When you think of American rap and American hip-hop scenes, the city of Detroit is a staple in the conversation. The city has one of the most unique cultures. Let’s not forget, Motown Records was located in Detroit, Michigan. Who are some of the most famous Detroit rappers?
The city is home to some of the hip hop pioneers, but also some of the new and young generation rappers. If you have never had the chance to experience and witness Detroit’s culture, you should check out some of the Detroit rappers on this list.
For many years, Eminem was the headline of the city. But Slim Shady is not the only Detroit rapper. There are many more, and we will look at all of them today.
Born as Sean Michael Leonard Anderson in March 1988, Big Sean is an American rapper who began his career in the late 2000s. He began his music career in 2007, yet, gained popularity in 2010 with his third mixtape, Finally Famous Vol. 3: Big. Following that mixtape, Big Sean signed a recording contract with GOOD Music and Def Jam Recordings. In 2011, he released his debut album, Finally Famous. That album contains hit singles like Dance featuring Nicki Minaj.
Royce da 5’9”
Born as Ryan Daniel Montgomery, Royce da 5’9” is an American rapper and record producer. He is one-half of the rap duo Bad Meets Evil. And what do you know, Eminem is the second half. Royce is also one part of the hip hop duo PRhyme with producer DJ Premier and one-quarter of the Shady Records hip hop group Slaughterhouse. He is famous for his recording career, but he has also enjoyed a successful ghostwriting career. He has written songs for the likes of Puff Daddy and Dr. Dre. Of course, without credits.
Let’s continue the list of Detroit rappers with Dion Marquise Hayes, known professionally as 42 Dugg. Born in November 1995, he is a rapper signed to 4 Pockets Full and Collective Music Group, labels by rappers YoGotti and Lil Baby. 42 Dugg and Lil Baby have also collaborated on the hit singles Grace and We Paid. The latter became his first Top 10 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He grew up on the East Side of Detroit. The number 42 is a numerical reference to a local clique known as the Hustle Boys.
He began his career by writing slam poetry with Lil Baby and then signed to his record label. His musical style is a slurred vocal style with auto-tune. Critics praise his whistle as his signature sound that starts almost every song of his 2020 mixtape, Young and Turnt Vol. 2.
Born as Casada Aaron Sorrell, Sada Baby is a rapper that gained popularity in the past several years. He first gained recognition in 2018 when the music video for his song Bloxk Party went viral. That helped him secure a deal with Asylum Records. Sada Baby is a prominent figure in the Detroit rap scene and has become one of the more prolific rappers of his generation. In 2020, he released his debut studio album, Skuba Sada 2, which is a sequel to his 2017 debut mixtape, Skuba Sada.
Born James Dewitt Yancey, he goes by the stage name Jay Dee or J Dilla. He was a member of the group Slum Village and was quite popular during the 1990s in the underground hip-hop scene in Detroit.
Born in February 1974, he died at the age of 32 from a combination of TTP and lupus. His life and career were short, but he is still considered one of the most influential producers in hip-hop.
Time for a female rapper on our list of Detroit rappers, wouldn’t you say? Born Arkeisha Antoinette Knight, Kash Doll is an American rapper from Detroit. She is signed to Republic Records. Her biggest singles include For Everybody and Ice Me Out. The latter is the lead single for her debut album Stacked in 2019. In the past few years, she has collaborated with fellow rappers and artists like Meek Mill, Big Sean, and Iggy Azalea.
Born and raised in Detroit, she is the oldest of six siblings. Kash Doll had to work at a young age and help her single mother support the family. But she had the desire to rap and started freestyling and writing lyrics as a young girl. While attending Henry Ford College, she became a strip club dancer to support her family financially. While working as a dancer, she would rap and eventually started earning money from patrons at the club without having to dance.
Born in 1982 as James Clay Jones III, Boldy James is an American rapper and member of the Griselda collective. In October 2013, he released his debut studio album, My 1st Chemistry Set.
Born in Atlanta, he moved to Detroit when he was just one year old because of his family’s move. His love for music came at the age of 12 when he performed in a middle school talent show. During this period, he also began writing his first rap lyrics.
Obie Trice III
Yes, this is the same Obie Trice you can hear in Eminem’s songs. He was signed to Shady Records in 2002, a label for which he released the album Cheers in 2003 and Second Round’s on Me in 2006.
He then formed his own record label, called Black Market Entertainment upon leaving Shady. Obie Trice is a unique case. Unlike most rappers, he doesn’t use a rap name. Instead, he uses his birth name on stage. Born and raised on the West Side of Detroit, he was given a karaoke machine when he was just eleven years old. He used it to rhyme over instrumentals from artists like N.W.A. By the time he was 14, he started attending rap battle gatherings in the city. The reason he left Shady Records is he thought he was not being promoted properly.
Here is another popular rapper from Detroit. Born as DeShaun Dupree Holton in October 1973, Proof was a member of several hip-hop groups during his life. Those include 5 Elementz, Funky Cowboys, Promatic, Goon Sqwad, and D12. A close childhood friend of rapper Eminem, he was often a hype man at his concerts. He rose to national prominence when he formed the group D12, or The Dirty Dozen in 1995 alongside Eminem, Bizarre, and Mr. Porter. He then recruited two more friends, Dirty Ratt and B-12 to the group. That is the first lineup of the first supergroup D12.
In the 2000s, he toured with Eminem, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Snoop Dogg during their Up In Smoke Tour. He was a hype man for Eminem. Proof released his solo album collaborating with artists like Method Man, Nate Dogg, 50 Cent, Cypress Hills, Obie Trice, Eminem, and D12.
Born as Esham Attica Smith in 1973, many cite him as a major influence on Detroit horrorcore. Esham released his debut studio album, Boomin’ Words from Hell in 1989 at the age of only 16. At the time, there were not many Detroit rappers. Since then, he has released 15 studio albums.
He is famous in the subgenres of horrorcore and rap rock. He founded the group Natas in 1992. Alongside his brother James Smith, Esham Attica Smith formed the hip-hop label Reel Life Productions.
His music incorporates elements of rock music, and the lyrics cover topics like drug use, paranoia, sex, death, and more. He calls his style acid rap.
Born in June 1973, he is an American rapper and record producer. Born as Christian Anthony Mathis, Trick Trick is a member of the hip-hop group Goon Sqwad. As a solo artist, Trick Trick has released three albums. Those are The People vs., The Villain, and Smoke Gang.
We have to mention King Gordy on our list of Detroit rappers. Born in August 1977 as Waverly Walton Alford III, he is an American horrorcore rapper and one-fourth of the underground hip-hop group The Fat Killahz. The other three are Fatt Father, Marv Won, and Bang Belushi. Raised in Detroit, Michigan, he was arrested for selling drugs at 16 years of age. He had to serve nine months in a Wayne County jail. In the 2000s, he started rapping in the local underground scene as a battle rapper. He appeared in the movie 8 Mile. In it, he played the fictional character Big O, the one who was often mentioned as “the fat man flipping burgers at Mickey D’s”. In 2003, Gordy released his solo album, The Entity.
It is only fitting and logical that we finish off the list with the most famous Detroit rapper, Eminem. Born Marshall Mathers III, Eminem is among the best-selling music artists of all time. He has more than 220 million record sales worldwide. Eminem is famous for popularizing hip-hop in Middle America. Many consider him one of the greatest rappers of all time. If nothing, he might be the greatest white rapper of all time. Eminem started his career in the late 1990s with his debut album Infinite and the extended play Slim Shady EP in 1997. After that, he signed with Dr. Dre and his Aftermath Entertainment. The rest, as they say, is history. Those two would achieve massive mainstream popularity in the 2000s.
During his career, Eminem has won Grammy Award 15 times, American Music Award 8 times, and Billboard Music Awards 17 times. He also won an Academy Award for his movie 8 Mile.