From RZA to CeeLo: 20 Unorthodox Rappers who ‘Rhyme Southpaw’
Hip-hop as a culture has grown to become a powerful force world-wide, with its music, fashion, and slang influencing all facets of life in continents as far as Europe and Asia.
Due to the competitive spirit of rap and originality being a pillars of hip-hop, the best rap artists have come up with an array of inventive flows and rhyme schemes to always distinguish oneself from the pack; certain lyricists began to tinker various formats and come up with verses that were unique in nature and spacing. Rapping, like boxing, is a sport where styles make fights and having an unorthodox deliver to get off your metaphors and punches can be a key asset in you rising up the ranks. In boxing, a southpaw boxer uses a stance where their right hand and right foot forward, leading with right jabs, and following with a left cross right hook. While being a southpaw is the norm for left-handed fighters, many right-handed boxers also fight southpaw for strategic purposes.
The off-kilter style of so many rappers helps set them apart. E-40's stutter-step flow is instantly recognizable, as is Cypress Hill's B-Real with his zany approach to rhyming; and Atlanta vet Khujo Goodie has always had one of the game's most unique rhyme patterns.
Southpaw boxers are similar in nature to rappers who also perform while utilizing unorthodox flows and rhymes, so we picked 20 notable lyricists that could be classified as southpaw MC's.
As the mastermind of one of the most impactful movements in hip-hop, RZA is a hip-hop legend of the highest order. But in addition to spearheading the Wu-Tang Clan's takeover of the rap game, RZA is also noted as being one of the greatest producers of all-time, with his sound serving as the backdrop to songs by an assortment of legends, including The Notorious B.I.G., Big Pun, and Kanye West, as well as his Wu brethren. Those accolades are the first things that come to mind when fans think of the RZA, but he is adept at rhyming with a southpaw style when behind the mic, employing a dyslexic flow to get his point across, creating a verbal hodgepodge of off-kilter bars and scattered endings. An avid purveyor of Kung-Fu flicks, RZA's technique is as unique as they come and build's the case for him being the Drunken Master of hip-hop.
You'd think a rapper with a name like Casual would be prone to kicking bland flows, but the Oakland, California native has a skill-set that betrays his name, as it is nothing close to dressed-down. A founding member of the legendary Hieroglyphics crew, Casual parlayed standout appearances on albums by fellow Hiero members Del the Funky Homosapien and Souls of Mischief into a record deal of his own, culminating in the release of his debut album, Fear Itself, in 1994. The album was a hit and introduced Casual's abstract, battle-ready delivery to a national audience and was hailed as a classic release for west coast hip-hop. While Casual would never repeat the success featured on his debut, his style has remained a delight to bear witness to and makes him one of the oft-forgotten southpaws out of Cali.
Philadelphia is famous for it's grit and blue-collar ethics and has served as a breeding ground for some of the illest rhymers to spew rhymes into a microphone. One of those MC's is Freeway, who came made his debut in a big way, outshining Jay Z and Memphis Bleek on the Dynasty cut, "1-900-Hustler," which helped earn him a spot on the Roc-A-Fella Records roster. The Roc may have housed a stable of elite lyricists, but none were as gifted stylistically as the bearded talent, making him a delight to hear whenever he did damage during his legendary appearances on Hot 97 and on records with his label-mates. Leading up to the release of his debut album, Philadelphia Freeway, some critics were concerned that his delivery and voice were too unbridled to hold down an entire album, but those doubts were shattered wen he rolled out what would be regarded as one of the best releases from Roc-A-Fella Records and a classic debut. Throughout the years, Freeway has continued to maneuver his distinct stanzas over rich production and remains true to is tendencies as a southpaw.
As far as spittters coming out of the south, Curren$y is one of the most tenured artists still active and viable among younger fans. Beginning his career as a member of Master P's No Limit roster, Curren$y wouldn't find traction until he split ways with the house that Percy built and got on his independent grind with a number of mixtape releases. But Currensy would refine his style into the slithery, scatter-brained musings he's popular for today and has afforded him a following as one of modern-day rap's underground kings. His most recent release, a collaborative effort with producer Alchemist, Carrollton Heist, is yet another display of the Hot Spitta's southpaw approach to the art of rhyme and a testament to Curren$y's spot on this list.
Brooklyn has been a breeding ground for some of the most technically sound rappers in the history of hip-hop and Jeru the Damaja happens to be one of the boroughs unsung heroes. The East New York native gave hip-hop one of its most lasting compositions with his 1993 single, "Come Clean," a DJ Premier produced jam that dominated turntables and tape-decks upon its arrival, placing Jeru at the forefront of the renaissance taking place on the east coast at the time. Presenting his debut album, Sun Rises in the East, in 1994, Jeru wowed listeners with his unorthodox style, scrambling over tracks, yet displaying a terse focus that made it far from a rambling diatribes. While Sun Rises in the East may have been his magnum opus, Jeru has kept serviced fans with southpaw flows for more than two decades while wielding the wizardry of his lyricism for all to witness.
Death Row Records has a family tree that has managed to produce a crop of fruitful talent. One former member of that Row family tree is Daz Dillinger, one-half of the duo, Dogg Pound, and a renowned producer equally adept at whipping up funky soundbeds as he is concocting flows. While making appearances on numerous Death Row releases alongside the likes of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, Daz got to full spread his wings on Tha Dogg Pound debut album, Dogg Food, and got an opportunity to give listeners a full dosage of his hydraulic flow on his solo album, Retaliation, Revenge and Get Back. With over a dozen solo releases under his belt, Daz Dillinger is one of the more prolific rappers in terms of output and continues to dazzle with his enticing delivery.
When the Wu-Tang Clan first hit the scene in 1993 with Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), there was little question as to who the breakout out star of the clique would be. That star was Method Man, who made good use of his spotlight on ...36 Chambers and quickly emerged as a fan favorite. His charismatic nature and appeal to the ladies may have played a major part in his role as the heart-throb of the Wu, but it was his rambunctious delivery that gave him clout among lyrical connoisseurs and resulted in him being among the many rap hopefuls tasked with helping to shift the attention of rap fans back to he east. His debut album, Tical, would please casual fans and rhyme junkies alike, with Method Man kicking a bevy of open-ended flows that numbed the brain with its visceral imagery. He may have "gone Hollywood" at the peak of his career, but has stayed true to his roots and is still reliable for a stylistically superb verse.
A certain ATL rapper repping Bankhead may be known as the King of the South, but Andre 3000 is the Peach State's greatest lyricist and arguably the best to ever do it from the south. The Outkast member came in the game in 1994 with his partner Big Boi and dropped five albums that would establish them as one of the most transcendent duos in hip-hop history. Rhyming with an intricate delivery that is both unconventional and enthralling, 3 Stacks attacks beats with a controlled vigor that is felt every time he unloads his thoughts on a track. He may not be as active as fans would like him to be, but when it comes to being a southpaw, few artists flows are more effective than Andre 3000's.
MF Doom is the epitome of an enigma when it comes to the rap industry. Originally rhyming under the name Zev Love X** as a member of the group KMD, the group would release one album, Mr. Hood, in 1991 before being dropped from Elektra Records and having their sophomore album shelved in 1993. The death of his brother and KMD Subroc, along with the strain of his trials and tribulations with the music business birthed MF DOOM, a character Zev Love X created that would take the underground by storm. With a leisurely rhyme style and plenty of nerdy references appealing to pop culture and comic books, MF DOOM's southpaw approach to rhyming has been the secret ingredient to his albums and when matched with his creativity, is an experience like no other.
Younger music fans may think of a jolly guy that makes happy music when you mention CeeLo, but those who were around during his heyday know that he's also not one to be trifled with when it comes to laying down bars as well. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, CeeLo initially made his name as a member Goodie Mob, and his mic skills were clearly shown via their classic 1995 debut, Soul Food, and two follow-up albums, Still Standing and World Party. Being the fan favorite of the group, CeeLo embarked on a solo career and fully spread his wings on his first release, titled CeeLo Green and His Perfect Imperfections, which he used as a canvas to paint pictures while showcasing his titillating delivery and cadence. While CeeLo has since gone on to become one of the funkiest crooners in all of music, his days as a southpaw will forever be memorable for those who were riding with the Soul Machine long before the Gnarles Barkley fame.
Sadat X made his entrance as a member of Brand Nubian, who held down the east coast during the early '90s with the classic albums One for All and In God We Trust. Whereas Grand Puba was the fly fellow and Lord Jamar was the militant, Sadat X was the X-factor of the group with his zany rhyme style and gained fans in fellow legends like Jay and The Notorious B.I.G., both of whom enlisted the underrated spitter to rhyme alongside them, a testament to his worth as a crafty lyricist. Aside from his work with Brand Nubian, Sadat X has also released multiple solo albums featuring his high-pitched voice and patchwork rhyme patterns and continues to get in the thick of things, all the while pummeling track with his southpaw tendencies.
Nepotism is often frowned upon, but when Ice Cube brought his cousin Del the Funky Homosapien into the fold as a writer for his group, Da Lench Mob, he proved to be worthy of the fast-track to the big leagues. Releasing his debut album I Wish My Brother George Was Here in 1991, Del would branch off and link up with the Hieroglyphics crew for his sophomore effort, No Need For Alarm, which was a landmark release that helped present a lyrical contrast to the Bay Area sound that Too Short and E-40 had popularized in earlier years. With an expansive style of rhyming and an topsy-turvy flow, Del the Funky Homosapien has utilized his skills as a southpaw spitter over eleven solo albums and countless mixtapes, and side-project and made a name for himself as one of the most respect lyricists on the west coast.
Finding a set of rappers more unique than Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede of Camp-Lo would be a nearly-impossible task, as the Bronx natives have a swagger all their own that can be imitated, but never duplicated. Releasing their debut album, Uptown Saturday Night, in 1997, the fashion-centric duo scored a classic album off the bat and delivered one of the hottest rap songs of the 90s with "Luchini" instantly establishing themselves as some of the more original southpaws to come along with their futuristic lingo. Blowing listeners away with their nuanced deliveries and colorful musings, Camp-Lo have continued to gift their Geechi disciples with quality hip-hop over the years and are one of the most criminally underrated acts of the past two decades.
Longevity is hard to come by in the music industry, but Kool Keith has defied the odds and is nearing thirty years as an artist in the rap game. A co-founding member of the Bronx-based Ultramagnetic MC's, Kool Keith and his group-mates turned in one of the greatest rap albums of all-time with their 1988 debut, Critical Beatdown, which saw Kool Keith leading the charge with a grab-bag of quirky rhymes splattered over production by Ced Gee. After releasing two more albums with Ultramagnetic MC's, Kool Keith embarked on a solo career, taking on the moniker Dr. Octagon and releasing his 1996 solo debut, Dr. Octagonecolygist. Kool Keith then went on a rampage, dropping over twenty albums under various aliases and emerging as lord of the underground. One of the most unpredictable rhymers with a knack for the dramatic, Kool Keith stands of one of the most inventive southpaws to place their stamp on the game.
The TDE camp is home to one of the deepest rosters in hip-hop right now and Ab-Soul is at the top of the list when it comes to constructing complex rhyme schemes and going southpaw on a track. Born in Los Angeles and raised in Carson, Ab-Soul would begin his career right out of high school, signing with a label called StreetBeat Entertainment before ultimately aligning himself with Top Dawg Entertainment in 2007. Releasing his debut mixtape, Longterm, in January of 2009, Ab-Soul has proved to be a key addition to TDE and has emerged as one of the crew's most formidable spitters. Building his buzz with breakthrough mixtapes like Longterm 2 and Control System, the Black Lip Bastard has ingratiated himself to rap fans with his unconventional delivery and off-kilter verses, making him one of the more highly regarded young artists in hip-hop today. While he has yet to ascend to the commercial heights that label-mates Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q have, Ab-Soul is TDE's resident southpaw with rhyme schemes for days.
RBX is a name that may fly over many rap fans heads, young and old, but if you were to take a look at his resume, he's definitely one to know. A native of Longbeach, California, RBX joined the Death Row Records roster along with cousins Snoop Dogg and Daz Dillinger and looked to be on the fast track to stardom after riveting appearances on Dr. Dre's The Chronic and Snoop's Doggystyle album, but would depart from the label in 1994 amid allegations of financial misappropriation. Signing to Premeditated Records, RBX released his debut album, The RBX Files, in 1995, but would fail to gain traction, causing him to slowly fade into obscurity by the end of the '90s. But despite keeping a low-profile, RBX has remained on the grind throughout the years with sporadic releases that bring to mind his can't-miss performances that helped make The Chronic the game-changer that it's regarded as today and is an oft-forgotten southpaw with the chops to verbally spar with the best of them.
Youthful exuberance is a priceless attribute in rap and Juelz Santana had it in spades upon his arrival on the big stage. Parlaying an impromptu audition into a spot within Cam'ron's Dipset camp, Juelz made his debut appearance on Cam's SDE album before serving as a costar on his mentor's Roc-A-Fella debut, Come Home With Me. Quickly earning the distinction of being one of the hottest young guns in rap, Santana would get to strut his stuff outside of the confines of the Dipset triangle offense, releasing his solo debut, From Me to U, in 2003, which failed to major units, but displayed his choppy, southpaw delivery and earned him kudos on the streets. Attaining mainstream success with his sophomore effort, What The Game's Been Missing, in 2005, Juelz would fail to release another album and would never live up to his promise as a superstar. With that said, his mixtape grind has kept his name from becoming a distant memory and is one of the more noteworthy southpaws in recent memory.
Hip-hop may be dominated by males, but a countless amount of women have also made key contributions to the culture in all facets. And although platinum success may have alluded her, Bahamadia surely left her mark when it came to getting busy on the microphone. The Philly native released her debut album, Kollage, in 1996 and immediately etched her name in stone as one of the most formidable female southpaws to have come along in hip-hop. Featuring production from DJ Premier, Da Beatminerz, The Roots, Guru, and N.O. Joe, the beats afforded Bahamadia an array of soundbeds to flip her verbal gymnastics over, especially on highlight selections like "Total Wreck," "Spontaneity," "Uknowhowwedu," and "I Confess." Kollage would peak at No. 126 on the Billboard 200 and Bahmadia would only release one other album (BB Queen), but the fly girl who shocked the game with her glorious afro and southpaw flow can never be forgotten when it comes to ladies who rocked the mic with finesse.
Talib Kweli is a rapper's rapper and one of the leading standard bearers of what it means to be an MC. A native of Brooklyn, Kweli paid his dues during one of the most competitive eras for no-frills lyricists and linked up with Mos Def, a fellow mainstay on the underground circuit and formed the duo Black Star. After pursuing a solo career, Talib Kweli would transcend his humble beginnings performing open-mics and cafes and make his name known within the major label system. Churning out multiple records that made an impact in the marketplace, Talib eventually retreated back to the independent scene and has since become one of hip-hop's most outspoken ambassadors and an elder statesmen. Known for his wordy stanzas, Talib Kweli's style is as technically sound as they come, yet free-wheeling and unpredictable, resulting in his verses containing various nooks and crannies that give his verses a special wrinkle of their own.
The Midwest took a little time to find its footing in the rap game, but one of the biggest talents to emerge from the area was lyrical speed-demon Twista. Hailing from Chicago, the pudgy rhymesayer first made noise after introducing his rapid-fire style on his debut album, Runnin' Off at da Mouth, and earned the distinction of being the fastest rapper in the world in 1992. But Twista's true breakout performance would come via a guest appearance on fellow Chicagoan's Do or Die's "Po Pimp," which gave his career the spark it needed, leading to the release of his classic 1997 effort Adrenaline Rush. One of the most resilient artists of his era, Twista would go subterranean again before making his biggest splash yet alongside Kanye West on "Slow Jamz," reaching platinum success with his 2004 album, Kamikaze, which brought his frantic, southpaw style of quick-strike verses to a national audience. Owning one of the more original approach to rhyming we've ever seen, Twista is a southpaw that is as speedy with the flow as he is dexterous with the skill to off-set any spitter opposing him.