Crews are the backbone of rap and hip-hop.
Sure, you can be a solitary rapper, but there's strength in numbers, and who doesn't want a gaggle of talented homies to have his back? Rap and hip-hop has been around since the '70's, so crews are no new thing. There've been dozens upon dozens of them, from N.W.A. and Public Enemy to the more recent groups like, A.$.A.P. Mob and Taylor Gang.
We looked at everything from cultural relevancy and uniqueness to influence on hip-hop and plucked out the ten best crews in rap history.
See also: Five Signs You Might Be a Shitty Rapper
10. The Roots
Members: Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter, Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, Malik B., Leonard "Hub" Hubbard, and Josh Abrams
The Roots have been called hip-hop's first rap band, and it is for this reason that they've made our list. Their jazzy, eclectic style brought a different sound to the game in 1987, when the crew formed in Philadelphia, and they continue to do so today. Combining live instrumentals with neo-soul lyrics, they're also the only group to regularly play on live TV (first, for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and now for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon). The Roots are notable for their mélange of musical genres (hip-hop, alternative, soul) that proved that hip-hop is more than just about rapping and braggadocio.
Members: Bizzy Bone, Wish Bone, Layzie Bone, Krayzie Bone, Flesh-n-Bone
Like many crews on this list, Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony are here because they introduced a new sound to hip-hop. Hailing from the Midwest, they churned out harmonic gangsta raps that were unlike anything else being made in the '90s. They won a Grammy in 1997 for their hit "Tha Crossroads," and they collaborated with some of the biggest names in rap history, from 2Pac, Master P, and Notorious B.I.G. to Twista, Insane Clown Posse, and DJ Khaled. They also created a subsidiary crew, Mo' Thugs, which was phenomenal in its own right.
Members: Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, and Pras Michel
Though they stayed together only long enough to produce two albums, the Fugees are memorable nonetheless. And with a frontwoman like Lauryn Hill, how could they not be? The Fugees merged hip-hop with reggae and soul to create some of the most lasting and memorable songs in music history. The fact that all three members went off to pursue lucrative solo careers is proof enough of this crew's talent and uniqueness.
7. Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All
Members: Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean, Domo Genesis, Hodgy Beats, Mike G, Syd tha Kyd, and more.
Odd Future is the youngest (and one of the newest) hip-hop crews on this list. Though it's certainly got a frontman or two (Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, and Frank Ocean, to name a few), Odd Future is large and sprawling. Call them the punk outsiders of hip-hop, if you will, because this crew is a talented, eclectic mix of wild cards and heavy hitters. With pop-off bands like the Internet, Odd Future has come in an incredibly long way since breaking out into the mainstream at the 2011 SXSW Festival. It's a crew where any sound is possible, and it's got so many diverse acts that you know what you're gonna hear from the crew next.
6. Maybach Music Group
Members: Rick Ross, Meek Mill, Wale, French Montana, Omarion, Gunplay, Stalley, and others
Headed by Florida's own Rick Ross, Maybach Music Group is a powerhouse of heavy-hitting, strong rappers. They've got Meek Mill, Wale, Omarion, Gunplay, and others, and there's no other crew on this list with more love for Miami than Maybach. In the seven years since their founding, they've come out with two compilation albums, both of which have been solid drops. Another way to think of them: If this were the '90s, Maybach Music Group would be this decade's Bad Boy Records.
5. Black Hippy
Members: Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock
OK, we'll admit that Kendrick Lamar is the obvious front liner of this crew, but so what? All the rappers in Black Hippy are talented in their own right, and the fact that they all sound so different from one another makes them even better. Lamar is a phenomenal storyteller (good kid, m.A.A.d. city, anyone?), not to mention a master wordsmith, speed spitter, and voice actor, and he's put together an array of similarly skilled artists, all of whom have been featured in XXL's Freshman Class issue. Together, Black Hippy has ushered in a new sound in hip-hop, one that focuses on storytelling over braggadocio and melody over mere beats.
4. Bad Boy
Members: Diddy, Notorious B.I.G., Mase, Faith Evans, Craig Mack, the Lox, 112, and Black Rob
Bad Boy had some of the biggest names in rap: Diddy, Notorious B.I.G., Mase, Faith Evans, and the list goes on. While some say it was their beef with Death Row that catapulted it into the limelight, it's obvious that the crew would have made a name for itself on its own merit. Bad Boy was one of the first crews to elevate East Coast rap to mainstream audiences, and its music has stayed relevant all these years. If you don't know, now you know.
3. Young Money
Members: Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Drake, Mack Maine, Tyga, Lil Twist, Gudda Gudda, and more.
Let's be honest: It's the triumvirate of Drake, Nicki, and Weezy that has made Young Money what it is today. For the last six years, their music has consistently dominated the music scene, and there's no sign of them slowing down anytime soon. The rest of Young Money is rather strong too, with Tyga and Mack Maine holding it up. In the ten years since its inception, Young Money has released three compilation albums, all of which have ranked first or second in Billboard's Top Hip-Hop/R&B Albums list. No other crew has dominated hip-hop as thoroughly as Young Money has in recent, and it is for this reason that it's ranked third.
2. Wu-Tang Clan
Members: RZA, GZA, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa, ODB
Ah, Wu-Tang. So many heavy-hitters in one crew. Known for its verbal skills and collective powers, this crew, consisting of RZA, GZA, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, and others, went unmatched for years. Their dark, grimy beats and dense lyrics give them a sound unique from others in the rap game, and their legacy has lasted more than 20 years. Not too shabby.
Members: Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 2Pac, MC Hammer, Nate Dogg, and others.
Top of the list is the West Coast's very own Death Row. Though it hasn't been a crew for some years, its legacy runs strong. With three of the most famous and well-known rappers of all time (Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 2Pac), this iconic crew has helped shape and define rap as we know it today. Decades later, its music is still relevant and its songs still classics.
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