(2 top 10 lists, includes historical/influential top 10 crews, and contemporary top 10)
REBELLION’s TOP TEN HIP HOP DJ’s/PRODUCERS
aka the top ten “behind the scene hip hop musicians”
TOP TEN RAPPER/VOCALISTS (excluding crews)
The following list takes attitude, lyrical style/poetic ability, content (big one there), also life-story and pure awesomeness of cuts also taken into account.
So who are rebellion’s favorite rappers for realz? Here it is.. the top 10
…. drum roll please…..
1. MF DOOM aka Viktor Vaughn aka Supervillan aka King Geedorah aka Zen Love X aka Metal Face Doom aka Metal Fingers
It was a close race, but I gotta give #1 to the man in the mask. He is so dedicated to hip hop, that he wants it not to be about his face, but rather about his words, and thus he is seen only behind the same mask that Russel Crowe wore in gladiator (true story) – Given that has some cool ideology behind it, I think it actually serves to bolster his popularity more than his true face would anyway, and I think he’s smart enough to realize this. But still can’t take away from the man’s lyrical abilities, rhyming in an innovative and truly unique way.
- All Caps – Madvillain (MF DOOM&Madlib)
- Benzibox – Dangerdoom ft. Cee-Lo
- Potholderz ft. Dwight Spitz
There is no word in the world that Metal Fingers Doom cannot make rhyme, and he works with some of the best producers in the industry (Dangerdoom produced with Dangermouse and Madvillain produced with Madlib). Little known, but earlier in his career, MF DOOM aka Daniel Dumile, lost his brother (fellow rapper in KMD) to a car accident on the Long Island expressway; the same week they were scheduled to release their new album Black Bastards. Later that week DOOM was subsequently dropped from the label – he testifies to being completely depressed, sometimes suicidal, and living utterly homeless for the next three years, both physically and mentally, from 1994-1997. A sad loss, but only puts a human face to the man without a face: MF DOOM. The best that can be said is that out of it came one of the most brilliant, disgustingly filthy, and amazing rappers the world has ever and will ever see. Strange thing about art – the more pain that goes into its creation, or the life of its creator, the more beautiful it is (correlation is not causation?) Heard with this in mind, his lyrics gain even more depth.
“Living off borrowed time the clock ticks faster…”
“Terrorize with eloquence”
2. Aesop Rock
Again, close for #2, but for some of the most cutting-edge lyrics, and for being at the forefront of the new-wave, underground/alternative hip-hop scene, I’ll give it to Aesop Rock. Member of the weathermen and signed to Def. Jux, his style stands alone. Alone. Born in Long Island, Sop’s lyrics are often absurdist, but evoke some of the sickest imagery ever, his timing is on point, and some of his lyrics are quite profound and/or painfully true.. “Life’s not a bitch life’s a beautiful woman, you only call her a bitch cuz she won’t let you hit that pussy”. Also gets white-rapper style points. 10/10
“Life treats the peasants like
They tried to fuck his woman while he slept inside” – that’s personification at its finest..
3. Notorious B.I.G. aka Biggie Smalls (RIP)
Gotta respekt Biggie – not only did he rise from poverty to become the most recognized/famous rapper, debatably of all time, but style is probably one of the most technically advanced and smooth I’ve heard. He could make words rhyme no one ever thought to use before him and he overcame so much adversity with only charm and rhyming-skillz. Gotta give it up for bigz.
I guess that means all the top 3 of my favorite rappers are from NY. Damn
Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. Biggie Smalls, was born in Brooklyn, New York, May 21, 1972. He was raised in the poor Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant as the son of a preschool teacher. Dropping out of high school at the age of seventeen, Biggie became a crack dealer, which he proclaimed was his only source of income. A trip to North Carolina for a routine drug exchange ended up giving the soon-to-be MC a nine-month stay behind bars. Once released, Biggie borrowed a friend’s four-track tape recorder and laid down some hip-hop tracks in a basement. The tapes were then passed around and played at local radio station in New York.
Not extremely attractive, Wallace named himself Biggie, for his weight. Biggie was overweight, extremely dark skinned, and had a crook in his eye, yet he was a charmer. A young impresario and sometime producer by the name of Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs heard Biggie’s early tapes. Impressed, Puffy went to sign Biggie to his new label, Bad Boy Records.
Puffy and Biggie worked on the artist’s first album, and the Notorious B.I.G. was born. Biggie was first heard on a remix of a Mary J. Blige song and a track on the _Who’s the Man? (1991)_ soundtrack. After these successes, the album worked on earlier went through its final touches and was released in 1994, titled “Ready to Die.” The record was certified platinum quickly, and the Notorious B.I.G. was named MC of the Year at the 1995 Billboard Music Awards. After the quick success of the album, Biggie went back to get his friends, some who didn’t even rhyme. He had several run-ins with the law, on charges that ranged from beatings, to drugs and to weapons, while all claimed that Biggie was a gentle person. He soon met an MC from the west coast named Tupac Shakur, and the two became good friends. Tupac supported Biggie and was often giving him advice.
Nobody – Biggie ft. Korn
However, their friendship turned into the most violent era of hip-hop music on November 30th, 1994. While Biggie and Puffy were at a recording session at Quad Recording in Manhattan, Tupac went there to record with another MC for his third solo album, “Me Against The World” at the same time, but in the lobby, Tupac was held at gunpoint and robbed of $40,000 worth of jewelry. Tupac was shot five times. Biggie rushed down just in time to see Tupac being loaded into an ambulance. Extending a middle finger while dying, Pac blamed Biggie for the shooting and said that B.I.G. knew about it and failed to warn him. This sparked the East Coast West Coast war. Miraculously, Tupac recovered from his injuries. During this encounter, Biggie admitted that he was scared for his life. Biggie never responded to any of Tupac’s disses. Tupac attacked Biggie in every way he could, even starting strong rumors that there was a love affair between Tupac and Biggie’s wife, Faith Evans.
Later, The entire country became divided into two groups, the west side and the east side, which became Death Row Records versus Bad Boy Records, Marion ‘Suge’ Knight versus Puff Daddy, and Tupac versus Biggie. The two of finally met again late in 1995, and Tupac secretly said to Biggie, “I’m just tryin’ to sell some records.” Unfortunately, it became very real when on September 7, 1996, Tupac was gunned down in a drive-by shooting off the Las Vegas strip after he left a fight he was involved in inside of the MGM Grand Hotel after a Mike Tyson boxing match. He died six days later as a result of those wounds at the age of 25. The case is still unsolved. Typical.
Biggie wanted to put an end to the war between the two coasts. Biggie went to the west coast for several events, doing advance press for his next release, “Life After Death,” but also to make a statement that the war was over. On March 9, 1997, he attended the Soul Train Music Awards and went to the after party hosted by Vibe magazine and Qwest Records. After he left, Biggie was sitting in an SUV on the street when he was shot several times by an unknown assailant. He died almost instantly. Hip-Hop faced its greatest tragedy when both Pac and B.I.G. were killed. Biggie was only 24 years old.
Man Myth Legend: Biggie Smalls
And yet another top ten rapper from new york. Damn
4. Immortal Technique
What a story. What a rapper. Felipe Andres Coronel aka Immortal Technique was born in Lima, Peru and raised in Harlem, New York, where he first started his rapping career on the underground battle-rapping circuits. After developing an aggressive but politically intelligent style, he began writing lyrics. Most of his lyrics focus on political issues. The views expressed in his lyrics are largely a mixture of commentary on issues such as politics, poverty, religion, social class and racism. His style is so perfectly on point, his voice was made for rapping, and his producers/beat-makers got their shit on lockdown. Also gets the bonus points for being one of the most successful foreign-born underground artists ever, and for teaching me spanish from listening to his songs (though few are entirely in Spanish..)
5. Slug (aka lead vocals Atmosphere)
Amazing rapper – and he’s from Minnesota. That’s a rare combination. Sean Daley aka Slug aka Atmosphere combines sometimes heart-wrenchingly personal content, with political statements and even humorous or cynical takes on popular culture with master lyricism/deep poetic skill.
“I will show you all you need to know you, must hold onto anyone that wants you, and I will love you through simple and the struggle, but girl you gotta understand the modern man must hustle..”
“Sometimes you gotta give in to win” – Slug
6. Sage Francis
Sage Francis’ style blends a varying tone and delivery with subject matter that focuses on intricate sequences of widely varying imagery, metaphors, puns,absurdisms, word play, and features phonetic mix-ups and rhetorical excursions, and pop culture references, while including touchstones of traditional hip hop such as storytelling and self-promotion.
Francis is the owner/CEO of the independent hip-hop record label Strange Famous Records. Gotta respekt a (somewhat) fat white rapper who owns his own independent label and has seen major underground success. From Miami Florida… 9/10
“They run in place, and they call it the human race, losin’ pace with that stupid look on their face, shootin’ blanks..”
“It’s not that what we’re doin’ is wrong. Let’s try and keep this here secret between me, you, and this song. Menage a trois that sings to me, sinfully, and God plays along..” – Sage Francis
Jah Didn’t Kill Johnny – Sage Francis
6. Brother Ali 9/10
A devoted man of god. A loving father. A poet. A damn good rapper. 5 stars.
“I’ma be alright, you ain’t gotta be my friend tonight. I’ma be okay, you’d probly bore me anyway” – Brother Ali
Also best live show I’ve ever seen put on. The guy doesn’t lie that you’ll see his blood and sweat on the back of the ticket stub from his show – this guy’s got more heart and belief and faith than any other rapper alive, hands down. His lyrics often center around living a good life, love for his son, being a man of god, independent and self motivated – gotta respect the guy cuz he doesnt have to cuss, look hip hop (the guy is freakin albino for god’s sake), or anything else, and he doesn’t preach while still having more positive messages for society and culture than any other rapper I’ve heard. He is widely considered one of the best lyricists alive. Little known fact, half of the lyrics from your favorite rapper on the radio came from him as he makes half his money from ghost-writing for others and selling his writtens to other all the other people who can’t do it themselves. Ya, he’s that good.
Recently the fine folks over at Hip Hop DX sat down with the man himself for an interview, and to be quite frank it’s one of the best in depth and personal interviews I’ve read in a long time. There are a lot of issues that I never knew about that he discusses in this interview.
The interview starts out with Ali’s views on his fellow peer and mentorKRS-One’s feelings about Barack Obama. He also sounds off on how Verizon wouldn’t let him tour with Gym Class Heroes because of his “Uncle Sam Goddamn” video. A truly devoted hip hop idol. I also had no idea that the Department of Homeland Security froze the Rhymesayers bank account when Ali was overseas in Australia. HA! Typical. It’s funny that Ali really isn’t that political of a rapper – he certainly pales in comparison to immortal technique – but even he agrees that he has been getting the Chuck D Treatment.
One of my favorite rappers, who else can start out a song (one of my favorite songs too) with.. “Depending on the day and depending on what I ate, I’m anywhere from 20 to 35 pounds overweight”. Fuckin’ classic man. I love this dude (hetero..)
“I’m fishin’ for those that can listen to this religion..”
7. Andre Nickatina 9/10
But in all seriousness, Andre’s lesser known work is actually fantastic, and the guy is one helluva rapper. Also from the BAY. first west coaster to crack the top ten. REPRESENT. If you don’t believe the cat’s got skill, see Jungle, Saw A Gangsta Cry, Conversation with a Devil, Train With No Love (one of the deepest and most heart-felt autobiographical raps I’ve ever heard, similar to Dance with the Devil by Immortal Technique), Smoke Dope n Rap, Off Dat Chewey, Killa Whale, or Caught In a Verse. Then try and tell me he shouldn’t be in the top ten.
“I thank back when I was drug free care free, but that was long ago, kinda like a memory”
8. Nas – AMAZING
Heralded instantly as one of New York’s leading rap voices, Nas expressed an outspoken, self-empowered swagger that rallied the streets of his city and elsewhere. The self-appointed King of New York battled numerous adversaries for his position atop the epicenter of East Coast rap, none more noteworthy than Jay-Z, who vied with Nas for the vacated throne left in the wake of the Notorious B.I.G.’s 1997 assassination. Such headline-worthy drama informed Nas’ provocative rhymes, which he delivered with both a masterful flow and a wise perspective over breathtaking beats by amazing producers: legends like DJ Premier, Large Professor, and Pete Rock; hitmakers like Trackmasters, Timbaland, and Dr. Dre; street favorites like Swizz Beatz, Megahertz, and the Alchemist; and personal favorites of his own like L.E.S., Salaam Remi, and Chucky Thompson.
Born Nasir Jones, son of jazz musician Olu Dara, Nas dropped out of school in the eighth grade, trading classrooms for the streets of the rough Queensbridge projects. Eventually he gained notoriety after signing with Colombia Records and putting out the instant classic “Illmatic”. His career has been a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs, and many say his career declined after 2001, due to his mother’s cancer and his separation from his woman. However, for one of the most masterful styles of all-time, combined with his content-based, provocative, often political rhymes, delivered with style and swagger, we gotta give Nas top-ten status.
Yet another top ten rapper from NY..
9. Murs 9/10
Subtle, often overlooked, but personally I think this is the most underrated rapper in the world. His style on cue, he’s worked several times with Slug (see 3:16) and his rapping style is deep. Ain’t nobody out there that can sum up the American Dream (nightmare?) with more painful attention to detail than Murs (see God’s Work)
“I work hard. God damn hard. To keep this roof over my head and pay off these credit cards. I work hard. God damn hard. So I can pay off all my debt and get a house with a yard. I work hard. God damn hard. So I can wile out every weekend and buy drinks at the bar.” – Murs
“Best to ever do it, best that ever did it, Murs is better than your favorite rapper, ADMIT IT” – Murs (with the line that made him famous, if you didn’t know..)
10. Mos Def – amazing lyricist, good content, great resume, can freestyle and just all around great rapper.
For his work with Urban-Thermodynamics, Black Star (w/ Talib Kweli) and his solo work, gotta give #10 to Mos Def
Best song: Mathematics
Other rappers close to top ten:
11. Cage: another member of The Weathermen, along with Aesop Rock. Truly underrated rapper, spent half his life in mental institutions, but he has some of the most jaw-dropping lyrics I’ve ever heard, a truly distinct style, and the guy gets points for being the only Asian to even come close to making the list. I originally had him at 9, but dropped him down for mos def and Nas. Sick rapper, and when he’s sober enough to go on tour, I’m gonna see him.
Other notables (aka 11-20)
12. Dr. Dre
Many may disagree, but I graded on a basis of pure vocal skills first, their production value second. Dre is a great producer, and a pretty talented gangsta rapper, but gangsta rap has its limitations. However his style has developed since his early days with NWA and his beats have gotten cleaner as well, staying up with the times. He still has got to be near a top ten. Snoop Dogg and 2Pac in this same category.
(gonna spare you songs off the album “Chronic 2001” as almost every track is fantastic and it has been overplayed more than any other CD in existence)
Nuthin’ But a G-Thang
The Showdown (ft. Eminem)
Mac Mall & Mac Dre – similar to Andre Nickatina, but also different. Both have unique and interesting styles, but I could only choose one from the same wave of rappers from the Bay and I just had to go with my man Nickatina. I’d recommend reading further down and grabbin’ some tunes by these two as well though.
Other top-ten contenders: Common, Scarface, Jay-Z, KRS-One, Cannibus, Blue Scholar members, De La Soul members, Guilty Simpson, P.O.S., Anyone from Wu-Tang but especially GZA&Method Man, you gotta hear Breeze Brewin from the juggaknots to believe it (also one of the best freestylers ever hands down), Fatlip&other members of the Pharcyde.. Chuck-D, Del the Funky Homosapien, and Big Daddy Kane. It was truly a painful list to make, cuz for every spot I gave up, there were 5 other rappers that could easily be there in anyone else’s list or at any other time in my life. Hope you found it interesting though, I’ve gotten overwhelmingly good responses so far.
Cookies for reading this far…
A Few snippets of my (extensive) Biggie collection:
Off “Born Again”
Off “Life After Death”
Off “Ready To Die”
scroll down to the “check it..” post for other songs by these and my other favorite artists
a relevant post/reply from Sallam Said (also holdin down the music scene at CMC)…
top ten most dynamic musical duos in Hip Hop either battle or on a team in studio.
1. Method Man and Red MAn (team)
2. Ghostface and Raekwon
3. Phife and jarobi
4. Krs One and Buckshot
5. Jay Lib and Madlib
6. BlackMilk and Guilty simpson
7. Beastie Boys
8. RUn Dmc
9. Eric B and Rakim
10. Guru and Primo
1.de la soul
3. MF Doom and MF GRIMM
4. DRE and Snoop
5. Jay-z v.s. Nas
6 .Biggie Vs Tupac
7. Mos def and talib Kweli
9. Grand master Flash and the furious five
10. Slug and MURS
complements of Sallam Said:
note: favorite rappers list excluded groups, but I probably will do a favorite rap groups list later, stay posted ***VR***
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:
Members: Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed MuhammadCheck the Rhime – A Tribe Called Quest
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.
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.
- Oh Shit
- On the DL
- Pack the Pipe
- Passing me By
- Soul Flower RemixDevil Music
- How To Kill a Beat pt.1
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” Simmons, Darryl “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.
The legendary NWA…a Compton, California-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. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E and MC Ren would all go on to be platinum-selling stars as solo artists – as we all know. RIP Easy-E
De La Soul is an American hip hop group formed in 1987 in Long Island, New 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.
Public Enemy, also known as PE, is an influential hip hopgroup 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 Americancommunity.
The group was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
- Chuck D (one of, if not the most influential hip hop artist of his age)
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” Diamond, Adam “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“.
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.
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.Three MC’s and One DJ
People Under the Stairs are an underground hip hop group from Los Angeles, California. It comprises two self-proclaimed B-boys, Thes 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 Quest, The 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.
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.
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.
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 Troublewas minus Scarface and Willie D, yet plus Prince Jonny Cand 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.
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.
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:
“Right Where You Stand” – Gang Starr
Gang Starr was an influential East Coast hip hopgroup that consisted of MC Guruand DJ/producerDJ Premier. The group was known mainly for their unique style, which combines elements of New York swing jazzand hip hop.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 Infamousbecame 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.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 Clancollective, Jay-Z, and fellow Queensbridge associate Nas.
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 Alchemist, Rockwilder, and Just Blaze).
The Natives Tongues Posse – would be on the list but from them emerged both Tribe and De La Soul…
- “It’s Bigger than Hip-Hop”
- “They Schools”
- “Behind Enemy Lines”
- “We Want Freedom”
- “Be Healthy”
- “Animal In Man” – (Animal Farm – gotta love rappers that can quote literature)
- Thuggish Ruggish Bone
- Mo Murder
- For The Love of Money
- Dayz of our Lives
- Crept and We Came
- Smoke Weed and Maintain
- Thug Luv
OK, and now for the contemporary top-ten rap crews:
1. Wu-Tang Clan
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”.
No more needs to be said.
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).
“Heart Gently Weeps” – Wu Tang
Although RZA wasn’t one of the two founding members — GZA and Ol’ Dirty Bastardwere 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.
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 Bastard. GZA 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.
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 Swords. Raekwonreleased 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.
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 Linxand 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Along with early unofficial member Jus Allah, Jedi Mind Tricks released the Amber Probe EPin 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.
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.
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.
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.
- “Razorblade Salvation”
- “Serenity In Murder”
- “I Who Have Nothing”
- “The Worst”
- …And so it burns
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.
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.
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.Synthetique Princess
“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.
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.
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.
Another sick crew from the NW
I’m lovin’ this list.
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.).
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.
Chum the Skrilla Guerilla
Former Members ::
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
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 Oakland, Los Angeles, Fresno, and even Osaka, Japan.
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.
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.
- Night Prowler
- Immortal Souls (same sample as Daylight by Aesop Rock..cool)
- War and Peace
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
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.
Their recordings, which reflect influences from both coasts, combine the strength of Rasco‘s powerful delivery with the fluid lyrics of Planet Asiainto 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”.
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 Chicago, Illinoisand Detroit, Michigan. 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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
Off “Will Rap For Food”
Off ‘dirty acres’
- Valley of Death
- Southern Underground
off ‘A Piece of Strange’
10. Kottonmouth Kings
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.
Kottonmouth Kings is an American hip hop and rapcore group from Orange County, California. Kottonmouth Kings officially formed in 1994, and describe themselves as “psychedelic hip-hop punk rock“. Fair enough.
Kottonmouth Kings comprise of Daddy X (the former frontman of Humble Gods and Doggy Style), Lou Dog (not Bradley Nowell’s dog), D-Loc, Johnny Richter, DJ Bobby B, Taxman 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.
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 withthis.
ICP also appears in their music multiple times – very similar in style.
- King Klick
- This is my Club Song
- Everybody Move
- Peace of Mind
- Float Away
- ::Rest of my Life::
- One Too Many Timez
|a style of Jamaican popular music blending blues, calypso, and rock-‘n’-roll, characterized by a strong syncopated rhythm, usually with an accent placed on the offbeat, and lyrics of social protest.Complements of dictionary.com|
To preface this list – unlike the previous top-ten mc’s list (VR’s top ten rappers/vocalists of all time) this is my top-ten reggae groups list. However, reggae is very specific genre, by definition, but countless bands have been inspired by it and have heavy reggae music influences, though they are not strictly “reggae”. Unlike the hip-hop list, which was strictly rapper vocalists (not groups, I’m workin on my top ten rap groups list currently), the rules for this list were more general: only that the artists/group were heavily-inspired by reggae, though many may display and utilize other influences as well, such as ska, rock, folk, anything… These artists, however, all have reggae-influences, or at least would never had existed if it were not for reggae. Enjoy!
THE MORE YOU READ, THE MORE FREE MUSIC AND KNOWLEDGE YOU GET. I’ve embedded extra songs and free bits within the bios and text, as well as at the end of each section, so basically, if you actually read it, you get wayyy more free shit.
USE THIS KNOWLEDGE HOWEVER YOU WILL —
TO IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS WITH IF YOU WANT…
THAT IS ASSUMING YOU HAVE ANY….
…drum roll please…….
(you’re not going to be surprised)
1. Bob Marley & The Wailers
No surprises there. Honestly, could it go to anyone else?
It is important to consider the roots of this legend: Bob Marley is the first superstar from the Third World. Bob Marley was one of the most charismatic and challenging performers of our time and his music could have only been created from only one source: the streets culture of jamaica, where he was raised.
The days of slavery are a recent folk memory on the island. They have permeated the very essence of Jamaica’s culture, from the plantations of the mid-nineteenth century to the popular music of our own times. Although slavery was abolished in 1834, the Africans and their descendants developed their own culture with half-remembered African traditions minled with the customs of the British.
This Hybrid culture, of course, had parallels with the emerging black society in America. Mamaica, however, remained a rural community which, withour the industrialisation of its northern neighbour, was more closely rooted to its African Legacy.
Bob Marley & The Wailers consisted of Bob Marley himself as guitarist, songwriter and lead singer, the Wailers Band as the backing band, and the I Threes as backup vocalists. The Wailers Band included the brothers Carlton and Aston “Family Man” Barrett on drums and bass respectively, Junior Marvin and Al Anderson on lead guitar, Tyrone Downie and Earl “Wya” Lindo on keyboards, and Alvin “Seeco” Patterson on percussion. The I Threes, consisted of Bob Marley’s wife Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths.
Tremendously popular in their native Jamaica, Bob Marley is regarded as a national hero, the Wailers were also reggae music’s most effective international emissaries. Bob Marley’s songs of determination, rebellion, and faith have found an audience all over the world.
Marley left his rural home for the slums of Kingston at age 14. When he was 17, Jimmy Cliff introduced him to Leslie Kong, who produced Marley’s first single, “Judge Not,” and several other obscure sides.
Bob Marley & the members were all devout Rastafarians.
The group saw little critical or popular acclaim, until Marley expanded the instrumental section of the group and brought in a female vocal trio, the I-Threes, which included his wife, Rita. After this, officially called Bob Marley and the Wailers, they toured Europe, Africa, and the Americas, building especially strong followings in the U.K., Scandinavia, and Africa.
They had U.K. Top 40 hits with “No Woman No Cry” (1975), “Exodus” (1977), and “Satisfy My Soul” (1978); and British Top 10 hits with “Jamming” (1977), “Punky Reggae Party” (1977), and “Is This Love” (1978). ****CLICK THE LINKS****
In Jamaica the Wailers reached unprecedented levels of popularity and influence, and Marley’s pronouncements on public issues were accorded the attention usually reserved for political or religious leaders. In 1976 he was wounded in an assassination attempt. Bastards.
A 1980 tour of the U.S. was canceled when Marley collapsed while jogging in New York’s Central Park. It was discovered that he had developed brain, lung, and liver cancer; it killed him eight months later.. On this day, the world lost not only an amazing musician, but a devout man of god, a political activist, and loving father and husband. It is to this day, one of the saddest losses in musical history. As the story goes, though this is a debated fact, Marley first developed the cancer in his foot after playing football (that’s “soccer” for all my American supporters) and could have had the foot amputated to stop the spread. However, Rasta doctrine says that all parts of the body are holy, and thus one cannot do things like cut their hair, remove limbs or any appendage, etc. Thus, the cancer spread and Marley died due to his devotion to his faith. A sad loss but he will live on forever though his music.
Marley was a pioneer not only because he single-handedly brought reggae to the world, but because his passionate, socially observant music has become a yardstick against which all reggae will forever be measured. 10/10
Bob Marley changed my life and is an ongoing inspiration to me, and sooo many others.
you won’t be forgotten.
A much more problematic artist for me, personally, and yet another sad casualty of drugs. Why do so many great artists have to be so badly conflicted? No one knows, but suffice it to say that Bradley Nowell, even in the short time he had on this earth, touched many lives, and friends and family alike will attest to him being one of the kindest, gentlest, and most loving souls ever.
Also, from a purely musical perspective, Nowell was one of the greatest musical pioneers of all time, combining traditional reggae, with rock n’ roll, ska, and even latino music, to create one of the most unique and diverse sounds of all times. His bandmates, who went on to create Long Beach Dub All Stars, were also extremely talented. One of the greatest songwriters of all time, one of the greatest live musicians, and one of, if not my favorite, bands ever.
Formed in Long Beach, CA, in 1988 as a garage punk band, Sublime grew to fame in the mid-’90s on the back of the Cali punk explosion engendered by Green Day and the Offspring, though Sublime mixed up their punk rage with reggae and ska influences. The band released just two albums during its first seven years, finally finding a hit with its self-titled third one. It was Sublime’s last, however, as lead singer Brad Nowell died in May 1996 of a heroin overdose while on tour, leaving behind Lou Dog, his bandmates, a wife and daughter, and a generations of fans-to-be.
The trio which comprised Sublime — vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Nowell, bassist Eric Wilson, and drummer Bud Gaugh — played their first gig on the 4th of July 1988 at a small Long Beach club (a show that sparked the infamous Peninsula Riot!). Classic sublime. The group began aggressively touring around the area with an increasingly substantial following, gaining notoriety for drinking and smoking publicly on stage, causing riots, and just having a general out-of-control rocker style about them. They were especially popular among the surf/skate beach crowd. Their shows encouraged debauchery, moshing, and disorder.
Wonder why I like them so much?
After four years of concentrating strictly on live shows, Sublime’s first album (40 Oz. to Freedom) was recorded in 1992. The LP was released on Skunk Records — the label formed by Nowell with Sublime manager Miguel — and sold at shows, but it really started to break when KROQ began playing the single “Date Rape” two years after its initial release. The album still exists today and has seen many other notable artists and much success (a few of which appear later on this list..)
Mostly due to the radio exposure, Sublime signed to MCA for 1994’s Robbin’ the Hood, which revealed an experimental ethic more in keeping with cut-and-paste dub than the well-tuned rage of the Cali punk revival. Most of this album was recorded solely by Nowell, as he had recently relapsed and was at the peak of his drug usage. The album, however, performed well at college radio and set the stage for the breakout success of their self-titled third album. On May 25, 1996, however, Nowell was found in a San Francisco hotel room, dead of a heroin overdose. The band collapsed, but Sublime was still slated for a July release. On the strength of the alternative radio hit “What I Got,” the album was certified gold by the end of 1996. Sublime’s career had only just begun, and yet all we have now is the legend.
RIP Bradley Nowell.
You are missed.
3. Lee “Scratch” Perry & The Upsetters
This one is an obvious one to those in-the-know, but in mainstream view, and especially with my generation, Lee Perry is actually lesser known than many of the artists on this list. However, he has been instrumental (pun..get it?) in the evolution and expansion of reggae music. Lee “Scratch” Perry (born Rainford Hugh Perry, on March 20, 1936, in Kendal, Jamaica) is a reggae and dub artist, who has been highly influential in the development and acceptance of reggae and dub music in Jamaica and overseas. He employs numerous pseudonyms, such as Pipecock Jackxon and The Upsetter.
Perry’s musical career began in the late 1950s as a record seller for Clement Coxsone Dodd‘ssound system. However, disagreements between the pair due to personality and financial conflicts, a recurring theme throughout Perry’s career, led him to leave the studio and seek new musical outlets.
“Down Here in Babylon”
He soon found a new home at Joe Gibbs‘s Amalgamated Record. Working with Joe Gibbs, Perry continued his recording career but, once again, financial problems caused conflict. Perry eventually broke ranks with Gibbs and formed his own label,Upsetter, in 1968. His first single “People Funny Boy”, which was an insult directed at Gibbs, and sold very well.
“Sons of Slaves”
Lee “Scratch” Perry – The Invention of Dub:
Lee “Scratch” Perry is often credited as being the inventor of dub since the creation of his song “People Funny Boy” is an off-shoot of reggae that emphasizes a mixing-board remix. Lee Perry specialized of instrumental songs often with the bass and drums turned up and lots of reverb.
Dub, in turn, is now considered the predecessor of many genres of dance music, as well as many forms of rap and hip-hop. Hellz ya.
It is notable for its innovative use of a sample (a crying baby) as well as a fast, chugging beat that would soon become identifiable as “reggae-dub” (the new sound did not really have a name at this time).This is, by many accounts, the first identifiably reggae-dub song ever recorded.
From 1968 until 1972 he worked with his studio band The Upsetters. During the 1970s, Perry released numerous recordings on a variety of record labels that he controlled, and many of his songs were popular in both Jamaica and the UK. He soon became known for his innovative production techniques as well as his eccentric character.
In the early 1970s, Perry was one of the select few producers whose mixing board experiments eventually resulted in the creation of dub. In 1973, Perry built a studio in his back yard, The Black Ark, to have more control over his productions and continued to produce notable musicians such as Bob Marley & the Wailers, Junior Byles, Junior Murvin, The Heptones, The Congos and Max Romeo. With his own studio at his disposal, Perry’s productions became more lavish, as the energetic producer was able to spend as much time as he wanted on the music he produced. Virtually everything Perry recorded in The Black Ark was done using basic recording equipment.
By 1978, stress and unwanted outside influences began to take their toll: both Perry and The Black Ark quickly fell into a state of disrepair. One night the studio mysteriously burned to the ground – rebellion YES! – and Perry later admitted that he burned the Black Ark himself in a fit of rage. Nice.
After the demise of the Black Ark in the early 1980s, Perry spent time in England and the United States, performing live and making erratic records with a variety of collaborators. It was not until the late 1980s, when he began working with British producers Adrian Sherwood and Neil Fraser (who is better known as Mad Professor), that Perry’s career began to get back on solid ground again. Perry also has attributed the recent resurgence of his creative muse to his deciding to quit drinking alcohol and smoking weed. Perry stated in an interview that he wanted to see if “it was the smoke making the music or Lee Perry making the music. I found out it was me and that I don’t need to smoke.”
Perry now lives in Switzerland with his wife Mireille and two children. Although he celebrated his 70th birthday in 2006, he continues recording and performing to enthusiastic audiences in Europe and North America. He is one of the few artists to make the top five and still be alive and well. His modern music is a far cry from his reggae days in Jamaica; many now see Perry as more of a performance artist in several respects, because his style has remained unchanged since its early days. In 2003, Perry won a Grammy for Best Reggae Album with the album Jamaican E.T.. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Perry #100 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.More recently, he teamed up with a group of Swiss musicians and performed under the name Lee Perry and the White Belly Rats.
From “A Live Injection: Lee Perry & Friends Anthology 1968-1979”
Now that’s some roots-down, old-school reggae. I love it.
Want to know what a jam band is? You came to the right place: Phish was the living, breathing, noodling definition of the term. From its humble start in the mid-’80s touring around the New England college circuit, this Vermont quartet — Trey Anastasio (guitar), Page McConnell (keyboards), Mike Gordon (bass), and Jon Fishman (drums) — grew to become a cultural phenomenon, followed across the country from summer shed to summer shed by thousands of new-generation hippies and hacky-sack enthusiasts, and spawning a new wave of bands oriented around group improvisation and superextended grooves.
Though they lack an abundance of professionally produced and top-40 sounding songs, I had the pleasure to see Trey Anastasio (lead guitarist/singer/songwriter/founder of Phish) live with Tom Petty in Seattle a couple years ago, and it is one concert (amongst many) that I will never forget.
I was instantly a Phish convert and have never looked back since.
The scene was hectic, a gigantic stadium with the entire audience sitting on grass – very woodstock-esque – pipes and bubblers being passed around freely, smoke clouds everywhere, people on sheets, mattresses, and chairs, camping out, everybody dancing, kissing, drinking, huddling together or running around. One girl in full-body paint was very obviously tripping on acid as she would run into people without even realizing it. I truly felt like I had warped back to the 60s. This is one of my favorite things about Phish.
However, Anastasio’s prowess on the guitar, not just Phish’s hippie following, have earned them their legendary status –
I love his sound, his technical ability, his display/utilization of mixed influences, as well as his amazing set up, with multiple pedal-boards and effect-machines (I modeled mine, in large part, after his to be honest)..
*A pedal board is a pad with a patch bay that contains and combines multiple guitar pedals, most often distortion, effects, a loop pedal of some sort, also often including a wah-wah, delay, reverb, overdrive, or chorus, however many can be fit on one (mine has 6 and together, cost around 1500 dollars). Through use of a pedalboard a guitarist can create new and unique sounds, often out of this world, every time he plays his guitar. Anastasio is the MASTER at this and I have studied and absorbed his style extensively.
Comparisons to the mother of all jam bands, the Grateful Dead, are unavoidable for Phish, but in most cases warranted. Like the Dead, Phish had a pronounced fondness for the rustic and drew from a seemingly bottomless well of cover tunes. Like the Dead, Phish was helmed by a guitarist with a casual, conversational lead style who enjoys playing lots of notes. And like the Dead, Phish lacked a singer who’s any more than competent. But in its frequent bursts of prog-style musical complexity as well as its taste for goofy humor (this is a band, after all, that incorporated trampolines, vacuum cleaners, and a giant hot dog into its concerts),Phish shows that it was very much its own entity.
It took a while for Phish to get its sound convincingly onto disc. The first five albums listed above all have great moments (the stunning replication of early-’70s Genesis on Lawn Boy‘s “The Squirming Coil,” the Thelonious Monkish twists on A Picture of Nectar‘s “Magilla”), but inconsistency plagues them.Billy Breathes, The Story of the Ghost, and Farmhouse are much more like it, presenting an appealing rock/jazz/folk hybrid with a tasteful mix of looseness and precision. Cut quickly following a two-year hiatus, Round Room sounds undercooked, while The Siket Disccollects a few in-studio jams that are less than revelatory.
That brings us to the teensy-weensy matter of Phish’s live albums, of which there are, at this writing, a mere 23. Though purists will argue, rightly, that you could only get the full Phish experience in person, many of these discs make a pretty decent substitute. The best is Hampton Comes Alive, which documents two November 1998 concerts in full. Only problem: It’s six CDs. Those desiring something less pricey to start out with should spring for either A Live One, Slip, Stitch & Pass, or Live Phish 15; on the latter, Phish covers Talking Heads’ Remain in Light in its entirety, to surprisingly powerful effect.
Shortly before the release of Undermind, Phish announced that it was breaking up for good. Luckily, the album’s far from a white flag; in fact, it’s one of the band’s most cohesive collections, produced with warmth and flair by Tchad Blake, combining outlandish psychedelia (“A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing”) with winning folk rock (“The Connection”). Whether or not it was intended to be Phish’s final statement,Undermind is a fitting sendoff.
……………………take a deep breath…………
5. Slightly Stoopid
Ahh what a great band. AND RESPEKT: BOYS IS FROM CALIFORNIA. big ups.
Main thing to remember: members MILES DOUGHTY and KYLE MCDONALD were hand selected and signed to Skunk records by Brad Nowell himself (RESPEKT). Saw them on my 18th birthday, when Pepper opened for them at the Crystal Ballroom, with my ex-gf, and half way thru the show I had completely forgotten about her – I was too busy moshing. What a show. Ever since I have been a die-hard fan of both Slightly Stoopid and also Pepper (see later on the list)
MILES DOUGHTY – Guitar, Bass, Vocals
KYLE MCDONALD – Guitar, Bass, Vocals
Ryan Moran- Drums
Oguer Ocon -Congas, Percussion, Harp
Throughout modern pop culture, melodic music representing the California lifestyle has always had its place (Beach Boys, Eagles, Grateful Dead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sublime, Jack Johnson to name a few), and every era yields a definitive reggae-influenced rock band with HUGE breakthrough commercial success (The Clash, The Police, UB40, Sublime, Shaggy, etc.). SLIGHTLY STOOPID is a clear descendant of that lineage.
SLIGHTLY STOOPID possess a unique dynamic. They have a musical kinship so to speak, which is clearly the organic result of years growing up together in the setting of one of Southern California’s premiere surf towns (Ocean Beach, San Diego – one of my favorite places in the world, for surfing or anything, and it shows thru in their music). Miles and Kyle are perfect musical counterparts, complementing each other in the realm of electric and acoustic rock, reggae, dub, blues, hip-hop, punk, and metal. Boasting dual front men Slightly Stoopid are a great studio and live band. They are both multi-instrumental, oftentimes switching effortlessly from bass to guitar in the middle of their live shows, continuously balancing and bouncing their vocal stylings and fresh harmonies, and seemingly always converging into songs that are good enough to be respected by the very artists who inspire them.
Back in 1995 while still in high school, Miles and Kyle caught the ear of SUBLIME vocalist BRADLEY NOWELL, who then signed them to his own Skunk Records label. Bypassing the notion of a “golden ticket” from a major label, SLIGHTLY STOOPID also drew influence from the business acumen of their entrepreneurial predecessors. Staying true to the D.I.Y. ethic of punk rock, the band released its first two albums independently on Skunk. With minimal distribution (primarily in Southern California), the Skunk label released the punk tinged early debut SLIGHTLY STOOPID (1996) and the more produced reggae leanings of the band’s surf inspired LONGEST BARREL RIDE (1999). A copy of the debut, which has been out of print since 1998 (and in high demand in reggae/punk circles), recently sold on E-Bay for $221.00! F*&%IN HELL.
In the summer of 2001, Kyle and Miles performed an hour-long live acoustic set on San Diego’s Clear Channel Rock 105.3 (one week after Jack Johnson did). The broadcast drew an onslaught of requests at the station, prompting the band to release the performance on CD, through their own “Stoopid Records” imprint. Titled LIVE AND DIRECT- ACOUSTIC ROOTS, this one-take marvel, features both players on solely acoustic guitars and vocals, and was recorded live- “warts and all”, with no overdubs! The album has become an instant live classic and is one of my alltime favorite albums – having sold close to 20,000 copies, mostly at shows, through the internet, and a few select Southern California retailers, few can argue with its legitimacy.
Slightly Stoopid’s album EVERYTHING YOU NEED was the band’s first legitimate studio-produced album. A departure on some levels, EVERYTHING YOU NEED is really the culmination of a band reaching a new creative plateau. The 14-track album showed that the group had seen a natural progression from their previous works , displaying matured songwriting and enhanced production value.It was also produced by a few notable heavyweights: MIGUEL (Sublime, LB Dub, Unwritten Law), Dub legend SCIENTIST (recent mixes include Ben Harper and No Doubt), and CHRIS D whose PHILADELPHONIC sessions feature a special guest appearance from G-LOVE on “Mellow Mood.” Stylistically, SLIGHTLY STOOPID has made a giant transition into forging their own original brand of music, however, without abandoning the philosophy of where they started.
“Everything really starts with acoustic guitars and us, I mean that’s what we’re jamming on when we’re sitting around smokin’ weed and watching T.V. ” – KYLE
“What we tried to do with this album is incorporate every kind of music style that we play into each song.” – MILES
“Musically I like everything- hip-hop , punk rock, acoustic music, acoustic music with hip hop beats, reggae, and heavy metal all mixed into one album. Pretty much, that’s what I try to give ’em on every album, but each recording turns out different which is kind of cool.” – KYLE
After forgoing the major label route, the band signed with Southern California independent Surfdog Records in order to complete their fourth album on their own creative terms. This was seemingly a natural fit, as Kyle and Miles grew up surfing and have been jamming most recently at major surfing events such as The Philips Pro in Huntington Beach June 2002, and The Vans Triple Crown in Oahu, Hawaii Nov. 2002. Slightly Stoopid is still going strong today and I don’t see them calling it quits anytime soon. They would be higher up this list, but I listened to them wayyyyy too much in high school and their recent works are not as good as their older ones in my opinions (though they are still good…). However, for creating one of the most eclectic and unique blends of reggae, rock, punk, acoustic, and hip-hop, gotta give #8 to Slightly Stoopid
Off “The Longest Barrel Ride”
- Ese Loco
- Don’t Fucking Look
- Hands of Time
- I’m So Stoned
- Mr. Music
- Castles Made of Sand
Off “Slightly Not Stoned Enough to Eat Breakfast Yet”
- Circle House Blues
- Thinkin Bout Cops
- Fruits ‘Legalize Them’
- Know You Rider
Ahh Yes. Yet another Calfornia band crackin the top ten. Time to get down to some home-town SoCal locals. Rebelution is a more recent phenomenon, and despite lacking in the musical skills of the previously mentioned groups, their music alone lands them the #6 spot.
The Santa Barbara-based reggae quartet is on a mission to spread positivity, unity and awareness to any and all who will listen, and, lately, it seems as if the number of interested parties may never stop growing.Originally formed in 2004, the group consists of vocalist/guitarist Eric Rachmany, keyboardist Rory Carey, drummer Wesley Finley, and bassist Marley D. Williams (who hand selected each member and formed the group). It was their mutual attendance of music classes at college in Santa Barbara that initially brought them together, and it was in this environment that the seeds of their successful future were planted. While residing in nearby Isla Vista- where VR got caught, officially, his first and only time and still has an M.I.P – (where the majority of the college population lives), the group began to build serious momentum through consistent gigging and the release of a self-titled EP. Before they knew it, they were one of the biggest draws in the area — and not just in the reggae genre. “It definitely went to the next level when we, literally, had thousands of people watching us perform in Isla Vista on Friday nights,” explained Rachmany. The band’s upbeat, highly danceable grooves were charting a direct course for bigger and better things. It was with the release of their first full-length album in June of ‘07, Courage To Grow, that the group’s major breakthrough would be made. Not only did the record garner mass downloads and radio play on monster stations like San Diego’s 91X, Los Angeles’ KROQ and San Francisco’s Live 105 (where they are now in full rotation), but it was also selected as iTunes Editor’s Choice for Best Reggae Album of 2007.
For those in the know, it’s not too hard to imagine, because Courage To Grow is an excellent album complete with crafty melodies, socially conscious lyrics and savvy musicianship. Whereas other SoCal reggae-infused groups such as Sublime and the Long Beach Dub All-Stars tend to be rock- or punk-based, Rebelution sticks much more strongly to a vintage “roots” reggae sound. The album’s “single” and third track, “Safe and Sound,” wastes no time setting a worry-free, perhaps stoney, mood with its kicked-back vibe and catchy refrain: “When we come down, we’ll be dreaming safe and sound.” But as far as serious messages go, few tracks hit harder than “R Way” — a seven-minute opus of political dissatisfaction where Rachmany speaks of our deceased forefathers, and what they must be thinking as they look down from above onto our lie-riddled society. Few bands can walk the middle road between politics and parties, and even fewer as well as Rebelution. Perhaps that’s what makes the live show experience such a great one for their fans. Not only can they dance the night away, but they can also leave with a little food for thought — that’s a main-theme on rebellion’s top ten list.
You can currently catch Rebelution on their Fall tour — a 23-state expedition across the nation with The Expendables and OPM. Two other great bands.
Gotta respekt the boys from 2 hours north of my school in SoCal hittin’ it big off sheer talent and catchy tunes. Big ups. If you ever wanna go on tour with me, I’m down. 😉
“Green smoke to black, green smoke to black, green smoke to black, ya that’s what we stand for”
Despite their indie/acoustic sound, OAR almost never strays from the classic up-down rhythm strumming that is typically reggae. They feature interesting, sometimes abstract but impressionable lyrics, sung with catchy hooks, often doubled or tripled melodic lead vocals especially on chorses, mixed with excellent musicianship, several acoustic guitars all strumming reggae in unison, mixed in with acoustic solos and swift basslines – god they have it all. It’s quite a show. Get on it.
Despite it’s handle, ~Of A Revolution~ O.A.R.’s music does not reflect any political intent, and the band’s unique and revolutionary approach to its music career has proved it worthy of such a name. O.A.R., whose music has been compared to that of the Dave Matthews band, has achieved notable success based solely on its credible body of work, word-of-mouth promotion, and unparalleled dedication to bringing music to its fans through non-stop touring. In a story that seems straight out of a fairytale of big dreams and rising stars, O.A.R. got its unofficial start in the dorm rooms of a university and managed, without a record label, press, advertising or tour support, to become one of the most successful independent American jambands ever.
O.A.R. (an acronym for the band’s full moniker, Of a Revolution) transformed themselves from local Ohio State University bandmates to Billboard chartbusters and headliners thru non-stop self-promotion and endless touring to all venues across America. First, the band’s two demo recordings were hawked at universities. Then, news spread about the band’s roots-rock and reggae-inflected songs, which owed much to the jam band genre. Before long, O.A.R.’s website had turned into a highly-trafficked internet destination, and the group gradually left the college scene for the bright lights of national stardom.
Formed in 1996 in Rockville, MD, O.A.R. coalesced around lead singer/rhythm guitarist Marc Roberge, lead guitarist Richard On, saxophonist Jerry DePizzo, bassist Benj Gershman, and drummer Chris Culos.
Their first song to gain them national notoriety was “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker.” Many lyrics for this and other of the bands songs came from Roberge’s interest in literature, particularly Stephen King’s novel -The Stand. To appease their developing hard-core jam-band fan base, they issued a live album, Any Time Now, in the spring of 2002 and subsequently signed with Lava/Atlantic for the release of 2003’s In Between Now and Then. Additional tour dates led to the release of 34th & 8th, the band’s second live offering. The band returned to the studio again with 2005’s Stories of a Stranger, which contained a pair of Top 20 Hot AC hits in “Love and Memories” and “Heard the World.” The Live from Madison Square Garden CD/DVD appeared in 2007. O.A.R.’s slickest album yet, the commercially-mindedAll Sides, was released in 2008.The Wanderer
They are similar to Phish in that they have few chart-topping singles, ‘Heard The World’ being the obvious exception, but their musical talents are unique; they are one of the great American-band stories, and are in my top three favorite live bands, along with Phish and the Grateful Dead.
“I said ‘oh’, you say ‘ah’, I say revolution, and you say Jah”
“I said we won, won, won the war, we grab our guns and we head for the door”
Despite the obvious objection that they are a rock/punk-band first, its true that no reggae-inspired top ten list would be complete without 311. Period. Plus they might be the only successful band I’ve ever heard of that comes from Nebraska. Props
311’s fusion of reggae and rap-metal was created in Omaha, NE, where singer/guitarist Nick Hexum, DJ/singer S.A. Martinez, guitarist Tim Mahoney, drummer Chad Sexton, and the bassist known only as P-Nut launched the group in 1990. During high school, Nick and Tim played in a rock band together called “The Ed’s”. Nick was also in the high school concert jazz band with Chad.
At seventeen, Nick graduated early from high school and moved to downtown Los Angeles in pursuit of a music career. When Nick returned to Omaha for Chad and Tim’s high school graduation – the three of them jammed and realized they had a special musical chemistry. They soon added a keyboardist named Ward Bones and called themselves “Unity”. In late ’88, Nick, Chad and Ward moved to LA and made an unsuccessful stab at getting a recording contract. Glad they ditched that name.
Disillusioned with the L.A. scene, Chad soon moved back to Omaha and began jamming with P-Nut and a guitarist named Jim Watson. Months later, Chad persuaded Nick to move back to Omaha and join them. They played their first gig opening for Fugazi on June 10th 1990.
In 1991, they parted ways with Jim Watson and added Tim Mahoney as lead guitarist. At that time, SA Martinez began to make guest appearances with the band – and was eventually added as a full member. 311 was complete (Nick, Chad, Tim, P-Nut and SA).
In 1990 & 1991 the band released three independent records on their own label (What Have You Records). The records were called “Dammit,” “Hydroponic,” and “Unity.” With these records and their solid live show, the band quickly established a following in the Midwest and then set out for the West Coast.
They rented a small house in Van Nuys, California and all moved in together. These were very lean times for the band. Just before disintegrating into total poverty, they were signed to Capricorn Records. Taking their name from the Omaha Police Department’s code for indecent exposure, (or disputedly from another source which I refuse to mention) the quintet began gigging locally and soon moved to Los Angeles, signing with Capricorn Records in 1991.
311 truly has developed a reputation as one of America’s greatest live acts. In fact, bands such as No Doubt, Korn, Sugar Ray, Incubus and Deftones all opened for 311 on their own way to headlining status. True story.
Their unique combination of thrash, heavy metal, reggae, is comparable only to early sublime work and has spawned a generation of copycat artists left in their wake. However, their sound was not limited by rock but enhanced by it, and their shows are some of the roudiest and most dangerous I have been to. 5 stars.
A few snippets:
9. Bedouin Soundclash
This one is a surprise – even to me. And to everyone else to for that matter. Who knew canadians could even play music? Much less produce amazing reggae?! I didn’t.
I won’t make that mistake again.
Bedouin Soundclash is a pure roots reggae band with a groovy modern twist.
Bedouin Soundclash emerged in the past years as a young group refusing to be classified, while blurring the lines of reggae and rock. Jay Malinowski’s soulful wail, with a high raspy voice is not typical of a lead singer, but works strangely well. Eon Sinclair provides deep dubbing bass while Pat Pengelly drives a heavy rhythm, blazing their own path in the musical landscape. The three-piece group hail from Canada.
“At the time we were making music that reflected the music we grew up on, and that we were exposed to …punk, reggae, dancehall, world, dub, jungle, two-step, everything… We wanted to try to make something that was ours and was our experience, and that has continued to push us, to incorporate the music we love in a new way.”
The band toured from Vancouver to Montreal in support of Root Fire, their first albim, while still remaining in university, sharing the stage with such acts as the Slackers, Vernon ‘Maytone’ Buckley, and the legendary founders of ska, The Skatalites. They have not looked back since, and though still largely unknown, have developed both a loyal following and are increasing fans daily. They deserve it – their songs are incredible.
Gotta give up that #10 spot to the flyin’ hawaiians man. Pepper’s frontmen are one of the most unique and craziest duos in the history of music – not just reggae. Their music is both roots-reggae but also infused with punk dub ska and rock influences – and Kaleo’s lyrics are f%$#in inspired – seriously profound.
Pepper began in 1996 when singer/guitarist Kaleo Wassman joined forces with bassist/singer Bret Bollinger. After going through a number of drummers in the ’90s, Pepper decided that Yesod Williams was the best man for the job. With the trio in place, Pepper left Hawaii for Los Angeles and went on to open shows by Burning Spear, Shaggy, and other major reggae artists. Pepper first entered the studio in 1997 and recorded a seven-song demo.
In 1999, after gathering a local following on the Big Island, Pepper gained the interest of an independent, L.A.-based record company, Volcom Entertainment. Volcom produced and distributed the band’s first release, Give’n It, which combineddancehall, reggae, hip-hop, and pop genres. With the success of Give’N It, the band landed a spot on the 2001 Warped Tour.
After extensive touring, Pepper took to the studio with Steve Kravac (Less Than Jake,MXPX) to record their second album entitled “Kona Town“, released in March 2002. With Kona Town, Pepper’s sound continued to evolve, adding elements of an “island sound”.
Pepper continued to tour throughout 2003 and into 2004, including dates with 311and Snoop Dogg, along with appearances at the annual Bob Marley Birthday celebration, San Diego‘s Festival “Street Scene”, and a U.S. tour with Slightly Stoopid, which I saw, and blew me away.
In March 2004 Pepper released “In With The Old”, debuting at #35 on the Billboard Heat Seekers and #18 on the independent albums chart. The album was recorded at 311’s completely analog Hive studios by legendary board master Ron St. Germain (Bad Brains, Living Colour, 311, Tool, Sonic Youth, Soundgarden), the album showcases a broader range of influences shared by the trio.
Beginning on July 20, 2006, Pepper supported 311 along with The Wailers on their U.S. tour. In August 2006, Jagermeister announced that Pepper & Slightly Stoopidwould headline the annual Jagermeister Musictour through December 2006, which I had to pleasure to see when it came through Portland, OR, and man, still one of the best shows I have ever seen, no question about it.
The band released their fourth album (and major label debut) entitled “No Shame” on October 3, 2006. It features production from Nick Hexum of 311, Tony Kanal ofNo Doubt, and Sublime producer/ Butthole Surfers member Paul Leary. A music video was shot for the single “No Control”.
The band also headlined the “Law Records” tour in October 2008 along with Passafire, and The Supervillians. This was their first consisting of only Law Records bands. After a UK tour with Less than Jake, and a break in December, Pepper, Passafire, and The Supervillians will tour the Northwest to complete the first Law Records tour.
One of the greatest live bands ever, and gotta love the hawaiin spirit. Big ups.
notable mentions/top-ten contenders:
(11) The Reel Big Fish: the only purely ska group to nearly crack the top ten. Such a vicious, delicious combination ska, rock/metal, reggae, and funk. Gotta respekt the fish – with their combination of musicianship, humor, good content, and a wealth of fantastic covers, givin them the #11 and feelin’ sad they can’t be higher.
Gotta love those covers and their unique outta control style!
(12) Matisyahu: God I love this guy. If you took out the singer, you would have a pure roots-reggae group – really, their music is quite old-school, but they also mix in a groovy modern twist with some rock, hip-hop & some amazing guitar players. But then add in Matisyahu, the first and only orthodox jew to see mainstream success within’ the industry, whose new-school vocals mix all kinds of elements. The guy can sing, but also combines it with a sort of rapping/fast singing style that makes the music very unique and amazing. 5 stars.
Off “Live at Stubbs”
54-46 was my number (covered by Sublime on 40 oz. to freedom)
(14) Steel Pulse:
A must know as far as the history of reggae goes. Steel Pulse were very influential in the development of Reggae into what it is today, and are one of the few on this list native to England (began in Birmingham).
They are still recording and touring even today – and David “Locks” Hinds, guitarist/vocals has still not cut his hair either. Props.
(15) Damian Marley & Ziggy Marley
I could only make room for one Marley on the list (the father of them all) however, that guy’s blood ran with music. His sons, including most notably Stephen, Ziggy, and Damian Marley are all amazing artists in their own right.
Damian is one of my favorite artists, and he has seen the most mainstream success of any of the Marley sons.
The Marley sons and his daughter carry on his tradition and continue to create amazing music to this day. Ziggy is noted to be the most similar in style to his father, while Damian strays more into dub, experimental, rock, and hip-hop. However, all exhibit a strong reggae influence and I’m so glad the Marley music did not die with Bob!
(16) The Expendables
Gotta give it up for the best reggae Maori band I’ve ever heard. Seriously, if I were to do a top five list for artists from New Zealand (assuming there are 5 artists in New Zealand) than Katchafire would undoubtedly come in at #1
Katchafire formed in 1997 as a Bob Marley tribute band and later began writing and performing their own songs. They have released three albums: Revival (2003) which featured the highest-selling NZ single of 2003, “Giddy Up”; Slow Burning(2005) and Say What You’re Thinking(2007).
(18) Stick Figure
Walk of Life
Feelin’ In The Mood
Winds from the West
Long Lost Way
The Lazy River
Babylon Rule Dem
(20) the echo movement
“Things I’ve Done”
(21) clear conscience
(22) the supervillains