What makes a great rap group? Well, all the essential ingredients have to be in place: Quality production, great lyrics, and unique personalities. These are groups we've come to love over the years because they somehow pinched our hard-wiring and found a vulnerability we didn’t realize we had. Here's our 25 Greatest Rap Groups of All-Time. (See also: Greatest Rap Duos)
- Eligibility: Only groups of 3+ members with at least two albums are eligible
- Criteria: Points were awarded based on impact, originality, quality, and consistency
CunninLynguists may be the best hip-hop group you've never heard of. Their style consists of southern-fried beats and gripping narratives that linger after the song ends. As forward-thinking as they are, they never managed to enjoy the mainstream exposure they deserve. Still, their pedigree is undeniable.
Best Album: A Piece of Strange | Purchase/Download
24. Little Brother
Influenced by Tribe Called Quest and De La, Little Brother took hip-hop by storm with their brand of brainy hip-hop. When BET deemed their "Lovin' It" video "too intelligent" for their audience, it further established LB as underground darlings. They went on to drop three great albums in three years, including 2007's GetBack.
Best Album: The Minstrel Show | Purchase/Download
23. Slum Village
Though Slum Village had more lineup changes than Destiny's Child, quality remained a constant for the most part. The Detroit crew enjoyed a boost from the addition of lyricist Elzhi and a non-stop supply of thumping beats from Jay Dee.
Best Album: Fantastic Vol...II | Purchase/Download
22. 2 Live Crew
It's unfortunate that the hoopla over 2 Live Crew's sexually charged (sometimes misogynistic) songs eclipsed the group's musical accomplishment. The obscenity case over their 1989 LP, As Nasty as They Wanna Be, took them all the way to the Supreme Court. They weren't lyrical wizards, but their thunderous booty bops helped popularize the Miami bass sound. And if this show is any indication, they're still as nasty as they wanna be.
Best Album: As Nasty As They Wanna Be | Purchase/Download
21. Naughty By Nature
Here's one oft-overlooked aspect of Naughty By Nature -- Treach could rap circles around his peers. He laced each song with a crisp new flow, and made it seem effortless. The group's string of catchy hits would eventually propel them to mainstream success. In 1996, Naughty By Nature won the first ever Best Rap Album Grammy for Poverty's Paradise.
Best Album: Naughty By Nature |Purchase/Download
20. Brand Nubian
Afrocentricity, spirituality, sexuality, self-empowerment, you name it and Brand Nubian already rapped about it. No topic was off limits with these brothers, who occasionally dropped Five-percent knowledge.
Best Album: One for All | Purchase/Download
19. Three 6 Mafia
Before the hits, before the Oscar and TV shows, Triple 6 Mafia (DJ Paul, Juicy J) helped place Memphis on the map with their unique brand of donnybrook hip-hop. They've had no trouble selling records and making a mark in the land of Elvis.
Best Album: Most Known Unknown | Purchase/Download
18. Cypress Hill
With the legendary DJ Muggs manning the board and B-Real offering street wisdom on the mic, Cypress Hill set the industry ablaze with three consecutive platinum albums. Granted, they were never able to match the intensity of their self-titled debut, arguably a street classic, but their impact is undeniable. The West Coast trio was inducted into the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors in 2008. (Brownie Points: Cypress Hill appeared in the "Homerpalooza" episode of The Simpsons)
Best Album: Cypress Hill | Purchase/Download
17. The LOX
Mobb Deep and Capone-N-Noreaga were at the peak of their popularity in the late '90s, so The LOX could've easily been lost in the shuffle. Instead, the trio quickly pulled away from their New York peers with their edgy beats and intelligent rhymes. Jada's raspy voice added flavor to his rewind-worthy punchlines; Styles brought the straitjacket flow; while Sheek completed the cipher with a gritty delivery.
Best Album: Money, Power & Respect | Purchase/Download
16. Goodie Mob
When Goodie Mob coined the term "dirty south," southern hip-hop was still taking a backseat to New York and L.A. However, Goodie Mob and OutKast carried the weight and helped place southern rap back on the map. "What y'all fools know about the Dirty South?"
Best Album: Soul Food | Purchase/Download