By ADANAI staff
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.
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Wu-Tang Clan (#1) vs. The Lox (#5)
Winner: Wu-Tang Clan
Rationale: The Lox brings back fabulous memories of the Notorious B.I.G. / Bad Boy heyday, but the members three are no match for the Wu. Jadakiss, Sheek Louch and Styles P can pit MC skills against any three Wu members, but they’re simply outnumbered by the multitude of skilled Wu MCs.
On the loser: The career arc of The Lox is an interesting one. They hit the scene in the mid ‘90s with Bad Boy and, while appreciated, were overshadowed by Biggie, Lil’ Kim and Ma$e. After Biggie’s passing they stepped forward and eventually took their rightful place among hip-hop greats with standout tracks such as “Ryde or Die, Bitch” and “Wild Out.”
Success led to Jadakiss looking out the front door, hampering the momentum of Sheek Louch and Styles P. Ironically, collective success leading to individual success leading to a weakening of the collective is a fate similar to that of their worthier adversary. More on Wu-Tang Clan’s languish as a group later…
Beastie Boys (#3) vs. Mobb Deep (#2)
Winner: Beastie Boys
Rationale: This is like asking “Who is prettier – Beyonce or Rihanna?” You may lean strongly in one direction but you can’t go wrong with either. Mobb Deep and the Beastie Boys are first ballot hip-hop hall of famers. However, the nod goes to the Beasties for a few reasons: their impact on pop culture, the diversity of their music, the iconic nature of their first album and their commercial success.
On the loser: To quote Biggie, “I have a story to tell.” Years ago, I was part of the jury pool for Prodigy when he was in the system on weapons charges (he ended up pleading out and served three years). While I would like to think I could have been a fair juror, in reality, there is no chance I would have been able to convict him – he and Havoc provided me with way too many hours of fun at the club. “Shook Ones Part II” and “Quiet Storm” are two prodigious hip-hop club bangers. What they did for The Tunnel on Sunday nights in the ‘90s was crazy. Those memories will always run deep.
Mobb Deep is the best hardcore east coast hip-hip duo of all time. Twenty-one years in the game and they still bring it raw.
N.W.A. (#1) vs. Black Moon (#4)
Rationale: Black Moon represents a movement but N.W.A. represents a way of life. Perhaps Ice-T and the movies “Colors” or “Boyz n the Hood” helped introduce the world to gang life in South Central Los Angeles but N.W.A. deserves the bulk of the credit. The story telling and lyrical expertise of Ice Cube and Eazy-E combined with Dr. Dre furnished soundtracks brought awareness to the masses like no media form could.
On the loser: During the mid ‘90s, bootleg tapes of Bobbito and Stretch Armstrong’s radio show on WKCR in NYC were highly sought after. Kids bought double deck recorders so they could tape all four hours. One of the main reasons was to catch that moment when someone like Buckshot from Black Moon would show up for a freestyle session.
In the pre-Internet world, recordings of these off the top sessions were priceless. To this day, tracks like “Buck Em Down” and “I Got Cha Opin” describe gritty ‘90s Brooklyn lifestyle like no other. All due respect to Biggie and Jay-Z but they were more focused on the get money aspect of life.
Cypress Hill (#3) vs. Geto Boys (#2)
Winner: Cypress Hill
Rationale: Apologies to the Texans offended by this but Cypress Hill beats the Geto Boys for a number of reasons: longevity, cultural impact and catalog size. For many hip-hop fans, the Geto Boys begin at “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” and end at “Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangsta.” Cypress brought the cholo lifestyle to the forefront and, in many ways, picked up where the Beastie Boys left off in bringing hip-hop to the masses.
On the loser: The talent of Scarface, Bushwick Bill and Willie D could have easily taken the Geto Boys to higher levels but they started to drift apart right after their breakthrough. Scarface has gone on to be an all time great MC. While the Geto Boys have dabbled as a group over the years, they’ve never been as cohesive as at the start. Purists felt Texas hip-hop was a bit of a fluke when the Geto Boys came onto the scene but the trio started a movement that led to a style that has fully infiltrated the mainstream – just check out this Beyoncé video for proof.
Public Enemy (#1) vs. EPMD (#5)
Winner: Public Enemy
Rationale: EPMD is historically underrated but Public Enemy is just plain historic. On pure MC skills, PE’s Chuck D and Flavor Flav vs. EPMD’s Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith are actually pretty close. Production value and size of catalog are close as well. The nod goes to PE because of their message and overall societal impact.
On the loser: EPMD, Erick and Parrish Making Dollars, should have been at least a #3 seed. From 1988 to 1992, the Brentwood, New York natives put out hit single after hit single. “Strictly Business,” “You Gots To Chill” and “Crossover” won the boom box battles, especially in NYC.
The four albums they released during that period (“Strictly Business,” “Unfinished Business,” “Business as Usual” and “Business Never Personal”) are must-owns for any hip-hop fan. And please don’t forget, if not for EPMD, there may not have been a Redman. Unfortunately, the duo broke up in 1993 and despite their multiple attempts at reuniting, things never quite panned out. Erick Sermon went on to have an excellent solo career as a rapper and producer. In retrospect, it seems Sermon was the creative force behind the group and Parrish, while a more than respectable MC, was the one that kept them in “Business.”
The Roots (#3) vs. A Tribe Called Quest (#2)
Winner: A Tribe Called Quest
Rationale: Five years ago, this match-up wouldn’t have been much of a conversation but The Roots have been hard at work closing the gap. That being said, ATCQ advances here. “The Low End Theory” and “Midnight Marauders”are two of the best albums since hip-hop’s inception. The Roots have a bigger catalog due to their longevity but nothing under their belt reaches the heights of prime ATCQ.
On the loser: What an amazing career. They definitely seize the day as the hardest working group in hip-hop. The Philly based crew got their start back in 1987. Almost 30 years later, that are not only still relevant, they may be the most broadly known group on this list.
Their 1994 breakout album “Do You Want More?!!!??!” put them on the map. At that point, their concerts earned a cult following for their ability to cover just about any hip-hop song. The live band would recreate the beat and lead MC Black Thought could spit just about any rhyme:
They have continued to put out great albums and experiment with new sounds. As a result they don’t have tons of huge hits but their catalog is deep and diverse. Landing on Jimmy Fallon as the house band has been a huge boost to their popularity and five years from now their all-time ranking might need to be revisited.
Run D.M.C. (#1) vs. De La Soul (#4)
Winner: Run D.M.C.
Rationale: Given their place in hip-hop history, Run D.M.C. can only to lose to a group that brings the full package of MC skills, beats, cultural impact and longevity. De La Soul runs a close race but misses the win because of their inability to replicate the magic they created early on in their career.
On the loser: “3 Feet High and Rising” and “De La Soul Is Dead” are hip-hop classics. “3 Feet High and Rising” was a revolutionary album – it introduced a new playful, artistic style of hip-hop to the masses. Don’t get it twisted though, De La is known for some out there concepts but they can absolutely rip it lyrically. Their skills and beats never left (people sleep on their fourth album “Stakes Is High”) but their inability to play the industry game has hurt them over the years. Even today, due to some legal battles, their catalog can’t be found on iTunes or Spotify, keeping young hip-hop fans from learning their music.
Bone Thugs –N- Harmony (#3) vs. Outkast (#2)
Rationale: Outkast is an easy choice over Bone Thugs based on their superior MC skills, production quality, catalog and overall impact on the genre. That is not an indictment of Bone Thugs though – Outkast is just that good. Both groups have been around since the early ‘90s. Outkast has consistently produced great albums while Bone Thugs struggle with long periods of mediocrity.
On the loser: Bone Thugs reign enigmatic. They came into the game with the help of gangsta rap king Eazy-E and their content followed suit. “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” introduced the world to the fact that violent gang activity wasn’t limited to LA – Cleveland could be real gully too. Then out of nowhere they came with “The Crossroads” which is hot but essentially Christian Rap. On top of that, when you listen to their music you hear this crazy staccato MC flow mixed with a melodic sound chock full of all sorts of harmonizing. Whatever the crazy mix is, it all works.