Hip-hop groups all offer an impressive roster of individual rappers, but which hip-hop crew is the absolute best?
Is it fair to compare the legends like Run-D.M.C. and N.W.A. to G-Unit and Wu-Tang Clan? Will D12 and Public Enemy ever get the respect that Tha Dogg Pound gets?
What makes a great group? Is it chemistry? Personalities? The body of work? All the essential ingredients have to be in place, of course. It also helps if the sum of the group is greater than its individual parts.
Hip-hop music rose to prominence first in the 1970s when groups like The Sugarhill Gang became quite popular.
The sounds evolved in the decades that followed with the best rap groups advanced with various shades and sizes.
The Wu-Tang Clan set the bar high for large crews. De La Soul proved that three really is the magic number; groups like Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill showed that hip-hop has the power to bridge cultural gaps.
The world has been showing love and support for crews like N.W.A. and Public Enemy because they changed the landscape of hip-hop with their activism.
We cherish OutKast and The Roots because they somehow pinched our hard wiring and resonated with our humanity.
List of some of the greatest groups of all time:
When Del rhymed, “Life ain’t all about busting caps or f–cking b–ches” on “At the Helm,” he pretty much professed the group’s mantra. Hiero was the first West Coast group to make a lasting impression without thuggin’ on wax.
Members: Del the Funkee Homosapien, Casual, Pep Love, A+, Opio, Tajai, Phesto, and Domino
We can’t imagine many hip-hop heads without Black Moon’s 1993 gemstone Enta Dah Stage in their collection. Black Moon kept East Coast hip-hop on lock for years.
Members: Buckshot, DJ Evil Dee, 5ft Accelerator
Salt N Pepa
Salt ‘N Pepa’s contribution to hip-hop extends beyond their status as rap’s most significant female group.
Members: Salt, Pepa, Spinderella
Bone-Thugs N Harmony
Bone Thugs’ blend of octane-fueled lyrics with harmonized vocals made them a household name.
Members: Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone, Bizzy Bone, Wish Bone, Flesh-n-Bone
2 Live Crew
It’s unfortunate that the hoopla over 2 Live Crew’s sexually charged (sometimes misogynistic) songs eclipsed the group’s musical accomplishment.
They weren’t lyrical wizards, but their thunderous booty bops helped popularize the Miami bass sound.
Members: Luke, Fresh Kid Ice, Mr. Mixx, Amazing V., Brother Marquis, Verb
Along with UGK and SUC, Geto Boys will always be revered as southern rap pioneers.
Members: Scarface, Bushwick Bill, Willie D
The Fugees were a super-talented bunch — in fact, too talented for their own good.
Members: Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, Pras
Who knew that three white kids would eventually become one of hip-hop’s most influential acts ever?
Members: Ad-Rock, Mike D, MCA
With Black Thought being one of the best lyricists of all time this Philadelphia hip-hop group led by the production and sound from a live band with the likes of legendary drummer Questlove and other musicians has given them an everlasting fan base.
Members: Questlove, Black Thought, Kamal Gray, Captain Kirk, Frankie Knuckles, Tuba Gooding Jr.
De La Soul
With releasing classic projects from the late 1980s and well into the 2010s this laid-back soulful hip-hop group has been widely praised for its unique sound and being incomparable to any other hip-hop act.
Members: Posdnuos, Trugoy, Maseo
Formed in Long Island, New York, in 1986, they are known for their politically charged music and criticism of the American media, with an active interest in the frustrations and concerns of the African American community.
Members: Chuck D, Keith Shocklee, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, and DJ Lord (replaced Terminator X in 1998 after his retirement from the group)
A Tribe Called Quest
Tribe was the most successful of their Native Tongues brethren, thanks, in part, to their consistency.
Members: Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Q-Tip, Phife Dawg
Run-DMC exemplified the perfect combination of honesty, attitude, and creativity.
Members: Run, DMC, Jam Master Jay
N.W.A, introduced the world to gangster rap music, while also being the true starter of West Coast hip hop.
Even after their split, members would continue to have individual success as NWA handed the world one of the best producers of all time and one of the best lyricists and storytellers of all time.
Members: Dr.Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, MC Ren, DJ Yella, Arabian Prince
No, no weapon in hip-hop history can rival the chaotic cohesion of the Wu-Tang Clan. The Clan had so many characters, each with his own eccentricities. They were fearless in their approach.
There’s a good reason no group has been able to successfully recreate their sound. The crew spawned gazillions of loosely associated acts.
Members: RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa, ODB(Ol’ Dirty Bastard)