About 2 weeks ago, I hinted at the fact that i was workin on some big posts. One of which i already hit you with, that was the list of things/people I hate, and that can be found RIGHT HERE, the other was the "great self debate" where i was going to unwaveringly break down the top 5 duos in hip hop history. As it turns out, this was not an easy task to undertake.
First let me break down what i mean by duo. The group can consist of no more than 2 people, i.e. Dilated Peoples would not be eligible because they are 2 emcees and a dj. Pretty simple, but it turned out to be a little tougher than one might think. Alot of "duos" in hip hop always had a DJ, or an in house producer that would take them out of the running and keep them off this list.
Moving on... Several questions had to be asked in order to make this decision and ultimately narrow the broad field of greats down to the top 5 to ever do it.
What defines a great duo?
Is it based on personal preference?
Is the number of hit singles as important as dues paid?
Are the number of albums put out as important as the sales of that particular album, and for that matter, does mainstream crossover success supersede respect from other artists?
Does the groups longevity play a roll in their ranking?
What about geographical location? Do East Coast based duos get more points for being more widely accepted earlier than say, Southern based groups?
Is credibility more important than group chemistry?
These questions cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no", in fact they cant really be answered at all. I have spent the last 2 weeks arranging, scratching out, and rearranging this list. Ultimately it comes down to the opinion of the listener(and we all know my opinion is the only opinion that matters anyway).
So, without any further ado, I give you the top 5 greatest duos in the history of hip hop..
The group comprised of Pimp C and Bun B. The definition of that slow southern drawl, ice cold bravado, and a great partnership. Being as how they were formed in 1987, and stayed together until Pimp C died in 2007 (R.I.P. big homie), Id say that what they may have lacked in fans outside of Texas is more than made up for with their longevity in the game. These cats ruled the Texas rap scene with an iron fist for close to 20 years. They put out a slew of albums, at least 2 of them are considered to be certified classics, one of which was featured right here on this blog for a Throwback Thursday dedication. Overall, this duos longevity, combined with thier classic material, respect in the game, record sales, and classic albums more than guarantees them their spot as the #5 greatest duo in the history of hip hop.
#4 Eric B. and Rakim
What can you really say about these two that hasnt already been said? Rakim is the godfather of modern day rhyme schemes, this cat was using metaphors and internal rhymes when everyone else was still doin this:
And Eric B. (although not always responsible for the production) created a dark sample based sound that cats are still tryin to mimic today.
No defense is neccessary to secure these two their spot on the list, in fact the argument could be made that they deserve to be higher up on the list. Please keep in mind that this list, while based in fact, still ultimately comes down to the discretion of the writers affection for a particular group. So let me say this, Eric B. and Rakim fathered the style of prolly 60% of current East Coast rappers, but when these cats were in their prime, I was only about 6 years old, and when i got to the age to care about hip hop history, thats all they were to me, HISTORY. In fact, the only reason they are on the list is out of respect for what they gave hip hop.
Combine arguably the greatest producer of all time (DJ Premier) with the baritone smoothness of GURU and what have you got? You've got the #3 greatest duo in the history of hip hop. DJ Premier is world renowned for his completely scratched hooks, smooth bass kicks, and extremely jazzy samples. Despite the fact that his flow is fairly simple and he is sometimes too conscious for me (i like them ign'ant raps), GURU is the perfect match for Primo's beats. The chemistry between these two is undeniable. Although reports and interviews have claimed the group is no longer, no one can deny what they did to form the sound of hip hop, not only in New York, but the world over. I sill buy Gangstarr albums and Primo instrumentals on wax any time i find em. Not only are they deserving of this spot, they are without a doubt, one of my favorite groups in the history of hip hop.
#2 Mobb Deep
Yeah I said it bitch, now what you gon' do? Havoc and Prodigy are the definition of longevity and chemistry. These cats dropped their first album in the early 90's at the tender age of 17, followed up with album after album, one of which is the certified classic "The Infamous", and who, whether you're a fan of hip hop or not, hasn't heard "Shook Ones Pt. II"? Eminem made that shit famous in 8 Mile. As for record sales, the duo has always been a little on the light side of platinum, but don't let that fool you, these cats bring heat everytime out. Even their stint with G-Unit did nothing for their sales. Some things will always just be the way they are. The sky is blue, the grass is green, Havoc is a better emcee than Prodigy, Prodigy will always take top billing, and the duo Mobb Deep will always have sub-par soundscan.
And now the moment you've all been waiting for, the #1 greatest duo of all time is none other than:
Thats right folks, Big Boi and Andre 3000 come together to form the greatest duo in the history of hip hop. Lets start with the classics... oh thats right every album they released up until 2003's Speakerboxx/The Love Below has been certified classic. Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, ATLiens, Aquemini have all been certified heaters. It took me close to 10 years to finally accept how great Outkast really is. What they've done to expand hip hop is incomparable. When Andre 3000 lost his damn mind and started dressin like Sho'nuff from the Last Dragon...
Everybody thought his career was over, he started singin and makin crazy ass music (Are we seeing the similarities between Andre 3000 and Kanye yet?) all while managing to stay relevant and solidifying his role as one of the top emcees in the game. Classic albums, relevance, respect from peers, longevity, chemistry, creativity, all of the elements that make up the greatest duo in hip hop history.
Now before you start spouting off other classic duos and waxin' intellectual tryna pretend like you're "up on hip hop" i created a post section that i have aptly titled:
Some groups that didnt make the cut but were considered for the list.
-Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli and Dj Hi-Tek). Why? its simple, they made one album, and Talib Kweli NEEDS Mos Def to keep him from getting boring and becoming monotonous.
-Showbiz & A.G. Why? Never had the sales for any sort of mainstream success and while they remain one of my personal favorites, they will only ever crack the top 15. No disrespect, its just the way it is.
-DJ Polo and Kool G. Rap. Kool G. Rap is one of the nastiest lyricists of all time. The lispy delivery, the punchlines, the wicked flow, the content, all of it put together makes him a definite contender for top 5 emcees, but he alone doesnt make up a duo and DJ Polo just never really did much.
-Beatnuts. Big JU and Psycho Les make some certified knockers, but their production always outshines their rhymes. End of story.
-Smiff N' Wessun. Tek and Steele a.k.a. The Cocoa Brovaz have produced some of my youths all time favorite tracks, but they havent ever really shined outside of loyalist hardcore east coast hip hop circles, and unfortunately prolly never will.
-EPMD. Unfortunately EPMD couldnt make the list because of that Dilated Peoples scenario. 2 dope emcees, but they always had a DJ, thus negating any chance of ever touchin the top 5.
-Clipse. Pusha T and Malice are hands down my favorite duo to ever do it, and about 5 years from now will be on this list without question, but with only 2 mediocre releases (sales wise) and only like 6 years in the game they are still a little too young (musically) to get top billin just yet.
-Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth. Pete Rock is a legend in the world of production, unfortunately the same cannot be said about C.L.'s rhymes. Sure he gets respect for bein early in the game but it was obvious who the bread winner was in this group.
-Organized Konfusion. Prolly a little less known to new jack hip hop kids, but this was the realest shit out in the early 90's. Prince Po and Pharoahe Monch were one of the most respected duos of all time, however Monch's solo career, lackluster as it is, has been more successful than the groups.
-Snoop & Dre. The only reason these guys arent on the list is because they were never officially a duo. They did alot of work together but nothin was ever official between em.
-Nas/AZ. If the day ever came that these guys sat down and actually made an album it would have the potential to be one of the best (lyrically speaking) albums ever. Why you might ask? Because Nas and AZ would push eachother to be the greatest they have ever been.
There are plenty of other groups i didnt mention and for good reason. Im happy to have this list completed as it has been weighin on the brain for far too long.
-Ollie the hip hop scholar