(October 6, 2021). With the ascension of NBA Youngboy’s new album Sincerely, Kentrell to Number One on the latest Billboard 200 chart, he remains the only hip-hop artist from Baton Rouge to ever top that list.
But he is the eighth rap act overall from the State of Louisiana to do so, following New Orleans artists Master P, Silkk the Shocker, Mystikal, Big Tymers, Juvenile, Lil Wayne, and DJ Khaled. Furthermore, Youngboy’s four No. 1 albums put him in second behind only Lil Wayne (5) as the rap act from the Bayou State with the most chart toppers.
That bit of trivia prompted yours truly to ask (and answer) questions I know that all geographically minded hip-hop fans everywhere have wanted to know: Which states and cities have had the most No. 1 hip-hop artists (and albums) on Billboard’s main album chart?
From hip-hop’s earliest days, where a rapper came from has been nearly as important as his or her ability to spit rhymes. The more urban an MC’s origins were, the more credibility he or she seemingly had. Rappers’ hometowns—or at least the cities they represented—became increasingly important in the 1990s during the days of the old bicoastal war, with New York City being pitted against Los Angeles as the main reps for the east and west coasts.
Regarding geography and No. 1 albums, the story has changed a bit over the years. The first No. 1 rap album was by the Beastie Boys out of Brooklyn, which rightfully gave NYC the earliest chart bragging rights. But artists from California quickly took over with six of the next eight and nine of the next 13 chart toppers from artists like Tone Loc, MC Hammer, N.W.A., Ice Cube, Cypress Hill, Snoop Dogg, and Tha Dogg Pound all hitting No. 1.
By early 1996, the West clearly had the lead with Cali’s nine No. 1 albums vs. NYC’s two. This shift in hip-hop’s dominance—and the bragging rights that went with it—may have helped fuel the silly-but-costly East-vs.-West hip-hop civil war of the 1990s.
By the time that coastal battle reached its sad and tragic ending, notably with the murders of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. in September 1996 and March 1997, respectively, California’s No. 1 album advantage had morphed to a convincing 11-5 lead over NYC. This includes Biggie’s posthumously released Life After Death, which topped the chart in April 1997. Even though Tupac was born on the east coast, specifically in Manhattan, his No. 1 albums were tagged to Los Angeles for reasons that are explained under the first chart below (keep reading!).
By the end of the 1990s, the tables had turned significantly. Seemingly energized by Biggie’s death, artists from the state of New York (including DMX, Nas Escobar, Jay-Z, Puff Daddy (now Diddy), Mase, and Foxy Brown) secured 11 more No. 1s following Life After Death, and accounted for 16 of the 43 rap albums that had topped the chart by December 1999, while Cali only represented 12 of them (with only Snoop Dogg being able to add to the eleven west coast albums that hit No. 1 before Biggie’s death).
So where does it stand now? With Youngboy’s entry this week, a total of 236 albums in the rap/hip-hop genre have topped the Billboard 200, and the geographic demographics have shifted big time with the emergence of southern hip-hop over the past two decades.
For starters, southern hip-hop was barely a blip on the radar during the early-to-mid 1990s. The only rap act from any of the southeastern states that had reached No. 1 before Biggie’s death was Atlanta’s Kris Kross, who did it in May 1992 with Totally Krossed Out (featuring their smash kiddie-bop single “Jump”).
In 1997, A.B. (after Biggie), No Limit Records began to make its mark as Master P became the first of those Louisiana-based rappers to top the list. Six years later, OutKast and Ludacris became only the second and third Atlanta rap acts, respectively, to top the chart. It was fledgling, but Southern hip-hop was now officially on the map.
Other areas like Detroit (Eminem), St. Louis (Nelly), Chicago (Kanye West), and Philly (Eve, Meek Mill) soon joined the No. 1 hip-hop party and suddenly, New York and Cali weren’t the only games in town.
Even other countries like Canada (Drake, NAV) and Australia (The Kid Laroi) are now part of the hip-hop mix with Drake’s ten No. 1s easily making Canada, and Toronto specifically, the most represented foreign soil at the top of the Billboard 200 for rappers.
That’s enough buildup, let’s get to the numbers. The following tables show the most represented geographic areas for hip-hop artists and albums in the various categories as indicated.
First by city and No. 1 albums:
|Artists’ home city||Number one albums||Top charting artist (No. 1s)|
|New York, NY||50||Jay-Z (14)|
|Atlanta, GA||30||Future (7)|
|Chicago, IL||17||Kanye West (10)|
|Detroit, MI||16||Eminem (10)|
|New Orleans, LA||14||Lil Wayne (5)|
|Toronto, ON||12||Drake (10)|
|Los Angeles, CA||11||2Pac (5)|
|Compton, CA||10||Kendrick Lamar (4)|
|Fayetteville, NC||7||J. Cole (6)|
|Yonkers, NY||6||DMX (6)|
|Houston, TX||6||Travis Scott (3)|
|Philadelphia, PA||5||Meek Mill (2); Lil Uzi Vert (2)|
|Gaithersburg, MD||5||Logic (3)|
|Miami, FL||5||Rick Ross (5)|
|St. Louis||5||Nelly (3)|
|Baton Rouge||4||NBA Youngboy (4)|
Of note, there are several cities with fewer than four that are not shown above.
For the purpose of this article, artists’ cities are designated by where the artist was born and/or raised. In cases where the two differ, a judgment was made relative to where the artist’s bio stated they originated. This is typically where they were raised or where they resided when they began their careers.
An important example of this is Tupac Shakur (2Pac), who was born in New York but who relocated to Baltimore, then San Francisco, before beginning his career in Los Angeles. Since 2Pac largely identified with the west coast, and L.A. in particular, he is counted among artists from that city.
In the cases of groups, the city designation was based on where most of the members hailed from or where the group was formed. Compilation and soundtrack albums were not included in the breakdown. As a result, seven No. 1 albums (out of 236) were excluded from the tally.
With that said, here is the breakdown by states and provinces.
|Artists’ states/province||Number one albums||Top artist (No. 1s)|
|New York||56||Jay-Z (14)|
|Louisiana||18||Lil Wayne (5)|
|Illinois||17||Kanye West (10)|
|Ontario, CN||12||Drake (10)|
|North Carolina||10||J. Cole (6)|
|Texas||9||Travis Scott (3)|
|Florida||9||Rick Ross (5)|
|Pennsylvania||7||Meek Mill (2); Lil Uzi Vert (2)|
|Kentucky, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia||1 – 3|
Those were the breakdowns by albums. Now here is a breakdown by artists. Here are the states with the most different artists hitting No. 1.
|States||Different artists with No. 1 albums|
|Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia||1 – 3|
Since the state of NY has the clear advantage, I thought readers might want to know which acts contributed to their total. They are (in chronological order by their first No. 1s): Beastie Boys, Nas (solo), A Tribe Called Quest, The Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang Clan, Puff Daddy & the Family, The Firm (which included Nas, Foxy Brown, AZ and Nature), Mase, DMX, Jay-Z, Foxy Brown (solo), LL Cool J, Ja Rule, 50 Cent, Jadakiss, Lloyd Banks, Busta Rhymes, Fabolous, Nicki Minaj, A$AP Rocky, Cardi B, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, and Pop Smoke.
Because NYC is comprised of the five boroughs, all of which contributed to its dominance in all of the city, state and different artist categories, I thought readers might like a breakdown by boroughs, so here it is.
|NYC Borough||Number One albums|
…and by artists
|NYC Borough||Different No. 1 artists|
As it stands now, New York City is still the king (or queen) when it comes to hip hop geographic royalty. But Atlanta—and the south in general—isn’t far behind and is catching up fast!
In fact, half of the 30 No. 1 albums by artists from the ATL have reached that peak in the past five years. Another eight No. 1 albums from Louisiana artists have topped the chart since October 2016.
By comparison, only six NYC-based albums have hit No. 1 in that same span. The south has definitely dominated in the past half decade!
Here are the numbers for just the past five years (since October 2016) by city:
|Artists’ city||Number one albums||Top artist (No. 1s)|
|New York City||6||Pop Smoke (2)|
|Chicago||6||Kanye West (3)|
|Baton Rouge||4||NBA Youngboy (4)|
|New Orleans||4||Lil Wayne (2); DJ Khaled (2)|
|Fayetteville||4||J. Cole (3)|
|Compton||3||Kendrick Lamar (2)|
|Philadelphia||3||Lil Uzi Vert (2)|
|Several cities||1 or 2|
Number one albums aren’t everything when it comes to hip-hop credibility, but given the amount of importance today’s artists place in being able to get that No. 1 debut in Billboard, I’d say these statistics should at least be able to settle a few debates among rap fans.
Also, what was once a domain for just the two left and right coasts—with a few other locales thrown in—has now become a diverse mix of geographic representation from not just other parts of the U.S., but other countries as well.
Thanks to the magic of spreadsheets, Djrobblog will be updating these stats periodically, so tune back in and see how things change over time.
(All data was based on djrobblog’s exclusive research of the “Billboard 200” album charts from 1987-2021.)
DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
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