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35 Best Detroit Rappers of All Time (New & Old School)

December 19, 2023
detroit rappers

I’ve compiled a definitive list of the best Detroit rappers of all time, featuring both new and old school artists who have shaped the city’s unique hip-hop scene.

This article is a tribute to Detroit’s rap legacy, showcasing the diverse talents and influential styles that have emerged from this music-rich city.

Top Detroit rappers of all time

  • Eminem
  • Big Sean
  • Tee Grizzley
  • Babyface Ray
  • Xzibit
  • 42 Dugg
  • Peezy
  • Boldy James
  • Proof
  • Guilty Simpson

1. Eminem

Eminem is the most prominent figure from the Detroit rap scene and one of the best-selling rappers of all time.

He’s established himself among the greatest rappers ever, winning multiple Grammy awards and building a legacy impossible for upcoming Detroit rappers to replicate.

Since launching his career in the 90s under Dr. Dre, Eminem has become a powerhouse in the rap industry, treating his fans to flawless lyricism in songs about life, love, and inspiration. 

2. Big Sean

Sean Anderson, or Big Sean, has enjoyed a stellar career many rappers can only dream of.

He’s probably the second-best artist from Motown after Eminem, constantly headlining rap battles in his native city at the beginning of his career.

He’s among the many artists who attribute their success to the incredible Kanye West and deserve a place among the best Detroit rappers of all time. 

3. Tee Grizzley

Speaking of Eminem and Big Sean, we can’t forget one Michigan State University alumnus who made it against all odds. 

Terry Wallace Jr., or Tee Grizzley, is best known for his hit singles “No Effort,” “First Day Out,” and “Colors.”

But he hasn’t had the easiest path to the top, spending time in prison at some point before becoming the big-name artist many people look up to. 

Tee is still active in the rap scene, always entertaining his fans with his good music.

4. Babyface Ray

Babyface Ray was born Marcellus Rayvon Register in Michigan and is a popular figure in the Detroit music scene.

He started gaining attention with his 2015 mixtape, MIA Season, and has since become a mainstay in the rap game. 

Babyface Ray kept a low profile at the height of his career.

That’s why he’s a less familiar figure in the American rap scene.

But for Michiganders, he’s probably a demi-god, constantly helping the needy in his native city.

5. Xzibit

You will probably remember Xzibit from the popular MTV show, Pimp My Ride, which pushed him to major fame in the early 2000s. 

Musically, the rapper started his career in 1996, with a critically and commercially acclaimed debut album, At the Speed of Life.

He’s a Detroit-born rapper who’s lived in Los Angeles and New Mexico with a series of successful hit singles and albums. 

6. 42 Dugg

Detroit-native 42 Dugg signed deals with Lil Baby’s 4 Pockets (4PF) and Yo Gotti’s Collective Music Group (CMG).

And his collaboration with Lil Baby on “We Paid” and “Grace” has earned him recognition from hip-hop lovers in Detroit and beyond.

He’s one of the shining lights in the Detroit rap scene, with his widely acclaimed Young & Turnt 2 (2020) reaching the Billboard 200.

Born in 1994, 42 Dugg went to Denby High School before dropping out to focus on his music career.

He’s mentioned Jeezy and Yo Gotti as his biggest influences growing up. 

7. Peezy

Peezy is one of the best rappers from Detroit, with a career that began in 2014. 

His latest releases, Free Rio (2021) and Only Built for Diamond Links (2022), have placed him among the most streamed Detroit rappers of all time. 

8. Boldy James

Detroit rappers are sometimes criticized for their repetitive lyrics and similar-sounding music.

But one guy does it differently. 

And that’s Boldy James. 

James is a talented lyricist, working with one of the best record producers in the game, The Alchemist, to release good music.

With a career spanning almost 2 decades, it’s little surprise James is widely appreciated in his native Detroit. 

9. Proof

Here’s a naturally talented hitmaker with one of the best hip-hop resumes from Detroit.

In his prime, Proof was part of Promatic, Goon Squad, Funky Cowboys, D12, and 5 Elementz, always bringing something unique to his rap game.

He got his pulsating energy from Eminem and Method Man. 

Proof was a gem from the Detroit rap scene, even though his life was cut short in 2006.

10. Guilty Simpson

He may not be the most decorated Detroit rapper, but you can’t ignore Guilty Simpson’s impressive resume in the Detroit hip-hop scene.

In a world of Detroit rappers with witty wordplays, Simpson belongs somewhere at the top, right after the industry’s greats like Eminem.

He’s never shied away from showing off his lyrical prowess since announcing his arrival with his Ode to the Ghetto debut album. 

Not many hip-hop lovers will appreciate Guilty Simpson. 

But true Michiganders know what he meant to Detroit.

11. Black Milk

We probably should have put Black Milk further up the list, just after Eminem and Big Sean, because he’s a rapper who understands the Detroit rap scene inside out.

He’s sometimes called “the backbone of the Detroit rap scene” and a true gem to the great city of Detroit.

Black Milk is a jack of all trades, excelling as a producer, rapper, poet, and MC.

The multitalented rapper goes down as one of Detroit’s most underrated stars.

That’s why we’ve included him in this list to remind you of his great career.

If you want a taste of Black Milk music, check out “Don’t Say,” “TYME,” and “Could It Be.”

12. Danny Brown

If you listened to Danny Brown at the beginning of his career, you would be convinced he was going to the top of the Detroit rap scene. 

His distinct voice was unmistakable from any other Detroit rapper. 

He’s become better and better, as a rapper and an MC, with enough tricks up his sleeve to get the crowds mesmerized.

His comical lyrics have never lost relevance. 

And he’s sure to come up when we talk about the most versatile Detroit rappers. 

13. Elzhi

For some locals, the list of the best Detroit rappers of all time begins and ends with Elzhi.

He’s Detroit’s most treasured gem, having shunned away nationwide fame to build a loyal local fan base.

His Elmatic mix tape of 2011 paid tribute to rapper Nas’ Illmatic debut album and was widely appreciated by hip-hop lovers.

14. Royce da 5’9”

Royce da 5’9”, started his career almost at the same time as Eminem, forming a strong friendship that would later give birth to the Bad Meets Evil duo.

Royce appeared in Eminem’s The Slim Shady LP (1999) debut album before featuring in the “Renegade” hit single, where Jay-Z later replaced him. 

He’s been a creative genius in the Detroit rap scene, ranking highly among the best rappers in the world.

Some have argued that he was better than Eminem in his prime.

But we will let you have your say after listening to some of Royce’s best hits like “Dinner Time,” “Boom,” and “Mode II.”

15. D12

D12, or the Dirty Dozen, DD-Twizzy, was an American rap group from Detroit, formed in 1996.

The group’s lineup comprised Proof, Eminem, Kuniva, Swift, Mr. Porter, and Bizarre, becoming one of the best Detroit acts of the 90s.

Proof’s death in 2006 dealt the group a major blow, declining with every passing year and finally disbanding in 2018.

D12 released chart-topping albums in their prime, including Devil’s Night (2001) and D12 World (2004), which had multiple hit singles such as “Shit On You,” “Purple Hills,” and “Fight Music.”

16. J. Dilla

James Dewitt Yancey, better known as J. Dilla, was among the most influential figures in the 90s Detroit rap scene, first emerging as part of the Slum Village musical group. 

He also belonged to Soulquarians, a collective of black music artists of the 90s and 2000s.

J. Dilla is one of those Detroit rappers with brief but successful careers, raising the artistic level with his flawless production that always packed melodic beats, breakbeats, and vocal samples. 

Donuts is J. Dilla’s signature album that brought him to the limelight. 

And when hip-hop lovers talk about the most influential Detroit rappers and music producers, they always have a special place for the Michigan beat producer who sadly passed away in 2006 at only 32. 

17. Illa J

Do you know J. Dilla’s younger brother making huge strides in the Detroit music scene?

Illa J, born John Derek Yancey, is a Detroit rapper, singer, and songwriter who rose to prominence in 2008 with Yancey Boys.

He’s released 3 more albums ever since, including Evolution (2013), Sunset Blvd. (2013), and YES (2015).

His best singles include “Enjoy the Ride,” “All Good Pt. 2,” and “Universe.”

18. DeJ Loaf

A fashion-conscious tomboy who needs no introduction to the rap game, DeJ Loaf started her career in 2011 with her debut mix tape, Just Do It. 

Her rapping in the song “Detroit vs. Everybody,” alongside fellow Detroit rappers Big Sean, Eminem, Trick Trick, Royce da 5’9”, and Danny Brown, was attention-grabbing.

In 2020, DeJ Loaf released her first studio album, Sell Sole II, with guest appearances from Gunna, Big Sean, 6LACK, Lil Uzi Vert, and Rick Ross. 

19. Slum Village

Slum Village was a group of hip-hop heavyweights that ruled the Detroit rap scene from 1974 to 2009.

It comprised Baatin, T3, and J. Dilla.

In 2001, J. Dilla left the group to launch a solo career and was replaced by Elzhi.

Baatin also left because of his deteriorating health. 

Their 2007 debut album, Fan-Tas-Tic, was a hit.

The group hit rock bottom with the death of key members J. Dilla and Baatin in 2006 and 2009, respectively, leaving T3 as the last man standing in what had been a successful journey for the rap trio.

20. Lizzo

Are we going to pretend that Lizzo isn’t from Detroit?

She’s a Detroit native, only moving to Houston at 10.

She released her debut EP, Coconut Oil, in 2016, before rising to nationwide fame in 2019  with her 3rd studio album, Cuz I Love You

Her 2017 hit single, “Truth Hurts,” went viral after 2 years, topping the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

It’s fair to say Lizzo has made Motown proud with her meteoric rise in the rap game, winning 4 Grammy Awards, a BET Award, 2 Soul Train Music Awards, and a Billboard Music Award. 

21. Obie Trice

Like most Detroit rappers, Obie Trice crafted his art on the rap battles before Eminem identified his talent and signed him to his Shady Records in 2002.

He released 2 albums under Eminem’s record, including Cheers (2003) and Second Round’s on Me (2006). 

After leaving Shady Records in 2008, Trice founded his Black Market Entertainment music label. 

He’s maintained a close relationship with Eminem, releasing a diss track, dubbed “Spanky Hayes,” in 2019 to defend the fellow Detroit rapper against Nick Cannon. 

22. Payroll Giovanni

Payroll Giovanni is a Detroit MC and a member of Motor City’s rap group, Doughboyz Cashout.

Giovanni has earned deserved recognition in the Detroit entertainment industry with a distinctive rap style that brings the 90s west coast rap vibes.

The rapper only debuted in 2013 but has since become one of the brightest stars in the Motor City music scene.

23. Kash Doll

Kash Doll is one of the newest entrants to the Detroit rap scene, only launching his career in 2014.

She started her career at the local clubs and schools, catching many people’s attention with her freestyle rapping skills.

And after pushing her career via social media, she caught Drake’s attention, with the Canadian rapper inviting her to perform on a Detroit summer tour. 

Her best songs include “For Everybody” and “Ice Me Out,” climbing slowly but steadily to become one of the best Detroit rappers right now. 

24. MC Breed

Eric Tyrone Breed, also known as MC Breed, is one of the best things to ever happen to the great city of Detroit. 

He’s remembered for her 1991 hit single, “Ain’t No Future in Yo’ Frontin,” peaking at #66 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.

He followed it up with another hit, “Gotta Get Mine,” featuring Tupac Shakur and peaking at #6 on the Hot Rap Singles.

Even though he never really made it to nationwide fame, MC Breed had a long career after breaking through the Detroit hip-hop scene. 

25. Esham

How could we leave out a backbone of the Detroit rap scene?

Esham is among the first rappers to receive attention from the Detroit faithful, often mentioned as a big influence on the hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse.

He integrated rock elements into his beats, with lyrics about multiple subjects, from death to drug use, paranoia, and sex.

Esham debuted in 1989 with Boomin’ Words from Hell and has since released 15 studio albums. 

26. Trick Trick

He is a rapper from Detroit, known for his aggressive lyrics and for being a prominent figure in the Detroit hip-hop scene. 

Some of his most well-known songs include “Welcome 2 Detroit,” “Let’s Go to War,” and “No More to Say.” 

Trick Trick is also known for his involvement in the Detroit hip-hop community, including founding the Detroit-based hip-hop group Goon Sqwad and establishing a code of conduct for visiting artists.

27. Blade Icewood

Blade Icewood’s real name was Darnell Quincy Lindsay, and he was a Detroit-based rapper who was known for the underground rap scene.

Unfortunately, he was murdered in 2005; despite his untimely death, he is still remembered as a Detroit rap legend. 

His famous albums include Stackmaster, Blood, Sweat & Tears Rise of the Great Ones. 

28. Stretch Money

Daran McCullough is his real name, and Stretch Money is famous for his storytelling skills.

He signed with the independent label Hot Lava Records and released his debut album Take Money to Make Money, in 2007.

His most loved songs include  “25 Miles Per Hour”, “M.O.E.,” and “Time Is Money.” 

Stretch Money’s music is known for its honesty and authenticity, with lyrics that reflect his experiences growing up in Detroit.

29. Street Lord Juan

Lord Juan, real name Jonathon Brown, was a Detroit rapper and member of the rap group Street Lords.

He rose to fame in the early 2000s with the release of the Street Lord’z album Platinum Roleez Don’t Tic Toc and his solo mixtape The Voice of the Ghetto.

The Streets of His Road Juan’s career sadly passed away in 2006, but his impact on the Detroit rap scene can still be felt.

30. Kid Vishis

Kid Vshis, whose real name is Vishisht Sharma, is a Detroit rapper and the younger brother of famous rapper Royce Da 5’9″.

He signed to his independent label, Barak Records. In 2014, he released his debut album, Timing Is Everything, featuring collaborations with fellow Detroit rappers such as Trick Trick and Royce da 5’9.

Kid Vishis is considered one of the rising stars of his Detroit trap scene, with a style and approach that sets him apart from other artists.

31. Big Herk

Big Herk, whose real name is Derrick Harris, is a Detroit-based rapper and member of the legendary Detroit rap group the Street Lord’z. 

He gained attention with the release of his debut album Living Legend.

He has been admired for his ability to blend storytelling with hard beats to create a unique sound that reflects the realities of Detroit life.

32. Top Authority

Top Authority is a rap group from Michigan that was active in the 1990s. 

The group was initially formed by brothers Flex and Dalo, along with DJ J-Tone, and later added member Shotgun. 

Top Authority is known for its hard-hitting, street-oriented lyrics and use of funk and soul samples in its production.

33. Fatt Father

Fat Father is an American rapper and member of the Detroit-based rap group Doughboyz Cashout.

He’s been on the rap scene for a few years and has been praised for his unique flow and performance. 

Some of his most famous songs include “All In,” “Rich Nigga Nation,” and “Too Much.” 

34. Tone Tone

Tone Tone (also known as Tone Skeeta) is an American rapper from Detroit, Michigan.

He later signed to Akon’s Convict Music label and released his debut studio album Gangsta General.

Known for his gritty lyrics, lively storytelling, and eclectic streak, his tone continues to be an influential figure in the Detroit rap scene.

35. Supa Emcee

Supa Emcee, also known as Supa, is an American rapper from Detroit, Michigan.

Some of his popular projects include “Selfish,” “Soul Food,” and “Finally Dead.”

 He began his career in music in the early 2000s and gained recognition for his lyrical abilities and socially conscious messages.

Best Detroit Rappers of All Time – Final Thoughts

Detroit, Michigan, has a rich music history from the days of Felix & Jarvis. 

Many years later, the city’s status as America’s music hub hasn’t changed, producing countless rappers shaping the modern hip-hop culture.

While Eminem and Big Sean are always considered the two biggest names out of the city, Detroit has been a thriving hip-hop scene.

And the list of Motown City’s best rappers now includes new artists like Lizzo, Peezy, and Payroll Giovanni. 

We’ve listed the 35 best Detroit rappers to give you a taste of the city’s unique hip-hop sound.

Add a few names to your playlist and enjoy the best songs from America’s music hub.

You may also like: Best Rappers of All Time 

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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