East Coast Anthems: Rappers You Know and Love

The East coast is home to some of the most famous rappers of all time, here are our top nine.

Silhouette of a person singing.

Rap music is a medium for artists to express themselves or their culture. While some people may think that rap music discusses negative topics, it really serves as a commentary on what the artist feels that their audience should be aware of, such as political issues. Artists such as Tupac Shakur are known for weaving in their thoughts of the treatment of women, political issues, and more into his songs. This is but one example of many, many rappers that hail from the east coast whose work is famous and impactful.

Tupac Shakur

Man smiling while looking at the camera with a black background.
Alive for only 25 short years, Tupac was fatally shot in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1996. Image courtesy of Rolling Stone.

Also known as 2Pac, Tupac Shakur originated from East Harlem of New York City, a city that’s home to many rap artists. As we mentioned earlier on, he was known for his unparalleled lyricism that involves topics such as racism, impoverished communities, and so much more. Perhaps you are familiar with his song “Keep Ya Head Up,” which is a positive message for women struggling to make it in the world— he was spreading awareness while uplifting his female audience. The story that he tells within his songs impacts listeners so deeply is because he spoke from his own experiences. With these aspects combined with his charismatic style of singing, it is no surprise as to why he became a historical figure within the rap community.

The Notorious B.I.G

Man wearing a matching burgundy hat and coat while sitting on a couch.
Biggie Smalls made room for himself in the rap industry almost unintentionally. He originally rapped as a form of entertainment for his community. Image courtesy of ZOO 96.6 Radio.

The Notorious B.I.G. and Biggie Smalls are the main names that Christopher Wallace was known by. A fate that is sometimes seen in the rap industry is tragic deaths and Biggie Smalls was not an exception. At the age of twenty-four he was shot while in Los Angeles, California. Despite living a short life and being in the spotlight for only a few years, his legacy lives on through the unique flow and storytelling quality of his music. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York equipped him with experiences, good and bad, that shaped him as a person and as an artist.

Wu-Tang Clan

Group of men posing in front of a gold backdrop.
The art that came from these individuals still resonates with people to this day. Image courtesy of Melody Maker Magazine.

Walking down a different path from other rappers was the Wu-Tang group that consisted of entrepreneurs. Through perseverance the group created their own record label “Wu-Tang Records'' and achieved new heights by controlling their music and brand by themselves. Undoubtedly everyone was pulling their own weight seeing that each member was able to create a presence as a respected artist by themselves, while also contributing to the main group’s music. No two humans are alike and the Wu-Tang members wanted to make sure of this, especially in the competitive rap industry. Each member had their own unique style that was fueled by raw talent.

A$AP Rocky

Man smiling while looking at the camera.
Full of charisma and confidence, A$AP Rocky has been able to keep a tight hold on his fans worldwide thanks to his irresistible charm. Image courtesy of Billboard.

Now, you are probably reading the name A$AP Rocky and thinking about another famous female rapper and business woman, Rihanna, who is also the mother to his two young children. Rakim Mayers (A$AP Rocky) is a New York City native that could've been a guest star on the hit show Sex and The City for his impeccable taste in fashion. His knack for being stylish is part of his identity and he has walked for, collaborated with, and has been sponsored by highly sought after brands such as Dior, Gucci, and Guess. A$AP Rocky’s identity as an award winning rapper goes beyond his music, he is now a fashion icon- how’s that for versatile?


Man wearing a silver chain necklace and white shirt.
DMX’s real name was Earl Simmons and his music highlighted what it was like growing up in Yonkers, New York. Image sourced from Variety.

In our number five spot is a rapper whose tunes can be recognized anywhere based on his raspy voice that grittily sings his lyrics. He led an interesting life that would often become unbalanced, swinging back and forth from addiction and destructive habits to performing as a rapper or actor. If you are not a fan of DMX or have never heard of him, there is a good chance that you have heard at some point one of his most popular (mainstream) songs “Party Up (Up In Here)” was nominated for a Grammy. DMX successfully created an amazing career for himself before he died in 2021.

Mac Miller

Black and white image of a man in a hat staring into the distance.
The albums “Blue Slide Park” and “Swimming” are but two of the several pieces of work that Mac Miller created. Image courtesy of The New Yorker.

Hailing from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, is Malcolm McCormick who is widely known as Mac Miller. Before crossing the threshold of high school to adulthood he had already produced music that was burning up like wildfire. Mac created beats with lyrics that were spunky and would instantly get you into a good mood. As his career took off and his identity as a beloved celebrity was solidified, his music began to evolve into something…deeper. The lyrics to his songs were still fun at times, but more and more of his songs were highly introspective and showed the world what he was dealing with mentally and with his substance use disorders. Mac Miller's music has touched the hearts of millions and it continues to do so years after his death in 2018.

Jay Z

Man in a white shirt on a stage.
Originally born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Jay Z now has a net worth of over $2.5 billion dollars. Photographed by Craig Barritt for Getty Images.

You may have heard of Jay Z before as being the lucky man married to the one and the only- Beyonce Knowles. Jay Z is famous for a variety of things: rapping, producing, and business ventures. Just like many other artists he used music as a way to escape the harsh, unfair realities of life. Since he has shifted his attention from doing business on the streets of New York as an adolescent, he has since earned several Grammy awards for his work. Jay Z is a success story that provides many people that are perhaps currently facing or have previously experienced similar struggles to him, to strive for their dreams and know that they are attainable.

Wiz Khalifa

Man in sunglasses and a suit.
Wiz Khalifa is not only known for his talent in the music industry, his fans also follow him because of his unique and stylish aesthetic consisting of luxury brands. Image courtesy of GQ.

The Steel City, a.k.a Pittsburgh of Pennsylvania, knows and adores Wiz Khalifa, a rapper that has grown up in the area and often pays homage to it in his music. His hit song “Black and Yellow” is one of the nods to his hometown and the music video for it has over 355 million views on YouTube. This display of popularity is just on one platform, can you imagine the streams on Spotify or Apple Music?! Back in 2006 he made his debut into the music scene and has since earned praise for his albums “Rolling Papers,” “Blacc Hollywood,” and “Rolling Papers 2.” Songs with smooth rap flow and melodic beats that often revolve around Khalifa’s herbal preferences can be found in all of his albums.

Missy Elliott

Woman smiling while holding a microphone.
Missy Elliott began with a rough start to life that unfortunately involved familial abuse. Through her faith and passion for music she was able to create a new way for herself. Image sourced from Billboard.

Although there are countless female rappers that have made their mark on the industry, none of them have had quite the influence and impact like Missy Elliott has.

Here are a few things she can do:

  • Rap
  • Sing
  • Produce
  • Write her own songs  

She has collaborated with big names such as Beyonce, Janet Jackson, Timbaland, and also Jay Z (remember him from two sections prior?) Regardless of who she has worked with she has always retained control over how she creates her music and never sacrificed her identity. Elliott’s art is full of strength and empowerment for women but it also truly focuses on just having fun as you are. Her songs “Lose Control” and “Get Your Freak On” prove our point!

We hope that you were able to learn something new today about some of the biggest names in the rap scene! Rap music is a beautiful way for artists to connect with those around them by sharing what they have lived through, what they believe in, and strive to hopefully make a change one day. After all, isn’t that every artist's dream?

Alexandria Bateman

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