Rapping in 2015 is more or less an individual art form. Sure, there are a handful of decent rap groups out there, but few that can compare to those of the past (except maybe Migos, they just barely missed the list). Here are 10 of the best rap groups to ever do it.
10. Mobb Deep
While a lot of the public might consider Havoc and Prodigy to only have one big song, we doubt anyone would dare tell the New York-based duo that to their faces. Aside from teaching the entire world that there’s no such thing as halfway crooks, Mobb Deep released one of the best (and hardest) hip hop albums of all time with The Infamous, and have put out several solid records since then. Even if you only know the instrumental of “Shook Ones (Part II)” from the grand finale of 8 Mile, there’s little denying the pair’s impact on hardcore east coast rap.
9. Eric B. & Rakim
You can't measure the impact this Long Island duo had in record sales and megahits, because that's not where they shined. The legacy of Eric B. & Rakim is found in the influence they had on rappers and groups that came after them, which can be found all throughout the rap music of the last two decades. Paid in Full set the bar for what a great debut album should sound like, and it still goes down as one of the most influential records of all time.
8. A Tribe Called Quest
There’s a good chance that most hip hop groups never would’ve existed without A Tribe Called Quest. At a time when so many groups felt the need to either be extremely danceable or extremely violent, A Tribe Called Quest decided to go a different route and put out intelligent songs based around relatable topics. The fact that this portion of the Native Tongues Posse could burst on to the scene with tunes like “Bonita Applebum” and “Can I Kick It?” and have commercial success opened the door for a whole lot of other groups to step in.
7. De La Soul
If A Tribe Called Quest helped the Native Tongues Posse change the game for popular rap music, De La Soul brought expanded the playing field with their unique sound. 3 Feet High and Rising is one of the best hip hop albums ever, and everything from the jazzy funky samples to the somewhat bizarre lyrical genius of the trio’s debut is flawless. Musically, lyrically, and stylistically, DLS opened up whole new worlds for rappers who weren’t happy confining themselves into the mainstream variation of the genre.
Yes, part of their everlasting legacy will include bringing a should-be-dead classic rock band back to life and causing a never-should've-happened reality show, but the rest of the impact Run-D.M.C. left on the rap world can't be denied. Aside from game-changing hits like "My Adidas" and "Run's House," the legendary group also opened countless doors for rap crews and duos down the road. Before Run-D.M.C., a hip-hop group had never been able to get on the cover of Rolling Stone, be nominated for a Grammy, sign a major endorsement deal, or several other major now-common tremendous business moves. Rappers everywhere have Run-D.M.C. to thank for a good portion of the paychecks they see, on top of how their music sounds.
5. The Fugees
The Fugees had everything you could possibly want in a hip hop group. Poetic lyrics, badass instrumentals, insanely talented members, and one of the nastiest splits you’ll ever see. Ugh… If only they’d make peace and get back together.
4. The Beastie Boys
It’s real easy to tell the difference between someone who likes hip hop for the music and someone who likes it because they think it’s cool and tough. Ask them if they like the Beastie Boys. Sonically, it’s hard to deny that the Beasties are one of the best groups to ever pick up a microphone, but being a trio of relatively nice Jewish guys from decent backgrounds in New York doesn’t exactly get you the most street cred. If you’re too cool for the MCA, Ad-Rock and Mike D, you’re really not in it for the music and wordplay, are you?
When you look up how to create the perfect rap duo, there should just be a picture of Outkast. Forget the last couple of years, let’s focus on everything that’s right about the Atlanta pair. To start, Andre 3000 and Big Boi have entirely different but complementary styles of rapping. Hell, they even look, act, and dress like polar opposites a lot of the time. From a success standpoint, there’s not many ways Outkast could’ve improved. Not only do they have the top-selling rap album of all time, but they’re also considered greats by everyone from hardcore rap fans to music critics to casual pop listeners.
The group so famous that their biographical movie is being hyped more than anything since the last Star Wars movie. There’s no doubt who the kings of west coast hip hop were, and they more or less singlehandedly invented gangster rap. Regardless of the fact that Dre made more money from headphones than music and Ice Cube now makes terrible kids movies, N.W.A. didn’t change the game, they invented a whole new one to play.
1. Wu-Tang Clan
Rap groups wouldn’t even exist if not for Wu-Tang Clan, plain and simple. The Staten Island legends proved that you could be successful as an ensemble, solo, in pairs, as producers, and just about every other way, all while putting out amazing album after amazing album. Every move they made early on set the standard for what every rap group would have to do from there on out, and they're still doing it more successfully than almost anyone out there. Think about it, RZA even has an acting career these days.
Editor's note: The version of this article that published at 4 a.m. was an old draft of the article, and not the intended final product. The final version swapped out two groups from the list, and as a result, this version includes Run-D.M.C. and Eric B, & Rakim, which were not on the list originally. We apologize for the confusion.
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