When it comes to cities that are known for rap music, it’s hard to top Atlanta, Georgia. Though it wasn’t until the late 1990s that the city was known on a national level, it quickly became one of the go-to’s in the genre. As a result, there have been a lot of legendary rappers from the ATL, but which ones are the best? Here’s our ranking of the top five.
Born in Atlanta as Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn, he adopted the name Future early on in his rap career and signed with A1 Recordings in the city during the late 2000s, and started performing with The Dungeon Family. He started writing more heartfelt lyrics and saw his mixtapes start to pick up steam, leading him to a contract with Epic Records thanks to his songs being featured at a local gentleman’s club.
Future was a big hit right from his debut album “Pluto”, which reached the top 10 and was certified platinum. Since then, Future has released more than a half-dozen number one albums including “DS2” and “Evol” and hit songs like “Mask Off” and “Life Is Good”.
Clifford Harris was raised by his grandparents in Atlanta and started rapping in the ATL while he was still in elementary school. Though his nickname was ‘Tip’ as a child, he shortened it to T.I. and started making waves in the late 1990s when he signed with Arista Records, part of LaFace. His name ultimately came about because his first label didn’t want to market him as Tip or T.I.P.
After his first album “I’m Serious” was met with mild success, his sophomore album “Trap Muzik” put T.I. on the map. Over the years, he has released a long list of hit singles including “Whatever You Like”, “Bring ‘Em Out” and “Live Your Life”, just to name a few.
Though he wasn’t born in Atlanta since he was born in Champaign, Illinois, Christopher Bridges moved to Atlanta toward the end of his high school years and stayed in the city throughout college. Throughout the entire time, Bridges began rapping as Chris Lova Lova while working in radio but changed the name to Ludacris when he hooked up with Timbaland and recorded his first album.
After his first two albums found regional success, Luda hit it big in 2001 with the release of “Word of Mouf”. With songs like “Rollout”, “Move B****”, and “Stand Up”, Ludacris became Atlanta rap royalty. Though he started getting away from rap in the 2010s, he’s still regarded as one of the kings.
2. Big Boi
One-half of the legendary Atlanta rap duo Outkast (you knew they had to be on the list), Big Boi made his way to the ATL in high school by way of Savannah, Georgia. It was while at Tri-Cities High School that he started to take his music more seriously, though he was less into hip-hop than he was into art pop. Still, he was able to make up one-half of Outkast in 1992 and take over the rap world.
Big Boi had a ton of hits with Outkast including “The Way You Move” and “Hey Ya”, and went into a solo career shortly after Outkast split. He released his debut solo album “Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty” in 2010 and has released two more since then. His biggest solo hit came in 2017 with the release of “All Night”.
1. Andre 3000
Of course, the other half of Outkast is Andre Benjamin, also known as Andre 3000. Benjamin was born and raised in Atlanta where he attended multiple high schools before landing at the same one as Big Boi. It wasn’t much longer after the two joined forces that they were able to receive their first record deal with LaFace and released their debut album in 1994.
After taking some time away from rap following the split of Outkast, Andre 3000 returned in 2007 and mainly worked on joint creations with other rappers. It wasn’t until 2021 that he released his first single as a lead artist titled “Life of the Party” with Kanye West. In 2018, he released his first EP titled “Look Ma No Hands”.