The term ‘lil’ is synonymous within Hip Hop culture used by an artist of small stature, youth or out of tradition. For the record, the first rapper in Hip Hop history under the Lil guise was Lil Rodney C from the rap group Funky 4 + 1 who were active as a group during the late 70s. Today we have over 100 lil rappers which is evidence of the popularity the name holds which continues to grow.
The moniker ‘lil’ meaning little today is used out of tradition as opposed to its small & youthful connotation as we have many examples of artists such as Lil Wayne aged 37 or lil flip at 6 foot tall who clearly don’t fit the description of the term yet still go by lil.
Out of the lil rappers it would be the commercial success of Lil Kim and Lil Cease to spark the cultural trickle effect. Each of the lil rappers on our editorial has played a significant part of hip-hop culture which we are going to detail below.
Here are the culture changing Lil Rappers
Contribution to Hip Hop: Timeless hit records from the golden Era!
Younger cousin to Notorious Big and official member of Junior Mafia, Lil Cease gained mainstream attention with the intro verse on the Players Anthem. Constantly named dropped by Big would convert the world’s attention to the young MC at the time who used this new found fame and attention to display his skill and assist in creating some of Hip Hops biggest tracks such as Can I Get Wit’cha & Crush on you! Cease also had a distinctive voice which set him apart from many MC’s during the 90s.
Contribution to Hip Hop: Helped popularize the Atlanta Crunk Sound
The self-proclaimed prince of Crunk Music Lil scrappy helped play a huge role in ensuring the Hip Hop sub-genre gained the respect and attention it deserved.
Scrappy was amongst one of the first signees to lil John’s BME record label due to his strong presence on stage, fan base throughout Atlanta and various underground mixtapes. From 2003 – 2007 Lil Scrappy helped shaped Crunk Music which is a pivotal part of Atlanta Hip Hop.
Contribution to Hip Hop: Crunk Music & multiple producer credits
Without a shadow of doubt Lil John was the face of Crunk Music and is credited for its mainstream success.
Though Crunk music initially traces back to the mid-90s it was not until 2002 that the genre began to become recognized worldwide with hits such as Get Low, What U Gon’ Do & Get Crunk. Aside from being the face of the genre Lil John also has an extensive production discography further cementing Crunk Music in hip hop! You cannot say the word Crunk without thinking Lil John! In a lil rappers list he is one of the most prominent figures.
Contribution to Hip Hop: Helped popularize Chicago Drill
Lil Durks initial beginnings trace back to Chicago Drill, a sub-genre of Hip-Hop Music used to describe the violent lifestyle of gang members from low income neighborhoods. While Lil Durk released mixtapes during his beginning phase in drill he has achieved much mainstream success and crossover appeal with more melodic songs.
Durk continues to grow as an artist by experimenting with different sounds and autotune while keeping his lyrical content and vocals gritty.
Contribution to Hip Hop: At the forefront of Hip Hops new preferred melodic style of Rap.
Lil Baby is one of the most prominent artists in Hip Hop today having gained fame and notoriety after the release of Drip too Hard.
Currently signed too Quality Control Music being a label predominantly consisting of southern artists has released hit music such as yes indeed & Southside under the label. Lil Baby’s star appeal comes from his melodic driven hooks and vibe which embody the new style of Hip Hop.
Young thug has gone on to praise lil babys vocal style and melody constantly throughout his career while also being a frequent music collaborator. Without question Lil Baby is one to watch out for over the next few years.
Contribution to Hip Hop: Set the blueprint for cloud rap ideologies
From day 1 Lil B’s stance was not to be accepted by the mainstream Hip Hop community, rather his strategy was to create a lane for himself regardless as to what tastemakers and gatekeepers thought. Known for his off-beat songs and awkward lyrics the artist managed to amass a following worldwide due to his unapologetic presence.
Culturally Lil B shaped the foundation of cloud rap which is often described as hazy sounding music while also putting efforts to creating a cult like following around the base God movement.
Lil Bow Wow
Contribution to Hip Hop: Opened the doors for young rappers to be accepted in Hip Hop
Bow wows career began in 1993 in which the young artist at the time performed live at a concert in LA who was noticed by Snoop Dog for his talent. Snoop then proceeded to give him the official name Lil Bow Wow.
Following on from this Lil Bow wow would appear on snoop’s debut album Doggystyle and make several guest appearances for years to come.
Lil bow wow (Now Bow Wow) opened doors for many young artists to be accepted within hip hop culture. Prior to him there were not many young artists within the genre, however the success of Bow wow allowed the masses to accept younger talented MC’s.
Contribution to Hip Hop: Helped popularize the Houston Chopped and screwed sound
While Lil Flip achieved chart success with commercial records such as Sunshine and Game over his main contribution to the Hip Hop game will be helping to popularize the Chopped & Screwed sound. Back in the 90s DJ Screw began a new trend which involved the manipulating of records by slowing down the tempo & changing the vocal style. Flip being a part of the Screwed Up Click led by DJ Screw would feature on many underground mixtapes and being one of the most famous artists to come from Houston would inevitably mean shedding light to the sound!
Lil Uzi Vert
Contribution to Hip Hop: Creating some of the biggest emo rap songs to date.
Uzi’s star appeal is connected to his face tattoos, facial piercing, statement hairstyles and fashion sense which garnered the attention of the public. The unique non-traditional Hip Hop look placed Uzi in a different lane during his come up which is the same approach the artist took into making music. Uzi being at the forefront of emo rap can be credited for its popularity and constant development.
XO Tour Llif3 will be marked in history as one of the most successful albums to come from the emo rap sub-genre which can be defined as intentionally avoiding traditional Hip Hop production and direction.
Contribution to Hip Hop: Lil Dicky’s ability to story tell sets him apart from most of his peers.
Lil Dicky’s music takes a comedic approach to carefully story tell his past life experiences while also using his platform to raise awareness on global issues with songs such as earth.
While Lil Dicky comes across as a playful harmless rapper, he also uses his platform to speak on serious issues. The best thing about it Is his lyrical ability, he can actually rap!
Contribution to Hip Hop: Being one of the first female rappers to gain commercial success worldwide allowed her to break barriers for other upcoming female mcs.
While Hip Hop is predominantly a male driven genre Lil Kim burst into the scene with sex appeal & confidence regardless of being outnumbered in a male industry. Simply put, Kim set the blueprint for female mcs to be free to express themselves.
Prior to Queen Bee there were not many female mcs which allowed Kim to create a lane for herself. The Notorious Big protégé changed the game for women by expressing sexual explicitly lyrics while maintaining a bravado demeaner similar to how men presented themselves in music. This confidence put the spotlight on Kim for years to come.
Contribution to Hip Hop: Wayne’s contributions to Hip Hop are endless however the most notable ones are the introduction of Drake, Nicki Minaj and young money. Multiple hit records and a whole generation of rappers influenced by his unique style, flow, and cadence.
Wayne being the most successful lil on the list has had a career spanning over 20 years, achieved multiple music awards and continues to embed in our minds that his self-proclaimed best rapper alive tag might just be true.
While Wayne has been rapping since the late 90s as a teen it wasn’t until the rapper started creating memorable mixtapes which allowed him to showcase his skill and allow himself to be creative without any constraints. Theres no way you can have a lil rappers list without the biggest one of them all.
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