Hip-Hop's Sonic Doppelgangers: 20 Rappers Who Sound Like Other Rappers

It's mostly the voice.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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When some artists reach a certain level of acclaim, the biters sometimes come out of the woodwork, echoing styles down to the adlibs.

Other times, a rapper is so influential that his impact can't help but inspire a few new stars, some of whom manage to transcend the influence.

And for some, it's more about marketing. Who wouldn't want to hear a female Snoop Dogg, or find out that Slick Rick's friend raps in a similarly bankable style?

Some of these artists have surreal similarities to the artists they emulate; others feel like natural complements. Either way, here's a partial history: Hip-Hop's Sonic Doppelgangers: 20 Rappers Who Sound Like Other Rappers

RELATED: The 5 Most Infamous Rapper Imposters 

Kyle and Drake

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Key Song: Kyle "Keep It Real"

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Drake may want to consider chasing a restraining order. What's amazing about this one is that it doesn't just cop an aspect of Drake's music, like his flow or his beats; it takes a vampire bite and drains it physically and spiritually, from its individual components to its overarching essence. Starting with the plaintive piano and extending to the EQ frequency filtering to the slowed hook, "Keep It Real" is a sonic deadringer for Take Care. Kyle's stop-start punchline-oriented flow and the odd emphasis on n-bombs are Drake-ian in nature, but when his sung hook kicks in, it's like watching a cat discover his first mirror.

Then there's the entire presentation: Kyle emulates Drake's everyman struggle, focused on existential middle-class angst, rather than the trials and tribulations of hip-hop's underclass. And like Drake, he adapts that underclass terminology, as in the song's title. Things get the eeriest, though, when it comes to intangibles, like his one-word name and vague resemblence to Aubrey. But most amusing of all is that he even addresses the similarity to Drake in the song: "They say that I sound like Drake/I don't." We beg to differ. —David Drake

Dana Dane and Slick Rick

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Key Song: Dana Dane "Cinderfella Dana Dane"

Dana Dane's 1987 debut predated Slick Rick's The Adventures of Slick Rick by one year, but it was unquestionably indebted to the latter rapper's influence. Unlike many of the rappers whose styles had an obvious connection, however, Dane and Rick were friends. Both were members of the Kangol Crew in high school, and they remain so to this day; Rick even performed at Dana Dane's birthday party in 2010. Adopting Rick's natural UK accent and storytelling style, Rick said in an interview last year, was likely a result of commercial pressures. "Dana didn't use to rap like that, it was the industry that pushed him to sound like something that's already, you know. They said, 'If this sells, then you should sound similar, with an English accent.' So, he did what he had to do to get his foot in the door, you know what I mean? Whatever's clever like that."

Although Dana Dane was recognized as an emulator rather than an innovator, his records did have impact. One rapper heavily influenced by Rick's style who found his own was Snoop Dogg; he paid high-profile tribute to Rick on his debut record cover of "La Di Da Di." But he also did a cover of Dana Dane's biggest hit, "Cinderfella Dana Dane," on his 1999 album No Limit Top Dogg. —David Drake

Sacario and Jay-Z

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Key Song: Angie Martinez f/ Lil Mo and Sacario

Just a couple of weeks after Jay-Z released The Blueprint and the twin towers fell, rapper Sacario (of both the Upper West Side and Washington Heights) signed a production deal with Angie Martinez. A couple months later, he was signed to Elektra. Sacario was credited with considerable writing credits on Angie Martinez's album Animal House. But it's when he opens his mouth that the Jay-Z comparisons become unavoidable: the tone of his voice and his phrasings are unavoidably Jigga-like. His Wikipedia page, which channels his accomplishments, never once mentions Jay-Z's name. —David Drake

Kirko Bangz and Drake

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Key Song: Kirko Bangz "Drank In My Cup"

Kirko's major hit, 2012's "Drank in My Cup," was a deadringer for Drake's dusty sing-song style. Much of the production on his tape from which this song was culled, Progression 2: A Young Texas Playa, featured the damply morose, minimal soundbeds that seemed sonically indebted to Drake's new sound. But while Kirko could definitely be accused of chasing the sound of the moment, his rap style is arguably as influenced by Lil Wayne, and, compared to Kyle, his big single sounds more like a Texas-specific flip of the hot sound of the moment. Besides, Drake often claims Texas to have been a heavy influence on him; why not let a Texan return the favor? —David Drake

Domino and Snoop Dogg

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Key Song: Domino "Long Beach Thang"

Def Jam was slow to move on the West Coast sound; ultimately, it would be Warren G's "Regulate" that would become the label's biggest hit in this era. But rapper Domino had not-insubstantial success with his debut record, which spawned hits like "Ghetto Jam" and "Sweet Potato Pie." But the Long Beach-originated rapper, who first appeared on 1992's Bangin' on Wax, also couldn't shake comparisons to Snoop Dogg, who had become Long Beach's defining artist. Domino's laid-back delivery wasn't identical to Snoop's, just a little similar, and he had certified hits of his own, thanks in part to impeccable production from DJ Battlecat. But his work indisputably feels of the Snoop era. —David Drake

Bone Thugs and Freestyle Fellowship

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Key Song: Freestyle Fellowship "Mary"

The conflict over the murky origins of double-time rap styles would require quite the road map: Twista, Psychodrama, Das EFX, Fu Schnickens, Bone Thugs, Three 6 Mafia (and associate Koopsta Knicca), Crucial Conflict, Freestyle Fellowship, Jaz-O and the Originators, all became either embroiled in diss tracks, or were the subject of years of online message board dissections to prove the true origins of the double-time rap styles that all seemed to emerge in the mid-1990s across the country. Freestyle Fellowship's claim about Bone Thugs, in particular, is most convincing on "Mary," a track that appeard on their 1993 album Innercity Griots. But then again: much like hip-hop's current fascination with autotune, it seems entirely possible that Bone Thugs real inspiration was Jamaican in origin, based on other evidence. —David Drake

Da Brat and Snoop Doggy Dogg

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Key Song: Da Brat "Funkdafied"

It's tough to recall exactly how major Snoop's stylistic impact was in the early 1990s, but it definitely shaped the sound of rap from that point. Da Brat's rap style was similar to Snoop's laconic stoner insoucience on her debut LP, and producer Jermaine Dupri—with his ears always tuned to what was hot at the time—played up that comparison, pumping her debut full of laid-back Cali g-funk grooves. The formula was simple, but it worked: Da Brat became the first platinum-selling female rap artist in history, and Funkdafied would be her biggest release. That said, the similarities were somewhat superficial; she never sounded exactly like him, and was able to parlay her early success into a career beyond the g-funk era. —David Drake

Foundation 7 and Rakim

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Key Song: Foundation 7 "Compredator"

Foundation 7's 1992 12 inch "Compredator" is a piece of obscure hip-hop arcana that has been prized, largely due to that obscurity. It wasn't an important record, and its MC—who went by the name Supreme Takim (yes, Takim)—sounds very similar to Rakim, obviously one of the most significant rappers in hip-hop history. Absurdly, this record has gone for upwards of $285 in auctions, due to the strange cult of record sellers who prize rarity in a certain period in hip-hop history. Surprisingly enough, Supreme Takim popped up on the discogs page for his first single to leave a comment back in 2011: "Peace. This is the God Supreme Takim Allah. Thank you from my infinite soul for keeping my first single running strong through out these circa 20 years. Steve-O would of been amazed, heart-warmed, and deeply touched by this as I am. Thank you all in Germany and in the UK and wee who ever else enjoyed our music. L.E.S. to the death of me. Forever yours, The God Supreme Takim. . .Foundation 7." —David Drake

DB Tha General and Lil Boosie

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Key Song: DB Tha General "OG Music"

With a high-pitched, shouted, shredded vocal style and street-oriented content, it would be hard to ignore Bay Area rapper DB Tha General's similarity to Lil Boosie. In fact, DB himself hasn't avoided it, anointing himself the Bay Area Lil Boosie, although he seems unconcerned by the comparisons. It helps that the Bay Area has long been a world unto itself when it comes to hip-hop; adapting a Southern rapper's vocal tone for a local context is like rocking popular gear in a fresh way, and DB has a strong enough personality—and completely different musical and lyrical approach—that he never seems overly indebted, despite the obvious similarity. —David Drake

Sen City and Max B

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Key Song: Sen City "What Could I Do"

Sen City doesn't sound terribly close to Max B as a rapper; he's got a cleaner delivery, for one thing. But context forces the comparison. Sen City is a rapper with bars and an ear for hazily melodic hooks, who happens to work for Jim Jones. Max B was pretty much the same. It's not farfetched to suggest this was what attracted Jones to the rapper in the first place, as he pulls double-duty songwriting and writing raps in Max's absence. Sen's a unique enough talent that it shouldn't dog him, but obviously it does to some degree, as he mentions in the opening seconds of "What Could I Do," from the rapper's Til The Lights Turn Out Vol. 2. —David Drake

NOE and Jay-Z

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Key Song: Jim Jones "Byrd Gang Money"

Baltimore rapper NOE was a behind-the-scenes ghostwriter continually shunned by A&Rs until Jim Jones picked him up for his ByrdGang project alongside the original lineup of Mel Matrix, Max B, and Stack Bundles. NOE immediately distinguished himself by sounding an awful lot like Jay-Z. By the time Max B was booted from ByrdGang, NOE had become a regular presence, making his mark on the majority of tracks on the M.O.B.: The Album release. Jim Jones may have had less than genuine motivations for signing the rapper: "I ain't gonna front. [NOE's similarity to Jay] tickled me too because I knew that would just irk a person like 'Oh God!' That gotta hurt." Max B also weighed in, after his falling out with Jones, with his own brag about the rapper: "I even made the fake Jay-Z nigga sound wavy." —David Drake

Shyne and the Notorious B.I.G.

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Key Song: Shyne "Bad Boyz"

The best thing to ever happen to Shyne was Guerilla Black. Since Shyne really doesn't have much of a legacy to speak of—he released one forgettable album and one album while incarcerated—the emergence of Guerilla Black made us think twice about just saying someone sounded kinda like Big Poppa. But it wasn't Shyne who brought it to attention, it was other rappers like Big Pun who playfully mocked, "It's mine, I Shyne like money that sound like Biggie," and Kanye who claimed, "She be grabbing, calling me Biggie like Shyne home." But it was the Queen Bee, Lil Kim, that stung Po the hardest saying, ""Everybody wanna shine off of B.I.G./Get it, Shyne tryna sound like him when they rhyme." We're guessing Shyne longs for those days again, however, since prison has changed his voice so much he sounds like he's rapping with a mouth full of toxic sludge. —Insanul Ahmed

Loon and Ma$e

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Key Song: Loon f/ Kelis "How You Want That"

What's remarkable about Ma$e and Loon isn't just how well their voices matched up but how their career arcs did as well. They were both from Harlem, both signed to Bad Boy, and both ended up leaving rap for religion. (Although, Ma$e was much more successful than Loon and has returned to rap as a full time profession.) The two rappers beefed quite a bit and Loon even released a diss track about Ma$e. Yet Betha, as the originator, held the trump card, rhyming, "I don't know why Loon and Fabby won't just say I'm their daddy" in 2005. Years after the fact, it seems Ma$e is the only one still holding a grudge. Last year on an unexpected appearance on Cruel Summer, he once again took shots, this time poking fun at Loon's conversion to Islam, "I bumped into Loon he like, 'Well, as-salamu alaykum'/You know I ain't Muslim my nigga, I'm about my bacon." Touché. —Insanul Ahmed

Nipsey Hussle and Snoop Dogg

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Key Song: Nipsey Hussle "Hussle In The House"

Oh Nipsey, we had such high hopes for you. Despite garnering a significant buzz on the West Coast and even getting some radio play for his track "Hussle In The House," his career fell by the wayside, his buzz evaporated, and he got dropped dropped from his label. Which is too bad since he was finally starting starting to shed the Snoop Dogg comparisons. Before the emergence of TDE, it was easy to try and write off every West Coast rapper as a wannabe Snoop—be honest, have you ever listened to Knoc-turn'al and not thought a little about Snoop? For Nipsey, it was a different story. His vocals had more of a Snoop vibe than a Snoop presence, he certainly lacked the laconic drawl of the Doggfather. Mostly, Nipsey sounded exactly like we imagine every loc'ed out OG with a blue flag sounds. We suspect the accusations might have been tied to physical appearance as well vocal, especially since Nip's braids were so Calvin Broadus. In addition, they shared biogeographical affinities: Like Snoop, Nipsey was also a Crip raised in Los Angeles. Eventually, Uncle Snoop gave his nephew Nipsey the co-sign and the talk of similarities died down. Unfortunately, so did Nipsey's buzz. —Insanul Ahmed

Ja Rule and DMX...and Tupac.

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Key Song: Ja Rule f/ 2Pac "So Much Pain"

One controversial omission from our Best Rapper Alive lists last week was Ja Rule, whose exclusion, some critics have argued, was a rewriting of history. While it's true that Ja Rule was one of hip-hop's most successful rappers at one time, he was never considered one of its best MCs. Early on, in fact, he was accused of biting two of hip-hop's most celebrated rappers of the 1990s: 2Pac and DMX. He definitely seemed heavily influenced by Pac's fashion sense (see his use of bandanas and general shirtlessness). And his more heart-on-his-sleeve rap style, particularly on his remix of Pac's "Pain," had a definite precedent in 2Pac's, even if he couldn't convey the same gravity or passion.

And then there were the more superficial imitations, like the references to "thug life" that peppered his lyrics. Ultimately, the accusations became the basis of 50 Cent's "Realest Killas," which called Rule out for his more blatant imitative moves, and "Hail Mary 2003," which found 50, Eminem and Busta mocking Ja's 2Pac infatuation: "If Pac was still here now, he would never ride with Ja/na na na na, na na na na."

Similarly, noise that Ja's gruff delivery was bitten from his former collaborator DMX had dogged (pun unintended) the former rapper for awhile before DMX released "Do You" in 2000, which was widely taken as shots at Ja. Ja Rule had heavy 2Pac and DMX influences, but he also did something else with them. His career is more defined by a series of chart-topping hip-hop ballads than it is the specifics of his rap style. Ultimately, Ja Rule did sound like himself, and that wasn't nearly as seismic of an impact as his two primary influences. But it made for some nice songs. —David Drake

Tung Twista and Das EFX

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Key Song: Tung Twista "Mr. Tung Twista"

Today it seems like a strange creative cul-de-sac in hip-hop's creative evolution, but at one time, the impact of Das EFX on hip-hop was seismic. Suddenly every other rapper was introducing a new lexicon in an effort to fill every beat with double-time flows, tongue-twisting cadences and showy dexterity. Right around the same time that Das EFX appeared, a rapper from Chicago named Tung Twista set a Guiness Book record for rapping faster than the previous record holder, Daddy Freddy. He also became Chicago's first major label rap signee. While Twista's verses definitely traded on the same audience fascination with the sudden recognition of hip-hop's potential for technical expertise, as a rapper, he didn't sound all that much like Das EFX. Twista also ended up with a much longer career, as he transcended the gimmicky nature of fast rap by better balancing intelligibility and speed than most similar artists, and definitely developed a very distinct personal rap style. —David Drake

Action Bronson and Ghostface Killah

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Key Song: Wu-Tang f/ Action Bronson and Termanology "Meteor Hammer"

One thing about hip-hop's sonic doppelgangers that is that they tend to share physical similarities, not just vocal ones. Guerilla Black did sorta look like Biggie just like Nipsey Hussle looks a lot like a young Snoop and Kyle has a Drake-ish quality to his face. But no one would ever mistake the overweight Albanian Action Bronson and his majestic lumberjack beard with the towering hulk of Shaolin's Finest, Ghostface Killah, if they saw them on the street. Hailing from Flushing, Queens, Action not only shared vocal similarities with Ghost, but stylish sensibilities as well. An accomplished gourmet chef in his own right, Action frequently raps about food. Problem is, food is also a motif of Ghostface's partner-in-rhyme, Chef Raekwon. But Action has played down the Wu comparisons, instead citing influence from other NYC rhymers, "My main influence is Kool G Rap and Cam'ron pretty much," he told HipHopDX in 2011. "If you were to mix those two people up, I wish that would be me...This is my voice. I sound like nobody, I sound like me." It sounded unconvincing at first, but in the last year or so Action has managed to stand on his own and create a cult of personality more akin to the average wrestler than the average rapper. So much so he even managed to get on a song alongside Ghost Deni himself. Still, the accusations went on and became so acute that last year on "Ron Simmons" Bronson declared, "Don't ever say my fucking music sound like Ghost's shit." —Insanul Ahmed

Macklemore and Slug

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Key Song: Macklemore "Thrift Shop"

Minneapolis-based rapper Slug and his group Atmosphere pioneered an independent grind that began in the late 1990s, becoming an inspiration to many underground rappers and thriving on their Rhymesayers label throughout the 2000s. The group was touring internationally by the early '00s, and major labels came calling after 2002's God Loves Ugly. Slug's lyrics were obliquely poetic, highly personal, and considerably more edgy than your typical radio rap fare. By 2008, though, the group's cult fanbase had grown significantly, and they were able to place their album When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold at No. 5 on Billboard its opening week. When Macklemore emerged five years later, his rap style was considerably more mainstream-friendly; it's hard to imagine the Seattle rapper ending a story rap with a darkly comedic line about murdering cattle, as Slug did on "Nothing But Sunshine." But the similarity in their vocal styles is unavoidable. When Atmosphere tweeted out congratulations to Macklemore, the rapper tweeted back thanks for providing the blueprint for his business model. He didn't mention Slug's rap style, but he should have. —David Drake

Angelous and Jay-Z

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Key Song: Angelous "A.N.G.E.L."

It's obvious, given his revered status, but Jay-Z has inspired more imitators than anyone since 2Pac. Angelous was one of the strangest, embracing the comparison in the hopes that the controversy would help propel him to fame. His vocal tone was already so similar, so why not go the whole way? He courted the comparisons: his ad-libs, his flows, his beats: it was all Jay-Z-based. "A.N.G.E.L." utitilzed the same beat as "Blueprint 2," and even referenced other Jay soundalikes (Sacario and Bathgate) in the song. Of course, sounding essentially identical to Jay to the point of duplication isn't enough when the artist can't put together the actual content to save his life. Despite his protestations to the contrary in this surreal 2003 MTV feature, Angelous does not have "the lyrics behind it." After the Jay comparisons first sparked controversy, Angel's plan was to "carve out his own niche," according to the decade-old interview. —David Drake

Guerilla Black and the Notorious B.I.G.

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Key Song: Guerilla Black f/ Beenie Man "Compton"

Remember when Shyne was accused of sounding too much like Biggie, because his voice had a similarly thick baritone? Come back Mr. Barrow, all is forgiven. It's funny to think about how, at one time, people perceived a possible career for Guerilla Black. Some of us were scared: Had the new generation completely forgotten about Biggie's legacy? Would this pale imitation supplant this memory in the minds of the youth? We shouldn't have been concerned. All in all, it was an excellent troll-job; not only did Guerilla rep the West Coast and Compton specifically, but he unquestionably bit Biggie's flow, even doing so over a sample of Sister Nancy's "Bam Bam," an obvious echo of Biggie's early career appearance on Super Cat's "Dolly My Baby." But what he was missing (in addition to charisma, versatility, originality, etc.) was Biggie's wit; Christopher Wallace would never have let a clunker like "call me Plato, I philosophize" pass his lips. —David Drake

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