Since revealing our list of the Greatest Hip-Hop Groups of All Time, fans and artists have been telling us exactly what they think. Now we’ve compiled a new list — the Greatest Hip-Hop Groups of All Time: Reactions and Recollections.
So many hip-hop heavyweights sounded off on our latest list that we broke up the reactions into two parts. Check back on Wednesday for some words from Nas, the Game, Erick Sermon and more. But first up, we talked to the remaining members of our top pick, Run-DMC. You might be surprised that one of the MCs doesn’t agree with our #1, but they’re both pumped.
“Every day I’m competing with life, trying to make great things happen,” said Run-DMC’s Rev Run. “My energy is always up, trying to make something new happen for me, my brother, my family, my friends. This is great. Another win. I’m a competitive person, so to hear I’m #1, this is great. … But you never know what can happen. Sometimes Public Enemy, they’re #1 on people’s list. Thank God this time I’m #1.”
“How does it feel to be a part of the greatest group ever? It’s a really good feeling,” Run’s partner DMC gushed when he heard about the top spot. “Wow, that’s big. To me, the greatest group ever was the Cold Crush Brothers, but that was before records. Cold Crush over Run-DMC, for sure! Their mixtape in ’82 was the greatest thing me and Run ever heard. The reason why Run-DMC was so def, I was going to school up in Harlem [New York] and would buy Cold Crush tapes for $8. Me and Run knew if we gonna be in this game, we gotta be better than that. That’s why we made ‘Here We Go,’ ‘It’s Tricky.’ Our records were routines. That’s why we’re so tight onstage. We took it from them. I told Grandmaster Caz, ‘If there weren’t no Cold Crush, we might not have been def.’ I mean, we were still going to be def, but it was on that level. … I could give a lot of props to [Grandmaster] Flash & the Furious Five, Treacherous Three, Funky Four + 1.’
“Grandmaster Flash, [with] Jam Master Jay, we took [the 'Master' name] from him,” Run added about the trio’s other inspirations. “[Cold Crush] put us so high as if we did so much, but we got all that from Tony Tone; it came from Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five. Somebody once said we weren’t old school — we were the liaison from old school to new school. I love that. We’re the middle. We took some of their styles and made it popular. Cold Crush, Fantastic Five, Funky Four + 1. A little bit of Kool Moe Dee and them.”
As much as groups before them influenced Run-DMC, the trio definitely had an impact on the hip-hop acts that followed them.
“I would not be mad if Public Enemy went into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before me,” DMC said. “Chuck D is my idol. The sound, the voice. Chuck said the reason he was so tough was because he studied Run-DMC albums. If you look at great groups live, it started with Cold Crush, then Run-DMC, then Public Enemy. Chuck was older than us. He used to say he would sit at the side of the stage with Eric B. when we were touring together. They would stick around to see our show, and Eric would tell Chuck, ‘There’s no way we could f— with that.’ I can’t comprehend the accolades we get.”
Run said that on the road, he, DMC and JMJ came up with their best project ever, 1986′s Raising Hell. “I remember we wrote it on the road during [the] King of Rock [era]. And because we were on the road together, we were around each other even more. We had a tour, Fresh Fest. That album came out the best because we were together the most during that time. I’ll come up with a flow or D would come up with a flow. Take for instance ‘It’s Like That.’ I came up with ‘It’s like that’ and D came back the next day saying, ‘And that’s the way it is.’ ”
Through Raising Hell, Run-DMC may have gained their most success, but their entire body of work cements their legendary status.
“In the rap game, bringing black and white people together with ‘Rock Box,’ ‘King of Rock’ and ‘Walk This Way,’ ” Run said about Run-DMC’s greatest contribution to hip-hop. “I guess that’s the biggest thing we did: brought more people together other than just the ‘hood. We showed that music is universal and we could collaborate. It was a show of unity.”
MTV News talked to a few members of our other greatest groups too. Ever so humble, Outkast are grateful just to be felt.
“Thank you for putting us on the list,” Andre 3000 said. We appreciate it.”
“It’s an honor knowing people appreciate what you do,” Big Boi chipped in. “Most of the time, we just leave it up the fans, we don’t trip on the ratings or nothing like that. People ask us all the time, but there were many before us, like Run-DMC on down to EPMD, so you really can’t knock them out. Without them, there would be no us. For people to be into what we’re doing still is great.”
Chuck D is cool with our list — for the most part — but he said the Beastie Boys and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five should have absolutely been in the top 10.
“Y’all need the Beasties on there, man,” Chuck said with a smile. “And Flash, they’re getting ready to go into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. … N.W.A brought a lot of different personalities. Cube is one of the greatest MCs of all time, if not the greatest. Then you have Dre. Number one, you’ve got [N.W.A's] Ren, who is like the Scottie Pippen of rap, who never ever got the respect he deserved. Run-DMC, they’re the Beatles. [Public Enemy], we call ourselves the Rolling Stones. De La Soul is the Who. … Fugees, incredible group. Nobody put together the actual dynamics like Wyclef and Lauryn. Everybody could do their own things, but it’s noting like coming together as a team.”
You want to see Justin Timberlake flip out of his usual lovable character, try disrespecting one of his favorite groups ever, A Tribe Called Quest. JT had gotten some bad info that Tribe were not in the top 10, and it didn’t sit so well with him. (“Tribe better be on that top 10, that’s all I’m saying,” Timberlake said. “That’s all I’m sayin’!”).
He was cool with #1 and #2 though. “Run-DMC, N.W.A, it’s crazy how much [music] is thrown back to groups like that,” Timberlake said. “You’re talking to a white boy from Tennessee. I used to listen to them all the time. That’s how’s you know it’s not just a cultural thing; it’s a worldwide thing, hip-hop. Outkast, I remember I was 14 years old and had [the 1994 Outkast album] Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik and played it all the time, from front to back. My whole generation is influenced by groups like that. I don’t know what it’s worth for me to talk about it. Maybe you should talk to somebody like Jay-Z or Kanye West. I’m a singer, but these groups, they inspired a certain swagger that comes along with my music as well.”
We took Justin’s advice and got in touch with Mr. West too. Kanye wasn’t afraid to admit he was influenced by some of the groups on the list. “I used to love [Public Enemy],” ‘Ye said. “More so than PE having an impact on me, it was my parents having an impact on me. [My parents' teachings] connected with the stuff [Public Enemy] were doing. I could play that music for my father, and even though they would curse sometimes, he’d be into it because it was about making some type of change. I think Tribe is my favorite group of all time. Pharcyde, I like them a lot. Far Ride to the Pharcyde is my favorite rap album period.
“[Outkast at #4], I think it’s incredible that a group that is so young … for them to be ranked so high,” Kanye added. “They impacted me. We have a lot of similarities: trying to make a different sound; not making stuff for the radio but for the people; being very stylish and understanding that’s a part of hip-hop. Big Boi is dope-boy fresh. I don’t think people understand how fresh Big Boi is. He was the first to wear throwback jerseys.
“Wu-Tang? Me and my friends talk about this all the time,” Kanye continued. “We think Wu-Tang had one of the biggest impacts as far as a movement. From slang to style of dress, skits, the samples. Similar to the [production] style I use, RZA has been doing that.”
Guru from Gang Starr gave props to our #7 act, EPMD, for not only boosting his group, but for always coming with something fresh. “They were one of the first to stand out with in-house production,” Guru remembered. “Their production went right along with their flow. It was all in house. They were some of the first with that slow flow that really made a difference in the game. Second of all, those dudes were instrumental in snatching Gang Starr and bringing us on tour with them, similar to what Gang Starr did for M.O.P. Even though we weren’t getting the marketing and promotion, they felt us and brought us on tour. We were on tour with them, the only ones without a tour bus. They made constant classics. It was the epitome of a two-man group — similar to Run-DMC, where the voices were different but similarly powerful.”
Check back on Wednesday for more reactions to the controversial list.