on which he mostly sings), he’s spit many a memorable verse on the three Goodie M.O.B. albums and on other Dungeon Family releases. Often overlooked, he is definitely one of the best Southern rappers ever.

8. Trick Daddy – The best and most prolific rapper from Florida, Trick’s charisma coupled with an ear for catchy production has inspired sales where his lyrics have not. He’s not a master of verbal tricks, but he makes up for it in consistency, personality, and production. Uncle Luke notwithstanding, he’s the first mainstream rapper from the area and as such has helped the careers of Florida artists Trina, Pitbull, and Rick Ross among others, which qualifies him as one of the best rappers from the South.

9. Big Boi – He’s nicer than most give him credit for, with a tongue-twisting flow and a use of simile and metaphor that easily bests about ninety-five percent of emcees in the game. He’s even outshined Andre 3000 on occasion, which is a rare feat in and of itself. On Speakerboxx, he proved he could hold down an album as well. Big Boi is usually overshadowed by his fellow OutKast, but a careful listen to his work reveals he is one of the best Southern rappers.

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10. Devin the Dude – He churns out incredibly smooth odes to hedonism; and he has appeared on records with Dr. Dre, Nas, Jay-Z, and Andre 3000, along with frequent collaborator Scarface. He’s released five solo albums, most of which you may never have heard of. But most rappers have; Devin continues to be one of the most influential underground artists around. He’s hilarious: the Texas version of Snoop Dogg with just as much charisma, and definitely one of the best Southern rappers ever.

Honorable Mentions:

• Young Jeezy

• David Banner

• Chamillionnaire

• Killer Mike

• Z-Ro

• Shawn Jay (Field Mob)

• Smoke (Field Mob)

• Big Gipp

• Juvenile

• B.G.

• Malice (The Clipse)

• Pusha T (Clipse)


Linda Hobbs, Five Minutes with Andre 3000, Vibe Magazine

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