13. Young Zee
From: Newark, NJ
Signature Song: Young Zee "That's My N**** fo' Real" (2002)
While PaceWon received considerable acclaim as a member of the under-rated New Jersey clique The Outsidaz, it's Young Zee's high-pitched, comedic flow that feels most sui generis today. He had several shots at breakout moments: he appeared on The Fugee's massive sophomore LP, The Score, and claimed to have written many of Pras's lyrics on the record. He had a Lauryn Hill-featured single. He appeared on 8 Mile, one of the best-selling hip-hop soundtracks of all time, with "That's My Nigga For Real." And he released records with both The Outsidaz and as a solo artist, with the support of a major label.
He also dealt with label drama, failed to connect with a fanbase (something that he might have found much more easily in the Internet era), and eventually became one of hip-hop's most slept-on artists. An indisputable influence on Eminem, Zee mastered a style that seemed to draw particular attention to each punchline, circling in on itself in a way that compelled the listener to hang onto each lyric.