Greatest Rap Groups of All-Time

When it comes to the greatest rap group of all-time, one group easily stands head and shoulders above all others. However, narrowing the field for the remaining nine contenders – and then ranking them in order – proved to be almost as tough as compiling the list for the greatest male rapper of all-time, which, trust me, was no walk in the park.

However, I have managed to narrow the field down to 10, although I must admit, it wasn’t easy. In order, here are the greatest rap groups to ever exist.

Run-DMC

Money is the key to end all your woes
Your ups, your downs, your highs and your lows
Won’t you tell me the last time that love bought you clothes?
It’s like that, and that’s the way it is

I don’t think there is any debate about who the greatest rap group ever is. Were it not for the contributions, crossover-ability and overall precedent-setting career of Run-DMC, who knows what kind of impact future rap groups would have made.
One of the things I like about Run-DMC and the majority of the rappers from their era whether solo artists or group performers, is the fact that they didn’t glorify violence, drugs and women as hoes and bi – -es in every one of their songs. While Run-DMC may not have produced as many conscious-altering songs as, say, Public Enemy, they still managed to fashion themselves as the greatest rap group of all-time.

Sugar Hill Gang

have you ever went over a friends house to eat
and the food just ain’t no good
i mean the macaroni’s soggy the peas are mushed
and the chicken tastes like wood
so you try to play it off like you think you can
by sayin that youre full
and then your friend says momma he’s just being polite
he ain’t finished uh uh that’s bull

Speaking of groundbreaking, were it not for the Sugar Hill Gang’s contributions to the Hip-Hop industry, who knows if Run-DMC would have even come into existence? At any rate, the “Gang” showed an entire nation from the very beginning that rap could transcend race, creed and color ad create its own niche, which obviously has withstood the test of time.

Public Enemy

Shootin at oj
Dont know if he did it
Racist m – – – – -ers mad cause they aint with it
The police get out the car searchin for nuthin
If you got sumthin, then they got you for sumthin

There has never been, nor will there ever be another rap group like P.E., who raised the consciousness level of an entire nation of youths, before we even knew it. From the inspiring lyrics of Chuck D. to Flavor Flav’s hysterical antics, Public Enemy stands head and shoulders above every other rap group besides the aforementioned two.

Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five

Broken glass everywhere
People pissin’ on the stairs, you know they just don’t care
I can’t take the smell, can’t take the noise
Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice
Rats in the front room, roaches in the back
Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat
I tried to get away but I couldn’t get far
‘cuz a man with a tow truck repossessed my car

I could have easily put Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five in the top three of all-time. However, I think their impact, which was enormous to other aspiring rap artists, was actually too far ahead of their time. This group also didn’t garner nearly as much national attention as they should have, making a huge impact on other east coast rappers, but never fully crossing over to the mainstream or west coast. Having said that, this group’s impact was so powerful that I couldn’t, in good conscious, rate them any lower than fourth.

N.W.A

F – k tha police
Comin straight from the underground
Young n – – got it bad cuz I’m brown
And not the other color so police think
They have the authority to kill a minority

All I can say about NWA is that they were responsible for generating an entire new genre of rap – and that would be “Gangsta” rap. Their lyrics focused on the everyday tragedies they witnessed and the struggles of a young black man living in Compton, California just to survive.

I don’t even want to get into the fact that the group produced several of Hip-Hop’s greatest contributors. Dr. Dre and Ice Cube have obviously risen to immense standing in the rap universe, but the group’s other rappers, including, Eazy-E, weren’t exactly chopped liver. The group also spawned a legion of other “Gangsta” rappers such as the D.O.C. and many others. N.W.A. is actually in my top three of personal favorites, along with Run-DMC and EPMD. Love them or hate them, this group’s legacy is etched in stone.

EPMD

Oh what the heck let’s get married and have a son named Erick
No big deal no sweat
Hmmm I was in for a big surprise
And when I saw the judge hammer pass my green eyes
Brainlocked my whole damn head was malfunctional
Cause I forgot to co sign a prenuptial agreement
Now her case is hard like cement
The P had a close call, quiet as kept I dated this
“Flyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy girl”
Yeah, and almost got vicked
She had green eyes, thunder thighs, and a def body (so what cha sayin)
Top it off, she drove a black Maserati

EPMD is actually my second favorite rap group of all-time. This duo has produced several mega-hits and was been one of the founders of formulating the blueprint for every future successful rap group to follow in their footsteps. Unfortunately, the group spilt up prematurely. Even though Erick Sermon did go on to achieve a modest amount of success as a solo artist, he never came close to the success he achieved when paired with his partner Paris. At any rate, EPMD’s success was still good enough to earn them the number six-spot on my all-time list and a number two-spot in my heart.

The Treacherous Three

We’re qualifyin, rectifyin
Rock until the day we’re dyin
Everytime you’re screamin, cryin
Well, we’re here with no denyin
[ Spoonie Gee ]
We hold our own and our pride
[ Special K ]
Just take a step and kept in stride
[ L.A. Sunshine ]
Set down rules you will abide
[ Kool Moe Dee ]
We’re gonna take you for a ride

While the Treacherous Three never achieved national status – or even that of some of the my honorable mention selections – anyone who knows a thing about rap music knows this group’s contributions, were near the very origin of Hip-Hop. Kool Moe Dee went on to achieve a decent measure of success a solo artist, but old school rap enthusiasts like myself will remember that Special K, Sunshine and Spoonie G took a back seat to no one. The Treacherous Three were waaaaaay ahead of their time.

Salt-N-Peppa

I’m the queen on the mic, and it’s true when I say
That the Pepa MC is here to stay
And you know if I was a book I would sell
Cuz every curve on my body got a story to tell
MCs rockin’ and shockin’, but it won’t last
Salt’s on the mic, and I’m kickin’
Ask me no questions, I’ll tell no lies
It’s just a little warning, a word to the wise

Salt-N-Pepa’s contributions as the only female rap group in history to make a significant impact in the rap game are legendary. To be quite honest, no female rap group before or since has come close to reaching the unprecedented heights Salt-N-Pepa did. This duo also achieved a national “crossover” following that few rappers before – or since – have achieved.

A Tribe Called Quest

Q: Back in the days on the boulevard of Linden,
we used to kick routines and presence was fittin’.
It was I the abstract
P: And me the five footer.
I kicks the mad style so step off the frankfurter.
Q: Yo, Phife, you remember that routine
that we used to make spiffy like mister clean?
P: Um um, a tidbit, um, a smidgen.
I don’t get the message so you gots to run the pigeon.

A Tribe Called Quest is one of my favorite rap groups of all-time because of their innovative style, which has yet to be duplicated. It also helped that Phife and Q-Tip were outstanding lyricists and performers. They also achieved more of a national following than many of their brethren have ever seen. Of course Q-Tip went on to achieve even more success as a solo artists years later.

Kid N Play

You’ll feel the bass, it’s soft and wet – yes, honey
You’ll get a taste, but not just yet – right, money?
The beat is live, troop, so don’t front on it
Get it while the getting’s good and just jump on it
Minute by minute, yo, hour by hour
Kid ‘n Play got soul power
We’re gittin funky

Although I wouldn’t necessarily call either an outstanding lyricist, this pair may be the best performers of any rap group ever. Their upbeat songs, fancy footwork and penchant for pizzazz were – and still are – unmatched. The pair were such stage presences that they both went on to star in four films that achieved their own modicum of success. The likable pair are definite all-timers who will never be forgotten.

Honorable Mention

I just hate having to leave off deserving candidates for any of my all-time lists. However, everyone can’t make the top 10. Here are my honorable mention rap groups, many of whom I’ve had a tough time leaving out of the top 10.

Beastie Boys

The Beastie Boys were amongst the legion of early rappers and rap groups who left an indelible impression on a generation of rappers to follow. Being white rappers in a nearly all black field at the time, they were also pioneers who were unafraid to reach for the brass ring. Not only did they reach that ring, they surpassed it and made themselves into icons that left a lifelong legacy.

Whodini

Whodini was another group that originated among some of the very earliest of rap pioneers. The group made several hits that earned them quite a following – especially on the east coast. However, I think had the group’s longevity lasted a little longer, they would have been in the top 10. As it stands, Whodini was still was good enough to make my top 15.

Wu-Tang Clan

The Wu Tang Clan became one of the most beloved rap groups in the 1990s. Led by the inimitable Method Man – who has achieved the most fame of any Wu Tang member – the group’s street-wise lyrics made them one of the best rap groups of the decade. Although not one of my personal favorites, I have to give the Clan their props as one of the top 15 of all-time.

Naughty by Nature

Naughty by Nature’s highly successful “anthem” songs earned them more fame than several of the other groups who came before them and are ranked higher than them on this list. When it comes down to producing successful “party music” Naughty by Nature may be the most successful rap group in history.

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