Black Sheep

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Brand Nubian

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Big Daddy Kane

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Lil Kim

A native of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, Lil' Kim was raised by her parents until they split up when she was nine years old. Her rhyming skills came to the attention of Biggie Smalls, who helped her cultivate her career. Smalls recruited her as a member of Junior M.A.F.I.A., and Kim was a key part of the group's hit debut single, "Player's Anthem." Kim also made a big impression on the remainder of Junior M.A.F.I.A.'s 1995 debut album, Conspiracy. Following its release, Kim appeared on records by Mona Lisa, the Isley Brothers, Total, and Skin Deep. For her debut album, she worked with a variety of producers, including Sean "Puffy" Combs, High Class, Jermaine Dupri, and Ski. The result, Hard Core, was released in late 1996. As the album's title implies, Kim was a rarity among female rappers -- one who not only concentrated on edgy hardcore rap but also explicit sexuality, two territories that had long been the province of male rappers. Kim's near-pornographic lyrics and hard-edged rhythms made her an anomaly within hip-hop, but Hard Core proved that she was no novelty, as it garnered positive reviews and strong sales, debuting at number 11 on the pop charts. The first single from the album, "No Time," a duet with Sean "Puffy" Combs, became a number-one rap single. The platinum-certified Notorious K.I.M. followed in 2000, peaking at number four on the Billboard 200 and topping the R&B/Hip-Hop chart. Moulin Rouge's "Lady Marmalade" kept her on the charts and in the pop consciousness in 2001, becoming a worldwide hit. In 2003, Kim issued her third platinum album, La Bella Mafia, which peaked at number five.

With her hardcore posturing and sexually explicit rhymes, rapper Lil' Kim blazed a trail for other like-minded and liberated female MCs in the '90s and beyond. Beginning with her 1996 debut Hard Core, she notched a trio of platinum-certified albums and scored a global number-one hit in 2001 with "Lady Marmalade," a high-profile collaboration with Christina Aguilera, P!nk, and Mya. Parting ways with major labels, she remained independent in the coming years, issuing a handful of mixtapes and branching out to television, appearing on Dancing with the Stars in 2009. After over a decade without a new album, her fifth studio full-length 9 materialized in 2019.

Fat Joe

One of the rap industry's first Latino superstars, South Bronx native Fat Joe climbed to the top of the game one album at a time during the '90s. Each one of the Puerto Rican-Cuban rapper's successive albums during that decade, including Jealous One's Envy (1995) and Don Cartagena (1998), did progressively better on the Billboard charts. Furthermore, he attained more clout by helping to break Big Pun ("Still Not a Player") in a major way, executive producing and appearing on the late rapper's own hit albums. Fat Joe continued to scale the charts in the 2000s, during which time he moved further into the pop market than ever before, earning Grammy nominations for a collaboration with Ashanti ("What's Luv?," 2001) and as a member of Terror Squad (the number one hit "Lean Back," 2004). Although Joe wasn't as prolific during his third decade of activity, he retained his pop appeal, especially through continued work beside fellow Terror Squad member Remy Ma, exemplified by "All the Way Up" (2016), yet another Grammy-nominated recording. He closed out the 2010s with Family Ties (2019), co-billed with Dre (of Cool & Dre), one of his many high-profile and long-term production associates (along with the likes of Diamond D, DJ Premier, and Scott Storch). In 2021, Fat Joe returned to the spotlight with "Sunshine (The Light)," a collaborative single with Amorphous and DJ Khaled.  

By the late '90s, Fat Joe had moved to major-label Atlantic and tried his hand at non-musical career ventures such as opening a clothing store and a barber shop and developing a fashion line. In addition, he signed a production and distribution deal with Atlantic for Mystic Entertainment, a boutique label he ran with partner Big Greg. Fat Joe's first major-label album, 1998's Don Cartagena, featured the debut of his group Terror Squad, cameo appearances by the likes of Puff Daddy and Nas, and became his first album to reach the Top Ten of the Billboard 200. It was followed up in 2001 with Jealous Ones Still Envy (J.O.S.E.), supported by the number 15 pop hit "We Thuggin'" (with R. Kelly) and "What's Luv?" (an Ashanti duet), the latter of which narrowly missed the top spot and was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. After the 2002 album Loyalty, Terror Squad scored big with the club-friendly "Lean Back." Fronted by Joe and Remy Ma, it topped the Hot 100 and earned another Grammy nomination, this one for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.Update Fat Joe and Kim.

Boosie Badazz

Louisiana rapper Boosie Badazz took his raw, uncut style from deep underground circles to mainstream success over the course of a long, winding career arc. After starting out rapping in the '90s as part of a collective called Concentration Camp, he was taken under the wing of Pimp C as a solo artist. Throughout the 2000s and beyond, Boosie's acclaim grew as he moved into the big leagues on major-label-funded albums like 2010's Incarcerated.

Originally known as Lil' Boosie, Boosie Badazz's hard Southern style comes from growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. An appearance on C-Loc's 2000 It's a Gamble, became Boosie's debut. He soon released the full-length CD Youngest of da Camp on his own. His big breakthrough began when he joined Pimp C's Trill Entertainment camp. He was paired with fellow Trill artist Webbie for the 2003 release Ghetto Stories and again for 2004's Gangsta Musik, which featured the first appearance of Webbie's future hit "Give Me That." Trill then worked a deal with the Warner Bros.-associated Asylum, and both Webbie and Boosie were now on a major label.

Brent Faiyaz

International style icon & enigmatic R&B sensation, Brent Faiyaz solidifies himself as an artist for any era. Nearly two-years since his “Lost EP” Faiyaz re-emerges from his hiatus with a fine-tuned grasp on his craft. The unapologetic 10-track “Fuck The World” Seamlessly weaves from rude sex and champagne-soaked nights, to sensitive ideas about legacy, world issues, and the price of fame.

Kendrick Lamar

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