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10 Greatest Hip-Hop Duos of All-Time

The best 1-2 punches in hip-hop

By

What defines a great rap duo? Awards? Chart dominance? How about chemistry? Or a fusion of these three? The answer is fleeting, kind of like, eh, philosophy. True greatness is magical. So when two powerful hip-hop forces combine, the outcome transcends mythical proportions and gives birth to household names that are linked forever in music legend and lore. Here are the 10 greatest duos in hip-hop history. (For groups of 3+ members, consult our 25 Greatest Rap Groups)

(Honorable Mention: Organized Konfusion, Camp Lo, 8Ball & MJG, Method Man & Redman, dead prez)

10. Blackalicious

Blackalicious
Gift of Gab's delivery was swift as ice but his poetics were convoluted and intriguing. Chief Xcel always seemed to cook up the perfect beat for his brother-in-rhyme. Over the course of three remarkable albums, Blackalicious won the hearts of fans as well as critics.
Best Album: Blazing Arrow [Purchase/Download]

9. Black Star

Very few groups or duos will ever be mentioned among the upper echelons off the strength of one great album. This is a club specially reserved for unique crews like The Fugees and Black Star. Mos Def and Talib Kweli tackled both political and personal misconceptions head-on on their self-titled opus.
Best Album: Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star [Purchase/Download]

8. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth

Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth's critically acclaimed album Mecca & the Soul Brother still inspires legions of hip-hop heads today. As the Mecca to Pete Rock's Soul Brother, C.L. Smooth dazzled with his seamless flow and intricate wordplay on timeless hits like "The Main Ingredient," "Straighten It Out," and "They Reminisce Over You."
Best Album: Mecca & The Soul Brother [Purchase/Download]

7. Mobb Deep

Mobb Deep represents the significance of striking a chord with your audience and sticking to it. These Queensbridge boys brought dun talk and hardcore beats to hip-hop's forefront. From rapid-fire gunplay to gritty hood narratives, Prodigy and Havoc never strayed from their niche far enough to fill their wall with platinum plaques. Instead, they stayed true to their QB roots and kept their sound drenched in street-hop.
Best Album: The Infamous [Purchase/Download]

6. Boogie Down Productions

KRS-One brought the lyrical acumen. Scott La Rock had the musical vision. Together, they crafted an album that revolutionized the landscape of hip-hop -- Criminal Minded. Not to mention the classic battle tracks "South Bronx" and "The Bridge Is Over." Scott La Rock was murdered shortly before the release of Criminal Minded in 1987. Can you imagine how much more powerful BDP would've been had he lived a little longer?
Best Album: Criminally Minded [Purchase/Download]

5. EPMD

In case you had any shred of doubt about Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith's influence, here's a reminder: EPMD is one of the most oft-sampled rap groups of all-time. If that doesn't scream impact then their catalog rife with classic songs and memorable albums should do the trick. From sample-heavy anthems to feel-good bangers, EPMD always took care of business.
Best Album: Strictly Business [Purchase/Download]

4. Eric B & Rakim

Rakim never had to rely on thuggery or gangsterism to grab ears. His monotone flow took care of that. It also took care of the bills, as Ra and partner Eric B. dropped classic album after classic album. Also: this.
Best Album: Paid In Full [Purchase/Download]

3. UGK

© Jive Records
UGK formed 20 years ago in Port Arthur, Texas. At a time when southern rap was merely a spec on the hip-hop map, Bun B and Pimp C stormed through the industry with their swaggerlicious brand of hip-hop. Pimp C's deft production was the duo's main source of flavor. His melodic timbre and distinctive twang reeked off his dirty south heritage. Bun B complemented his partner with a technically sound flow, replete with internal rhymes and rewind-worthy metaphors. UGK was instrumental in making ostentatious the arrival of country-fried rap tunes (to borrow Pimp C’s words).
Best Album: Ridin' Dirty [Purchase/Download]

2. GangStarr

DJ Premier may well be the greatest hip-hop producer of all-time. Guru held his forte down as one half of the legendary duo GangStarr, and can still kick a mean 16 after 20+ years in the game. In fact, the only other rapper (besides Guru) who can make magic in a monotone flow is Rakim. Collectively, Primo and Baldhead Slick amassed an enviable catalog of stellar albums.
Best Album: Hard to Earn [Purchase/Download]

1. OutKast

Trying to convince purists that not all southern hip-hop romanticized bling bling in the Master P era was like pulling teeth. The incomparable duo of Andre 3000 and Big Boi made this conversation a lot easier.

Big Boi, an urban prophet, always stayed true to himself and his Georgia roots. Andre 3000, one of the greatest MCs of our time, brought versatility and stacks of quotable rhymes. Together, they were unstoppable.

In 2004, OutKast became the first hip-hop collective (and the 2nd rap act) to win the prestigious Album of the Year Grammy with their 11x platinum opus, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Despite their mainstream maneuver, 'Kast never stopped pushing the envelope. Beat that.
Best Album: Aquemini [Purchase/Download]
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