A Tribe Called Quest’s return to the top of the charts with We Got It from Here along with the warm reception they received from the music world could end up creating a wonderful ripple effect. In the short time since the album’s release, The Lox just announced they’re formally reuniting for their first project together in 16 years and Pusha T and No Malice sound like they very well could rekindle the flames for a Clipse project, too. They’re most likely not the only ones warm with nostalgia as I’d wager more MCs and producers have found themselves scrolling through their phone’s contacts to text old music friends with ideas of getting their own band back together.
The ’90s and ’00s were both filled with duos and groups whose runs were cut shorter than what they possibly could’ve been. What they left behind, much like Tribe, were legions of listeners who wouldn’t mind seeing a rebirth and resurgence from sentimental favorites. Not every act will have garner critical acclaim like ATCQ or mirror the chart success fellow Native Tongues De La Soul achieved with and the Anonymous Nobody… But, we’re talking about joints that will resonate with core demos who would show their love by putting a few dollars in the artists’ pockets with album sales and ticket buys when reunion tour kicks off.
Much like everyone else, I have my own short list of acts who I wouldn’t mind having at least one more album from, just for old time’s sake. A few of them very well could happen eventually, while others would be met with a resounding “hell no” by those still nursing bruised egos. But, it never hurts put the thoughts out there, just in case any of these group members have their Google Alerts on and sees these suggestions as a reason to get back in the lab with their old crew.
The Fugees breakup falls somewhere in the top five for worst group break-ups in rap history. It’s been written about at length in the years since the group severed ties in 1997 mainly because the idea of them falling apart seemed so improbable and left fans wondering what the hell exactly happened. After experiencing minor success with their debut album, they crafted arguably one of hip-hop’s most perfect, diverse projects ever in The Score just two years later in 1996. The album peaked at the top of the charts, won acclaim from critics and has been certified six times platinum. For the trio, Wyclef Jean was the mastermind, Lauryn Hill was the dual threat vocalist, and Pras was the part of the backbone tasked with support. At the time, they seemed unstoppable.
And, for all of that success, there was an equal, opposite force that drove them apart. It was actually a set of forces: the affair and subsequent mind games between ‘Clef and Lauryn, the paternity questions surrounding Hill’s first child, and the periods of isolation from each other were all happening in private while The Score was skyrocketing to success publicly.
With the wreckage they left behind, it’s unlikely the New Jersey trio could ever work together in close collaboration enough to create another album. But, they could release another album if they wanted since the process of creating music is far more technically advanced than it was two decades ago. More than half of the collaborations rappers participate in now are done via email and filesharing anyway, as opposed to situations where people are required to be in the same space together. Lauryn and ‘Clef wouldn’t even have to be in the same group text if they didn’t want to. Pras could play the middleman in all communication and the intermediary for everything else. So we could technically get an album, but just don’t ever expect a supporting tour.
Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth
When they reminisce over Pete and CL, what will be their legacy? Will it be highlighted by that famous tribute song to the late Trouble T Roy, the Sprite commercial they starred or will it be how they quietly went their separate ways in one of hip-hop’s most under-reported break-ups? For most people, it will be the former two high notes thankfully. A smaller number of fans will land in the latter group who were miffed when of one of the better rapper-producer tandems of the ’90s dissolved.
They came on the scene with their All Souled Out EP (1991) and marked their arrival with the critically acclaimed album, Mecca and the Soul Brother (1992). Pete’s sample-heavy, horn-friendly style was the perfect compliment to C.L.’s caramel smooth vocals. Songs like “Straighten It Out,” “Skinz” and “Soul Brother No. 1” put them near the front of the pack at the outset of one of rap’s peaks. But, only months after they released their second LP, The Main Ingredient (1995), they decided to call it quits for the usual range of reasons that cause rifts in groups: youth, egos, and people whispering in their ears.
“By not discussing those things and just focusing on music,” C.L. recently told Spin in regards to how he and Pete grew apart, “we were covering up the scab instead of healing it. When you have a broken bone, you don’t give it cough medicine.” Pete didn’t disagree, concurring, “We didn’t think like men.”
Now, 22 years after their last project together, these two are looking to give it another shot. But, it’s still too early to consider the reunion a lock since they’ve tried patching things up on more than one occasion and were unsuccessful. The only difference now is they’ve gained a few more years of wisdom. “When you live you learn,” CL said. “We’re still learning about each other. In life, even the wrong choices, they help you make the right decisions later.”
It’s mandatory they’re included since they’re partially the reason why we’re even discussing rap reunions. Pusha is to Clipse what Big Boi is to Outkast in that he’s always made it abundantly clear he would embrace the chance to work with his former partner in rhyme at any time. Now, No Malice’s recent remarks to GQ about what a new Clipse album would sound like — “amazing,” he said — are the most positive signs that he’s at least given an ounce of thought to recording with his younger brother.
The pickle for Pusha and No Mal is the older brother Thorton’s renewed relationship with religion certainly doesn’t leave room for him to make secular music. However, there’s an existing loophole where Clipse could get together once more using a Cain-and-Abel, thematic approach or maybe even a good vs. evil one where Push delivers all the lines about standing over the stove working the work till it coagulates and No Malice operates as his brother’s conscious or something along those lines. If they go that route, No Mal’s halo stays pristine because his hands never have to touch the dope figuratively, of course. Let’s all say prayers and see if we can will it happen.
Boosie Badazz and Webbie
To be fair, Boosie and Webbie may not have been a group in the traditional sense. The two came together because of their shared label home, Trill Entertainment. They were already familiar with one another since Boosie featured Webbie on a track for his indie release For My Thugz back in 2001. With Pimp C guiding them, the Baton Rouge bad boys linked for the joint album Ghetto Stories in 2003 and the chemistry was clearly visible. They were the two Lils: Boosie’s voice, nasally and shrill, just worked with Webbie’s deep drawl. They followed the release up with two more, Trill Azz Mixtape Vol. 1 and Gangsta Muzik, which all helped Trill Ent. leverage a larger deal with Warner-affiliated Asylum Records. Even though they both worked as solo artists moving forward, they continued to pop up on each other’s projects and littered the charts and clubs with cuts like “Independent” in praise of single ladies who begged no favors from any man, the parking lot pimpin’ anthem “Swerve,” and the new age Negro spiritual “Wipe Me Down.” For Boosie, Webbie’s like the more social homeboy who drags his friend out to party and they end up making a night to remember out of regular ass Wednesday.
The weird thing is, even though Webbie found wider success initially, it’s been Boosie Badazz who has sustained the longer career even while enduring multiple court cases and incarcerations that usually set artists back. He’s always fashioned himself as a representative of the struggle, the underdog who scratched and scrapped to win against the system meant to keep him down and as an outsider to industry. And it’s when Webbie’s with Boosie that Trill Young Savage is forced to dig deeper inside himself to channel his truest innermost thoughts that he’s able to songs that show his scrappy side exists, too, born from the same Louisiana mud that birthed his partner in crime. A sentimental favorite will always be “Betrayed,” an album cut from Boosie’s 2010 project Incarcerated, where Webbie breaks down all the pressures of living under the bright lights that fame creates, almost losing his daughter around the same period and friends showing their true colors. Nothing out of the ordinary for most MCs but a noticeably different side of Webbie for the world to see.
The yin and yang nature and the length of their relationship make now as good a time as any for the two to come together to record. They’re obviously still close given the recent video footage of Webbie hosting a surprise birthday for Boosie that brought tears of joy to Badazz’s cold heart. After releasing mound of music since his last prison stint, Bad Azz has found his footing again, and it’d be good to have them bless us with one more round of songs as a victory lap for two guys who made a name for themselves and their city against all odds.
Wait, just hear this one out.
When Guru passed in 2010, this death sadly ruled out any chances that he and DJ Premier might ever record another Gang Starr album. For fans of the producer, the only LP that could top that idea would be Premo pairing with Nas to form Gang Starr 2.0 and make the project they’ve cockteased fans about for almost as long as Detox has been a running joke.
Which means the next best group from the Gang Star Foundation to click back up would require Premier tracking down Lil Dap and Melachi the Nutcracker from whatever dark corners they’re in and helping them to rekindle the sound they created on their 1995 debut Livin’ Proof. Premo was behind the boards on 12 of the album’s 14 songs and it’s arguably some of his most complex work, personifying the East Coast boom-bap sound. And even though they weren’t the most deft lyricists, Dap and Melachi more than held their own on “Supa Star,” “Suspended in Time,” “Tha Realness” and more. The fact of the matter is Premier has wasted gifted tracks are far less capable rappers when Group Home could’ve been eight albums in on a great career. Now is the time right those wrongs, in the name of the late Keithy E.