Music Stars Who Started Out in Hip Hop

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A list of famous music stars who got their start in hip hop.


Shawn Corey Carter (born December 4, 1969), better known by his stage name Jay-Z (/ˈdʒeɪ ˈziː/ JAY Z), is an American rapper, songwriter, producer, and entrepreneur. He is one of the best-selling musicians of all time, having sold more than 100 million records while receiving 21 Grammy Awards for his music.Carter was born and raised in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. He adopted the stage name Jay-Z in homage to his mentor Jaz-O (The Mighty Jaz). Jay-Z’s first marriage was to the singer Beyoncé in 2008. The couple have three children together: Blue Ivy Carter (born 2012) and twins Sir and Rumi (born 2017).


Eminem, born Marshall Bruce Mathers III, is an American rapper, actor and record producer. Eminem’s popularity brought his group, D12, to the mainstream. He has since achieved seven number one albums on the Billboard 200.

Eminem’s success has been credited with bridging the gap between hip hop and mainstream music. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time and was ranked 83rd on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. The same publication placed him at number 17 on its list of the Greatest MCs of All Time.


Aubrey Drake Graham was born on October 24, 1986, in Toronto, Canada. His father, Dennis Graham, is an African American and a practicing Catholic from Memphis, Tennessee. Drake’s mother, Sandra “Sandi” Graham (née Sher), is an Ashkenazi Jewish Canadian who worked as an English teacher and florist. His parents divorced when he was five years old. He has a sister named Sandi and a brother named Jimmy. He attended a Jewish day school, and had a Bar Mitzvah ceremony.

Drake grew up in two neighborhoods in Toronto: Forest Hill (where he went to Forest Hill Collegiate Institute) and The Beaches (where he went to Malvern Collegiate Institute). He began acting when he was fifteen years old in the Canadian teenage soap opera Degrassi: The Next Generation (links to an external site.), playing Jimmy Brooks, a basketball star who became physically disabled after being shot by a classmate.

Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar was born and raised in Compton, California. As a youngster, he was a member of the hip hop group Black Hippy. He began his solo career in 2010, and released his first album, Section.80, in 2011. His second album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, was released in 2012 to critical acclaim. In 2015, Lamar released his third album, To Pimp a Butterfly; the album won five Grammy Awards, including Best Rap Album.

Chance the Rapper

Chance the Rapper is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer from the West Chatham neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois.Chance the Rapper’s debut mixtape 10 Day (2012) gained recognition following its release. In 2013, he began to gain mainstream attention after releasing his second mixtape, Acid Rap, which received critical acclaim. Chance the Rapper landed his first major role as a supporting character in the 2015 film The Social Network.

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