1. MC Shy D
When people think of old-school Atlanta rap, they think of bluesy, soulful artists like Outkast and Goodie Mob. But there was a movement of Atlanta rap that preceded that sound. Early Atlanta rap was bouncy club music that was influenced by the Miami scene. MC Shy D’s “Rapp Will Never Die” was one of the first major rap singles to come out of Atlanta.
Essential listening: “Got To Be Tough”
2. Kilo Ali
It could be argued that Kilo Ali was Atlanta’s first real rap star. In 1990, at the age of 17, Kilo Ali (who was just going as Kilo then) released his debut album, “America Has a Problem.” He released various projects throughout the ’90s. The 2000s weren’t kind to the rapper, however. In 2005 he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for arson. He came home early in 2011.
Essential listening: “Organized Bass”
3. Arrested Development
While gangsta rap was ruling the hip-hop charts, there was a sub-culture of hip-hop acts spreading peace: acts like De La Soul, Black Sheep, and A Tribe Called Quest. Hip-hop crew Arrested Development was the only one repping the South, and they were one of the most successful groups. In ’93, the group won two Grammys.
Essential listening: “3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of…
4. Ghetto Mafia
Ghetto Mafia, composed of Nino and Wicked, was one of the most constant rap groups of the ’90s, putting out four albums in the span of four years. Their last album together, 1998’s “On da Grind,” was the only album to chart.
Essential listening: “On da Grind”
5. Hitman Sammy Sam
Rapper Hitman Sammy Sam scored his first major hit in 2003 with “Step Daddy.” That’s more than a decade after he hit the underground scene in ATL with the Big Oomp Records label.
Essential listening: ” Last Man Standing”
6. Cool Breeze
Cool Breeze doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. The Dungeon Family member not only invented the “Dirty South” term, but he was the originator of trap music (not the DJ shit either; we’re talking about rap music specifically about drug dealing). Every major trap rapper from T.I. to Young Jeezy has some Cool Breeze in him.
Essential listening: “East Point’s Greatest Hit”
If you listen to those great Outkast and Goodie Mob albums from the ’90s, there’s someone you’ll always hear: Witchdoctor, who, alongside Cee-Lo, was the spiritual backbone of The Dungeon Family. Witchdoctor’s debut album, “A S.W.A.T. Healin’ Ritual,” has some of the best Organized Noise production ever.
Essential listening: “A S.W.A.T. Healin’ Ritual”
8. Raheem The Dream
Raheem The Dream had some of the coldest songs about the ladies ever. Although mainly a local act, Raheem’s influence can be heard today. (Migos’ “Freak No More” is a remake of a Raheem song.)
Essential listening: “Tight 4 Life” “
9. Pastor Troy
Since 1999, Pastor Troy has released albums and mixtapes at a frantic, Gucci Mane-like pace. Yet, the rapper never had a song truly break out. (The closest was the Timbaland produced “Are We Cuttin’.”) “Vice Versa” is truly one of the greatest Atlanta rap songs of all time.
Essential listening: “Face Off”
10. Field Mob
Field Mob isn’t actually from Atlanta — they’re from Albany, which is an hour away — but we included them because they are a criminally underrated Georgia act, despite the fact that they had some singles that charted (“Sick of Being Lonely” and “So What” come to mind).
Essential listening: “From tha Roota to tha Toota”