With hip-hop hurtling towards being 50 years old as a genre, there will be more and more rappers who are harder to keep track of. The amount of acts period that surface every day, plus the speed with which the music (and the players within it) evolve, plays right into artists leaving music or taking extended breaks that leave fans wondering where they are. Over the years, there are plenty rappers who fit this bill, and here, XXL documents a few of them, even getting updates on what they are up to now in some cases.
There is a certain sect of rap artists who made huge splashes early on, then faded into obscurity faster than many people would have predicted. Roscoe Dash was big time in the early 2010s, thanks to the success of his song "All The Way Turnt Up" with Soulja Boy and his verse and hook on Waka Flocka Flame's "No Hands" featuring Wale. Once he took a roughly two year break, starting in 2012, he was never able to come close to his previous level of buzz. Asher Roth, known for his hit 2009 song "I Love College" was in a similar boat, never really being able to regain mainstream traction after his hit began to taper off; he then stopped making music for six years, starting in 2014.
Rap has also become a springboard for artists, opening doors for them to excel in other realms, outside of the booth. Memphis Bleek, Jay-Z's protégé and loyal friend, now works for D'usse, the luxury cognac brand that Jay bought into, along with running his label Warehouse Music Group, after having two gold albums in Coming of Age and The Understanding to his name. Chamillionaire took the world by storm from his corner of Houston with the Krayzie Bone-assisted "Ridin," which was the No. 1 song in the country in 2005. Now, he's best known for his skill as a tech entrepreneur, seamlessly transitioning into a world that doesn't have many minorities in it, while putting in the work to help change that reality.
Check out the list below for more of your favorite rappers from the past.
Straight out of Atlanta, Pill was a buzzing rapper who came blazing out of the gate with "Trap Goin Ham," which was coupled with a video that showed an actual trap, up close and personal. Outside of how controversial that was, Pill could really rhyme, an adept storyteller with a refreshing delivery. After being chosen as a XXL Freshman in 2010 and signing to Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group in 2011, Pill left MMG the next year and essentially disappeared, never explaining why. He returned to rap in 2018, and seems to be making music more consistently nowadays.
Roscoe Dash became a club fixture off the strength of his 2010 hit "All The Way Turnt Up" featuring Soulja Boy, plus his feature on Waka Flocka Flame's No. 1 hit "No Hands," with Wale. After becoming a XXL Freshman in 2012, he pretty much stopped releasing music for two years, then came back in 2014, and released sporadically after that. In 2017, he was seen being a Lyft driver, which turned out to be false, but was also the most buzz around his name he had in a while. An active artist nowadays, Roscoe is still around, even after his hiatus when he was near his peak.
Something of a young musical prodigy, Charles Hamilton was a self-taught producer and rapper who created his own world, rising to prominence with his 2008 single “Brooklyn Girls.” He signed to Interscope Records that same year, only to be dropped months later. Hamilton’s prolific mixtape output kept him afloat and relevant through label issues and his own personal mental health struggles. Through ups and downs, legal issues and music leaks, Hamilton signed to Republic Records in 2015, releasing his major label debut Hamilton, Charles in 2016, and dropping a song with Rita Ora, “New York Raining,” for the soundtrack for the TV show Empire, with marginal success. Going in and out of the public eye due to his personal issues, Charles seems to be back on track, as he released a joint EP with Serious Truth called Controversial in May of 2021, and also dropped the album The Endocrine System that same month.
Back in 2009, Asher Roth had a major hit on his hands with “I Love College,” and his free-living, weed-smoking, thoughtful frat boy persona was put on full display. He dropped his debut album, Asleep In The Bread Aisle, that same year, and was also a XXL Freshman. After a litany of mixtapes, he dropped his second album, RetroHash, in 2014, but stepped away from music for nearly six full years after this. In that time, Asher Roth had become a schoolteacher, an activist and contributing to the local art scene in Pennsylvania, the state where he's from. He released Flowers on The Weekend, his return to music, in 2020, then the third volume of his Greenhouse Effect mixtape series last year as well. Roth has matured and evolved as both an artist and a man, and his time away from the spotlight was something of a rebirth.
There was something different about Bubba Sparxxx. As a White rapper hitting the scene in 2001, Bubba stuck out because of how much he embraced his country, Georgia-bred roots in his music and in his videos. Once he caught the attention of Timbaland (and Interscope Records), he dropped his debut album, Dark Days, Bright Nights, and scored a hit with the infectious “Ugly.” He had another hit a few years later in 2005, with the boisterous and Ying Yang Twins-assisted “Ms. New Booty,” but his output began to slow significantly thereafter. Bubba Sparxx didn’t drop another album until 2013 with Pain Management and had been through a few different record deals by then. Issues with the sales of his standout second album Deliverance, and dealing with music labels has seemed to pull him away from mainstream popularity, but he still releases independent projects to this day.
Signing to Eminem’s Shady Records in the early 2000s was like joining the Dream Team, and Obie Trice not only had that experience, but made the most of his time there. He had radio hits with “Got Some Teeth” and “The Set Up”, Em and Dre production, and two well-received albums in 2003’s Cheers and 2006’s Second Round’s On Me. Shady Records and Obie split, amicably, in 2008; Trice wouldn’t drop another solo album until 2012, which was Bottoms Up. Obie kept releasing music on the underground circuit, with it mostly being quiet around his music and name, until December of 2019, when he shot his girlfriend’s son and had to do 90 days in jail for the offense the next year. Obie Trice’s career seemed to just lose steam, removing him from the public eye.
Memphis Bleek was up next in hip-hop in 1999, thanks to the success of his debut album, Coming of Age, his talent, and being a lifelong friend and protégé of Jay-Z. Releasing four albums under the Roc-A-Fella Records umbrella (and starting two labels of his own, Get Low Records and Warehouse Music Group), Bleek had a successful music career, and was key in the early growth of The Roc. His last project came out in 2014, a mixtape titled The Movement 2, and he hasn’t rapped consistently since. Nowadays, Bleek is a happily married family man, working within D’usse, the cognac brand that Jay-Z partially owns, and still running Warehouse Music Group.
Much like his labelmate Memphis Bleek, Beanie Sigel was instrumental in the rise of Roc-A-Fella Records in the early to mid-2000s. He released great albums, helmed State Property, the crew of Philly MCs who would sign to the Roc, and was basically the enforcer of the label. His live-wire personality got him into legal troubles and rap beefs (most famously with Jadakiss) along the way, and this cost him momentum and opportunities to be bigger. By 2009, Beans had been caught between the Jay-Z and Dame Dash beef, signed to G-Unit Records even though the label CEO, 50 Cent, had previous beef with Jay (and many rappers in NYC), and had served time for his various legal issues. More jail time and dust-ups would ensue after that, with a four-year gap after Sigel released his 2012 album, This Time. Sigel also lost a lung in 2014, due to a shooting. He still puts out music like 2019's Loyalty & Deceit LP with Juma, but he’s been mostly low-key lately.
An Atlanta rapper best known for his 2003 crunk hit, “Never Scared,” Bone Crusher dropped his debut album, AttenCHUN!, that same year. He didn’t make much noise after that, and hasn’t dropped an album since 2007’s Free. Outside of making live show appearances, Bone Crusher isn’t around much musically. Most likely, it seems he had his time in the spotlight, and had a hit song to his name that was simply of the moment.
In 2002, Khia, a rapper from Florida, dropped a southern rap classic with her sexually-charged song “My Neck, My Back (Lick It).” The song was a top 50 hit, and was huge in the club (and strip clubs) for over a decade after it dropped. She continued to release albums after that, but never reached the same heights of “My Neck, My Back (Lick It).” In 2017, she, along with her friend Ts Madison, created a web series called The Queen’s Court, on which she dishes on the entertainment stories of the day, speaks on rumors and shares her controversial opinions. She later did a version of the show by herself, and by then was already popular as an online personality, giving herself a second run in the hosting space.
“Tipsy,” J-Kwon’s claim to fame and the No. 2 song in the country in 2004, was a boisterous party song with nothing but memorable lines. While it was his only big hit, the track made him famous all over the world, and that’s something to celebrate. There were some concerns that he actually disappeared in early 2010, but he resurfaced, and still releases music to this day without the fanfare of the old days.
Houston rap began to take off in the early 2000s, and Chamillionaire took his city’s moment and ran with it. In late 2005, the rapper dropped his major label debut album, The Sound Of Revenge, along with “Ridin,” his No. 1 hit song featuring Krayzie Bone. The song took over radio and music video countdown shows, and was about being racially profiled by the police. He followed up with his 2007 album, Ultimate Victory, before leaving Universal Records in 2011 (and getting his third album, Venom, indefinitely delayed). He would continue to drop new music projects, like 2013’s Reignfall, while also putting time into his entrepreneurial interests.
In addition to investing in his own modeling company, a car dealership and more, Chamillionaire became fully entrenched in the tech world when he was brought on as an entrepreneur in residence at Upfront Ventures. Since around that time, he has made savvy investments in Lyft, video messaging app Convoz, and has been investing tens of thousands of dollars in startups helmed by people of color or women, alongside E-40. He's rhymed on other artists tracks like Trae Tha Truth’s “I’m On 3.0” in 2017, and dropped the Greatest Verses 3 project in 2018. With rap mostly in his rear view, Cham has made a real impact in two different games.
For New York rapper Mims, taking off in music was a long journey that culminated in the chart-topping 2007 hit “This Is Why I’m Hot.” The song was tremendous, and felt mostly like a pared down, simplified version of the rap that was coming out of the South and dominating at the time. He released a couple of albums and was pretty much out of rap by 2012. He veered into the tech world, coming up with the app RecordGram, now known as Cre8tor.App, alongside his business partner. The app began to win awards in 2017. Cre8tor.App allows artists and producers to team up and create entire songs and videos from scratch. Mims has stuck with the app, and tech in general ever since.
In the late 2000s, there were quite a few rap songs that blew up out of seemingly nowhere. Hurricane Chris is the creator of two of those songs, "Ay Bay Bay," which became the No. 7 song on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2007, and “Halle Berry (She’s Fine),” which took over parties at the time. He didn’t have any more big songs after 2009, and left his deal with Polo Grounds Records and J Records. From there, he kept releasing music but began to fade into obscurity, and was out of the news for the most part until 2020. Last year, he was arrested for second-degree murder after an altercation at a gas station in his hometown of Shreveport, La. The rapper told cops he shot a man that he thought was trying to steal his vehicle. However, video footage obtained from the shooting shows that the Louisiana native did not act in self-defense. Chris has been out on bond as the investigation continues, and is still releasing music, recently going viral with a performance of his song “WhippaFlippa.”
After having multiple hits in the early 2000s, such as “Like A Pimp,” “Play” and biggest of all, “Get Like Me,” David Banner slowed his rapping musical output (outside of a few singles a year) from 2010 and on. The rhymer also moved into acting, appearing in The Butler, Ride Along and the music industry-focused drama Empire. In 2017, Banner ended up releasing another album, #TheGodBox. He has also done humanitarian work, helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and testifying in front of Congress for the defense of hip-hop and its content. He has been dropping music recently, doing so when he feels the need to. Banner branched out with his own clothing line, the David Banner Brand, and released The David Banner Podcast up until last year.