‘Hip-hop hotbed’ may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Milwaukee, but the latest class of emcees is hard at work to put this proud midwestern city on the map. So let’s take a closer look at the best Milwaukee rappers and what makes them stand out.
Mari Boy Mula Mar
With his helium-tinged vocals and surprising lyricism, Mari Boy Mula Mar is like no other rapper in the city and perhaps the world. His flow in particular is quite unusual, as he shifts between rapping and singing effortlessly.
Like many of Milwaukee’s bright new stars, he’s producing songs tailored to the 21st century audience and sleek music videos. He’s also garnered a devout following on Instagram and TikTok.
Lil Chicken (Chicken P)
Don’t let the name fool you; there’s nothing timid about Lil Chicken, who has quickly become one of the best Milwaukee rappers with his infectious flow and clever lyricism. While the rapper recently rebranded from Lil Chicken to Chicken P, the brash delivery and catchy beats he built his name on are still on display in his newer songs.
Lil Chicken is the first Milwaukee rapper to hit one million streams on YouTube for a song that wasn’t accompanied by visuals, and his fervent fanbase is only growing larger. His latest offering, Strictly 4 Tha Streetz, comes to us through the Really Rich Empire label, which he owns alongside his brother.
Milwaukee brothers Dexxx and Donno have created a name for themselves on the local scene. Their first single, All Stars, featured appearances from several of Milwaukee’s premier emcees, including Lil Chicken and YBN Kenny. This song, accompanied by a video from local legend TeeGlazedIt, rocketed up to over 1,000,000 views seemingly overnight.
Recently, the group has been on hiatus while the brothers pursue solo careers. Each has released several new singles, which tapped back into the brilliant, honest, and self-effacing lyricism that the MT Twins were known for when performing as a group.
K’moni first touched down in 2015, hitting the ground running with singles like YIFWU and Dey Don’t Know. This Milwaukee-born artist splits time between Atlanta and Milwaukee, and she’s made a foothold for herself in both cities. She’s a multi-talented artist; away from the mic, she’s an actress, recording engineer, and model.
Her latest singles, Drip and True 2 Me, show an artist hitting her stride as both an artist and a performer. The songs are bonafide earworms that stick with you long after you’ve heard them, and the audio and visual production is top-notch. Don’t be surprised if K’moni manages to take over Atlanta and Milwaukee in the coming year.
54 Baby Trey
A young emcee whose bars do the talking for him, 54 Baby Trey has made quite a splash since he first began releasing music a few short years ago. His music is refreshingly free of the common gimmicks among most new emcees. He focuses more on delivering authentic lyrics with his recognizable deep voice rather than melodic autotune flourishes or trendy delivery.
Though his lyrics are heavily influenced by life on the streets of Milwaukee, he’s set his sights on national stardom and building his brand further. With an already strong online fanbase supporting him and fuelling his passion for rap, we can only expect more great things from 54 Baby Trey in the coming years.
This Milwaukee-born-and-bred artist has been quickly scaling the hip-hop ranks, and she’s undoubtedly one of the next females in the rap game. Lakeyah’s career began at age 15, when she participated in the #SoGoneChallenge, dropping a memorable verse over the instrumental from Monica’s hit song.
At 18, she moved to Atlanta to pursue her rap career, and she caught the ear of several area tastemakers, including Coach K and P of Quality Control music. Her debut album, Time’s Up, arrived in 2020 and opened more doors for this rising star.
She’s followed up her debut with another full-length album and two mixtapes, and away from the mic, she serves as a brand ambassador for Rihanna’s Fenty lingerie line.
DC The Don
Another of Milwaukee’s finest, DC The Don, has been plying his craft for several years, releasing several impactful projects.
Even though DC The Don always had a knack for the pen, it was the basketball court where he expected to shine brightest. He moved to Los Angeles at 16 to pursue a future as a D1 basketball player; at the same time, he began to get serious about rapping.
While a career on the court wasn’t in the cards, DC The Don has redoubled his focus on music, producing three projects, including My Own Worst Enemy and Come As You Are. Several of the tracks on these projects have broken the one million streams mark, and DC The Don is poised to capitalize on the success of his first projects with his latest material.
One of Milwaukee’s first emcees to truly break out, Solowke’s career has been rife with trials and tribulations, but he’s now poised for a run at the top. His breakout hit, Federal in 2017, helped to put the new class of Milwaukee rappers on the map, and he capitalized on his success with several singles and videos the following year.
After a brief prison stint, Solowke emerged with renewed focus, releasing his single and accompanying video, Outta Sight, Outta Mind, shortly after his release in 2021. He followed this successful release with an EP, I’m Done Rapping, at the end of the year and has been keeping audiences primed for his next effort.
Another Milwaukee-born artist with dreams of putting the Cream City on the map, Destinee Lynn is a multidimensional rapper and singer with a bold look that commands every listener’s attention. From an early age, Destinee Lynn knew that a career as a performer was what she wanted, and she first began singing and rapping at only nine years old.
She takes the Jekyll and Hyde approach in her music, and from track to track, you may find Lynn delivering heartfelt melodies or coming straight for your neck with her aggressive flow. If you’re new to the Destinee Lynn party, her single Who Is Dat is the perfect place to start.
Coo Coo Cal
The Milwaukee artist who first put the city on the map as a destination for hip-hop, Coo Coo Cal, burned up the charts with his hit single My Projects in 2001. The song reached #1 on the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart shortly after its release, and then Cal disappeared from the spotlight almost as quickly as he found it.
A combination of personal issues and shady label dealings undercut Cal’s career, and he could never reach the level of My Projects with any of his future records. Fans of Milwaukee hip-hop and Coo Coo Cal will want to check out the Amazon Prime documentary detailing his rise and fall.
Zed Kenzo is an enigmatic artist who has no trouble weaving in and out of today’s typical rap and trap beats. But she’s even more at home laying down vocals over the unique and bombastic beats she creates.
Her 2018 release, Baby Swag, helped solidify her as one of the most promising artists to come out of Milwaukee, and she participated in the Radio Milwaukee Backline program, which provided training and grants to select local artists.
After a brief hiatus to deal with personal matters, Zed Kenzo returned in 2022 with a new EP, Zechariah, which showcases an artist at the top of her game.
Cap Drive Montana
Arguably the founding father of the new class of Milwaukee rappers, Cap Drive Montana first made waves with his 2017 single Extortion. The video quickly rocketed past one million views before Montana’s career was abruptly put on hold due to some legal issues.
After serving four years in prison, Cap Drive Montana has emerged with a renewed focus that’s audible in all of his latest tracks. Since his release, he’s blessed his fans with several singles, including Off My Chest, Big Spenders, and Grinding. With a renewed focus on his music, 2023 is poised to be a big year.
One of Milwaukee’s most prolific new artists, Taxfree is a member of the SME (Street Money Eatin’) click, which features some of the midwest’s most promising new rappers. Since beginning his rap career in 2018, SME Taxfree has hopped on many beats and collaborated with some of the area’s biggest artists.
The rapper has pumped out more than six full-length projects since 2018, and his latest, Unexpected, is a 25-track opus that features some of the area’s biggest stars.
A multifaceted artist from Milwaukee, IshDARR is a rapper and actor with an extensive list of credits to his name despite his age. As a child, IshDARR shuttled between Milwaukee and Illinois before settling permanently in Milwaukee before his teens. He began rapping and freestyling in 7th grade and used the school’s recording studio for his first few projects.
Ish released music prolifically through 2019 and appeared in the film White Boy Rick in 2018. After taking some time away from music, IshDarr returned in 2022 with his latest single, Luv In Here.
Mike Mike got interested in rapping after seeing Lowend Zelly and Gwapo Chapo working on their songs in the studio. However, he was full of self-doubt and didn’t really think he was any good until Looney Babie heard his songs and nudged him to pursue a music career.
Since then, Mike Mike has been on a tear, accruing over ten million streams across various platforms. Reminiscent of old-school hip-hop, his rapping style is crisp, and his lyrics take you on a journey through his thoughts on all manner of topics.
Another promising young artist from Milwaukee, YBN Kenny, splits his time between the booth and the tattoo shop, delivering art to his fans on multiple levels. Tragically, all that almost came to an end last year as a result of gun violence. While making a case as one of the best Milwaukee rappers, Kenny was gunned down outside his tattoo shop in broad daylight.
Kenny was shot multiple times, and most of the rounds that struck him were superficial. Sadly, a bullet struck the base of his spine, paralyzing him instantly. Unwilling to let this setback affect his rap career, YBN Kenny is moving forward with renewed focus, and he’s delivered some of the best work of his career since the shooting.
Undoubtedly the biggest artist to emerge from Milwaukee in the last decade, KCAMP has released several smash singles that have reached national acclaim. He left Milwaukee in his childhood and attended school in Atlanta, where he performed in the rap group HBC. His first tape as a solo artist, All Night, arrived in 2009.
KCAMP broke out in 2014 on the strength of his In Due Time mixtape, which featured the breakout hit Cut Her Off with 2Chainz. In total, the song featured five tracks that charted, helping to propel KCAMP to a breakout year and a feature on the XXL Freshman 2015 cover.
KCAMP followed his initial success with several mixtapes and EPs but felt his production deal was limiting his creative freedom. Now that he’s out of that deal, KCAMP has released a stream of new projects, including 2019’s Wayy 2 Kritical, which featured the hit single Lottery (Renegade) that spawned a viral dance trend.
Top Milwaukee Rappers, Final Thoughts
Milwaukee has come a long way since Coo Coo Cal’s hit song My Projects, with new artists leaving their fingerprints on the city's sound. From superstars like KCAMP to up-and-comers such as Cap Drive Montana and 54 Baby Trey, the best Milwaukee rappers are taking the city to new heights through their music.