10. Three 6 Mafia Founded by Juicy J, Lord Infamous and DJ Paul, Three 6 Mafia cultivated one of hip-hop's most distinctive and alluring aesthetics -- dark and exciting, disturbing yet entrancing. Triple 6 has been making music almost as long as Southern hip-hop has been viable, but the crew didn't release an official studio album until 1995. Eventually, the group's image softened a bit, and it wasn't until 2000 that they blew up in a major way with "Sippin' on Some Syrup," which helped reignite hip-hop's on-again-off-again love affair with lean, coincidentally, just months before the death of DJ Screw. Three 6 also earned the respect of the most dignified of audiences by winning an Academy Award in 2006 for Best Original Song for "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," from Hustle & Flow, which featured another Southern stalwart, Ludacris.
9. T.I. T.I. might have the smoothest, most effortless flow in all of hip-hop: He sounds like he's just talking, but he's also rhyming and clowning his haters at the same damn time. The key is an almost imperceptible assonance that Tip uses to string out his thoughts, which indicates a tremendous amount of effort on his part. In other words, he works hard to make it look so easy. His sophomore effort, Trap Muzik, popularized the style that has now transcended rap and captured a large portion of the EDM market, and T.I., though his career was derailed by an eleven-month prison sentence in 2010, has been making stellar records ever since, with four going platinum. Last year's Trouble Man: Heavy Is the Head continues to be a fixture.