5. Public Enemy
Public Enemy stormed on the scene with one mission in mind: to raise the consciousness bar to unimaginable heights. Not only did P.E. nail their goal, they politicized hip-hop like no group before or after. From Chuck D's inspiring lyrics to Flavor Flav’s hysterical antics, Public Enemy stood heads and shoulders above most other rap groups, while empowering the urban voice.
Best Album: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us back | Purchase/Download
4. A Tribe Called Quest
(Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad)
Tribe was the most successful of their Native Tongues brethren, thanks, in part, to their consistency. By the time Tribe's third disc arrived, that brand of melodic, Crisco-slick classics that gave yield to "Electric Relaxation" and "Award Tour" had become synonymous with ATCQ.
Best Album: Midnight Marauders | Purchase/Download
Any rapper who's made a buck by voicing social concerns without fear of castigation owes a royalty check to the world's most dangerous group. N.W.A. literally had to fight for their right to express themselves. Not even threats from the FBI could keep them from publicly indicting the powers that be or calling out racist cops. These Compton boys were vicious, unapologetic, and vividly outspoken. All good things, they say, must come to an end. Though N.W.A. finally broke up after 1991's Efil4zaggin, their legacy lived on. Dre, Cube and Eazy would go on to launch successful solo careers respectively.
Best Album: Straight Outta Compton | Purchase/Download
Run-DMC's place as the most influential rap group and undeniably one of the greatest hip-hop acts of all-time is unquestionable. The trio shattered barriers for future generations with a bold and wildly innovative style of hip-hop that captivated fans from Queens to Macedonia. Run-DMC exemplified the perfect combination of honesty, attitude, and creativity.
Best Album: Raising Hell | Purchase/Download
1. Wu-Tang Clan
The most powerful weapon in any group's arsenal is neither beats nor rhymes--not even one of those big headnodders that RZA used to make every 2 years. No, no weapon in hip-hop history can rival the chaotic cohesion of the Wu-Tang Clan. The Clan had so many characters, each with his own eccentricities. They were fearless in their approach. There's a good reason no group has been able to successfully recreate their sound. The crew spawned gazillions of loosely associated acts. Their classic albums spawned classic albums.
Best Album: Enter the 36 Chambers | Purchase/Download