The state of Michigan, especially the city of Detroit, is home to some of the most prominent artists in music history. Detroit was the home of Motown Records, which brought Detroit soul music to the American mainstream and made household names out of many of its artists. Detroit was also a small hotbed for hip-hop, with notable artists including Big Sean, Eminem and Tee Grizzley. It’s been a while since the emergence of those artists, but the Michigan music scene has been discreetly retooling and producing some brilliant underground rap.
When talking about Michigan rap’s resurgence, Detroit has to be thought of as the region’s cultural hearth where all of the state’s best either grow up or pass through on their ascent. Tee Grizzley ushered in a new era in the city’s music history with the anthemic “First Day Out,” and one would be hard-pressed to find a Detroiter who can’t rap it bar for bar. The movement Grizzley started can still be heard in the production and delivery of many of the region’s hottest young artists. Also hailing from Detroit, Babyface Ray raps with the distinctive Detroit accent, and his 2021 project Unfuckwitable is a great example of the current state of the city’s rap scene, filled with noise and color.
Also from Detroit, Sada Baby has been on an absolute tear as of late, spitting over his signature piano melodies and bouncy 808 patterns. Forty-five minutes west, in the city of Ypsilanti, a comedic group of teenagers known as the ShittyBoyz have made use of Grizzley’s main producer, Helluva Beats, to fuel their own ascent. Led by the shaggy-haired BabyTron, the ShittyBoyz crew have made a name for themselves through expertly hilarious punchlines and synth-heavy ’80s beats. Their song “Jesus Shuttlesworth” is a perfect example of their sound.
However, Detroit isn’t the only city in Michigan that has seen its rap scene explode as of late. The oft-maligned industrial city of Flint has been in the midst of a rap renaissance, as they emerge from the ashes of their highly publicized water crisis. The city’s first notable artist, Rio da Yung OG, went on a mixtape run for the ages upon arriving in Detroit three years ago.
Additionally, Flint rappers seem to have taken their plight and turned it into comedy, as many are notable for their unique sense of humor. Bfb Da Packman’s most-streamed song, “Free Joe Exotic,” contains jokes about his weight, his former job as a postal worker and the women he encounters. In the neighboring town of Beecher, YN Jay and his hypersexed, floor-humping alter ego, the Coochie Man, deliver hilarious punchlines and coochie puns over the pounding beats of the city’s producer of choice, Enrgy. Flint’s emergence as a hip-hop hearth has revitalized rappers from southwest Detroit to Saginaw, and the future holds only more excitement.
Michigan rappers have also made their mark on local hip-hop movements in other states. Bfb Da Packman lives in Houston now, and he has begun to incorporate elements of Houston rap into his sound. The link between Detroit and Atlanta rap is well documented, from Lil Yachty and Tee Grizzley’s legendary collaboration, “From the D to the A,” to the recent forays of Atlanta superstar Lil Baby and East Detroit native 42 Dugg. As the Michigan sound branches out into more cities, it’s important to remember the roots of this movement as well.
Daily Arts Writer Ryan Brace can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.