THE HIP-HOP HISTORY OF
The D.C. Area
with Wale
THE RICH HISTORY OF HIP-HOP IN
The D.C. Area
with Wale

VOICES OF THE DMV

Though the DMV only came to prominence in 2010 as a nickname that covers the District of Columbia (D), Maryland (M) and Virginia (V), it’s a region that’s had a rich musical heritage for decades. Its hip-hop roots formed in the 1980s, but played a backseat to the area’s homegrown go-go music, a hybrid of percussion and call-and-response chants, with credit given to the late “Godfather of Go-Go” Chuck Brown leading the charge.

One of D.C.’s top go-go acts, The Junk Yard Band, released its first single “The Word/Sardines” via Def Jam in 1986, the first glimmer of the region’s potential. From go-go, talents such as the late Fat Rodney, D.C. Scorpio, Tony Blunt and Stinky Dink were born. As the ‘80s crept into the mid-‘90s, the DMV’s focus turned to lyrics, giving way to acts like Infinite Loop, 3LG, the Amphibians crew and the legendary Freestyle Union.

Founded by Ms. Toni Blackman, the Freestyle Union was built around “cyphers” where MCs could showcase their abilities. Some of the area’s best are Union alumni, including members of the Amphibians, the late Akil Nadir of Dirty Water and Grammy-nominated MC and producer Kokayi. The Wu-Tang Clan-affiliated collective known as Tha Beggaz, led by late rapper/producer Father Lord, was formidable in its own right. The battle-tested freestyle legend Fong Sai U went on to work with Black Thought of the legendary Roots crew.

Today, the DMV’s landscape is varied. With acts like Gaithersburg, Logic, Oddisee, Los and Pusha T, its mainstream representation is more diverse than ever. Wale is regarded as the DMV’s most vocal champion, and has enjoyed a fruitful career that culminated into two major label record deals. (His devotion to go-go remains one of his hallmarks.)

Women in DMV hip-hop are sadly underrepresented. However, credit should be given to Blackmon for being the first hip-hop cultural envoy to travel with the State Department. Along with the Union, she also founded the all-female Daughters of the Cipher collective. Kamilah Forbes, a former rapper of the duo Chi Garden in the ‘90s, is now the executive director of the Apollo Theatre. Rising acts such as Jay Mills, the Hippie Like Krew’s Pinky KillaCorn, Ra The MC and Tarica June give hope that a resurgence will soon happen to even out the gender imbalance.

Younger acts like Shy Glizzy and Wale’s MMG label mate Fat Trel have enraptured fans with their unapologetic street opuses. GoldLink, Chaz French, Ras Nebyu, Uno Hype, Young Money Yawn and others straddle between traditional hip-hop and other genres, while DJs like The Soul Controllers, Funkregulata Celo, DJ Iran, DJ RBI and DJ Quicksilver have been the sonic gateway for many DMV acts. There is an unyielding pride present in the current crop of artists willing to cross state lines to collaborate and solidify the DMV’s place in the annals of hip-hop. The DMV flag waves higher than ever, and a new generation of artists coupled with the region’s grizzled veterans are pressing forward to make certain the area garners the respect it rightly deserves.

D.L. Chandler



Video
Wale's Tour of Washington D.C.

Follow along as Wale revisits his area of the DMV and performs an intimate concert for his hometown fans.

'Pretty Girls' Live

Watch the crowd go wild for Wale at his 1800 Back to the Block show.

Historic Hip-Hop Locales
Timeline
10
G.O.A.T. Chart
The DMV's Top 5 Rappers of All Time
in The D.C. Area

Combining the powers of D.C., Maryland and Virginia, the DMV scene has given rise to some of the most influential artists in modern hip-hop. Check out the region’s top 5 artists, based on their performance on Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs chart*.

1
Missy Elliott
Top Song: “Hot Boyz” feat. Nas, Eve & Q-Tip (1999)
The Portsmouth, VA native launched her career co-writing and producing hits for then-budding R&B stars like Aaliyah and 702. While her trend-setting 1997 debut Supa Dupa Fly hosted classics like "The Rain," Elliot became a chart-topper thanks to 1999's "Hot Boyz" with Nas, Eve and Q-Tip which peaked at no. 1, which heated up the charts at 18 weeks. 2002's "Work It" also worked the top spot for 12 weeks, followed by her Ludacris collaboration "Gossip Folks," which peaked at no. 2 in 2003.
2
Wale
Top Song: “Lotus Flower Bomb” feat. Miguel (2012)
Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Maryland, Wale's local fame began to bubble up with his first release to secure airplay called "Rhyme of the Century." His 2008 Interscope debut Attention Deficit followed several years later, but it wasn't until after his second studio set, 2011's Ambition that helped him shine on the charts. His love note to the ladies "Lotus Flower Bomb" featuring Miguel hit no. 3 in 2012, while the posse cut "Bag of Money" with Rozay, Meek Mill and T-Pain also claimed the third spot in 2012. His 2013 gem "Bad," which initially featured Tiara Thomas before getting the remix treatment from Rihanna, peaked at no. 3 as well.
3
Pharrell Williams
Top Song: "Drop It Like It’s Hot" w/ Snoop Dogg (2004)
The genre-hopping Virginia vet has been in hip-hop circles since his days as the songwriting/ production duo The Neptunes with longtime friend Chad Hugo. The former frontman of N.E.R.D. went on to flourish as a soloist, landing no. 1 hits as both a feature (his Snoop Dogg collaboration "Drop It Like It's Hot" hit No. 1 in 2004 and remained there for 10 weeks) and lead artist. His crossover smash "Happy" also ruled the charts for 14 weeks at no. 1 on the Hot 100 in 2014.
4
Clipse
Top Song: "When The Last Time" (2002)
Real-life brothers, Gene "No Malice" Thornton and Terrence "Pusha T" Thornton, emerged from Virginia Beach with street raps as the duo known as Clipse. With the Neptunes on production, their 2002 debut Lord Willin' put Clipse on the map with "Grindin'," which peaked at no. 8. Their second single off the set called "When The Last Time" hit no. 7 in 2002 as well. Today, both No Malice and Pusha T continue their rap careers individually.
5
Pusha T
Top Song: "Mercy" w/ Kanye, Big Sean, 2 Chainz (2012)
While successful as one-half of the rap duo Clipse, the Virginia rep also found solo success. Before he was the president of G.O.O.D. Music, Kanye West’s signee experienced chart glory as a feature on the Def Jam imprint’s posse cut “Mercy” -- which rocked the no. 1 spot for nine weeks in 2012 -- and 2014's Future-led banger “Move That Doh,” which peaked at no. 5. The self-proclaimed King Push also hit No. 9 in 2010 as a guest on West’s “Runaway.”
*This ranking is based on actual performance on Billboard's weekly Hot Rap Songs chart, from the chart’s inception in the March 11, 1989, issue through the chart dated March 26, 2016. Rankings are based on an inverse point system, with weeks at No. 1 having the greatest value and weeks at lower positions proportionately less. Due to various changes in chart rules, chart length and methodology through the years, songs had varying reigns at No. 1 and on the chart. To ensure equitable representation of the biggest hits from all years, certain time frames were weighted to account for the difference in turnover rates from those periods.
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