East Coast, West Coast, and Dirty South: these three regions have dominated hip-hop music for the past three decades. However, Washington, DC, and the DMV areas have quietly carved out a niche for themselves as springboards for some of the best and most unique rappers. Here are the best Washington, DC rappers.
In the DMV hip-hop community, it doesn’t get bigger than Wale. The DC native is an international star and has collaborated with some of the biggest stars in the world, including Lady Gaga and Rihanna. Two of his albums – “The Gifted” and “The Album About Nothing” – reached number one on the Billboard 200.
Wale first achieved name recognition when The Source Magazine listed him under its “Unsigned Hype” section in 2006 – a who’s-who of fledgling rappers yet to sign a record deal. Within two years, Wale signed a deal with Interscope Records and was on his way to hip-hop stardom.
Some of Wale’s most notable songs are “Pretty Girls,” “Bad” featuring Tiara Thomas and its remix with Rihanna, and his featured guest verse on Waka Flocka Flame’s megahit “No Hands.”
Don’t tell Logic he’s not the best rapper from the DMV. While the Maryland native often gives Wale the respect he’s due; he proclaimed himself “the biggest rapper” from the DC area.
Logic’s career took off in the early 2010s with his “Young Sinatra” mixtape series. The Def Jam Recordings company was paying attention and signed him to a record deal. His first two albums, “Under Pressure” and “The Incredible True Story,” both were Billboard 200-charting albums.
Logic became a bonafide rap superstar with his 2017’s release, “Everybody.” It was the number-one album in the country and spawned the hit single and his signature song, “1-800-273-8255,” featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid.
Cordae (previously YNB Cordae) is following in Wale’s footsteps as the next superstar rapper from the DMV. In 2019, the Maryland rapper dropped his debut studio album, “The Lost Boy,” which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album and Best Song for “Bad Idea.”
It was a stunning success for a kid who was 22 years old. People began talking about Cordae as the next great intergenerational rapper, and he soon began collaborating with the best artists in hip-hop music.
Cordae’s 2022 follow-up album “ From a Bird’s Eye View” cemented his status as hip-hop royalty, and it attracted artists like Eminem, Lil Wayne, Lil Durk, Gunna, and Roddy Rich to hop on for featured guest verses. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Cordae is not just one of the best rappers from the DMV but one of the best rappers, period.
GoldLink is right at the top of the list of best rappers from the DMV, along with Wale, Logic, and YBN Cordae. He rose to prominence in 2015 after his selection to the XXL Freshman Class.
GoldLink is most famous for his signature 2016 song, “Crew,” featuring fellow DC rapper Shy Glizzy and singer Brent Faiyaz. The song reached number 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rap/Sung Performance.
In 2018 GoldLink earned his second Grammy nomination after teaming up with pop singer Christina Aguilera for the song “Like I Do.” His first two studio albums, “Diaspora” and “At What Cost,” charted on the Billboard 200.
Shy Glizzy, aka Jefe, has been building a steady buzz in the national hip-hop scene for the past decade, and his career is still on the upswing. The DMV rapper came to prominence in 2012 with the release of his mixtape “Law,” featuring fellow DMV rapper Wale and hip-hop legend Project Pat.
Jefe’s signature song is the 2014 hit “Awwsome,” an anthem of self-celebration. The track hit number 45 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart, and A-list rappers 2 Chainz and A$AP Rocky hopped on the remix – the ultimate sign of respect in hip-hop.
XXL Magazine selected Shy Glizzy for the prestigious Freshman Class in 2015, putting him on the path to national acclaim. The following year, fellow DC rapper GoldLink recruited him for the Grammy-nominated song “Crew.”
Fat Trel brings a gangster swagger to the DMV hip-hop scene. The Falls Church, Virginia rapper has been a steady force in the music scene since 2009, consistently releasing a mixtape every year and building a buzz with viral videos like “My Bruvas,” “Rest in Peace,” and the hit “Mo Trilla.”
Fat Trel is perhaps most famous for his 2012 collaboration with Chicago rapper Chief Keef on “Russian Roulette,” a gangster rap classic. The song likely caught the attention of superstar rapper Rick Ross, who signed Trel to his Maybach Music Group company in 2013.
In recent years Fat Trel has been plagued by legal troubles and has been in and out of jail, bringing his lyrics of drugs, violence, and crime to real life.
IDK (ignorantly delivering knowledge) is yet another DMV rapper who appears destined for greatness. The London-born rapper represents Prince George’s County, Maryland, and has been on the scene since 2015. His notable songs include “Just Like Martin,” “Digital,” and “24.” In 2021 he collaborated with rapper Offset of Migos for the song “Shoot My Shot.”
Oddisee has built a cult following in the DMV for his original style, eschewing the violence, drugs, and guns that permeate the lyrics in much of DC’s hip-hop.
The rapper is closer to a conscious-rap style than anything else, and he attributes inspiration to rappers from the Golden Era of Hip Hop on the East Coast, like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul.
Oddisee first came to prominence with the release of his mixtape “Rock Creek Park” in 2011, followed by several full-length studio albums. His 2017 album “The Iceberg” is arguably his finest work to date.
Chaz French is a DMV legend and frequent collaborator with fellow DC rappers. With a voice and flow similar to Tory Lanez, he gained popularity in 2014 with his first mixtape, “Happy Belated,” and soon was touring with Wale and making music with GoldLink. French signed to the legendary Motown Records and released a full-length studio album, “True Colors,” in 2017.
Q Da Fool
Hailing from Largo, Maryland, Q Da Fool is an up-and-coming DMV rapper who earned the respect of one of the greatest rappers of all time. Jay-Z signed Q Da Fool to Roc Nation in 2018, putting the hip-hop world on notice that he had discovered the next great rapper.
Q Da Fool delivers a gritty, gangster-rap style that rivals the modern Drill Music coming out of Chicago and New York. Some of his notable songs are “Fax,” “Numbers,” “For Real,” and “Right There.” The Washington Post included Fool’s song “Numbers” on its 2017 rundown of the best DMV rap songs.
If you’re trying to get a feel for what DMV rap music is all about, listen to Phil Adé’s catalog. The Maryland rapper employs an easy-going flow with complex lyrical dexterity, with verses that seem to go on forever. In his young career, he has collaborated with many of the DMV heavyweights like Wale and GoldLink.
Chelly the MC
Along with Rico Nasty, Chelly the MC is the hottest female rapper to emerge from the DMV. Chelly came to prominence with her 2013 song “Set Em Up.” Her most successful song to date is “Northeast Baby,” a swaggering anthem that took over the DMV airwaves in 2017.
Tabbi Boney is on the shortlist of DMV rappers who released music that became a national hit. His ubiquitous 2007 song “The Pocket” was on MTV Jams and streaming services, introducing the hip-hop community at large to the DMV. The Langdon Park rapper’s playful reference to someone putting you in the pocket became popular hip-hop lingo.
With a boyish presence and voice, Xanman brings youthful energy to the DMV rap community. His delivery has a soft, harmonious sound that masks the gritty content of his lyrics. The Washington Post praised his 2018 song “Many Men” with Lil Dude, calling it one of the best DMV rap songs of 2018. Xanman’s most popular song is the 2019 track “Gucci Down.”
Yung Manny’s name is quite accurate – the Maryland rapper was born in 2003 and has been putting out music since he was 15. With a voice well beyond his years, the rapper’s gritty lyrics and glamorization of violence might remind some of a young Bobby Shmurda. His 2018 song “Moana” made the Washington Post list of the best DMV rap songs.
Ras Nebyu is a DC-based rapper of Ethiopian heritage. He founded a group of musicians called the Washington Slizzards, a play on the name of the local Washington Wizards N.B.A. team. Nebyu, who calls himself the Thunda Man, puts out rap music with deep, thought-provoking lyrics and frequently collaborates with fellow DMV rappers.
Will the Rapper
Will the Rapper is from the hood, and he wants you to know about it. The DC rapper has put out some of the hardest trap music from the DMV over the past decade, describing a world of gang-related violence. He signed to Republic Records in 2017 and collaborated with hip-hop A-lister Gucci Mane on the 2017 song “Pull Up, Hop Out (remix).”
Fans of DMV hip-hop learned about Ciscero from his frequent collaborations with GoldLink. The Prince George’s County, Maryland rapper has a soft, soulful style that stands out in an area flooded with hardcore gangster rap music. Some of his notable songs are “Good To Know,” featuring Masego, KP, and Ambriia, and his collaboration with GoldLink on “Fall in Love.”
Shabazz PBG has one of the most distinctive voices to emerge from the DMV. His growling, gravelly voice sounds like someone pissed him off, and he’s ready to retaliate. The rapper gained recognition for his 2016 song “If You Need It,” but his most popular track to date is the 2019 collaborative effort “Shells” with Lil Uzi Vert.
When hip-hop legend Diddy gave his stamp of approval to up-and-coming rapper Black Fortune, the DMV took notice. The Maryland rapper started buzzing in 2018 with the release of his song “OsshWop.” He followed that up with the viral song “Gorillaz” in 2019. In his young career, he has collaborated with fellow DMV rappers Wale and Xanman.
MoneyMarr is another precocious DMV rapper who broke out as a young teenager. His 2016 hit “Whip Out The Stick” is trap music on steroids, complete with a music video of the young rappers waving guns around in a threatening manner. His star continues to rise, and he is one of the next great rappers from the DMV.
Female MCs continue to gain a larger share of the hip-hop pie, and the DMV is no exception. Maryland native Rico Nasty is one of the music industry's most creative and distinct rappers today.
With her raspy voice, guttural screams, and provocative image, she has gained a cult following among rap devotees. She incorporates a variety of musical styles in her rap, with elements of trap, punk, and metal.
Nasty’s most popular songs include “Smack a Bitch” and “Poppin,” while her best full-length release to date is the 2019 mixtape “Anger Management.” She has only been rapping since 2018 but has the music catalog of a hip-hop veteran. Her promising career is just getting started.
DC rapper Noochie is the latest in a string of rising rappers from the DMV to secure a major label record deal after signing with Atlantic Records. His breakout song was the 2016 track “Gutta,” and he has gone on to collaborate with the likes of Rich Homie Quan and Jazzy Pha.
Top Washington DC Rappers, Final Thoughts
Rappers from the DMV have introduced the world to a unique and eclectic hip-hop style, with flows ranging from hardcore trap to thoughtful, conscious rap.
While most people have heard of heavyweights like Wale and Logic, there is a flourishing underground community of some of the best Washington DC rappers who are on the verge of stardom – including teenagers without previous experience.