REBELLION’S TOP TEN RAP CREWS/GROUPS (historic/contemporary 2lists)!

23 07 2009

Here’s some more musical content-for-thought…

I figured I had to make a follow up to the top ten rapper list I did a while back., as that list only included solo vocalists, and crews or individual rappers within crews were excluded… Sorry this one took so long, but I couldn’t do a top ten rappers list properly without doing A LOT of work. I decided early on that this list would have to be in two pieces – historical/influential rap crews first, and then contemporary.

With groups/crews, group dynamic, the talents of multiple rappers, plus DJ and producers also come into play, not just sheer vocal talent, though many individuals within these groups have had successful solo careers (note Aesop Rock, MF DOOM, Mos Def, Apathy, etc..). So here, finally, is the long-time-coming, Rebellion’s Top Ten Rap Groups list… As always, feedback welcome as long as it shows thought, has intellectual value and relevant content…

So first let’s get this out of the way so none of you think I’m forsaking the roots: Rebellion’s top ten historical/ no longer in existance rap crews…

Okay so, the not too unexpected or surprising historical top ten:

1. A Tribe Called Quest

Members: Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammadtribe3Check the Rhime – A Tribe Called Quest

Award Tour

Can I Kick it?

Buggin’ Out

A Tribe Called Quest is an American hip hop group, formed in 1985. The group is composed of rapper/producer Q-Tip (Jonathan Davis, renamed Kamal Fareed), rapper Phife Dawg (Malik Taylor), and DJ/producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad. A fourth member, rapper Jarobi White, left the group after their first album but appears to have rejoined the group since 2006. Along with De La Soul, the group was a central part of the Native Tongues Posse, and enjoyed the most commercial success out of all the groups to emerge from that collective. Their innovative fusing of hip hop and jazz has had a lasting impact on hip hop music, helping to expand the art of hip hop production. Many of their songs, such as “Bonita Applebum“, “Can I Kick It?“, “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo“, “Scenario“, “Check the Rhime“, “Jazz (We’ve Got)“, “Award Tour“, and “Electric Relaxation” are regarded as classics of the genre.

tribe2

  1. Oh my God
  2. Jazz (We’ve Got)
  3. Luck of Lucien
  4. Keep it Moving
  5. Sucka N***a
  6. Lyrics to Go

2. The Pharcyde

An alternative hip hop group from South Central Los Angeles, where the group’s members grew up. The original four members of the group are Imani (Emandu Wilcox),Slimkid3 (Tre Hardson), Bootie Brown (Romye Robinson) and Fatlip (Derrick Stewart). DJ Mark Luv was the group’s first DJ, followed by producer J-Swift and then the late J Dilla, one of my favorite producers. The group is best known for the hit singles “Drop“, “Passin’ Me By” and “Runnin’“, as well as their first album, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde – probably the best hip-hop album ever recorded.ph1

3. Run-DMCrundmc

Run-D.M.C. was an influential hip hop group from Hollis, in the Queens borough of New York City. Founded by Joseph “DJ Run” SimmonsDarryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels, and Jason “Jam-Master Jay” Mizell, the group is arguably one of the most influential acts in the history of hip hop. They were the biggest act in hip-hop throughout the 1980s and are credited with breaking hip hop into mainstream music.

rundmc2

4. NWA

“Boyz In Da Hood”nwa3

“Gangsta Gangsta”

“Express Yourself”

The legendary NWA…a ComptonCalifornia-based hip hop group widely considered one of the seminal acts of the gangsta rap sub-genre  Active from 1986 to 1991, the group endured controversy due to the explicit nature of their lyrics. They were subsequently banned from many mainstream U.S. radio stations and even at times prevented from touring – yet the group has still sold over 9 million units in the U.S. alone. Their second album, Straight Outta Compton, marked the beginning of the new gangsta rap era as the production and the social commentary in their lyrics were revolutionary within the genre. Rolling Stone ranked N.W.A 83rd on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”. Although largely unknown at the group’s inception, rappers Dr. DreIce CubeEazy-E and MC Ren would all go on to be platinum-selling stars as solo artists – as we all know. RIP Easy-E

“Fuck The Police”

“Just Don’t Bite It”

5. De La Soul

“Rock Co.Cane Flow” ft. MF Doomdelasoul2

De La Soul is an American hip hop group formed in 1987 in Long IslandNew York. They are best known for their eclectic sampling, quirky lyrics, and their contributions to the evolution of the jazz rap and alternative hip hop subgenres. The members are Kelvin Mercer(Posdnuos, Mercenary, Plug Wonder Why, Plug One), David Jude Jolicoeur (Trugoy the Dove, Dave, Plug Two) and Vincent Mason (P.A. Pasemaster Mase, Maseo, Plug Three). The three formed the group in high school and caught the attention of producer Paul Huston(Prince Paul) with a demo tape of the song “Plug Tunin’“. Prince Paul was also sometimes referred to as Plug Four. The “Plug” names are alleged to come from the numbers that each bandmate’s microphone was labeled on the soundboard. Posdnuos was always plugged into plug one, Trugoy was plugged into plug two, and so forth.

With its playful wordplay, innovative sampling, and witty skits, the band’s debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising, is hailed as a hip-hop masterpiece, and they still perform even to this day.

“Eye Know”

“All Good”

“Oodles of O’s”

6. Public EnemyPE1

Public Enemy, also known as PE, is an influential hip hop group from Long Island, New York, known for its politically charged lyrics and criticism of the American media, with an active interest in the frustrations and concerns of the African American community.

The group was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2007.PE2

Members:

  • Chuck D (one of, if not the most influential hip hop artist of his age)

7. The Beastie BoysBB3

Sabotage

Brass Monkey

Shake your Rump

Beastie Boys are an American group from New York City widely considered to be one of the most significant and influential hip hop and punk acts of their era. The band comprises Michael “Mike D” DiamondAdam “MCA” Yauch, and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz. Since around the time of the Hello Nasty album, the DJ for the group has been Michael “Mix Master Mike” Schwartz, who was first featured in the song “Three MC’s and One DJ“.BB2

Skills to Pay The Bills

Fight For your Right

Beastie Boys began as a hardcore punk group in 1979, and appeared on the compilation cassette New York Thrash with Riot Fight and Beastie. They switched to hip-hop with the release of their 12″ single “Cooky Puss“, which was followed by a string of successful 12” singles and their debut album Licensed to Ill (1986), which enjoyed international critical acclaim and commercial success. The group is well-known for its eclecticism, jocular and flippant attitude toward interviews and interviewers, obscure cultural references and kitschy lyrics, and for performing in outlandish matching suits.BB4

Intergalactic

Root Down

They are one of the longest-lived hip-hop acts and continue to enjoy commercial and critical success in 2009, more than 20 years after the release of their debut album. On September 27, 2007, they were nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On February 3, 2009, the group released a digitally remastered version of their second full-length album Paul’s Boutique for its 20th anniversary.BB5Three MC’s and One DJ

Body Movin’

Song for the Man

Johnny Ryall

Shadrach

Slow and Low

8. People Under the StairsPUS1

People Under the Stairs are an underground hip hop group from Los AngelesCalifornia. It comprises two self-proclaimed B-boysThes One and Double K. The group, also known as PUTS, has released four albums since 1998, and have since put out a record every two years, with the exception of 2004. Although widely unrecognized, PUTS is often considered one of the hip hop underground’s most prominent acts, with a musical style similar to that of A Tribe Called QuestThe Pharcyde, and fellow Los Angeles group Ugly Duckling. PUTS is also renowned for their live shows, which feature a large amount of crowd interaction and humor.PUS2

“Acid Raindrops”

“Code Check”

“Play it Again/Outtro”

“Step In”

9. Geto BoysGB2

I’m about to get back to the realness for a minute. Or, in the case of Geto Boys, the surrealness. Whereas west coast gangsta rap of the late 80s and early 90s was very much centred upon what’s really real (think realistic accounts of street life, drug dealing, ‘hood tales, sex, etc.), Geto Boys were much more focused upon that which wasn’t real, except for in their demented minds.GB1

Drawing upon the staple elements of any good gangsta rap song – i.e. violence, drugs and sex – the Geto Boys took these themes and ran with them to the most extreme, creating perverted fantasies surrounding their lyrics.GB3

It wasn’t always that way, though. The original line up of the Ghetto Boys outfit is nothing like we recognise it to be today. The lineup present for 1988’s Making Trouble was minus Scarface and Willie D, yet plus Prince Jonny C and Jukebox, along with DJ Reddy Red and Bushwick “Little Billy” Bill. Following the breakup of the original group – who were always somewhat tamer than the later incarnation – only Bushwick Bill and DJ Reddy Red reamined members of the new set, hot to trot for their ‘debut’ album Grip It! On That Other Level.

DJ Reddy Red would depart shortly after, leaving the group as a trio, only for Willie D to leave in 1992 and be replaced by Big Mike until he (Willie D) re-joined the group. As such, Big Mike provides vocals for their 1993 album Till Death Do Us Part, which proved to be a rather ironic title. The group as a trio would eventually stay together – tentatively – for a further three albums, spanning almost a decade between 1996 and 2005. Alongside these recordings, all three members continued to venture into solo waters, clocking up around 30 studio albums, mixtapes and unrelated group projects between them.GB4

To this day, Geto Boys remain one of the most prolific hip-hop acts ever, not least because of their sheer hard work and unadulterated daily musical grind. Bushwick Bill and especially Scarface continue to release solo work to this day – of varying degrees of quality – whereas Willie D has been somewhat quieter this decade. Despite their numerous and highly confusing line-up changes, they remain one of the cornerstones of regional rap, and ‘gangsta’/hardcore rap overall.GB5

Though there are a couple of duds in the catalogue, each and every one of the Geto Boys‘ albums is worth checking for, for its own special reasons. Grip It!Geto Boys (essentially the same album) and We Can’t Be Stopped are quite simply rap staples that everyone should at least try to hear. Most Geto Boys albums have been out-of-print at one time, yet they have been re-issued at various points over the years. Also, Scarface’s solo work is fantastic, you should look into that as well.

Tie for #10:

10. Gang Starr

“Right Where You Stand” – Gang StarrGS1

Gang Starr was an influential East Coast hip hop group that consisted of MC Guru and DJ/producerDJ Premier. The group was known mainly for their unique style, which combines elements of New York swing jazz and hip hop.

“Full Clip”

The group was founded in 1986 by Guru (then known as Keithy E. The Guru) and DJ 1,2 B-Down (also known as Mike Dee) with various producers, such as Donald D, J.V. Johnson or DJ Mark the 45 King helping out. In 1987 and 1988, Gang Starr released three 12″ vinyl singles on the Wild Pitch label.GS2

“Above the Clouds”

In 1989, the group split and the only member willing to continue under the name Gang Starr was Guru. He soon got in touch with DJ Premier (then known as Waxmaster C) who sent him a beat tape which Guru liked. He invited DJ Premier to join Gang Starr and in that same year they released their first single “Words I Manifest” along with the album “No More Mr. Nice Guy” (1989).

“Mass Appeal”

During their career Gang Starr helped pioneer the New York hip hop sound, and in fact, many an artist who achieved greater notoriety owes much of their sound, lyrical style, and even content to Gang Starr. The entirety of Gang Starr’s catalog, especially Step in the Arena (1991), Daily Operation(1992) “Hard to Earn” (1994) and Moment of Truth (1998) are well-respected among critics. Their track “Jazz Thing”, featured on the soundtrack to Spike Lee‘s film Mo’ Better Blues, helped establish the sound of jazz rap.GS3

“Works”

“The Militia”

10. Mobb Deepmobbdeep3

Mobb Deep is an American hip hop duo that consists of Havoc and Prodigy. The group is perhaps best known for its dark, hardcore delivery, as exemplified by the single “Shook Ones Pt. II.” Although Mobb Deep has not been as commercially successful as many of its peers, the majority of its albums have been critically acclaimed, in particular The Infamous, which is an East Coast classic.mobbdeep1

Mobb Deep catapulted to the top of the hardcore hip-hop scene through Havoc and Prodigy’s straightforward narration of street life. Mobb Deep portrayed the struggles of living in New York City’sQueensbridge Houses. Following its release, The Infamous became one of the most influential albums of the East Coast hardcore hip-hop genre. The duo’s production stood out, as the beats were often hard-hitting and direct—a testament to Havoc, who produced the tracks almost exclusively throughout Mobb Deep’s career.[1] Furthermore, the smash hit single “Shook Ones Pt. II” received critical acclaim and was well-received within the hip-hop community. Mobb Deep’s third album, Hell on Earth was released in 1996, debuting at number six on the Billboard album chart. The album continued the duo’s portrayal of harsh street life, while further pushing them to the forefront of the hardcore hip-hop scene, along with contemporary East Coast rappers like The Notorious B.I.G.Wu-Tang Clan collective, Jay-Z, and fellow Queensbridge associate Nas.mobbdeep2

In 1998, the duo collaborated with reggae dancehall rapper Bounty Killer on the track “Deadly Zone” for the soundtrack to Blade. In 1999, they released the highly anticipated Murda Muzik album. Despite extensive bootlegging (nearly 30 songs of unreleased material leaked onto the Internet) and countless delays, the album debuted at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and quickly received platinum certification—further highlighted by the popular single “Quiet Storm.” Shortly afterward, Prodigy released his long-awaited solo album H.N.I.C, in which the MC collaborated with other artists (B.G. and N.O.R.E.) and producers (including The AlchemistRockwilder, and Just Blaze).

notable mentions:

The Natives Tongues Posse – would be on the list but from them emerged both Tribe and De La Soul…

Dead Prezdeadprezzzz

Bone Thugs N Harmonybonethugzzz

Brand Nubianbrandnubian_oneforall_101b

EPMDEPMD

And of course, KMD

OK, and now for the contemporary top-ten rap crews:

drum roll please…rebellion logo 1

1. Wu-Tang Clan

TIGER STYLE!!!wu2

“Shimmy Shimmy Ya”

You knew it was coming – gotta give the number one spot to the more-than-deserving NY rap crew WU TANGGG… not only cuz they pioneered a new sound combining battle rap with swift and on point beats and other elements to create a totally new sounds, but they’ve been doing it for decades! Nearly each member of the original Wu Tang has seen success outside of the Wu as well – most notably, RZA, GZA, Redman, Method Man, and of course Ol’ Dirty Bastard aka Dirt Mcguirk to name a few. I’ve been a fan ever since I was like 7 and my brother gave me his copy of “Enter the Wu-Tang”.wu4

No more needs to be said.

::Background::

Taking their group name from an powerful, mythical kung fu sword wielded by an invincible congregation of warriors, the crew is a loose collective of nine MCs. All nine members work under a number of pseudonyms, but they are best known as RZA(formerly Prince Rakeem; aka RZArecta, Chief Abbot, and Bobby Steels; bornRobert Diggs), GZA (aka the Genius, Justice, and Maxi Million; born Gary Grice), Ol’ Dirty Bastard(aka Unique Ason, Joe Bannanas, Dirt McGirt, Dirt Dog, and Osirus; born Russell Jones), Method Man(aka Johnny Blaze, Ticallion Stallion, Shakwon, Methical, and MZA; born Clifford Smith), Raekwon the Chef (aka Shallah Raekwon and Lou Diamonds; born Corey Woods), Ghostface Killah (aka Tony Starks and Sun God; born Dennis Coles), U-God (aka Golden Arms, Lucky Hands, Baby U, and 4-Bar Killer; born Lamont Hawkins), Inspectah Deck (aka Rebel INS and Rollie Fingers; born Jason Hunter), and Masta Killa (aka Noodles; born Elgin Turner).wu3

“Heart Gently Weeps” – Wu Tang

Although RZA wasn’t one of the two founding members — GZA and Ol’ Dirty Bastard were the first — the intrinsic value of the Wu-Tang Clan is undoubtedly in large part due to his musical skills. Under his direction, the group — through its own efforts and the solo projects, all of which he produced or co-produced — created a hazy, surreal, and menacing soundscape out of hardcore beats, eerie piano riffs, catchy chorus hooks sung in unison, and old japanese samples. Over their backing tracks, the MCs rapped harder than anyone previously had, complementing old-school attacks and battle-rap styles with vicious violence, martial arts imagery, and a warped humor. By 1995, the sound was one of the most instantly recognizable in hip-hop.

“Reunited”

wu5

It wasn’t always as easy for Wu-Tang. Like most rappers, they began their careers trying to get ahead whatever way they could. For RZA, that meant releasing a silly single, “Ooh, I Love You Rakeem,” on Tommy Boy Records in 1991. On the advice of his label and producers, he cut the humorous lover-man single, which went absolutely nowhere. Neither did the follow-up single, “My Deadly Venom.” The experience strengthened his resolve to subvert and attack record industry conventions. He found partners in GZAand Ol’ Dirty BastardGZA had also released a record in 1991, the full-length Words from the Genius on Cold Chillin’, which was preceded by the single “Come Do Me.” Both records were unsuccessful. After the failure of his album, GZA teamed with an old friend, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, to form the crew that would evolve into the Wu-Tang Clan within a year.

“C.R.E.A.M.”

wu6

The first Wu-Tang member to become a major solo star was Method Man. In November 1994, he released Tical, the first official Wu-Tang solo album. Again, RZA produced the album, creating a dense, dirty sonic collage. Tical became a big hit in early 1995, as did Meth‘s duet with Mary J. Blige, “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By.” Ol’ Dirty Bastard followed Method Man‘s breakthrough success with Return to the 36 Chambers, which appeared in March 1995 on Elektra Records. Thanks to the hits “Brooklyn Zoo” and “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” the record became a gold success. Out of all the solo albums, it was the one that sounded the most like Enter the Wu-Tang, although it did have a more pronounced comic bent, due to Ol’ Dirty‘s maniacal vocals. Tales From the Hood, a movie soundtrack featuringInspectah Deck‘s first solo track, appeared in May.  Later in 1995, the two most critically acclaimed Wu-Tang records appeared:Raekwon‘s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and GZA’s Liquid SwordsRaekwon released his album on Loud/RCA in August 1995; the record featured extensive contributions — a total of 12 songs — from Ghostface Killah, his greatest exposure yet. GZA’s solo album was released by Geffen Records in November 1995. In February 1996,Ghostface Killah‘s first solo track, “Winter Warz,” appeared on the Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While You’re Drinking Your Juice in the Hood soundtrack. Later that October, he released his own solo debut, the critically acclaimed, ’70s soul-flavored Ironman; the record was the first released on RZA’s new Epic subsidiary, Razor Sharp Records.

“Ain’t Nothin to F%$# Wit”wu8

The Wu-Tang Clan finally reconvened and returned with their second album, the double CD Wu-Tang Forever, in June of 1997. Hugely anticipated, the album entered the charts at number one — selling over 600,000 copies in its first week alone — and quickly spawned the hit single “Triumph.” There were several contributions from guest associate Cappadonna (born Darryl Hill), who’d appeared on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and Ironman, and would later become the tenth member of the Wu-Tang Clan. The group toured extensively in support of the album, getting into a few minor scuffles with the law along the way.

“Shame on a Nigga”

“Bring Da Ruckus”

1998 was also the year Ol’ Dirty Bastard began a long and bizarre saga of erratic behavior and run-ins with police that found him making headlines with alarming (and ridiculous) regularity. In February he interrupted Shawn Colvin‘s acceptance speech at the Grammy Awards to protest the Clan’s loss in the Best Rap Album category; shortly thereafter, he announced he was changing his name to Big Baby Jesus, an idea that never picked up steam. This was only the beginning — over the next year and a half, ODB would be arrested for a litany of offenses that included assault, shoplifting, making terrorist threats, wearing body armor after being convicted of a felony, possessing cocaine, and missing countless court dates. Plus, in early 1999, the whole Clan fell under suspicion of masterminding a gun-running operation between Staten Island and Steubenville, OH — charges that were never proven to have any validity. wu9

“Triumph”

The Wu have put out loads of successful records while still maintaining the semblance of the original crew – hard, street-risen Brooklyn, NY rap. Gotta respekt the crew for changing with the times and remaining commercially successful for so many years – and for their solo work!

2.  Jedi Mind Tricks

“On the Eve of War” – JMT

“Rise of the Machines” – Jedi Mind Tricks

“Animal Rap”  – Jedi Mind Tricks

“A Storm of Swords” – Jedi Mind Tricks
JMT1

“Blood in Blood Out”

For forging one of the most innovative and non-traditional but still sick styles ever, while sticking strictly to their sound and persevering since before the 000s with only a cult/underground following, and also for some of the hardest rappers and beats on the continent, Jedi Mind Tricks has to take the #2 spot.JMT10

“Rage of Angels”

Philadelphia Underground hip-hop duo Jedi Mind Tricks started out in early 1996. The duo is composed of high school friends MC Vinnie Paz (formerly known as Ikon the Verbal Hologram) and Producer and DJ Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind.

“I Against I” ft. Planet Asia

Along with early unofficial member Jus Allah, Jedi Mind Tricks released the Amber Probe EP in 1996 and their darkly edgy sound gained a cult following with 1997’sPsycho-Social, Chemical, Biological & Electro Magnetic Manipulation. Violent by Design was released in 2000, just before the group signed to the label Babygrande.

“Blood Reign” ft. Diamondback, Louis Logic, and B.A. Barakus

Babygrande eventually re-released both Psycho-Social, Chemical, Biological & Electro Magnetic Manipulation in 2003 as well as Violent by Design in 2004. Jedi Mind Trick’s first proper recording for Babygrande was 2003’s Visions of Gandhi – and included the song “Animal Rap,” featuring Paz’s idol Kool G Rap. It was followed by Legacy of Blood in 2004 and Servants in Heaven, Kings in Hell followed in 2006, making Jedi Mind tricks one of the more prolific hip hop acts that mainstream America has never heard of.JMT2

“Speech Cobras” ft. Mr. Lif

“Death March”

“Blood Runs Cold”

Jedi Mind Tricks reps Philadelphia, but unlike the neo-soul sound you may equate with the 215, they are in touch with Philly’s grimier side. Known for Vinnie Paz’s edgy, violent lyrics and Stoupe’s unique production, Jedi Mind Tricks has crafted a sound over the years that the Roots probably wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole. Oh well.

JMT6

“Black Winter Day”

“Outlive The War” ft. Sean Price & Block McCloud

JMT boast a long list of collaborations with both regional MC’s and rap veterans, including Kool G Rap, GZA, R.A. the Rugged Man and Mr. Lif, and their songs are riddled with paranoia, conspiracy theories, and ancient Middle-Eastern mythology. Vinnie Paz has formally declared himself to be a follower of Islam, and manages to reference this numerous times on record in between his trademark aggressive lyrical attacks. Between their multiple albums and EP’s, JMT’s discography is longer than many who have been in the game twice as long, proving that there is more than one way to get business done in Philly.

JMT4

  1. “Razorblade Salvation”
  2. “Serenity In Murder”
  3. “Suicide”
  4. “I Who Have Nothing”
  5. “The Worst”
  6. “Saviorself”
  7. …And so it burns

3. Sandpeople

SP6

haha, I know exactly where that picture was taken. That’ show we dress in p-town cuz it’s f%$#ing cold and it rains a lot. Get used to it.

Sandman

Fiddler on the Roof

Sandpeople… originally founded as a crew of 9, ft. 2 DJs and 7 MCs in PORTLAND F%$#ING OREGON! 503. Love it. Since their inception, they have seen amazing growth and success, due in large parts to talent and hard work, and are still repping their home-town hard. Gotta love ma boys from the city of the thorn.SP1

Industrial Grade

Fall Apart

Sandpeople was formed roughly three-and-a-half years ago as an unlikely gathering of hip-hop artists in the Pacific Northwest. This crew has since built itself into a 12 member unit fully equipped to fill a stage and empty a keg (preferably in reverse order). Within the first two months, and long before most Sandpeeps had even met each other, their debut album Points of View was recorded and released over a two week span. That album laid the ground work for what has become a quick moving crew with high standards. Having several sub-groups interwoven throughout the bigger collective, the crews catalogue has been growing rapidly since their inception and only continues to gain momentum.SP3Synthetique Princess

It’s True

Subtle Approach

It wasn’t until recording for their second album “All in Vain” began, that many of the Sandpeople finally had met everyone in their crew.SP4

All In Vain

“Out at Simples place was where I actually met Al-One. We were in the studio and I was engineering while he recorded his verse to Fall Apart. It took that long.” -Ethic

While the truth is that, until recently, this was a crew of relative strangers, the music they made would never lead you to believe it. A signature sound was forged from the outset, and All in Vain is the proof. Keep an attentive ear turned to the beats as their production value is through the roof, but their lyrics don’t lack in content either.

I Don’t Care

Just A Name

To the untrained eye, Sandpeople may appear to be a confusing mass of hungry emcees full of passion and low on serotonin. To the trained eye, this is a certainty. In the cloudy and gray corner of this country not known for its bountiful supply of physical sand, an inappropriately named force is emerging. Concerned first with making quality music that is relevant to real everyday life, Sandpeople are sure to make connections with listeners where other artists most commonly fail to. As their name and inventory continues to expand, this will undoubtedly be looked back upon as the crews humble beginnings. Be on the lookout, this crew is only in its beginning years and they already have 4 successful records, and despite this, retain their underground status and constantly increase their fan base by touring. Respekt and big ups for my boyz hittin it big from the 503.SP2

The City Sleeps

Also, a special shout out to Illmaculate, back to back champion with some SICK raps WRC (world rap championships, freestyling with The Sauraus) and winner of Scribble Jams at just 18 yrs of age (a feat it took Sage Francis til the age of 23 to attain) who attended Lincoln High School – big ups.

4. Blue ScholarsBS1

Another sick crew from the NW

I’m lovin’ this list.

North by Northwest

Only this crew is a bit further North from my native Portland, originating (and repping hard) Seattle, WA.  Anyone educated in hip-hop respekts the NW hip-hop scene and these last two crews are prime examples of it’s burgeoning talents and skills. Blue Scholar’s beats are original, well-produced, abundant in flavor, and their lyrics are almost unsurpassed in their poetic value/content. The lyrics alone give them top-5 status, they really are poets, but their beats are off the hook as well.

No Rest for the Weary

When most music fans think of Seattle the first thing that will pop into their heads is the explosion of the grunge scene in the 1990’s, the extreme rise and fall of Kurt Kobain, and depressing rainy day inspired tunes. It’s never been a hot bed for hip-hop and has never had a mainstream act. The truth is that if you scratch the surface, you will find an underground hip-hop scene that can rival any other major city, even the major markets like New York and ATL, and the same goes for Portland, Oregon.BS2

Loyalty

Bruise Brothers

If you’ve been missing out on NW rap for this long, Rebellion is sorry for you.

Besides up and coming super producer Jake One who has been churning out hits for G-Unit and other A-listers, the movement is being led by a group that has been doing their thing for some time now. That group is noneother than the Blue Scholars.

BS7

The college educated duo started off small of course but it wasn’t long before two million fans were visiting their Myspace page, they were opening for Q-Tip, and traveling the world spreading the word that Seattle does have hip-hop talent. Blue Scholars are a well-rounded group that aren’t just talk but action also. They have political beliefs. They spit from the heart and they do it because it’s what they love to do.

The Ave – BS

Sagaba – BS

BS5

Self Portrait – Blue Scholars

Blue School – Blue Scholars

The duo was created in 2002 while the members, Geologic and Sabzi, were a part of The SHOW (Student Hip Hop Organization of Washington) at the University of Washington (Seattle). The group consists of one DJ, Sabzi (Saba Mohajerjasbi) and one MC, Geologic (George Quibuyen).BS8

The name “Blue Scholars” is a play on the term “blue collar,” which is an idiom for workers who often earn meager hourly wages for manual labor. Their music and lyrics often focus on struggles between socioeconomic classes, challenging authority and youth empowerment, as evidenced in the songs “Blink” and “Commencement Day.” These themes are often specifically addressed in relation to the Seattle region, as in “Southside Revival”, “North by Northwest”, and “The Ave.”

BS3

5. DemigodzDG3

The Godz Must Be Crazy – Demigodz

This group hasn’t it it huge, and, I’m starting to think they like it better that way. Props. These guys are truly all about the rap – hard rap – they’ve actually been around since  a while back (’95 I think) and were co-founded by Apathy, one of my favorite rappers, plus they have Celph-Titled, BEASSST, among others..

The Demigodz are based out of Connecticut, Boston, NYC, and Los Angeles. Membership is somewhat nebulous and has changed several times throughout the years.

DG1Well, well, well, – Demigodz

History ::
Originally founded in 1990 by two Connecticut teenagers; Reflex and Open Mic (known then as Jedi). Calling themselves “The Nobility,” they were heavily influenced by the progressive hip-hop of the time, including Public Enemy and the Native Tongues Posse. The duo recorded countless demos in Reflex’s garage with the song lyrics focusing on science fiction and conspiracy theories.

DG4

In an attempt to be heard they hooked up with University of Connecticut radio DJ Cool C to showcase their songs over the local college airwaves. The buzz being created by the airtime resulted in numerous battles with local MCs which also increased the recognition of the increasingly-popular teen duo. It was also during this time that Open Mic renamed the group “The Demigodz,” taking inspiration from one of his own verses. During their high school years the group expanded with the additions of New London County lyricists; Feedback & De Ja Vu who were involved in the recording of the Demigodz: Coming Like A Storm To Your City demo. One day when the tape was playing on UConn’s 91.7FM (WHUS) radio station it caught the attention of a young aspiring rapper named Apathy.

Laugh About It – Demigodz

DG10

During the early nineties the Demigodz were taking countless trips to New York City, and were slowly but surely breaking into the industry. Shopping their demo around town and spitting in Ciphers on Harlem’s 125th St., they began to get connections including Force Five (famous for their roles in the “House Party” movies) who taught them the ropes of the production scene by allowing them to sit in on their recording sessions.

That Ol’ Boom Bap – Demigodz

DG2

In late 1994 the group split in half due to musical differences. Reflex and Feedback left the group and formed “Skin N Bones” (also known as French Connection) while Open Mic and De Ja Vu scouted for new talent to fill the void left by the former members. Through a friend of former Demigodz MC Feedback, Open Mic was introduced to Apathy (at the time known as Apathy the Alien Tongue), who he immediately brought in as a member. With his superior lyrical abilities Apathy soon became the group’s most prominent member and formed a strong friendship with Open Mic. Not long after Apathy joined up De Ja Vu dropped out.

apathyUnder my Skin – Demigodz

During the summer of 1995 the duo joined the New England chapter of the Zulu Nation but soon left and became affiliated with the New York based Alien Nation instead. Using their connections in the Alien Nation the group added MCs Eternia and Naptron the MetaPredator to the Demigodz roster. With new production equipment purchased by Open Mic the group put out a new demo which circulated around the underground and created a buzz on the independent hip-hop scene.

Devastating MCs – Demigodz

On his own Apathy wasted no time in getting to work as a solo artist and put out several singles and appeared on numerous compilation disks. Apathy kept the Demigodz name alive by successfully competing in frequent battles and opening for acts such as Rakim and Black Sheep. It was also during this time that Apathy was introduced over the phone, through a mutual friend, to Tampa MC Celph Titled. Celph, who was affiliated with a distribution company in New York soon moved up to the city. Getting a chance to meet him in person Apathy drove down to NYC and the two hit it off immediately. Celph also introduced Apathy to the Bronx Science Label with whom he signed a deal and went on to put out numerous 12” singles for the company.DG5

The 12”s put out by Apathy received a lot of hype in underground and even got publicity in mainstream outlets like The Source magazine. Featuring production and guest vocals by Celph Titled, these projects and their success marked a resurrection of sorts for the Demigodz, which had been dormant for some time.

The Smackdown – Demigodz

In 2000 Apathy officially reformed the Demigodz, this time as a tight-collaboration of individual underground artists, instead of a performing group. Membership this time included Apathy, Celph Titled, New York MC Rise, and One-Two, a friend of Apathy’s and fellow Connecticut MC. Apathy also brought Open Mic out of retirement. In the following months several more additions would be made including L-Fudge, Louis Logic, Spin 4th, and long-time friends 7L & Esoteric. Apathy also added Connecticut producer Chum the Skrilla Guerilla as his personal DJ. This itineration of the group put out a barrage of 12” singles, EPs, and LPs as solo artists, and featured one another on most of their work. They toured extensively (including in Europe) and gained a sizeable reputation in the underground. The culmination of their efforts was the Godz Must Be Crazy EP released in 2002.

Battle Me

The immense success of the Demigodz did have consequences however, and in 2004 most of the new members left the group (all on good terms) to pursue their burgeoning solo careers more closely. After the major drop-out the only members that remained were Apathy (with Chum), Celph Titled, and 7L & Esoteric (One-Two and Open Mic still maintain close affiliation). Even this hemorrhaging of talent didn’t keep the Demigodz down for long who replenished their lost roster by adding Connecticut MC Motive from the Doe$Rakers crew (known as the Demigodz extended family) and L.A. underground superstars Styles of Beyond. The Demigodz are now arguably the strongest they’ve ever been both in terms of talent and recognition (especially with the addition of S.o.B.).DG6

Captivate/Deactivate – Demigodz

They also have affiliations (sharing members) with the Jedi Mind Tricks supergroup the Army of the Pharaohs and Mike Shinoda’s (of Linkin Park) Fort Minor. In 2005, Celph Titled and Mike Shinoda featured on a song with Juelz Santana of The Diplomats called “From Bottom To Top” which can be heard on the Diplomats mixtape entitled “The Title Stays In Harlem” hosted by Diplomats member DukeDaGod. The Song however wasen’t released in the general public due to using the Instrumental to Guns N’ Roses hit song “Sweet Child o’ Mine” was unauthorized by the band. Ryu co-produced the beat with DukeDaGod and Mike Shinoda.DG8

Members ::
Apathy
Celph Titled
Esoteric
Motive
One Two
Emilio Lopez
Ryu
Tak
Chum the Skrilla Guerilla
7L
DJ Cheapshot
Vin Skully

Former Members ::
Louis Logic
L-Fudge
Open Mic
Spin 4th
Jabber Jaw
Reflex
Metropolis
Eternia
Feedback
Rise

Props to the Demigodz for more than a decade of ill cuts. Nobody spits battle shock-you raps better than Celph titled and I honestly think Demigodz are the best lyricists on the planet when it comes to metaphors and similes – seriously. They’re nasty.

Also, Celph Titled gets bonus points, along with Vinnie Paz, for sounding the most like a black dude but actually being white..

Snippets from my (extensive) Apathy collection:

  • It Takes a Seven Nation Army
  • Me & My Friends
  • Eastern Philosophy

“In the rap game I’m nobody.. why?  Cuz nobody’s perfect”

“You couldn’t drop knowledge if you threw an encyclopedia off a cliff” – Celph Titled

6. Living LegendsLL2

Nothing Less – Living Legends ft. Slug

Never Falling Down – Living Legends

Another favorite of my groups – I’m sad they couldn’t be higher. Their membership, among others, includes Aesop Rock, The Grouch, and Murs, three of my favorite rappers, and were founded by Sunspot Jonz in 1990.

The Living Legends crew is officially composed of eight hip hop artists based in California. Beginning in the early 1990s, the crew garnered a following by recording, promoting, and performing their music independently (without signing a contract with a major record label). The crew is considered by some to be “one of the biggest success stories of the indie-rap movement, [having] sold close to 300,000 units of their various solo and group efforts — all by them-damn-selves.” Staying independent-minded and down to earth is one of the major themes or topics of the crew’s music, but some members of have signed with various independent labels in recent years. The artists that make up the crew hail from OaklandLos AngelesFresno, and even Osaka, Japan.LL3

She Wants Me

The Living Legends Crew originally grew out of an Oakland based duo, Mystik Journeymen, composed of BFAP (now known as Sunspot Jonz) and PSC (now known as Luckyiam). Beginning in 1994, the Mystik Journeymen began cultivating a fan base by selling their own tapes on the streets and hosting “Underground Survivors” shows in East Oakland. These house party-style concerts provided a stage for local independent Hip Hop artists. In 1995 the duo met The Grouch, sickkk rapper, and soon embarked on the first of several of self-funded tours throughout Europe. In 1996 Mystik Journeymen and The Grouch joined with the trio 3MG (Three Melancholy Gypsies) of Los Angeles to form the Living Legends Crew. The crew has since grown to include Bicasso (formerly Bizarro) and Aesop.

Remember Who You Are – Living Legends

LL1

Following in the footsteps of California artists like Too Short who made a name selling tapes out of car trunks, the Legends also chose to stay independent from record labels. In some ways they took the street hustling mentality even further, by booking themselves into world tours and creating an in-depth website long before many major record labels had one. Over time, the crew and its members have founded and operated several imprints, including Outhouse Records, Revenge Entertainment and their current label, Legendary Music. The crew also produced a zine,Unsigned and Hella Broke, and organized annual “Broke Ass Summer Jam” Concerts. In 1999, Living Legends moved their base of operations to Los Angeles. To date, the crew and its members have released over 50 full length albums, plus many singles.LL6

Get on it or get out.LL5

One of the groups frontmen, the only conspicuously white one, The Grouch is one of my favorite rappers.. heres some cookies…

He Kicked Down the Door – The Grouch

Artsy – The Grouch

Simple Man – The Grouch

7. Cali AgentsCA1

“The Science” – Cali Agents

“What is It” – Cali Agents

Bringing together the talents of respected West Coast solo rappers Rasco andPlanet Asia, both of whom had piled up music awards and critical praise within the hip-hop community, Cali Agents issued their debut album in 2000 with How the West Was Won.CA3

Baby Girl

Cali Nights

Their recordings, which reflect influences from both coasts, combine the strength of Rasco‘s powerful delivery with the fluid lyrics of Planet Asia into a delicious and unique combination.  Together they have received critical success, and some commercial , through continued gigging and releasing 2 additional successful CDs after “how the west was won”.

Cali Agents:

“Fire and Ice”

“Neva Forget”

“On the Hustle”

Big ups.

8. The Cool KidsCK1

“Black Mags”

The only group on the top ten to reign from Chicago, and at the same time, rock it hard with a complete throw-back to the 80’s style. Brilliant.

The Cool Kids is a hip hop group from ChicagoIllinois and DetroitMichigan. The duo consists of Antoine “Mikey Rocks” Reed (originally from Matteson, Illinois) and Evan “Chuck Inglish” Ingersoll (originally from Mount Clemens, Michigan). The Cool Kids’ music has been released primarily via their MySpace page, but have been signed to the independent Chocolate Industries via their own label C.A.K.E. Recordings. Gotta give em respekt for that.

“I’m Mikey/ Mikey Rocks”CK2

Part of the mid-2000s hip-hop movement that found kids in all-over prints rapping about their shoes and their favorite forms of transportation (which often weren’t cars), the Cool Kids proved to be both an Internet and live show phenomenon. The duo originally met up in their Chicago-area homes (whereMikey was born and raised; Chuck lived in Mount Clemens, MI, about 30 miles north of Detroit, until he was 11) with the intention of making beats to sell to other artists, but soon realized their own measured, smooth flows and lyrics fit best over their production.

“What Up Man”CK5

In 2007, though they had yet to release any material outside of what was posted on their /MySpace site or MP3 blogs, the group started receiving a lot of press attention from fellow Chicagoans and tastemakers /Pitchfork, who invited them to play at their summer festival. This led to a spot at New York’s CMJ Music Marathon, where they shared a showcase with DJ A-Trak — who offered to put out their EP — and an opening spot on M.I.A.’s solo tour. However, that same year the Cool Kids signed to Chocolate Industries, who released their debut, theBake Sale EP, in January 2008, with plans for a full-length to follow. Solid duo, fresh raps, nice nikes, like the concept and the beats. Keep it up fellas.CK3

9. CunninLynguists

p_clpose

Lynguistics

CunninLynguists originally consisted of two individuals, Deacon The Villain and Kno, who aim to make music that reminds listeners why they starting liking hip-hop in the first place. Backed with quality beats and rhymes, gritty sounds, witty lyrics, an occasional curse word and low ends that jump out the trunk like Rae Carruth, the ‘Lynguists recapture the soul in southern hip-hop, with what Spin Magazine calls “Outkast’s tragicomic poignancy”.090422CUNNINGLYNGUISTS

Their critically acclaimed debut LP, Will Rap For Food, released in October 2001, features guest appearances by Celph Titled, Tonedeff, and others. It has recently been re-released through Caroline Distribution.

CunninLynguists were joined by Floridian emcee Mr. SOS for their 2nd LP, Southernunderground, which was independently released April 1, 2003 on Freshchest Records. Guests included Masta Ace, Supastition and others, with production from Domingo (Big Pun, KRS-One, Eminem etc.), RJD2 (Cannibal Ox, Mos Def, Copywrite etc.), and Kno. Since the release of Southernunderground, CunninLynguists have received tremendous press in various outlets including The Source, URB, Spin, XLR8R, Import Tuner, The Onion, and others. The group toured throughout the USA, Canada and Europe in 2003 and 2004 alongside acts like The Pharcyde, People Under the Stairs, Raekwon and Brand Nubian. Southernunderground’s success with such limited distribution and budget helped win Freshchest Records a distribution contract with Caroline Distribution and was the first project released after inking the deal.

Hailing from Versailles, Kentucky, Deacon has also established himself as a skilled producer, having appeared on Yosumi Record’s internationally distributed Game Over 2 compilation as well as The Difference LP. His beats have been blessed by the likes of KRS-One, Masta Ace, King Tee, J-Ro from The Liks, Ruck of Heltah Skeltah and many others.cunninlyngu_willrapfo_101b

Kno, hailing from Georgia and described as “one of the top loop-miners east of the Mississippi” by URB Magazine, produced the majority of Will Rap For Food and Southernunderground. He has also recieved critical acclaim in The NY Times, Rolling Stone and other magazines for his remix of Jay-Z’s Black Album, entitled Kno vs. Hov : The White Albulum, with copies of the project being personally requested by Black Album producers Just Blaze and 9th Wonder. Jerry Barrow, feature editor of The Source, also praised the album. Elemental Magazine suggested Kno “[will definitely be] known by all very soon”, and JuJu of the legendary hip-hop group The Beatnuts (as quoted by allhiphop.com) feels the same: Kno is an up-and-coming producer to keep an eye on. He is currently working with Jurassic 5, Chapter 13, Immortal Technique and others. Respekt.

CunninlynguistsDirtyAcres

Deacon and Kno are currently working on their third release, A Piece Of Strange, which promises to raise the already high bar for quality they have set with their first two albums. The production is being handled entirely by Kno – word.cunn1

Off “Will Rap For Food”

Off ‘dirty acres’

off ‘Southernunderground’

  • Warcunninglynguists_strange
  • Southern Underground
  • Rain

off ‘A Piece of Strange’

10. Kottonmouth Kings

Positive Vibes

4-2-0
KMK4

Gotta give up #10 to the orange county cross-genre, but nonetheless rap crew, KMK. Not only for pioneering one of the first (along with ICP) metal/hardcore rock meets hip-hop groups, but also including beach sounds, just to confuse and interest the listener even more, KMK started as an independent label, recorded with an independent label, and gained monetary and critical success under that independent label – they remain independent to this day, and Subnoize records has seen much success and is one of the best west coast underground label success stories.

Let’s F&%$

KMK2

Love it.

Kottonmouth Kings is an American hip hop and rapcore group from Orange CountyCalifornia. Kottonmouth Kings officially formed in 1994, and describe themselves as “psychedelic hip-hop punk rock“. Fair enough.KMK7

Kottonmouth Kings comprise of Daddy X (the former frontman of Humble Gods and Doggy Style), Lou Dog (not Bradley Nowell’s dog), D-LocJohnny RichterDJ Bobby BTaxman a.k.a. “Munchies”. Also, Pakelika, who serves as “visual assassin” for the group. Also one of the founding members was Saint Dog which, appeared on their first full length studio album Royal Highness and the Stoners Reeking Havoc EP. The group first attracted attention with the song “Suburban Life,” which appeared on the soundtrack to the film Scream 2.KMK1

Kottonmouth Kings released their debut album, Royal Highness on Capitol Records in the summer of 1998. They began to gain mainstream success with the release of their third album, High Society in 2000, and toured with D12 and Bionic Jive in the fall of 2001. In 2006, Kottonmouth Kings headlined at the year’s Cannabis Cup and was named “Band of the Year” by High Times. Haha, you can see where I am going with this.KMK6

ICP also appears in their music multiple times – very similar in style.

Notable mentions:

11. OutkastOutkast

‘Atliens’

‘Sorry Miss Jackson’

‘So Fresh So Clean’

‘Church’

12. The Weathermenweathermen

‘Concerto’

‘5 Left In the Clip’

‘Where I Wanna Be’

‘Come To Daddy’

‘Gangster’

‘Slick Talkin’

‘Same As It Never Was’

‘Molly’

13. Cypress Hillcypresshill

‘Hits from the Bong’

‘I Wanna Get High’

‘When The Shit Goes Down’

‘Insane In the Brain’

‘I Ain’t Goin Out Like That’

‘(Rap) Superstar’

14. The Fugeesthe-fugees

‘No Woman No Cry’

‘The Score’

‘Ready Or Not’

‘Vocab’

‘The Beast’

‘Killing Me Softly With His Song’

‘How Many Mics’

Also…

Blackstar

‘Hater Players’

Sweatshop Unionsweatshop

I actually really like this group a lot – really intelligent and conscious lyrics and great beats – They deserve to be wayyyy higher.

‘The Thing About it’

‘Better Days’

‘Feelin’ Alright’

‘Try’

‘Lead the Way’

Three-Six MafiaThree-6-Mafia-tt01

‘Break the Law’

‘M.A.F.I.A.’

‘Dis Bitch dat hoe’

‘One Hitta Quitta’ ft. Ludacris

The Coup

‘My Favorite Mutiny’

-thanks for reading!

“““~~~~VR OUT~~~~~~~~””““`

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10 responses

19 10 2009
capi

me gusta el hip hop como cypress hill rap unit de barrios vajos rap black
me considero idolo y fans de grupo cypress hill des de que tenia 13 años y haun tengo su musica y accesorios cypress y tranfiriendo la musica por todo gomez palacio durango mexico esperamos que saquen otro disco en español como el primero saludos a bobo sigue con lo tuyo viejo.
puro cypress hill raza
“Insane in the Brain”

4 11 2009
Dave J

You are on point my man. Got 90% of those groups on my IPOD.

11 12 2009
kristina

what about young bleed?? “how ya do dat??”

13 01 2010
sea man

Sweatshop union definitely deserves a higher position but great list

8 04 2010
Mr.E

I agree Sweatshop Union deserves to be bumped up quite a bit on the list

30 01 2010
thiago

faltou o group home brother

4 02 2010
Dylan

Man, good work on such a list. Come on though, where is Heiroglyphics man? where is Jurassic 5? Good to big up Sweatshop Union dude.

Gotta get with Del and Heiroglyphics for sure.

28 03 2010
Scott Partridge

You know more hip hop groups than me I can tell just from reading this BUT I must say that Gang Starr should be no. 1 not 10 & the Fugees despite being short-lived should be somewhere in the top 10 of their respective list.
Well done. Lists like this are ALWAYS difficult. bless

26 05 2010
mchamburger

i’ve sent this page to stuffwhitepeoplelike

11 06 2010
rob

good list

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