California Ranks as Second Most Influential State for Rap History

Fact Checked by Thomas Leary

The discussion regarding who are the best rappers of all time has been a huge topic across the music industry for years. decided to take a break from California sportsbooks and embrace this conversation by examining which states have impacted the genre the most by producing the largest number of top rappers.  

In order to do this, used Billboard’s 2023 list of the “50 Greatest Rappers of All Time” that was created in honor of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary and considered an artist’s body of work, career achievements, cultural impact, longevity, lyrics and flow. We then found the origin state of each member of the list to determine the most influential states for rap.

States With the Most Top 50 Rappers

Overall RankState # of Rappers in Top 50% of Rappers in Top 50
1New York 23 46%
2 California 7 14%
3 Georgia 510%
4 New Jersey 36%
T5 Virginia 24%
T5 Texas 24%
T5 Illinois24%

Ice-T and E-40 Get Things Started

While rap originated in New York, the development of hip-hop culture in California was not far behind. This could end up being the same with California betting apps, as they are not yet legal like New York, but could follow in the near future.

At first, the West Coast sound stayed largely regionalized before breaking into the mainstream consciousness in the mid-to-late 80s.   

One of the original stars of West Coast hip-hop, Ice-T was the first California-based rapper to make Billboard’s list, coming in at number 45. Although he was born in New Jersey, Ice-T moved to Los Angeles as an adolescent and came up through the city’s DJ scene. His 1986 single “6 in the Mornin’” launched him to prominence as an innovator of the gangsta rap subgenre, something he continued to explore throughout his career along with heavy metal through his group Body Count.

Appearing at number 41 in the rankings, E-40 has authored one of the longest careers in hip-hop history.  The Vallejo native and Bay Area legend began rapping in the mid-80s, first as a member of The Click, before embarking on a prolific solo journey in the 90's that continues to go on strong.  

His 27th studio album Rule of Thumb was released this year and he has also recorded eight collaboration albums over the years.

Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg Make Appearances

Although best known for his production work, the 40th ranked artist on Billboard’s list, Dr. Dre’s hands can be found all across the rap industry after almost forty years in the game. Hailing from Compton, Dre started as a DJ in the World Class Wreckin’ Cru and then joined the iconic group N.W.A prior to going solo upon its dissolution.  

His first album The Chronic introduced G-funk to a wider audience, and while he subsequently only recorded two more solo albums, he has contributed to albums by more than ten of the other artists in the top 50.

Dre’s fellow N.W.A member Ice Cube finished 18th in the rankings thanks to the strength of his work with the group, as well as his solo career. Cube wrote some of the most powerful verses on N.W.A’s debut album Straight Outta Compton and his first three solo studio albums remain some of the most explosive pieces of West Coast hip-hop ever recorded.  Since the mid-90s, the South Central Los Angeles native has largely turned to acting, though he has still released six albums over the last 25 years.

A protégé of Dr. Dre, Long Beach’s Snoop Dogg sits as the first of three California rappers in Billboard’s top 10. Ranked ninth, Snoop broke out following his guest appearances on The Chronic and the release of his first album Doggystyle eleven moths later.  

Though that remains his best-selling project, his next six studio records all went platinum as well, and while he has not made a platinum album since 2004, his 20th studio album is expected to be out later this year.  

Leave Room For Tupac and Kendrick Lamar

A West Coast icon, fourth ranked Tupac Shakur was actually born in New York City and raised there and in Baltimore, Maryland before moving to the Bay Area as a 17-year-old. But it was in California where Tupac found his voice, starting in the group Digital Underground before quickly pivoting to a solo career.  

All four of his studio albums distributed prior to his September 1996 murder have been recognized as classics, and his several posthumous releases continued to generate new listeners well after his death.

The highest rated California rapper on Billboard’s list, number two Kendrick Lamar is also the most modern ranked artist to come out of the state. Growing up in Compton, Lamar took an interest in hip-hop as a child and began his career in LA’s independent scene as a teenager. His 2012 second album and major label debut Good Kid, M.A.A.D City propelled him to superstardom, which he has since built on by releasing three more critically acclaimed studio albums, including 2017’s Damn that earned him the first Pulitzer Prize for Music given to non-jazz or classical artist. 


Josh Markowitz is a freelance writer for He is a lifelong sports fan with an emphasis on basketball, football, baseball and the scouting/evaluation process. A graduate of Elon University's School of Communications, Josh also has experience in television production.

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