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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

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Rank: 5

estimonial
Sonically untouchable and lyrically impregnable, no group could ever compete line-for-line with the nine swordsmen from Staten Island, New York. When their movement started in 1993, it was like a meteor shower raining down on hip-hop: They bum-rushed the game with not only classic music (collectively and individually), but with a keen business plan that included solo deals through separate labels for each of the members, as well as one of the first rapper clothing lines.

Wu-Tang were an ensemble so gifted and diverse that you fell in love with each of them for different reasons. The skilled Inspectah Deck, the forceful U-God, the deep-thinking Masta Killah — and the standouts. Method Man: so much charisma, a flow that could body any track and a voice that was immediately recognizable. GZA: Wordplay so advanced he made his opponents look like dilettantes. Raekwon and Ghostface — one of the best duos ever — were almost like Siamese twins, completing each other's bars and sharing flavor, from fly clothes and girls to Cristal. And Ol' Dirty Bastard: Who in rap besides Flavor Flav was ever more colorfully lovable than Big Baby Jesus?

RZA, of course, is the mastermind behind it all, rapping as well as producing all the albums. He had beats that sang to you like grandma coming home from church on Sunday. The classic soul sound he culled could have police in riot gear rushing to your favorite club because the thugs were so inspired to lose control — or have you reaching for tissues because the sound touches your heart with such potency.

Co-Signer: Erick Sermon, EPMD
"The first time I heard Wu — it was the video for 'Protect Ya Neck' — I almost lost my mind. Hit Squad was the first n---as to have a crew of MCs to be rocking at the same time. So when Wu-Tang came with all the personalities — like how EPMD had us, Redman, K-Solo and Das EFX in the Hit Squad — I was like, 'Damn!' They set it off. They blew my mind. It was phenomenal.

"Business-wise, the RZA was the mastermind of the situation. He knew what he had: He had the production, he knew the talent he had as far as MCs. They made a brand. They had the symbol, the name — once you have a name and a concept, a concept is going to be bigger than any songs. It lasts longer; it's a lifestyle. Any artist that brings forth their lifestyle, they're going to win. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that? Kids ate it up, and then hard-core n---as loved it for the beats and rhymes. My favorite Clansman — when I heard 'Protect Ya Neck,' ODB got me. When I heard all the 'first things first, man, you f---ing with the worst!' I was like, 'God!' He murdered it. Then you had Method Man, he was dangerous, then after Raekwon dropped his solo joint, you knew he was dangerous. And I was a big fan of the Genius."

100 Percent Proof
"Slit a n---a back like a Dutch Master killer/ Style jumped off and Killa, Hill-er/ I was the thriller in the Ali-Frazier Manila/ I came down with phat tracks that combine and interlock/ Like getting smashed by a cinderblock/ Blaow! Now it's all over/ N---as seeing pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars and green clovers." (GZA, "Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber")

"America's watchin', blood-stained ink blotches/ Medgar took one to the skull for integrating colleges/ What's the science? Somebody? This is trick knowledge/ They try to keep us enslaved and still scrape for dollars." (RZA, "I Can't Go to Sleep")

Selected Catalog
*Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993), *Wu-Tang Forever (1997), The W (2000), Iron Flag (2001).

* = undeniable classic




NEXT: A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip says of this group, 'They go places we never even touched.' ...
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Photo: Loud

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