While reading this, it may help to turn on the ADANAI “Jalen/Jacoby Best Hip-Hop Group” playlist (created on Spotify).
Editor’s note: You will need Spotify (Get it here: www.spotify.com) to listen to, share and subscribe to the playlists we will periodically post.
Follow us on Spotify:
Rationale: First, a quick remark on the ground rules for this competition – each group’s body of work needs to be evaluated on the music the group puts out. Individual careers post the group splitting can’t count (otherwise N.W.A. would run away with this whole thing easily). While the Wu is without a doubt the greatest group of MCs assembled – talk about a deep bench – N.W.A. gets the nod for a few simple reasons:
On the loser: Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, GZA, RZA, Cappadona, Masta Killa and U-God. Hot damn. Does a group in any musical genre exist with this much talent…or that many members. Think about the solo careers of Method Man, RZA, Raekwon and Ghostface – three top 25 MCs and one top five hip-hop producer.
I will never forget the first time I heard “Protect Ya Neck.” A friend who worked for a prominent hip-hop label called me and said I had to come over to hear this single he just got. He played a bit over the phone and 15 minutes later I was on the A train bound for his apartment. When I got there, we played the song at least 15 times in a row. We were literally flabbergasted by the realness, the MC skills and the barrage of beats and lyrics. While they aren’t winning this contest, the Wu stands alone as the greatest clique since the tank team in “Fury.”
Rationale: ATCQ would be my pick. However, an objective perspective admittedly puts Outkast on top. Big Boi and Andre 3000 beat Q-Tip and Phife on MC Skills. Production quality is a draw. Both groups are massively influential. ATCQ had two classic albums (“The Low End Theory” and “Midnight Marauders”), two okay albums (“People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm” and “Beats, Rhymes and Life”), a stinker (“The Love Movement”) and a bunch of random compilation/remix releases. When they split, their creative juices as a group had waned. Q-Tip went on to have a nice run as a solo artist.
Outkast has three classic albums (“Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik”, “ATLiens” and “Aquemini”), two pretty good albums (“Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” and “Stankonia”) and a soundtrack (“Idlewild”). Instead of putting out random stuff, they have taken breaks or partaken in innovative endeavors like releasing a double album to showcase each MC as the creative lead.
On the loser: If I had to name one album in all of hip-hop that transcends time and place, it would be “Midnight Marauders.” Go to a bar on any continent and you stand a good chance of hearing “Award Tour,” “Electric Relaxation” or “God Lives Through.”
This album has reached Al Green / Barry White status. You can play it in any sexy lounge and patrons subconsciously all start nodding their heads. Play it in any hip-hop club and the dance floor stays packed. ATCQ’s influence on the genre was important enough to inspire a documentary that was critically acclaimed and achieved commercial success (a rare feat in documentary film land). Play the “What ten albums would you bring on a deserted island?” game with hip-hop fans over the age of 30 and see if they don’t mention an ATCQ album…or two.
Rationale: Auburn won the SEC Championship in 2013. They should have lost to Georgia but this tipped pass changed their stars. Then, they should have lost to Alabama but this field goal attempt return shifted their universe. Auburn won fair and square but something just didn’t feel right.
The best hip-hop group has to be Run D.M.C., Public Enemy or N.W.A., right? Right. It’s all subjective in the end, but there is a strong argument to be made for Outkast. The have tight MC skills, top notch production quality, historical importance, massive societal influence, and the one thing that many groups on this list don’t have – longevity. N.W.A. is on par or better than Outkast on each of these fronts except for longevity. Perhaps Big Boi and Andre 3000 realize that 1+1=3. Their solo efforts have only been marginally successful. Perhaps they have stayed together for monetary reasons. Or perhaps they know that when they come together, it is hip-hop magic.
On the loser:
Imagine if Eazy-E hadn’t tragically succumbed to AIDS at thirty-one. Would his survival have been enough to keep the guys together? If so, would the hip-hop world have Snoop Dogg, Eminem and 50 Cent? Would the stupid East Coast vs. West Coast beef that killed Tupac and Biggie have happened? It was Dre’s solo career that ushered Suge Knight into power. Hell, who would have saved Chris Brown’s skinny ass a few months ago when Suge took those bullets at 1Oak in Los Angeles? Does Ice Cube give us “Friday”? Does Chris Tucker get the “Rush Hour” franchise without “Friday”? Would the huge headphone thing still be a thing without Beats by Dre? Would this amazing Beats commercial have ever been made? Does Aloe Blacc become the man without said commercial? And what about Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” without Aloe Blacc? The mind reels with all of the butterfly effect possibilities. N.W.A.’s breakup is the most important thing to have ever happened in hip-hop. That’s all that really needs to be said about their legacy.