Kentucky is known for many things, from fried chicken to horse racing to bourbon. Most people don’t realize Kentucky is also home to some of the best up-and-coming rap artists in the game.
Read on as we take a look at the best rappers from Kentucky.
Lexington, Kentucky’s Rubi Rose has carved out a lane for herself as one of the leading ladies in hip-hop. Rubi caught her first break as the main model in Migos’ video for Bad and Boujie. To keep herself in the public eye, she regularly appeared on DJ Akademiks' twitch streams, sometimes attracting hundreds of thousands of users.
Capitalizing on the success of her public appearances, she released her first mixtape, For The Streets, in 2020, which featured collaborations with PartyNextDoor and Future. The following year, she was featured in the 2021 XXL Freshman issue alongside 42 Dugg and Pooh Shiesty. With new music on the horizon, the future seems bright for Rubi Rose.
Hailing from the Clarksdale Projects in Louisville NOY Lexington, EST Gee has quickly become one of the best rappers from Kentucky. Before finding rap music, EST Gee was a standout football star and attended Indiana State University before playing briefly for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL. Realizing there was more out there for him than football, he turned to music.
EST Gee began releasing music in 2017 and built a buzz thanks to his breakout track, Stains. His 2020 mixtape Ion Feel Nun and the follow-up I Still Don’t Feel Nun helped cement EST Gee as one of the best rappers in Kentucky. His first official LP, I Never Felt Nun arrived in September 2022 to great fanfare, and he’s poised to set the rap game on fire in 2023.
Troy Money of Bowling Green, Kentucky, was introduced to street life at a young age. With his father behind bars for his entire childhood, Troy spent much of his time in the streets, learning about life the hard way. A gifted high school athlete, Troy Money had a shot at going pro but had trouble applying himself in school. Instead, he turned to music.
Troy began putting out mixtapes and generating a local buzz in Kentucky. While a run-in with the law sidelined his music dreams momentarily, Troy Money is back to putting out heat. In the summer of 2022, he released his Cheap Phones and Turkey Bags project with Starlito, which features appearances from EST Gee and Don Trip.
Another young rapper coming from Louisville, Lil 30, has only been in the game a short while, but he’s spent each second leaving his mark on the city. Since entering the rap game in 2021, you can count on Lil 30 to drop a new single each month, with an accompanying video shot by friend and videographer Flacko.
Louisville’s 2K Baby is one of the most promising new artists hailing from Kentucky, and in his short career, he’s already produced some of the biggest hits to ever come from the state. 2K Baby first began rapping at age 15, recording a self-shot video for his song Old Streets. Within months, the video had taken off, and it was clear that 2K Baby had a future in the business.
Following the success of Old Streets, he released his first full-length project, Pregame Rituals, in 2020. Pregame Rituals was an instant hit, featuring songs like Faxts and Old Soul, which featured G Herbo. Not one to rest on his success, 2K Baby followed his successful first project with his latest album, First Quarter, in 2021.
DaWoyne Lawson, better known as 2forwOyNE, is a Lexington-based rapper and producer and a frequent collaborator of breakout Kentucky rapper Jack Harlow. 2forwOyNE’s first exposure came from behind the scenes, working as the executive producer on several Jack Harlow projects, including one of his first breakout mixtapes, 2017’s Gazebo.
Emerging from behind the scenes, 2forwOyNE released his first project as an artist, 2020’s Growin’ Pains, to critical acclaim. He’s also a member of The Homies, alongside several other producers and emcees, and he’s featured on several tracks on their album, Umbrellas.
Time will tell if 2forwOyNE decides to spend more time behind the boards or in front of them, but he seems poised to succeed regardless of the avenue he chooses.
Deacon the Villain
In Kentucky hip-hop, Louisville, and Lexington get most of the love. Still, there are excellent artists from all over the state, including Deacon the Villain, who calls Versailles, Kentucky, his home. While attending Morehead College, Deacon formed the group CunninLynguists, one of the most legendary crews in underground hip-hop.
Deacon has a lengthy discography of solo works and albums from the CunninLynguists. Away from the mic, Deacon has contributed to many of the culture’s biggest magazines, including XXL and HipHopDX. Deacon is also a close friend of Shaun King and works tirelessly as an activist in support of social justice causes.
One of Louisville’s youngest talents, Heavy Honcho, is quickly rising through the ranks to become one of the best rappers in Kentucky. Honcho’s music centers around growing up hard in Kentucky, and he’s been captivating audiences with his captivating tales of the struggle since 2021.
With tens of thousands of subscribers on YouTube and scores of monthly listeners on streaming services, Heavy Honcho is poised to take over the rap game in the coming years.
Lexington, Kentucky’s RA Scion, has worked tirelessly throughout his career to place himself at the forefront of alternative hip-hop music, and he’s amassed an impressive catalog of his own music while also managing a successful label.
After discovering the Fat Boys in the early 80s, RA Scion decided a career as a rapper was all he wanted, and he began working tirelessly on his craft. After relocating to Seattle, he formed Common Market with DJ and producer Sabzi. All told, he’s put out seven projects and appeared on countless other artists' songs, including the CunninLynguists.
When he isn’t behind the mic, he’s in front of it, managing artists and producing projects for his SCIONtific record label.
Originally from Houston, Vory began to make waves when he relocated to Lexington, Kentucky. A frequent collaborator of Bryson Tiller, he delivers a similar array of flows and has no difficulty transitioning from gritty verses to beautiful vocal melodies in the chorus. His debut full-length album, Lost Souls, arrived in 2022.
Behind the scenes, Vory is also one of the most prolific writers in the game, and his pen won him a Grammy for his work on The Carters’ album Everything is Love. Beyond his work with Beyonce and Jay-Z, he’s also worked with Drake and Rich The Kid.
R. Prophet spent his childhood in Oakland, California, before relocating to Louisville in 1985. While studying at Western Kentucky University, he formed the group Nappy Roots with several classmates.
The group had several smash hits, including Headz Up, Awe Naw, and Po’ Folks, and followed up their platinum-certified debut album with a gold album. After the group went their separate ways, R. Prophet continued rapping and had a relatively successful solo career, which includes the hit with Mannie Fresh, Run Tell the DJ to Crank it.
Born and bred in Lexington, DBenzo is the latest in a long line of artists pushing the boundaries of rap and R&B. DBenzo brings a sonically unique take on what’s becoming somewhat of a signature of Kentucky artists. It’s steeped in track music but with memorable and soulful melodies that stick with you long after the song ends.
Since arriving on the scene in 2020, DBenzo has regularly dropped singles to an engaged and growing audience. His latest, Gang Events featuring Icewear Vezzo, has his fanbase clamoring for a full-length project, which we expect soon.
This Louisville artist arrived in 2017 with his single Change, and he hit the ground running. BBlasian has built a broad following on Soundcloud, offering several singles and a full-length album, Dif, which featured a collaboration with superstar Kentucky rapper Jack Harlow.
BBlasian capitalized on the success of his debut with several singles throughout 2020 and 2021, and he’s poised to release his latest effort, an EP titled BLK & ASN, in 2022.
Louisville native Wuntayk Timmy is another in a long line of lyrically gifted Kentucky emcees with a lot on their mind. He’s one of the more complex artists on this list, and much of his music sounds like it’s built to stand the test of time rather than cater to the trends of the moment.
Timmy’s first release, 2017’s Me, That’s Who!, announced his arrival, and he followed the album with another, Rest When I’m Rich, in 2018. He’s released several mixtapes since, and his latest offering, Mr. Rap, which is an acronym for Make Rappers Rap Again, Please, is sure to solidify him among the elite rappers of Kentucky.
If there’s one Kentucky rapper that’s been on every fan’s mind since he arrived with 2020’s breakout hit What’s Poppin,’ Jack Harlow has put the state on his back and helped shine a light on some of the incredible talent that’s bubbling up in Kentucky.
Jack didn’t waste much time getting started and used a Guitar Hero microphone to record his first raps. His first mixtape was available in middle school, and throughout high school, it wasn’t uncommon to perform sold-out shows at area venues like The Mercury Ballroom and Headliners.
After graduating, Jack continued to write and record, working at Chik-Fil-A to supplement his income. It wasn’t long before Jack linked up with DJ Drama; since then, he’s been on fire. First came collaborations with stars like Bryson Tiller and EST Gee, and then, the meteoric success of What’s Poppin.’
Harlow has followed his initial success with two more albums, That’s What They All Say and Come Home, The Kids Miss You, to commercial acclaim, and he’s netted Billboard and MTV Video Music Awards for his recent work. Still only 24 years old, the young Louisville native has yet to miss.
Ok, so Static Major isn’t a rapper, but he’s done a lot for the black music scene, some of which influenced rap music. This Louisville, Kentucky native was one of the state’s most prolific artists and songwriters in hip-hop history. He caught his first break as a songwriter, penning Ginuwine’s breakout hit Pony. Shortly after, he joined the R&B group Playa and continued to keep his pen sharp, writing for artists ranging from Ginuwine to Aaliyah to Lil Wayne.
Sadly, Static passed too young at age 33 from complications of a medical procedure. He left behind a rich catalog of songs, many of which received posthumous releases. After his passing, collaborations with Drake, Jack Harlow, Lil Wayne, and David Banner were released. He may no longer be with us, but Static Major will be remembered as one of Kentucky’s prolific performers.
Again, more R&B than rap, but another standout performer hailing from Louisville. The Don’t crooner has been one of the biggest names in R&B since releasing his hit album T R A P S O U L in 2014. The record helped catapult Tiller to national stardom, and he captured several BET and BMI awards on his way to the top, along with three Grammy nominations.
After a sophomore slump following the underwhelming response to his follow-up album, True to Self, Tiller returned with another hit, this time with the help of Rihanna and DJ Khaled. Emboldened by the success of Wild Thoughts; Tiller released 2020’s Anniversary and 2022’s Serenity, both to commercial and critical acclaim. Today, he’s one of R&B’s biggest stars.
Top Rappers From Kentucky, Final Thoughts
Not since Atlanta in the early 00s has a state had such a prolific run of excellent new artists. From EST Gee and Bryson Tiller to Rubi Rose and Jack Harlow, many of the best Kentucky rappers are proud to call this state their home.