Hip hop has been a guiding light for many, giving people from all walks of life a platform to express themselves on their terms.
The music genre and cultural movement kicked off in the 1970s in New York and gained widespread popularity from the 1980s onward.
One of hip hop’s defining characteristics has been challenging the status quo, which has dramatically influenced society through the power of lyrics and hypnotic beats.
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With Chinese New Year upon us, we’ve put together a list of 10 artists born in the Year of the Tiger that have made a notable impact in the hip hop community and beyond.
(Editor’s note: We’ve been liberal with the definition of ‘hip hop artist’ and have included some musicians whose music is inspired by hip hop and/or features elements of the genre.)
Image via Chris Gilmore/Flickr
We start our roundup of hip hop tigers with a 2000s legend — Joseph Edgar Foreman.
Better known by his stage name, Afroman, the Los Angeles native built a following after releasing his hit album Because I Got High in 2000 on T-Bones Records. The eponymous song earned him a Grammy nomination for best rap solo performance in 2002.
According to Afroman’s official website, the song lyrics were inspired by “his unwillingness to clean his room” along with other everyday tasks.
Afroman is still active in the music scene and just wrapped up a US tour with his own Hungry Hustler Records last year.
Apart from music, as you could have suspected, Afroman also has a cannabis-centric brand in operation, which offers hemp products for recreation, pain relief, and relaxation.
Image via Wikimedia
Born in Brooklyn, Caswell Senior, known as Casanova, began his rap career in 2016 with the release of his first original song “Don’t Run.”
He was later discovered by Memphis Bleek through his label Warehouse Music Group, which is under Jay-Z’s Roc Nation.
Over the next few years, Casanova pumped out new music and worked with well-known artists like Chris Brown.
In November 2021, American hip hop magazine XXL reported that Casanova was “charged with attempted murder and assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering.” The rapper intends to contest the charges during the trial.
Lavell William Crump — known by his stage name, David Banner (inspired by Dr. David Bruce Banner of the TV series The Incredible Hulk) — has led a successful career as a rapper, record producer, and actor.
In 2003, Banner released his first major-label album, Mississippi: The Album, including the hit single, “Like a Pimp,” which reached No. 48 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
He was awarded for his humanitarian work in Jackson, Mississippi, in response to Hurricane Katrina and has been vocal about the perception of hip hop in America.
In a 2007 testimony before Congress regarding racism and misogyny in hip hop music, Banner said, “I can admit there are some problems in hip hop, but it is only a reflection of what’s taking place in our society. Hip hop is sick because America is sick.”
Image via Depositphotos
Aubrey Drake Graham was born in Toronto and got his first big break on the cult favorite drama series Degrassi: The Next Generation.
Drake started transitioning to music in the late 2000s and would go on to sign a record deal with Lil Wayne’s Young Money Entertainment in 2009.
The Canadian rapper enjoyed chart-topping success with his first full-length studio album Thank Me Later in 2010, and a long list of award-winning songs over the next decade. He was also honored as Artist of the Decade at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards.
Image via The Come Up Show/Flickr
Jack Harlow and the artist below (No. 6) are the two youngest hip hop artists to make our list of tigers.
Harlow has developed an appealing style in his music and lyrics, coming from a place of honesty and a general ‘fu*k it, let’s have fun’ attitude.
Since he began releasing mixtapes in 2011, the 23-year-old’s hip hop career has grown with each new release. His major-label debut mixtape, Loose, was nominated for Best Mixtape at the 2019 BET Hip Hop Awards.
In 2020, he released the single “Whats Poppin,” which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, setting the tone for Harlow’s subsequent explosion in popularity.
Khalid Robinson has made quick work of his short music career so far.
After moving around throughout his childhood due to his parents’ military career, he started writing music in high school and posting his work on SoundCloud. His debut single, “Location,” has over 113 million listens on the music-sharing site.
Primarily an R&B artist with hip hop and pop influences in his music, Khalid received his first five nominations at the Grammy Awards in 2018, including Best New Artist, Best R&B Song (“Location”), Best Urban Contemporary Album (American Teen), Song Of The Year, and Best Music Video.
He also won Top R&B Artist at the 2020 Billboard Music Awards.
Image via reeb0k2008/Flickr
Cornell Iral Haynes Jr., better known as Nelly, took the hip hop world by storm in 2000 with his debut album Country Grammar. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.
Nelly followed up his award-winning debut with Nellyville, which included the hit singles “Hot in Herre” and “Dilemma” featuring Kelly Rowland.
Nelly was a hit factory for the rest of the decade, performing in Super Bowl halftime shows and releasing more chart-topping albums.
He is also an active philanthropist — raising money to send two students to college each year. Following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Nelly helped set up the Mike Brown scholarship.
Solange Knowles — the younger sister of Beyoncé — started her music career in 2001, appearing on the title theme song for Destiny’s Child’s TV series The Proud Family.
Like Khalid, Knowles’ music includes pop and hip hop influences. She released four studio albums between 2002 and 2019 and won her first Grammy award in 2017 for Best R&B Performance.
Aside from having a super fun stage name, Juaquin James Malphurs — better known as Waka Flocka Flame, has been going ‘hard in da paint’ since he signed to 1017 Brick Squad and Warner Bros. Records in 2009.
Born in Queens, Malphurs and his family later moved to Georgia, where he got the nickname Waka from his cousin after the Muppets character Fozzie Bear, and Flocka Flame from rapper Gucci Mane. His mother, Debra Antney, is Mane’s former manager.
Flame’s fiery tracks include the chart-topping single “No Hands” featuring Roscoe Dash and Wale.
In 2015, he announced his candidacy for the 2016 US presidential race on a truly unique platform: legalizing marijuana, banning dogs from entering restaurants, and forbidding people with 13-plus size feet from walking in public. However, his campaign flamed out shortly after.
Alvin Nathaniel Joiner, better known as Xzibit, started rapping at the age of 14 following the passing of his mother.
After moving from New Mexico to Los Angeles, X gradually built a name for himself in the music industry and worked with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and Eminem. His big break came with his third studio album, Restless, which sold more than 1 million copies.
If you grew up watching MTV like us, you know X as the host of the widely popular TV show Pimp My Ride, where a lucky guest would get their car tricked out each episode.
The show lasted six seasons and was a fan favorite among MTV viewers — rating second behind The Real World series.
X is also an important part of early meme culture. Around 2007, an image macro series based on a portrait shot of the hip hop artist went viral.
Cover image via The Come Up Show on Flickr
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