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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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Rank: 3

estimonial
Public Enemy's albums were literally the soundtrack to the struggle against the "anti-n---a machine." Chuck D may have the most distinctive and commanding voice in hip-hop history: Its tone, power and relentless courage led an era. Chuck conveyed the thoughts of the revolution like a general on the battlefield, confronting everything from racial inequality in society to racial inequality in Hollywood, along with the military draft, the crack epidemic, and he even accused Elvis Presley ("Muthaf--- him and John Wayne!") of being a racist. Long before he became the king of reality TV, Flavor Flav brought comic relief to this Long Island, New York, crew — because everyone knows you have to laugh to keep from crying. His energy and unorthodox persona made him the greatest hypeman of all time. Beneath the jokes, though, Flav had his own deep thoughts, authoring "911 Is a Joke."

The beats of the Bomb Squad — Hank Shocklee, Keith Shocklee, Eric "Vietnam" Sadler (and, later, Gary G-Wiz) — were unassailably hard, rhythmically omnipresent and just as important to the P.E. movement as any words Chuck and Flav ever dropped on wax.

Co-Signer: Run, Run-DMC
"They were just amazing. Powerful. [The Bomb Squad] were a part of Public Enemy; the music was just as important as the lyrics. Flava was just as important as Chuck. Flav was a character — the best character around, the best sideman there is. Their unity and the way they put together records and put on a show was very exciting. The records were so powerful, the beats were so big and the voices were so commanding. A lot of times now, the lyrics are more laid-back — except for crunk! Back then, it was all about screaming: 'I'm the king of rock!' 'Yes! The rhythm, the rebel!' Now it's: 'I grew up on the crime side/ The New York Times side,' which is fly. Back then it was a different thing: who could out-yell each other and sound dope. I'm not saying it was a better time back then, it was just different."

100 Percent Proof
"I got a letter from the government/ The other day, I opened and read it/ It said they were suckers/ They wanted me for their army or whatever/ Picture me giving a damn/ I said 'never!' " (Chuck D, "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos")

"Flavor Flav is the sun/ Public Enemy number one/ Gotcha runnin' from the gun (pow!)/ Of a brain that weighs a ton/ Can't face my facts that's on the shelf/ 'Cause you want a handout for your wealth/ Eatin' welfare turkey out of the can/ I can't do nuttin' for ya man." (Flavor Flav, "Can't Do Nuttin' for Ya Man")

Selected Catalog
Yo! Bum Rush the Show (1987), *It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988), *Fear of a Black Planet (1990), Apocalypse 91 ... The Empire Strikes Black (1991), Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age (1994), He Got Game (soundtrack) (1998), There's a Poison Goin' On ... (1999), Revolverlution (2002).

* = undeniable classic



NEXT: Wu-Tang Clan's RZA says of this group, 'They were some of the boldest people to speak out.' ...
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Photo: Ernest Paniccioli

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