15. St. Louis
Local legends: Nelly, St. Lunatics, Chingy, J-Kwon, Murphy Lee, etc.
Hot right now: Tef Poe
Up-and-coming talent: Scripts n' Screwz, Rockwell Knuckles
Check out live shows at: The Pageant, Coliseum Music Lounge, Cicero's, Blueberry Hill
Best rap parties/festivals: SLUMFest
Tune into: Hot 104.1
East Saint Louis AM radio station WESL is known for being the first place to play Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight," automatically making the city a pioneer in hip-hop radio. But its true radio influence wouldn't be felt until the early 2000s, when the sing-song rap of Nelly, fellow St. Lunatic Murphy Lee, and Chingy—as well as massive one-off hits from teenage artists like J-Kwon, Huey and—ruled national airwaves for much of the decade and fueled multiple dance crazes. For a brief period, St. Louis seemed like the most important city in hip-hop, but it disappeared almost as suddenly as it arrived. Although the city in some ways failed to capitalize on its momentum by putting much of an infrastructure in place to continue to launch new artists, recent years have seen it shore up its underground scene. Additionally, with a broader musical legacy in the blues, the city is full of great venues and a diverse range of record stores.