There’s an awful lot more to Maryland than just crabcakes and football. The city of Baltimore has long been a hotbed of talented hip-hop artists. While some of these artists are national stars, a few fly under the radar.
Today, we’ll dive deeply into the best rappers from Baltimore to help you learn more about the art coming from this storied city.
JPEGMAFIA has been making a name for himself for the better part of a decade. Originally, he put out music under the moniker Devon Hendryx while serving in the United States Air Force. After returning home, he moved to Baltimore and adopted the name JPEGMAFIA. Since then, he’s been on the cutting edge of experimental hip-hop.
He’s released four studio albums, including the critically acclaimed Veteran. When he isn’t recording, he runs the popular HTBAR show on his YouTube channel, where he chops it up with some of hip-hop’s brightest young stars.
King Los has been one of the best Baltimore rappers for over a decade, and he’s also one of the most prolific, having released nearly twenty projects since 2008. King Los got his first break in 2002, having made the cast for Puff Daddy’s Making The Band 2. However, Los realized the importance of ownership early and refused to sign the restrictive paperwork to be part of the show.
While that may have put the brakes on Los’ career trajectory at first, he didn’t let it get in his way. His catalog speaks for itself with nearly 20 releases, including his latest, 2022’s G.O.A.T Tape 2.
When most people think of Tupac, they think of the most legendary West Coast emcee ever. But Tupac came of age on the streets of Baltimore and spent his teenage years in the city.
After arriving in California in 1988, Tupac began rapping under the name MC New York. Shortly after, he began working with Digital Underground, and the stage name 2pac was born. That same year, he released his iconic rebut album 2pacalypse Now. While his life was tragically cut short in a 1996 shooting, 2pac leaves behind one of the most incredible discographies of any rap artist.
Tate Kobang has been quietly making a name for himself as one of Baltimore's prolific rappers and songwriters. He discovered music at a young age, playing in the school band and learning piano and saxophone. With direction from his uncle, Baltimore rapper Killa Q, Tate began pursuing a career in rap music.
Tate’s 2015 mixtape Live Hazey featured the hit Bank Rolls, Tate’s biggest song to date. He also works as a songwriter and penned the single Mr. Right Now in 2020 for 21 Savage and Metro Boomin.
Long before he was known as Shordie Shordie, RaQuan Hudson never planned on having a career in music. But, when his brother and cousin floated the idea of creating a group, he was game to give it a shot. Fast forward a few years, and Shordie Shordie is one of the best rappers in Maryland.
Peso De Mafia found a regional hit with their 2017 single Money Man, which they followed with a successful mixtape. Encouraged by the early success, Shordie Shordie began working on solo material, releasing four mixtapes in the following years, including 2022’s More Than Music Part 2, which featured appearances from Offset and Rich Homie Quan.
One of the greatest mixtape rappers of his generation, Lloyd Banks, has left an indelible mark on hip-hop over the past two decades. He rose to prominence as part of 50 Cent’s G-Unit crew.
While few group members could sustain success outside of their work with 50, Lloyd Banks' proven pen persevered, and to this day, he’s one of the most revered lyrical emcees in the game.
After a lengthy hiatus, Banks returned in 2021 with his Course of the Inevitable mixtape. He released a follow-up, COTI 2, the following year.
Blaqstarr has spent the last two decades working as Baltimore’s hip-hop renaissance man. He does a little of everything, from production to beat-making to rapping, and he’s worked extensively with M.I.A. on some of her most iconic hits.
Blaqstarr has also worked closely with other Baltimore artists like K-Swift and Rye Rye. He performed at the People’s Inauguration Ball to celebrate a newly elected President Obama in 2009.
One of the most notorious DJs in Baltimore’s thriving club scene, K-Swift, left a massive mark on Baltimore hip-hop that lives on today. A career DJ, K-Swift received her first set of turntables at 15 and never looked back. She landed an internship with Baltimore urban radio station 92Q and went on to host their Off Da Hook show with co-host Squirrel Wyde.
She produced a wildly popular mixtape series, The Jumpoff, with 14 volumes. She died tragically in 2008 after a swimming accident, but her legacy lives on through the Kaia K-Swift Scholarship Fund.
One of Baltimore’s most promising female emcees, Deetranada found her love for rap music at an early age. After performing in her 7th-grade talent show and blowing the audience away, it became clear she had a future in the industry. With some direction from her brother Jermaine, Deetranada began to amass a catalog of inventive bars with a decidedly Baltimore feel.
Fast forward a few years, Deetranada landed a spot on Jermaine Dupri’s The Rap Game show, finishing as runner-up. That appearance helped catapult her career to new heights, and she’s been gracing audiences with hit after hit since.
A relative newcomer to the Baltimore hip-hop scene, Bandhunta Izzy has quietly made a case for himself as one of the best Baltimore rappers. This young emcee grew up in West Forest Park, and along with his brother, Jugg Bandhunta, the two were thrust into the street life of West Baltimore.
Bandhunta Izzy released his first tape, Code Blue, in 2017. The mixtape was immediately heralded, first by a local audience and then by a national one. Since then, he’s followed up with six more mixtapes, each featuring the raw signature delivery which helped put him on the map.
A young Baltimore rapper and member of the YBS click, YBS Skola began rapping at age 17 and quickly showed a knack that few other emcees possess. His debut mixtape, No Pen Just Paper, developed a regional buzz, and he’s followed that success with five more mixtapes since.
Unfortunately, his career was sidelined by a 2019 conviction on gun and drug charges. In a message to his fans, YBS Skola promised to return better than ever upon his release, and fans have been anxiously waiting for new music since.
Drawing influence from the legendary emcee and former Baltimore native 2pac, K.A.A.N. is one of the most lyrically gifted rappers in the game. His name, an acronym for Knowledge Above All Nonsense, is a fitting moniker, considering his music is loaded with substance and lyrics about challenging concepts like mental health issues, religion, and abuse.
This prolific emcee has released over thirty projects since his debut mixtape in 2014. If you’re a fan of conscious rappers with a gift for lyricism and a unique flow, K.A.A.N. is one for you to check on.
This Baltimore rapper rose to prominence on the strength of his Baltimore-centric debut single Oh (Baltimore Anthem). Bossman's career seemed ready for takeoff with a hit song in Baltimore and cosigns from legendary DJs like DJ KaySlay, DJ Envy, and Big Mike. Shortly after, he signed with Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def imprint through Virgin Records.
While national recognition has always been just out of reach for Bossman, he’s produced an iconic catalog of hits that still ring off in every club throughout Baltimore. With more than twenty projects to his credit, Bossman’s catalog speaks for itself as one of the finest in Baltimore, and he’s required listening for anyone looking to tap into the B-more hip-hop scene.
While this Baltimore native headed west to Los Angeles to join the Def Jam roster in 2021, his music provides listeners with a journey through the mean streets of Baltimore. Roddy’s debut mixtape, Realest Richest Youngin, shows a young emcee at the top of his game, delivering slick rhyme schemes and hard-hitting lyrical content centering around his time in Baltimore.
The future is bright for Mr. Rackzz, and he’s poised for a long and fruitful career at Def Jam.
One of the most unique voices in urban entertainment, Destorm Power found music early during his childhood in Baltimore. In his late teens, he moved to New York to make it in the music business. Destorm began ghostwriting for various labels and took matters into his own hands, creating songs and videos for YouTube to help increase his profile.
Destorm has released two mixtapes and countless videos, most of which feature him singing, rapping, and handling production duties. He’s won an American Music Award, YouTube Music Award, and several Streamy awards, and he’s one of the funniest and most unique artists in the Baltimore hip-hop lexicon.
A legendary Baltimore emcee and songwriter, NOE broke into the business in 2005 after relocating from Baltimore to New York City in search of a record deal. With a flow and cadence similar to Jay-Z, NOE struggled to break through, but he found plenty of work as a songwriter.
NOE also caught the eye of Dipset CEO Jim Jones, who quickly added NOE to his Brydgang crew. He’s released ten studio projects, written countless songs for superstar artists, and appeared in a few film and television roles. You may not hear much new NOE music these days, but trust and believe he’s continuing to work out his pen, writing for today’s top artists.
Arguably Baltimore’s most promising female emcee, Rye Rye, has been making waves throughout the music and film industry for over a decade. After leaving a verse on Baltimore’s own Blaqstarr’s answering machine, she began working closely with Blaqstarr and M.I.A. and produced the smash club hit Shake It To The Ground in 2006.
Since then, she’s collaborated with M.I.A., Asher Roth, Far East Movement, and Bassnectar, and she appeared in the hit 2012 comedy 21 Jump Street.
Baltimore native Rome Cee was born to a military family, so he did quite a bit of traveling as a youngster before settling in Baltimore and attending Walbrook High. He dropped out of school to pursue a career in music, and in the early 2010s, he was generating a massive buzz in Baltimore thanks to solid albums and collaborations with some of hip-hop’s greatest artists.
His last project, The Extra Mile, was a collaborative album with legendary New York emcee Sean Price, and it was voted 2011’s best album by Baltimore City Paper.
Patron the DepthMC
One of Baltimore's most gifted and interesting artists, Patron the DepthMC, was a bit late to the party. He didn’t discover his musical abilities until late in his high school career, beginning to play the saxophone and later the piano at age 16. He was also a gifted athlete and parlayed his running ability into a scholarship to study medicine at the prestigious Columbia Union College.
Patron showed his ability as a gifted piano player and embarked on tours throughout Japan and Europe. After returning home, he released his first hip-hop mixtape, 2012’s With Character, on which he wrote and recorded every beat while also handling vocal duties. Music is far from Patron’s only gift, and he retired from music in 2015 to pursue a career as a screenwriter.
One of the brightest stars in the hip-hop underground, Ill Conscious has been making a name for himself since 2007. With comparisons to hip-hop greats such as AZ, 2pac, and Talib Kwali, this lyrically gifted emcee has generated a sustained buzz among underground hip-hop lovers, and he’s also collaborated with some of the brightest emcees in the game.
Outside of the U.S., he’s worked tirelessly to build a fanbase in places like Paris and Chile. His latest studio project, Acres of Diamonds, illustrates that this hip-hop luminary is only getting started.
Top Rappers From Baltimore, Final Thoughts
As you can see, there are a ton of talented emcees who call Baltimore their home. From icons like Tupac and Lloyd Banks to underground artists like Bossman and Rye Rye, the list of the best rappers in Baltimore is quite long. Be sure to check out some of these iconic artists today.