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United States of hip-hop
Hip-hop fans can argue about the technical merits of Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind,” but the song’s mega-platinum status in 2009 certainly affirmed the emcee’s status as, in the mainstream’s mind, rap music’s Ambassador to New York City.
At a time in which street corners have been replaced by Twitter and young rappers can be influenced by predecessors from anywhere in the country, what does it mean for a rap artist to represent a city? amNY has taken a look at the map, and come up with a (completely arbitrary and subjective) list of the best rappers to ask that question: The “emcee mayors” of cities across America. In some cases, they're the best on the mic in their respective hometowns, while the others are simply the most enthusiastic about flying their community's flag. Either way, they're the links to a time in hip-hop when representing your block was as important as a chart position.
Los Angeles: Ice Cube
So L.A., he recorded a video about the Eames House for a city-wide art exhibit in 2011.
Examples: “I Rep That West,” “Today Was a Good Day”
With Apologies To: Dr. Dre(Credit: Getty)
The Windy City's emcee's tracks with Kanye West are asChicago as deep dish pizza.
Examples: “Chi-City,” “Southside,” his verse on Blackstar's “Respiration”
With Apologies To: Kanye West(Credit: Getty)
The king of the Bay Area “hyphy” scene, and the creator of 1,000 slang terms.
Examples: “Yay Area,” “Rappers' Ball”
With Apologies To: Too Short(Credit: Getty)
Washington, D.C.: Wale
A rare emcee from a city more Chuck Brown than Chuck D.
Examples: “Chillin,” “DC or Nothing”
With Apologies To: DJ Kool(Credit: Getty)
Philadelphia: The Roots
Named their second major-label album after their hometown (“Illadelph Halflife”).
Examples: "Essaywhuman?!!!??!" (recorded at Philadelphia's Trocadero), “Get Busy”
With Apologies To: DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince(Credit: Getty)
St. Louis: Nelly
Founder of the St. Lunatics and emcee with the most St. Louis Cardinals gear in his closet.
Examples: “St. Louie,” “Country Grammar”
With Apologies To: Chingy(Credit: Getty)
Cleveland: Bone Thugs-n-Harmony
“E. 1999 Eternal” was named after a street corner in the crew's hometown.
Examples: “East 1999,” “Cleveland is the City”
With Apologies To: Machine Gun Kelly(Credit: Getty)
So synonymous with Motown, he landed a voiceover in a Chrysler commercial.
Examples: “8 Mile,” “Welcome to Detroit City”
With Apologies To: Danny Brown(Credit: Getty)
Houston: Bun B
Any emcee who records a song for the local football team gets extra (if cheesy) points.
Examples: “Here We Go (Texans Anthem),” “Draped Up (H-Town Remix)”
With Apologies To: Scarface(Credit: Getty)
Atlanta: Big Boi
The best argument for co-Mayors, but seniority tips the scales toward the OutKast.
Examples: “ATLiens,” “In the A”
With Apologies To: Ludacris(Credit: Getty)
“Mr. 305” even helped build a high school in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood.
Examples - “Miami [expletive],” “305 Anthem”
With Apologies To: Rick Ross(Credit: Getty)
New York: Jay Z
Fight over individual boroughs all you want, but no one reps The Bronx to Staten Island quite as well.
Examples - “Empire State of Mind,” “Brooklyn's Finest”
With Apologies To: (too many to mention)(Credit: Getty)
Long Beach: Snoop Dogg
L.A.'s little brother got a big boost from Snoop's LBC love.
Examples: “Nuthin' But a G Thang,” “From Long Beach 2 Brick City”
With Apologies To: Warren G(Credit: Getty)
May singlehandedly have kept the “Brick City” nickname alive in the 1990s.
Examples: “Diz Iz Brick City,” “Green Island”
With Apologies To: Queen Latifah(Credit: Getty)
Pittsburgh: Wiz Khalifa
“Black and Yellow” are the colors of every Steel City-based major league sports franchise.
Examples: “Black and Yellow,” “Pittsburgh Sound”
With Apologies To: Mac Miller(Credit: Getty)
Seattle: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
The video for “Thrift Shop” is partially shot in the basement of a Seattle dive bar, Unicorn.
Examples: “Victory Lap,” “My, Oh My”
With Apologies To: Sir Mix-a-Lot(Credit: Getty)
Kansas City: Tech N9ne
He's number 20 on the Forbes list of hip-hop earners and his Chiefs made the NFL playoffs. Good year.
Examples: “Kansas City King,” “KC Tea”
With Apologies To: Mac Lethal(Credit: Getty)
Memphis: Three 6 Mafia
It's easy to represent a city when almost every rapper in said city belongs to your clique.
Examples: “M.E.M.P.H.I.S.,” “South Memphis Representin'”
With Apologies To: 8Ball & MJG(Credit: Getty)
New Orleans: Master P
The No Limit tank might be as recognizable Big East symbol as Bourbon Street.
Examples: “Who Them Boyz,” “I'm Bout It Bout It”
With Apologies To: Lil Wayne(Credit: Getty)
Long Island: De La Soul
Very few city-obsessed rappers would actually claim the suburbs like the Native Tongues trio.
Examples: “Long Island Degrees,” “Wonce Again Long Island”
With Apologies To: Rakim
The Bronx: KRS-One
The Teacher practically invented regional beef with “The Bridge Is Over.”
Examples: “South Bronx,” “Bronx Tale”
With Apologies To: Mellie Mel(Credit: Getty)
“To my people throughout Queens, God bless your life.”
Examples: “Queens Get the Money,” “A Queens Story”
With Apologies To: Mobb Deep(Credit: Getty)
Brooklyn: Notorious B.I.G.
Talib Kweli said it best: “Brooklyn, New York City, where they paint murals of Biggie...”
Examples: “Brooklyn We Go Hard,” “Juicy”
With Apologies To: Talib Kweli
Manhattan: Big L
The late emcee is still revered, especially in the island's northern blocks.
Examples: “Harlem Nights,” “Hell Up In Harlem”
With Apologies To: The Diplomats/Dipset
Staten Island – Wu-Tang Clan
Can we go ahead and just rename it Shaolin Island?
Examples: “Can It Be All So Simple,” “Shaolin Worldwide”
With Apologies To: JoJo Pellegrino(Credit: Getty)