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 10. UGK

 9. Fugees

 8. Salt 'N Pepa

 7. EPMD

 6. A Tribe Called Quest

 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

Got a problem with our choices? Share your own top 10.

  The Greatest Hip-Hop MCs Of All Time

  The Greatest Hip-Hop Albums Of All Time

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The members of MTV News' hip-hop brain trust wouldn't have been chosen if they weren't passionate about music — and you'll see both in the TV special and below just how passionate three of them are, in particular over certain groups that the brain trust decided do not belong in the top 10.

Beastie Boys

If hip-hop is supposed to represent something bigger than the formative black experience at the genre's core; if it is allowed to transcend the 'hood and be viewed on its artistic merits and its resonance with people outside the street experience — including, let's just say it, white people — then you have to consider the Beastie Boys, those hyper-smart and super-fresh kids from New York, as one of the greatest groups of all time.

Even though they now boast a soft-cover sound and retrofitted politics, their longevity — and musical arc — is indisputable. For better or for worse, they brought the hip-hop sound to suburban frat boys, skate punks and mall girls at a crucial point in the genre's development. But more importantly, they had the skills to pay the bills. Their first album, 1986's Licensed to Ill, contains some of Grammy-winning super-producer Rick Rubin's finest work — and earned them the co-sign of Run-DMC, the greatest group of all time. Their second album, Paul's Boutique, remains one of the three best works of sampling and composition ever. Check Your Head found them actually playing the funk grooves they'd previously sampled and shows off their beat-digger souls. And so on, and so on, and so on. The only thing that denies them entry into the pantheon of greatest groups here is that other element of hip-hop's core: narrow-mindedness.

— Joseph Patel


Mobb Deep

I really feel like I let all my dunns in my home borough of Queens, New York, down.

Believe me, I'm not copping any pleas, but it wasn't a fair fight. My main man/partner in crime, Rahman Dukes (also a Queens repper), and I were outnumbered: Two of us against the rest of the MTV News hip-hop brain trust, a lion's den of our esteemed peers, who for reasons I still can't fathom would not vote Mobb Deep onto our list of the top 10 greatest hip-hop groups ever. Are you serious?

When we first came up with the idea of a round table about hip-hop's greatest groups, there was no question in my mind that Mobb's Havoc and Prodigy should be on it — and this isn't just a case of Queens bias. Putting aside their talent and hits for the moment, let's start with longevity. The Mobb released their first album, Juvenile Hell, in 1993. It's a very short list of groups that came out in their era that are still relevant, with Wu-Tang and Outkast being the most obvious examples — heck, there's an even shorter list of groups that debuted in that era who are even still together. And although hardly anyone cares about Juvenile Hell (released when Hav and P were in their mid-teens), but what they've done since has been truly amazing.

I think their sophomore LP, 1995's The Infamous, is one of the greatest rap albums of all time, period. It may not have sold as astronomically as some of the albums by other artists on the list, but track for track it's untouchable. Lyrically, Prodigy stepped his game up five levels, undoubtedly inspired by seeing a guy from his neighborhood — Nas — being christened hip-hop's lyrical messiah a year earlier. Havoc's production on the album is an overwhelming triumph: morose but hard and energetic.

We all know one classic album doesn't necessarily warrant top-10 status — apparently, unless you're the Fugees (no disrespect, but what?!) — but the Mobb have consistently come with quality fire every time since. Hell on Earth, Murda Muzik, Infamy, Amerikaz Nightmare, Prodigy's solo joint H.N.I.C. and even last year's slept-on Blood Money were all complete albums — that means more than one or two hot records, that means coherence throughout, that means you'll listen to the whole thing more than once.

Clearly, my Brain Trust la Familia (whom I love dearly) have forgotten how they used to lose it at parties or in the club when records like "Quiet Storm," "Shook Ones, Pt. 2," "The Learning (Burn)" or "Got It Twisted" would come on. They disregarded how the blood talk on "Hell on Earth (Front Lines)," "Get Away," "G.O.D., Pt. III" and "Keep It Thoro" would burn holes in their CD players because the lyrics and soundscapes are so enthralling. They're not hearing how bits and pieces of the Mobb's "dunn language" have been incorporated into our own vocabulary through the years. All the work the Mobb have done on the mixtape circuit, keeping real thoroughbred street music alive and pumping for the past 13 years, is ignored.

Our list is very strong: I'm proud of 90 percent of the choices we made. But that's the beauty of the round table. No matter how many pioneering, sonically overachieving groups the brain trust comes up with, there will always be somebody ready to reopen the debate ...

— Shaheem Reid


The Roots

[Editor's note: The rules agreed upon by the MTV News hip-hop brain trust state that a hip-hop group must have more than one MC in its lineup; the Roots do not, and thus do not qualify for the list.]

To my shock and shame, the Roots were left off our list of the Greatest Hip-Hop Groups of All Time. This is a travesty! I fought hard and passionately for them, however I console myself in the knowledge that time will prove me right.

The Roots have never been as commercially successful as some of their contemporaries, but something should be said for the fact that they have produced some of hip-hop's greatest underground anthems "The Next Movement," "What They Do," "Act Too (Love of My Life)" and continue to raise the musical bar with their live performances. Also, they have had a tremendous impact on hip-hop music by helping to develop some of its brightest and most credible stars: Roots tours, records and collaborations have featured Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Jill Scott and many others before Eve became a star, she was prominently featured on the Roots' Grammy-winning 1999 single, "You Got Me."

The Roots are distinguished from any other hip-hop act because they are musicians a genuine band in which every member is technically skilled in his role. ?uestlove's mastery of the drums, Hub's incredible bass skills, and Kamal on keyboards make a Roots show an almost spiritual experience. Black Thought is one of the most profoundly skilled MCs in hip-hop, possessing the ability to flow both written and off-the-dome lyrics. He has a piercing delivery and can cover a broad range of lyrical topics.

The Roots have performed all over the world and put on one of the best live shows of any rap act. They've performed everywhere from the down-and-dirty underground hip-hop clubs of Philadelphia to Lollapalooza, and even Switzerland's Montreaux Jazz Festival. Anyone who knows hip-hop has to respect the long-lost art of the live show, and the Roots have managed to lock down that facet like no other group. That's why they've been called upon to back Jay-Z, Eminem and others.

They have outlasted many of the groups on this list ?uest and Black Thought began performing together in 1987, while still in high school and they appeal to audiences ranging from the most hard-core hip-hop heads to alternative-rock crowds.

There are many reasons why the Roots should have been included on the list. Ultimately, they were axed due to a technicality: The brain trust rules say a rap group must have more than one member MCing, which disqualifies the Roots from being included. We debated whether swing members like Malik B. and Dice Raw could put them back in the mix for consideration, but in the end, the panel chose not to include them a decision I feel compromises the integrity of the entire list. And that's all I have to say about it.

Buttahman, legendary Roots crew representative since 1993

NEXT: Meet the MTV hip-hop brain trust and check out their individual picks ...
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Photo: MTV News

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