Wisconsin rappers and hip-hop groups


Hip-hop music has become a voice for people all over the world to express their thoughts and ideas. Wisconsin, one of the states in the Midwestern region of the United States, is known for its agriculture and cheese, but it also has a vibrant hip-hop scene. In this article, we will explore the history of Wisconsin hip-hop, prominent rappers, influential hip-hop groups, popular venues and events, and the impact of Wisconsin hip-hop on the national scene.

The history of Wisconsin hip-hop

Wisconsin hip-hop has a rich and diverse history that spans several decades. The state’s hip-hop scene has evolved over time, influenced by a variety of factors and artists from across the country.

Early beginnings and influences

The early days of Wisconsin hip-hop were heavily influenced by the sounds of East Coast rap. Artists like KRS-One, Notorious B.I.G., and Nas had a significant impact on the Wisconsin hip-hop scene, shaping the sound and style of local rappers. However, West Coast rap and G-Funk also played a role in shaping the sound of Wisconsin hip-hop, with artists like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg inspiring a new generation of rappers.

As the hip-hop scene in Wisconsin began to grow, local artists started to emerge, bringing their own unique style and sound to the genre. This helped to establish a distinct Wisconsin hip-hop sound that was both influenced by and separate from the larger hip-hop scene in the United States.

The rise of local talent

By the early 2000s, Wisconsin hip-hop had gained a foothold in the local music scene, with several artists achieving national recognition. Milwaukee native Coo Coo Cal released his debut album, “Disturbed,” in 2001, which included the hit single, “My Projects.” The song reached number one on many of the Billboard charts, giving Wisconsin hip-hop some much-needed national recognition.

Other artists like Rusty Pelicans and AUTOMatic also gained popularity during this time, helping to establish Milwaukee as a hub for underground hip-hop. These artists were known for their unique sound and style, which drew inspiration from a variety of sources, including jazz, funk, and soul music.

Notable moments in Wisconsin hip-hop history

Wisconsin hip-hop has had its share of notable moments over the years. In 2008, the Milwaukee hip-hop group Black Elephant won the “Best Hip-Hop Group” award from the Milwaukee Music Awards, solidifying their place in the local music scene. This award helped to shine a spotlight on the growing hip-hop scene in Milwaukee and brought attention to the talented artists working in the city.

In 2018, IshDARR, a rising rapper from Milwaukee, released his album “Four the Better” under the Republic Records label. The album was met with critical acclaim and helped to establish IshDARR as one of the most promising young rappers in the country.

Overall, the history of Wisconsin hip-hop is one of growth, evolution, and innovation. From its early beginnings in the 1980s to the present day, Wisconsin hip-hop has continued to push the boundaries of the genre, bringing new sounds and styles to the forefront of the music industry.

Prominent Wisconsin rappers

Wisconsin has produced some exceptional rappers who have made significant strides in the hip-hop industry. Here are some of the most prominent Wisconsin rappers.

Coo Coo Cal

Coo Coo Cal, born Calvin Bellamy, is a hip-hop artist from Milwaukee. He gained nationwide fame with his debut hit single “My Projects.” The song reached number one on Billboard’s rap chart. Although he had a promising start, Coo Coo Cal struggled to sustain his career in the music industry.

Rico Love

Rico Love is a rapper, songwriter, and record producer originally from Milwaukee. He has produced for several mainstream artists like Beyonce, Usher, and Nelly. In 2014, he released his debut album, “Turn the Lights On.” The album received critical acclaim and was considered a commercial success.


WebsterX, whose real name is Sam Ahmed, is a Milwaukee native who has been making music since his teens. He gained recognition for his EP “Daymares,” which explores his personal struggles with anxiety and depression. In 2017, he was named “Best Independent Hip-Hop Artist” at the Wisconsin Area Music Industry Awards.


IshDARR, whose real name is Ishmael Ali, is a rapper from Milwaukee. He gained momentum with his debut album “Old Soul, Young Spirit,” which was released in 2015. The album caught the attention of Republic Records, and he was signed to the label in 2017.

Zed Kenzo

Zed Kenzo, born Lauren Peterson, is a rapper and producer from Milwaukee. Her music combines various genre influences with rap and R&B elements. She has released several albums, including “Baby Swag” and “Today’s Special.” She has also been named “Best Hip-Hop/Rap Solo Artist” at the 2020 Wisconsin Area Music Industry Awards.Apart from these talented solo artists, Wisconsin is also home to several hip-hop groups that have played a significant role in shaping the Wisconsin hip-hop scene.One such group is the Rusty Pelicans. Formed in the early 2000s by rappers Dana Coppa and SPEAK Easy, along with producer Mammyth, the Rusty Pelicans quickly made a name for themselves in the Wisconsin hip-hop scene. They released several albums, including “The Original,” which featured collaborations with prominent Wisconsin hip-hop artists like Coo Coo Cal and Stricklin. Their unique sound, which blended elements of jazz, soul, and funk, set them apart from other Wisconsin hip-hop groups.Another influential Wisconsin hip-hop group is Black Elephant. This six-member group from Milwaukee has a style that is heavily influenced by jazz and soul music, which sets them apart from other Wisconsin hip-hop groups. In 2018, they released their album “Cosmic Thrill,” which received positive reviews from the critics. The album’s sound, which blended elements of jazz, soul, and funk with traditional hip-hop beats, showcased the group’s versatility and musical prowess.AUTOMatic is another hip-hop duo from Milwaukee that has had a significant impact on the Wisconsin hip-hop scene. Comprising MCs A.P.R.I.M.E. and Trellmatic, the group’s sound is heavily inspired by the old-school hip-hop of the 1990s. In 2012, they released their album “Transistor,” which received critical acclaim and was named one of the top 30 Milwaukee albums of the year by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The album’s sound, which blended elements of jazz, soul, and funk with traditional hip-hop beats, showcased the group’s versatility and musical prowess.Finally, there is New Age Narcissism, a collective of musicians, rappers, and poets from Milwaukee. The collective members combine various styles and influences to create a unique sound that has been credited with shaping the sound of contemporary Wisconsin hip-hop. They focus on individual expressions through collective performances, which has made them a favorite among hip-hop fans in Wisconsin and beyond.Overall, the Wisconsin hip-hop scene is a vibrant and diverse one, with a wide range of talented solo artists and groups making their mark on the genre. Whether you are a fan of old-school hip-hop, jazz-infused beats, or something entirely different, there is something for everyone in the Wisconsin hip-hop scene.

Wisconsin hip-hop venues and events

Wisconsin has a thriving hip-hop scene that has been gaining popularity over the years. The state has been holding regular hip-hop events and has many venues that showcase local talent. If you’re a hip-hop fan, here are some venues and events that you should check out:

The Miramar Theatre

The Miramar Theatre in Milwaukee is one of the most popular venues for hip-hop music in Wisconsin. The venue has a rich history of hosting several national and local acts over the years. The Miramar Theatre has a unique, intimate atmosphere that makes it a favorite among hip-hop artists and fans alike. The theater has been the site of many memorable performances and is known for its excellent sound quality and lighting.

If you’re looking for a great hip-hop experience in Wisconsin, the Miramar Theatre is definitely worth a visit. The venue is also home to the annual Milwaukee Hip-Hop Week celebration, which takes place in August. This week-long event features concerts, workshops, and other activities that celebrate hip-hop culture and showcase the best of Wisconsin’s hip-hop scene.

Cactus Club

The Cactus Club is another popular venue located in Milwaukee. This venue has been hosting local and national acts since the late 1990s and has become a staple of the Wisconsin hip-hop scene. The Cactus Club is known for its intimate setting and its commitment to showcasing the diversity of Wisconsin hip-hop through its calendar of events.

The Cactus Club has been the site of several album releases and has hosted some of the most talented and innovative hip-hop artists in the state. The venue is a must-visit for anyone who wants to experience the best of Wisconsin hip-hop.


Summerfest is one of the biggest festivals in the United States and also features hip-hop music among many other genres. The festival takes place annually in Milwaukee and has been known for attracting thousands of people from all over the world. Summerfest is a great place to experience the best of Wisconsin hip-hop and to see some of the biggest names in the industry perform live.

Some of the biggest names in hip-hop have performed at Summerfest, including Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, and Pitbull. The festival is a celebration of music and culture and is a must-visit for anyone who wants to experience the best of Wisconsin’s hip-hop scene.

Hip-Hop Week MKE

Hip-Hop Week MKE is an annual event organized by the city of Milwaukee to celebrate Wisconsin hip-hop culture. The event takes place over a week and includes concerts, panel discussions, and exhibitions that showcase the history, art, and social impact of Wisconsin’s hip-hop scene. The event aims to promote the positive aspects of hip-hop culture and to foster growth and development in the community.

Hip-Hop Week MKE is a great opportunity to learn more about Wisconsin hip-hop culture and to connect with other hip-hop fans and artists in the state. The event is a celebration of the creativity and diversity of Wisconsin’s hip-hop scene and is definitely worth checking out.

The impact of Wisconsin hip-hop on the national scene

Over the years, Wisconsin hip-hop has had a significant impact on the national hip-hop scene. From collaborations with national artists to Wisconsin rappers making their way into the mainstream, Wisconsin hip-hop has made its mark on the industry.

Collaborations with national artists

Wisconsin hip-hop artists have collaborated with several national artists, giving Wisconsin hip-hop a foothold in the national scene. WebsterX collaborated with Skip Marley, the grandson of the legendary Bob Marley. The collaboration resulted in the hit song “Intuition,” which received critical acclaim and helped put Wisconsin hip-hop on the map. IshDARR collaborated with Kweku Collins, the rising Chicago-based rapper and producer. The two artists worked together on the song “Moon Girl,” which was well-received by fans and critics alike.

These collaborations not only helped put Wisconsin hip-hop on the national radar but also showcased the unique sound and style of Wisconsin hip-hop artists. The collaborations allowed for a blending of different sounds and styles, resulting in a unique and fresh take on hip-hop.

Wisconsin rappers in the mainstream

Although Wisconsin hip-hop remains an underground scene, some artists have managed to gain national recognition. Rico Love, a Milwaukee native, has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry and has produced several chart-topping hits. Love has worked with artists such as Usher, Beyoncé, and Kelly Rowland, and his production credits include hits such as “Sweet Dreams” and “Motivation.”

IshDARR, too, has been able to break into the mainstream with his record deal with Republic Records. The Milwaukee-based rapper has released several successful projects, including his debut album “Broken Hearts & Bankrolls,” which received critical acclaim and helped establish him as a rising star in the industry.

The future of Wisconsin hip-hop

Wisconsin hip-hop continues to grow and thrive, and its future looks promising. With younger artists like Lakeyah, Baby Kahlo, and Kenny Hoopla becoming increasingly popular, Wisconsin hip-hop is expected to gain more exposure in the national scene. These artists bring their unique sound and style to the table, adding to the diverse and creative landscape of Wisconsin hip-hop.

Wisconsin hip-hop is a unique blend of sounds and influences that reflects the diversity and creativity of Wisconsin’s music scene. From the collaborations with national artists to the rise of Wisconsin rappers in the mainstream, Wisconsin hip-hop has made a significant impact on the national hip-hop scene. With a bright future ahead, Wisconsin hip-hop is sure to continue to make waves in the industry.