Born Marshall Mathers in the Kansas City suburb St. Joseph, Eminem spent his childhood between Missouri and Michigan, settling in Detroit by his teens. At the age of 14, he began rapping with a high-school friend, the two adopting the names "Manix" and "M&M," which soon morphed into Eminem. Under this name, Mathers entered battle rapping, a struggle dramatized in the fictionalized "8 Mile". Initially, the predominantly African-American audience didn't embrace Eminem, but soon his skills gained him a reputation, and he was recruited to join several rap groups.
With the aid of Eminem and Dr. Dre, Jackson became one of the world's best selling rappers and rose to prominence with East Coast hip hop group G-Unit. In 2003 he founded G-Unit Records, signing his G-Unit associates Young Buck, Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo. Jackson had similar commercial and critical success with his second album, The Massacre, which was released in 2005. He released his fifth studio album, Animal Ambition, in 2014 and is working on his sixth studio album: Street King Immortal, scheduled for release in 2015.
Dre began his career as a member of the World Class Wreckin' Cru and later found fame with the influential gangsta rap group N.W.A with Eazy-E, Ice Cube, MC Ren, and DJ Yella, which popularized the use of explicit lyrics in rap to detail the violence of street life.
The duo broke up after a feud between Royce and the members of Eminem's group D12. The feud ended when Proof, a D12 member and Eminem's best friend—as well as a friend of Royce's—was murdered in April 2006. After Royce's super-group Slaughterhouse signed to the Eminem-founded label Shady Records, a reunion of Bad Meets Evil followed with the extended play Hell: The Sequel, which reached number one on the US Billboard 200 and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America and the Australian Recording Industry Association.
During Tony Yayo's imprisonment, the group recruited Tennessee-based rapper Young Buck, who was featured throughout the Beg for Mercy album. In late 2004, California-based rapper The Game was also added to the group, a proposition made by Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, to promote the Aftermath/Interscope newcomer. However, due to The Game's "disloyalty" in the eyes of 50 Cent, he was soon removed from the group.
Born in Champaign, Illinois, Ludacris moved to Atlanta, Georgia at age nine, where he began rapping. After a brief stint as a disc jockey, he released his first album Incognegro in 1999 followed by Back for the First Time in 2000, which contained the singles "Southern Hospitality" and "What's Your Fantasy". In 2001, he released Word of Mouf, followed by Chicken-n-Beer in 2003 and The Red Light District in 2004. He took a more serious approach with his next two albums, Release Therapy, and Theater of the Mind. His next record, Battle of the Sexes, was released in 2010 and featured the tone of his previous albums.
Snoop's debut album, Doggystyle, was released in 1993 under Death Row Records, debuting at number one on both the Billboard 200 and Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts. Selling almost a million copies in the first week of its release, Doggystyle became certified 4× platinum in 1994 and spawned several hit singles, including "What's My Name?" and "Gin & Juice". In 1994, Snoop released a soundtrack on Death Row Records for the short film Murder Was The Case, starring himself. His second album Tha Doggfather, also debuted at number one on both charts with "Snoop's Upside Ya Head", as the lead single. The album was certified double platinum in 1997.
After leaving Death Row, Snoop signed with No Limit Records, where he recorded his next three albums. Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told, No Limit Top Dogg, and Tha Last Meal.
Wallace was raised in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. When he released his debut album Ready to Die in 1994, he became a central figure in the East Coast hip hop scene and increased New York's visibility in the genre at a time when West Coast hip hop was dominant in the mainstream. The following year, Wallace led his childhood friends to chart success through his protégé group, Junior M.A.F.I.A. While recording his second album, Wallace was heavily involved in the growing East Coast/West Coast hip hop feud.
On March 9, 1997, Wallace was killed by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. His double-disc set Life After Death, released 16 days later, rose to No. 1 on the U.S. album charts and was certified Diamond in 2000, one of the few hip hop albums to receive this certification. Wallace was noted for his "loose, easy flow", dark semi-autobiographical lyrics and storytelling abilities. Two more albums have been released since his death. He has certified sales of 17 million units in the United States.