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.
Follow us on Spotify:
Wu-Tang Clan (#1 seed) vs. Beastie Boys (#3 seed)
Winner: Wu-Tang Clan
Rationale: The Beasties’ deficiency in this rap battle is also their strength as a music group. Though best known as hip-hop artists, they really never shied away from any music genre. Punk, jazz and rock are all in their wheelhouse.
When you get to this level of excellence, the rationale for one hip-hop group over the other can feel flimsy. This is one of those situations.
On the loser: The Beastie Boys are only second to Run D.M.C. in bringing the art form called hip-hop to the masses. Their willingness to transform themselves over their career makes it hard to call them purely a hip-hop group. “Licensed to Ill” is an all time great hip-hop album. Their follow up, “Paul’s Boutique,” doesn’t get the acclaim that it should. Subsequent albums “Check Your Head,” “Ill Communication,” “Hello Nasty” and “To the 5 Boroughs” all went platinum, included several smash hits and experimented musically (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) but never captivated the hip-hop crowd the way “Licensed To Ill” did.
With the passing of Beastie member Adam Yauch a few years ago, the music world was reminded of their importance to the development of hip-hop. In the annals of great live hip-hop moments: when they cancelled their headlining role at the music festival All Points West due to Adam’s illness and Jay-Z stepped up to replace them. He kicked the show off with a tribute by covering several of their tracks:
N.W.A. (#1) vs Cypress Hill (#3)
Rationale: These are clearly the two most important West Coast hip-hop groups of all time. Pure technical comparison delivers the winner on this:
On the loser: B-Real is a historically slept on MC and DJ Muggs is the mastermind behind the Soul Assassins collective, an important part of the hip-hop mosaic since the early ‘90s.
Even more important is the cultural importance of Cypress Hill. Their music resonates with so many diverse, large demographics. From the West Coast to NYC hip-hop heads to Latinos to weed smokers. While Snoop may hold rap’s weed-smoking crown, Cypress Hill has the scepter.
Cypress was definitely the go-to college hip-hop band back in the mid ’90s. Their message was two fold: don’t fuck with me (e.g., “How I Could Just Kill A Man,” “Real Estate” and “ When The Shit Goes Down”) and let’s get blunted (e.g.,“Stoned Is The Way Of The Walk” and “I Wanna Get High”). They may be out of the running, but they go out blazing.
Public Enemy (#1) vs. A Tribe Called Quest (#2)
Winner: A Tribe Called Quest
Rationale: Half the readers may have just audibly booed. Yes, this might be sacrilegious but wait for the explanation before passing judgment. Public Enemy made more of a societal impact, true. They still lose for two main reasons: 1) Their music didn’t hold up over the long haul, and; 2) Flavor Flav is not really a MC. Granted, he is the best hype man of all time.
When was the last time you were dying to hear some Public Enemy? Their production is cluttered with horns, gratuitous vocal samples and cliché scratches. It does not withstand the time capsule test. Now, listen to this Pete Rock remix of “Shut ‘Em Down” and think about the longevity of PE’s music if it had been Pete Rock instead of Terminator X arranging their beats. To be fair, for the zeitgeist they represented, their sound and message was perfect.
Tribe’s sound, the antithesis of PE’s, is part of what may have made them so popular. Catchy yet deep beats, strong lyrics and a stance less heavy and dark than PE’s was something all fans could get behind and welcomed.
On the loser: For those hip-hop fans of age when Public Enemy came on the scene, their first listen to “Rebel Without A Pause” still resonates. The combination of Chuck D’s delivery, the relentlessness of the beat (the genius of using James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” which gave it an air of familiarity) and the lyrics was mind blowing. Just about every high school basketball player in the late ‘80s probably said, “Simple and plain, I’ll throw it down your throat like Barkley” 25 times a day.
Chuck D’s storytelling ability should also not be forgotten. “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” must have been an inspiration for some of the great hip-hop storytellers like Notorious B.I.G. and Eminem. The line “I got a letter from the government the other day…” still elicits chills.
Public Enemy really was the CNN of the black community. Essays have been written about the mutually beneficial relationship between Public Enemy’s songs and Spike Lee’s images. “Fight The Power” couldn’t have paired better with Lee’s film “Do The Right Thing.”
Younger hip-hop fans don’t really know and appreciate Public Enemy and that is a shame. At some point, it would be epic if a Lil Wayne, Rick Ross or Jay-Z did a tribute to them with covers of their most popular tracks. Actually, that needs to be done immediately.
Run D.M.C. (#1) vs. Outkast (#2)
Rationale: The other half of this article’s readers just threw the closest thing to them. Run D.M.C. is hip-hop. No doubt. However, an argument stands to be made, so here goes. While historical importance and cultural impact are clearly considerations, many other factors favor Outkast – namely MC skills, production quality, longevity and artistic growth. Such “blasphemy” requires deeper commentary:
On the loser: The historical and cultural importance of Run D.M.C. has been chronicled in several articles, documentaries and books. Every single act in this contest owes their success to Run D.M.C. and that is not to be forgotten. If anyone wants to say they are the greatest of all time because of that, there will be no argument here.