Right now, rap crews are all the rage. Turn on the radio, flip to 106 & Park or go to any one of your favorite websites and you’ll undoubtedly be inundated with songs featuring a slew of MCs, joining forces for significance.
However, while many will argue groups have always run this genre, the difference now is the artists helming these labels are more concerned with signing free agents like the NBA or NFL. Whereas in the past, the leader was less concerned with prominence and more about pushing the crew they grew up with, rather than parading some paper-made facade that only comes together for photo shoots and tours. But, being that Hip-Hop’s a budding business, the money’s there for the taking and the shift is understandable. However, when crew love supersedes a desire for success, the music is that much more potent.
So, to highlight the history of organic Hip-Hop crews, we’ve compiled a list of the nine most prominent cliques of the past, highlighting their members and sharing their conjoined jams. If you too believe a team can make the dream work, grab a couple of homies, sit down and enjoy.
Key Members: Cam’ron, Jim Jones, Freeky Zekey, Juelz Santana, Hell Rell, 40 Cal, J.R. Writer and Vado.
Legacy: During the early 2000s, these Harlem high-rollers had everyone tickled pink. Dipset members were bright, boisterous and did whatever they pleased, endearing fans and Hip-Hop’s high-rollers along the way. When label issues came between childhood friendships and commercial prosperity though, bad blood left key members Killa Cam and Jim Jones separated, sending most members to seek solo success. And, while many welcomed their recent resurgence, the chemistry hasn’t resonated quite as well as it did in their heyday.
Highlights: Cam’Ron Feat. Juelz Santana – “Oh Boy,” Juelz Santana Feat. Cam’ron – “Santana’s Town (Dipset),” Jim Jones Feat. Cam’ron & Juelz Santana – “Crunk Muzik” & Jim Jones – “We Fly High”
Key Members: Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, Daz, Warren G, Nate Dogg, Soopafly, Bad Azz, Lil Half Dead, Lady Of Rage, RBX, Roscoe & The Eastsidaz
Legacy: Essentially, as soon as Dr. Dre gave Snoop the spotlight, the entire California G-funk movement got put on, with the DPGC collective at the forefront. Since 1992, countless artists and albums have emerged on the heels of Tha Doggfather – some legendary and others underwhelming – with many of the acts actually bringing up their own homies along the way. Although their allegiance has thinned and much of the later music is far from past heights, their legacy helped shape the musical culture of an entire coast.
Highlights: Snoop Doggy Dogg Feat. Kurupt, Warren G & Nate Dogg – “Ain’t No Fun,” Tha Dogg Pound Feat. Snoop Dogg – “New York, New York,” Warren G Feat. Nate Dogg – “Regulate” & Kurupt Feat. Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Soopafly, Warren G & Tray Dee – “Neva Gonna Give It Up”
Key Members: OutKast, Organized Noize, Goodie Mobb, Slim Calhoun, Killer Mike, Big Rube, Mr. DJ, Backbone, Joi, Witchdoctor, Cool Breeze & Konkrete
Legacy: The epitome of this list, the kaleidoscopic Dungeon Family may have spawned the most stars of any other rap clique. That’s fitting though, because these ATL all-stars went from humble beginnings in Organized Noize founder Rico Wade’s basement “dungeon,” to being known for giving the entire genre more of the extroversion that’s helped take Hip-Hop mainstream. Still, stardom might’ve gotten the best of a few Family members, because the Trans D.F. Express makes way less stops than it used to.
Highlights: OutKast Feat. Goodie Mob – “Git Up, Git Out,” Outkast Feat. Backbone & Cool Breeze – “Slump,” Goodie Mob Feat. OutKast – “Black Ice” & Killer Mike Feat. Big Boi & Sleepy Brown – “A.D.I.D.A.S.”
Diggin’ In The Crates Crew
Members: Diamond D, Big L, Lord Finesse, Fat Joe, Showbiz, AG, Buckwild & O.C.
Legacy: The D.I.T.C. might not be revered by casual rap fans, but that won’t stop certain purists from dubbing this New York collective the most significant. Featuring some of the genre’s most notable sample-based producers in Lord Finesse and Buckwild; a crossover hall-of-famer in Fat Joe and the significance of Big L’s tragic murder amidst his prime, these brothers in breaks ensured the organic Hip-Hop tradition carried on during the turn of the century when rap became flashier than ever.
Highlights: Showbiz & AG Feat. Big L, Deshaun & Lord Finesse – “Represent,” Big L & Fat Joe – “Da Enemy,” D.I.T.C. – “Dignified Soldiers,” D.I.T.C. – “Way Of Life (Remix)” & Big L Feat. AG, Stan Spit & Miss Jones
Members: Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Queen Latifah, Black Sheep, Chi-Ali & Monie Love
Legacy: In an era when gangsta rap catapulted into public prominence, Native Tongues provided an alternative to the hostility. Positive, but never push-overs, these quirky New York lyricists came together to push their cultural pride and open-mindedness to everyone who couldn’t relate to pistol packing and smacking females. As a result, certain fans began to expect more from their artists, the culture expanded and Hip-Hop began to settle into the different sub-genres that exist today.
Highlights: De La Soul Feat. Q-Tip, Queen Latifah, Monie Love & Jungle Brothers – “Buddy (Remix),” A Tribe Called Quest Feat. Leaders of the New School – “Scenario,” A Tribe Called Quest Feat. TruGoy – “World Tour” & Black Sheep Feat. Q-Tip, TruGoy & Mike Gee – “Birds Of A Feather.”