History of Tennessee Rap and Hip Hop
While break dancing, graffiti and most importantly the music genre hip hop was all created on the east coast, New York City specifically, southern rap has held the reign of being the most influential since the beginning of the 2000s.
When hip hop first began the focus was on the East Coast and later the West Coast, but a few individuals slowly helped bring the attention to the south as southern rap is dominating popular culture.
From Luke Skywalker to J Prince to Master P, each individual in their respected state has had much contribution to hip hop, but what many do not know is the south has been producing hits since the 1980s.
While southern rappers have hailed from cities and states from all over the south, the Last Mr. Bigg of Alabama or David Banner of Mississippi, the most important states that have help with the growth southern rap are Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Georgia.
History of Tennessee Hip Hop
Tennessee Rappers Historically, rappers from Tennessee are from two places, either from Memphis or Nashville, that have strong music backgrounds whether it is blues in Memphis or country music in Nashville.
Tennessee rap begun during the early and mid-1990s as southern rap was beginning to rise in the local music scene of numerous cities throughout the south with Memphis and Nashville being the main cities in Tennessee.
The underground Memphis scene probably started during the late 1980s, first with the likes of DJ Spanish Fly and then with Gangsta Pat followed by numerous others, but many credited DJ Spanish Fly as the first to truly help develop a rap scene.
DJ Spanish Fly “Cement Shoes”
8Ball & MJG were probably the first mainstream Memphis rappers from Tennessee to reach a level that was outside of the city of Memphis as they linked with Houston, Texas base record label Suave House to release their music.
8Ball & MJG would later make a number of southern classics, especially with their album Coming Out Hard, and would leave their mark as being one of the greatest southern artists of all-time, along with one of the best hip-hop groups.
From 1993 to 1996 is the time that the Memphis rap scene began to rise as gangster rap and demonic horrorcore type of rap took of in a city that had too many artist to keep track of.
Gangsta Pat “Mo Murder”
The Migos’, a famous rap group from Atlanta, flow and their rap style is far from new as many Tennessee rappers from Memphis rap like them during the 1990s, especially Tommy Wright, Gangsta Pat or Lord Infamous.
Three 6 Mafia with Project Pat became the biggest artists to represent the Memphis rap scene, but rap members like Koopsta Knicca and Lord Infamous were originally the biggest locally and the most respected as artist, even more than DJ Paul and Juicy J who actually just wanted to do production.
While many know DJ Paul and Juicy J as some of the top southern producers of all-time there are others that help produced numerous of Memphis artist like DJ Squeeky, Blackout, DJ Sound, DJ Zirk, Slice T, DJ BK, Tommy Wright III and later Drumma Boy.
Tommy Wright III “Meet Yo Maker”
Kingpin Skinny Pimp “One Life 2 Live”
Playa Fly “Nobody Need Nobody”
A long list of some of Memphis’ top underground rappers during the 1990s include Tommie Wright III, DJ Spanish Fly, Gangsta Pat, Playa Fly, Gangsta Blac, Kingpin Skinny Pimp and number of others:
Shawty Pimp, Playa G, Killa Klan Kaze with MC Mack, Tom Skee Mask, Princess Loko, Lil Gin, Ten Wanted Men, 187 Family, Riverside Click, Lil Ramsey, Low Key, Niggaz Of Destruction, The Legend Lady J, Immortal Lowlifes.
Criminal Manne, Al Kapone, Lil Grove, S.P.V. Click / Playa Posse, Lil Noid, Graveyard Productions, North Memphis Playa Click, Skimask Troopaz, Gimisum Family with the likes of Big Hill, the Frayser Click, 196 Clique, Trauma Center Killaz.
Into the late 1990s and the 2000s the style of demonic horrorcore and gangster rapping somewhat began to fade away as new artist came to the front with a more trap and commercial style, artist like Yo Gotti who actually started during the mid-1990s as Lil Yo.
In the 2010s, more new artist emerge like Young Dolph and the increase success of Yo Gotti, along with a number of artist from their camps as today’s Memphis sounds can somewhat imitate Atlanta with exception to a few artist.
While country music has always taken the spotlight of Nashville’s music scene, the local rap scene had the potential to be one of the biggest hip-hop markets in the south.
Boogie “Concrete Jungle”
Kool Daddy Fresh “Its All True”
Pistol “Westside Sold Up”
Before the emergence of Young Buck, who started with Cash Money and later linked with 50 Cent and G-Unit, or Starlito, who began as All Star was first signed with Cash Money and linked with Yo Gotti, the city had numerous of artists during the 1990s.
Well respected rappers from Tennessee that called Nashville their home were Pistol, Kool Daddy Fresh, Boogie, Big Lou, South 8 Mafia, Quanie Cash and others paved the way for the rising Nashville rap scene that still gets overlooked by the local country music scene.
Currently, a number of Tennessee rappers have a large platform in the rap game on a national level as some of the country’s most popular artists reside in the two cities of Nashville and Memphis.