DAR Hip Hop: The 15 Greatest Roc-A-Fella Artists

By @TrueGodImmortal

Many of us saw Roc-A-Fella Records as the premier record label of the late 90s and early 2000s. Backed by one of the most aggressive businessmen in Dame Dash and one of the greatest rappers/businessmen in Jay-Z, The Roc would build a legacy that would last long after the original core broke up. They signed a lot of artists, most of whom never released an album, but they had a full roster from the start. Today, we wanted to take a look at the 15 greatest artists to ever be a part of The Roc, but there's a criteria for this: any artist that is ranked has to have an album that's actually released on the label (before the big changes in 2008), which cancels out a few notable names (Jadakiss being the biggest). With the criteria in place, let's get into it.

15. Amil

-Might surprise you to see her so low on the list. The reasoning for it is simple. I've always been unsure that Amil wrote her own lyrics based on what we know about Jay and his ghostwriting ability, but even if she wrote those lyrics herself, there was something missing with Amil. She seemed to be a decent rapper, but just didn't have the it factor. Her first and only album on The Roc is very subpar, earning the final spot on this list.

14. Teairra Mari 

-I wasn't a big fan of her, though she's always been a nice sight to look at, but her music just doesn't cut it for me clearly. She released one album on The Roc, which spawned a big hit, but Teairra just didn't have longevity to continue to be a hitmaker, thus her low ranking on the list. She did go on to obtain more fame via VH1 and the Love and Hip Hop show, but musically while on The Roc, it just didn't work.

13. Christion

-While many don't recognize this duo as much, they were the first R&B act signed to The Roc. Before there was Rell, there was Christion. The duo came out with the underrated album Ghetto Cyrano, which featured a lot of good music and a much different vibe for The Roc. The duo could have had bigger success if they hit a little later for The Roc, but after their first album, they seemed to fizzle out. I can only wonder what if when thinking of this duo and their music potential.

12. DJ Clue

-The infamous DJ Clue isn't an artist necessarily, but he was a vital part of the Roc released multiple albums through the label and was a viable commercial presence. Clue released three editions of The Professional compilation via The Roc and Def Jam, and each edition of the series was successful in its own right. While Clue wasn't an artist necessarily

11. N.O.R.E.

-While there was a short window of time that N.O.R.E. was on The Roc, he's still a legend in the game. He signed back in 2004 and released one album on the label before the big change over in 2006, and it was mostly a Spanish/reggaeton album. While the album itself wasn't one that I particularly enjoyed, N.O.R.E., thus he ranks higher than a few others on the list. He could have had a solid album if he did a strictly hip hop album as well, but I guess we'll always be left wondering.

10. Memphis Bleek 

-Now, THIS is no disrespect to Bleek who was one of the most important parts of the growth of The Roc, but he misses the top 5 with ease. He wasn't the most skilled and surprisingly, his albums were mostly subpar. It was as if the potential Jay saw never came to fruition as Bleek never could take the Roc crown. Still, I enjoyed his second album The Understanding and every now and then, Bleek had a dope track or two.

9. State Property 

-So, you see Freeway and Young Gunz here and probably wonder how State Property makes the list, but these are all separate acts on the label regardless. State Property is a group and its own entity, creating some street anthems and albums/soundtracks to their own films. Led by Beanie Sigel, we got to see Oschino, Peedi Crakk, Sparks, and more all work together to showcase what life in the streets of Philly really entailed. State Prop put on for The Roc as a collective and separately, but as a collective, they were nearly unstoppable on the streets.

8. Juelz Santana 

-Juelz was only on the Roc for one official album, but the album was enough to manage to get him on the list here. He wasn't the most lyrical artist and his verses did tend to border on lazy and nonsensical at times, but Juelz had something in his music that many artists didn't: charisma. His sole album on The Roc, From Me 2 U, featured great songs and flawless production, enough to get Juelz in the top 10 of this list.

7. Young Gunz

-The young Philly duo had a short lived stint on the label technically, but they were Roc veterans in reality. After their debut album Tough Luv hit the charts hard and nearly secured a platinum plaque, the Young Gunz were on the verge of becoming household names. Unfortunately, the Roc breakup knocked them down a notch, as their second album Brothers From Another wasn't as successful, but the duo remains one of the most popular acts to come from The Roc, thus their placement on this list.

6. Freeway 

-The Roc had some great Philly artists on their roster, and right below Beanie is Freeway in terms of talent. Free was one of the more unique talents on the Roc and he stole the show on a lot of the State Property and Roc-A-Fella posse songs. His biggest moment came from his debut album "Philadelphia Freeway", which is one of my favorite albums to ever come from the Roc label. His second album "Free At Last" was also a solid project, making Freeway the fifth most important solo artist to come from The Roc, behind Cam, Beans, Kanye, and Jay of course. That's some amazing company to be in when you think about it.

5. The Diplomats 

-While I had Juelz in the list alone, I have to put The Diplomats on this list as well due to the dominance they had of the streets during their early period at The Roc. That and the fact they had an amazing album in Diplomatic Immunity that made them only the 3rd act on The Roc to go platinum at the time (Jay and Cam are the first two), and the 2nd to release a double album. In their short time at The Roc, The Diplomats made a bigger impact than I think any of us realized at the time.

4. Cam'ron

-When Cam arrived at the label, it changed things... for better or worse. He would end up being a vital piece in the initial breakup of The Roc, or at least it's believed that he played a role. Regardless, Cam was the first to go platinum on The Roc besides Jay, doing what Beans and Bleek came close to doing but couldn't finish. His two albums on the label, Come Home With Me and Purple Haze, are his two best albums, showing that Cam and The Roc worked well together, but egos sometimes halts greatness from going further.

3. Beanie Sigel 

-The most loyal soldier to The Roc, Beans was seen as one of the most vicious lyricists during the early 2000s with good reason. He stood up for the label, not backing down from a lyrical beef with Jadakiss and he had a knack for mostly outshining Jay on their collaborations. That might not sound accurate to the average Roc fan's memory, but Beans was just that good. His first two albums on the label, The Truth and The Reason are very solid listens and in my opinion, Beans is quite possibly the overall best lyricist in the Roc NOT named Jay-Z. His run in The Roc should not be denied. Beans was a problem.

2. Kanye West 

-The top 2 artists on this list aren't any shock I'm sure. These are two of the biggest stars in the entire world, and Kanye might have surpassed Jay in terms of international popularity. Still, while Kanye wasn't necessarily the ideal star for The Roc at first, he came out of nowhere virtually after being just the in house producer and he took off from there. With classics like College Dropout and Late Registration before the big change over, Kanye earned his Roc stripes and set his legacy as the only other man in the entire crew that has ever been able to be mentioned as a legend besides Jay. Kanye deserves big credit for that.

1. Jay-Z

-I mean, of course. Obviously. The true legend and the engine of the Roc. Jay is arguably the greatest rapper ever and definitely a top 5 rapper of all time, and his legacy was built up during the prime days of the Roc. From his legendary debut Reasonable Doubt to his Vol. album series to his classic The Blueprint, Jay kept the Roc afloat every year by dropping one of the best albums every single year. From 1996 to 2003, there weren't too many would could keep up with Jay and I think that's the most consistent period ever for any rapper. Jay is not only the best artist to come from The Roc, he IS The Roc (along with Dame and Biggs of course). There's no other choice for no. 1 here. Jay is the GOAT artist for The Roc.



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