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 10. UGK

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 5. Wu-Tang Clan

 4. Outkast

 3. Public Enemy

 2. N.W.A

 1. Run-DMC

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  Honorable Mention

  The Brain Trust speaks

No group can be compared to the Wu-Tang Clan. RZA's production is incredible. I can't see how they wouldn't be #1.
                 — Eric, 24
                   Buffalo, NY

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  The Greatest Hip-Hop MCs Of All Time

  The Greatest Hip-Hop Albums Of All Time

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Rank: 1

There will never be another hip-hop act more deserving of the words: "If it weren't for them ..." Run (Joseph Simmons), DMC (Darryl McDaniels) and the late Jam Master Jay (Jason Mizell) were true pioneers. They were far from the first to rap, but the Kings from Queens did it their way and, in the process, introduced hip-hop culture to the mainstream in the States and abroad. They literally changed the world: They were the first rap superstars, the first hip-hop act to go platinum, the first with a major endorsement deal (Adidas), the first to star in their own movie ("Tougher Than Leather"), the first to sell out tours across the globe, the first to infiltrate MTV and — if you're anywhere between the ages of 28 and 35 — they're probably the first rappers you wanted to be. Not be like: be.

Run embodied MC brashness at its most invigorating, truly making any stage or studio his house. And DMC's voice alone could make a million hearts explode. Jam Master Jay — who later discovered fellow Queens natives Onyx (JMJ actually helped take them to multiplatinum status in the early '90s) and 50 Cent — was one of the most proficient turntablists ever to pick up a tonearm. To hear Run and D tell it, Jay was the heart and soul of the group: He gave them their style of dookie-rope chains, Adidas and godfather hats, and his Hollis swagger heavily influenced their cool demeanors.

Their beats were harder than heavy metal — they were bold enough to acclaim themselves the Kings of Rock, and 1984's "Rock Box" may well be the first hip-hop song with screaming guitars — their raps inspired millions, shut down sucka MCs, rocked any jam and always stayed positive.

Co-Signer: Chuck D, Public Enemy
"The greatest group of all time, bar none! They deserve all the glory, number one, just [for] making the rap game bigger [in terms of] making a living as an adult in the game of hip-hop and rap. Before Run-DMC came, adults had to check themselves on whether [being a rapper] was something they could call a career. As far as MCing, they allowed you to go past the realm of just making black music the basis of rap music. I think Run-DMC allowed different cats to go to different realms of music and still be able to do a rap thing — i.e., rap on rock, but you had to have voices that cut. Run-DMC had voices that cut through guitars.

"Run and DMC, their style was made for arenas. Run has always been an MC that's been able to cut a sharp curve on the words — that's very important for an MC. And never, ever forget: Jam Master Jay was the glue that held the two rappers together, and he executed perfectly. He's the orchestrator of the outfit.

"The most important aspect of Run-DMC was performance. Records are one thing, but your performance has to beat your records. Whenever your records are beating your performance, you're no different from Britney Spears or Milli Vanilli. You had to be loud in the arena — you can't carry no mouse voice in Madison Square Garden. If your voice can't cut it in the arena, you're not going to be doing it very long.

"Doing a concert with them — it's nothing like it. Run-DMC was touring a good four years before us. By the time we got two years touring, they were at six. But I'll tell you what: When you had the '88 tour with EPMD, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and when it came to us and Run-DMC at the end, that was some real heavyweight sh--. You had two groups that were able to get on top — noise and abrasive sound. I think out of that combination, N.W.A formed out of that. They saw that sh-- work. P.E. did a tour in Europe, just us and Run-DMC, that became part of folklore out there. We were knocking mutha------s out. It was a privilege to be a part of that."

100 Percent Proof
"Ah, once again my friend/ Not a trend but then/ They said rap was crap/ But never had this band/ Till the ruler came/ With a cooler name/ Make ya dance and prance and draw the fans to the stage." (Run, "Run's House")

"My Ahhh-didas/ Walk through concert doors/ And roam all over coliseum floors/ I stepped onstage, at Live Aid/ All the people gave, and the poor got paid/ And out of speakers I did speak/ I wore my sneakers but I'm not a sneak/ My Adidas cut the sand of a foreign land/ With mic in hand, I cold took command." (DMC, "My Adidas")

Selected Catalog
*Run-DMC (1984), *King of Rock (1985), *Raising Hell (1986), Tougher Than Leather (1988), Back From Hell (1990), Down With the King (1993), Crown Royal (1999).

* = undeniable classic

NEXT: Are you furious that a group you love didn't make the top 10? See if they got some love in Honorable Mention ...
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Photo: Raymond Boyd

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