“Power In Numbers”


Two releases this summer have this writer salivating for their release dates: The Roots’ Game Theory, and Boot Camp Clik’s The Last Stand. But I’m not excited for The Roots’ album because it’s their Def Jam debut, or because of the much-speculated tribute to the late J Dilla. The Boot Camp Clik album features the heralded return of Heltah Skeltah member Rock, and an all-star production line-up that consists of Pete Rock, 9th Wonder, and Large Professor, but that’s not why I’m so anxious to hear it. These releases have me ecstatic, because they’re two new albums from the genre’s newest endangered species: the spellbinding hip-hop group.

During hip-hop’s better days, the crew wasn’t only something to look forward to, but it presented some of the best music to ever blare from speakers. There were so many talented groups out there that every niche was filled, and dedicated listeners couldn’t even count out all of them with two hands – A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan, De La Soul, Boot Camp Clik, The Roots, Geto Boys, Public Enemy, N.W.A., The Fugees, Jurassic 5, Dilated Peoples, The Pharcyde, The Lost Boyz, Bone Thugs N Harmony, The LOX, and the list goes on (and those were only the groups that I could think of off the top of my head). News of an emerging hip-hop group or a new album from an established crew was a guaranteed treat.

Aside from that, the hip-hop group offered things that a solo artist couldn’t bring on his/her own. Group albums offered variety: while a Method Man solo album is fulfilling, there’s nothing like listening to Enter The 36 Chambers and hearing all of the members’ different personalities at once. Who remembers bumping albums from the groups named above, trying to distinguish everyone’s voices from one another and decide on a favorite member? With a group that has three or more members, a lot of things can go wrong: some artists don’t work well with each other because of creative differences, and some people just don’t get along because of conflicting personalities. But hip-hop groups like the ones mentioned earlier worked so well because they aptly walked the line between emphasizing their members’ differences and making sure that everyone was on the same page. It was also interesting to see groups develop within the groups: Wu-Tang was nine members strong, but Ghostface and Raekwon were the Jordan and Pippen to their championship Chicago Bulls; Boot Camp Clik was already solid off of their roster alone, but internal duos like Smif-N-Wessun and Heltah Skeltah provided great back-and-forth exchanges.

But the 21st century hasn’t seen many rap cartels make a name for themselves. When most people hear the phrase, “hip-hop group,” they would likely name one of the aforementioned collectives, all of which came out in the 90s or earlier. Since 2000, the concept of the hip-hop group has suffered. Crews nowadays usually fall under one of the following categories:

1.) This is the most common category. These groups are decent, but they’re only really worth checking out because of their ringleader who put them on, and one or two supplementary members who can hold their own weight (see: D12,
State Property, Flipmode Squad, St. Lunatics).
2.) The group members are talented, but they don’t work well together, either because they’re only in it to secure a future solo situations for themselves and are busy trying to prove their worth, or because they were thrown together and didn’t have any chemistry in the first place (see: Da Band, Boyz N Da Hood).
3.) This group is similar to category #1, in that they only snatched up a record deal because one member blew up already and felt obligated to bring them along. But the difference is, these groups don’t even have supplementary members; they’re just weak altogether. (see: The Bravehearts, P$C, Harlem World *damn, that’s a throwback…who remembers them?*).
4.) The group is absolutely weak, and they don’t even have a superstar member who put them on, but they have exposure because they personify the latest trend (*place snap music group here*).

But hey, look on the bright side. The new albums from The Roots and Boot Camp Clik – Game Theory and The Last Stand, respectively – are both certified head nodders. Along with them, groups like De La Soul and Dilated Peoples are still churning out albums. Some collectives who had their heyday during the 90s are rumored to have reunion LPs and tours in the works (The Fugees, A Tribe Called Quest), including the Wu-Tang Clan, who wrapped up a nation-wide tour this summer.

And, to their credit, there’s still a limited amount of talented groups out there now: Little Brother works perfectly with two contrasting MCs and a producer (their extended Justus League crew is also solid); the Diplomats rule the streets with an iron fist, while continuing to make their presence felt on Billboard; the constantly-growing G-Unit is a great example of solo members holding their own weight while still working well as a group (despite 50 Cent kicking out the group’s most talented member, The Game, and subpar releases from Tony Yayo and Mobb Deep); and the 13-member indie supergroup Army of the Pharaohs, with their immensely talented solo members and chemistry as both a collective and between members, is fairly reminiscent of the Wu-Tang Clan or BCC. Still, the dope groups are vastly outnumbered by those that aren’t worth the ear – a huge difference from their predecessors.

So this summer, enjoy the efforts from The Roots and Boot Camp Clik, because another worthwhile group album may be months or years away. Hopefully, these new rap crews can get things together.

  • Tiffany

    I agree that the “Hip Hop Group” is seemingly a lost thing in the industry these days. You don’t see too meny collective groups or possie cuts (which is another thing that has deminished with time). It would be nice to see some more groups come in the game again.

  • J

    Well said my friend…and you know why groups are a dying breed…EGO’s.

  • Anonymous

    i agree with u fam…the only comment i can make is the 90’s grps u mentioned werent the only grps around that time, per se. for every bcc, theres gotta be soem grps that r very much the same as the grps out today, altho i cant shake off the short attention span off my head and remember one right now…but overall, good blog entry…keep it up

  • Adam

    Aiight, good article (any reason you didn’t shout out Tha Liks and DPG?) and since you’re lovin the Hip-Hop groups I’ll throw you some recommendations.

    Mindspray

    The Square Egg

    3rd Party

    Hushh

    Nervous System

  • Smack Cage

    I’ve gotta agree. Nowadays the term “hip-hop group” and “good” really don’t see blend well together unless you’re Little Brother, Dilated Peoples, Boot Camp, or the Roots. Because I HIGHLY doubt Dem Franchize Boyz, D4L, Da Musicianz, Dipset, etc will go down in history for anything good. G-Unit maybe (even though they’re fire in shrinking) and if you want to count, DTP (especially Luda, Field Mob, I-20, and Shawnna. Don’t know. It’s certainly a dying breed.

    ~!unO!~

  • Mr. Clark

    I can’t believe I didn’t comment. Maybe because I was around when you were writing this joint. Umm… yeah, great piece, ya dig?! You’re right. No one is really a “group” for the sake of being a superpower bent on being the one sole thing in hip-hop. It’s more for profit. Wouldn’t it be raw if some egos could be set aside and people come together? Dream collabos, if you will! Will Smith & Nick Cannon… RZA, Ghost, MF Doom, and Cee-Lo (singing the hooks). If BIG never passed, would The Commission ever exist? Things to ponder.

  • Soopa Starr

    I agree. The era of the dope “Hip-Hop group” is over. I guess by now everyone’s figured out that the Fugees are never coming back so The Roots and Bootcamp Clik are all we have right now (and Outkast too). I’m excited too but yo, we gotta school the youngins. Hip-Hop has moved into a new error (or era I suppose) where the idea of a Hip-Hop group is being confused with a crew or collective. So if we school the youngins and put them on to quality groups, then the future of Hip-Hop groups will not all be lost (we might inspire young minds).

  • Anonymous

    I feel you on the hip-hop group thing. I mean most artist want to start movements and record labels. So they might bring out a group but they really know only one or so memember of the geroup can really make it so its more like a set up. I think mofos now want so much sucess on they own and with the internt most groups seem to fucntion as solo artist working together. I mean even little brother. I mean they all got solo albums before they major debut.