Nothing will ever resonate more than the live performance. The live performance can make or break an artist. It really lets you know how “into” the music you are and exactly what they mean to the genre and your personal music collection. Seeing The L.O.X at the House of Blues in Chicago, closed the door on the best rap group conversation for me. They rocked for at least 1 solid hour and went through some of the biggest and hardest records ever in hip-hop through their group and solo runs. That span was 20 years. There are not many artist in rap period with 20 years of solid records for a crowd to rock to from start to finish.
Never has one rap group stayed in their lane, for so long and created at the level The L.O.X has. Sure you could argue better lyricist per spot, albums sales and billboard hit records. What you can’t argue is chemistry, unity, consistency and staying power. The L.O.X never wanted to be the greatest selling group of all time. They wanted to be the hardest rap group of all time. We’re at a point where that can’t be denied in and out of the booth.
Add that to them surviving the “war of lyrical attrition” and you have what I deem is the best rap group period. I won’t say all time, because hip-hop and rap music is far from over. We can talk about right now and what we’ve seen though. And what we’ve seen is The L.O.X outlast our favorites and all the groups that were set up to beat them and didn’t. Let’s run the usual suspect list.
Outkast: 3 Stacks and Big Boi for all apparent reasons should be going down as the best rap group period. However, we can’t deny that the last Outkast album, wasn’t a real Outkast Album. It was 2 albums where they featured each other on a song or two. Then you have Idlewild. Even when Dre feels like rapping, Big Boi is nowhere to be found. Either they’ve grown apart or are just not creatively in the same vein, but regardless their fan base has suffered. Kast are two of the best to ever do it on the bars. They just haven’t given us as much as The L.O.X. over time.
A Tribe Called Quest: This was personally my favorite rap group ever. Tribe is literally the reason why I listen to rap music the way I do. However, we can’t deny it took Phife dying for us to get a new Tribe album. I never got to see Tribe live in concert the years I was old enough to go, because they kind of hated each other and Q-Tip went on to do his thing by himself. Now, I just doubt it will feel the same, but my love for their legacy will bring me out. Tribe is still great. I still love Tribe, but they made us move on.
Mobb Deep: There’s only probably 3 people that love Mobb Deep more than me. Mobb was always my pick for the best rap group period after Tribe officially broke up. What I can’t deny, is that they have lost it. Havoc is still a phenomenal producer and you can say has consistently gotten better at rapping every Mobb Deep album. Prodigy on the other hand has regressed and is not as entertaining as he used to be. I still say Prodigy was in the Top 5 or Top 10 of rappers period in the late 90’s to 2002. That’s why it’s so shocking and sad to see where he’s landed in my music mind. Also, to keep it a buck. You can tell Pee and Hav do not really mess with each other. The music doesn’t feel unified. Like they’re emailing each other tracks now. Crazy.
De La Soul: What I will say about De La Soul is that they probably put out all of their best albums in what would be the “twilight” of their career. You can’t deny Pos and Dave get busy. They have one of the strongest cores and catalogs in hip-hop ever and I love that they are literally getting old and grey on the mic together. De La is underrated. I’ll even admit that I slept on them until Stakes Is High. I just don’t think either of them could definitely out rap all 3 members of The L.O.X.
Wu Tang Clan: The aspect of having 10 emcees [Cappadonna counts] is great, but Wu went through a period where we didn’t want to hear their group albums or members 6-10’s solo albums. Then some of sophomore albums from the best members weren’t that good. Wu Tang can still be for the children. But let’s not act like we don’t prefer Raekwon and Ghostface by themselves or featuring Cappadonna and Method Man with Redman more than we do the entire Wu together for an album.
Eightball and MJG: Great group. I really have nothing bad or indifferent to say. I just don’t think they’re better than The L.O.X. 8 Ball had a legit shot at replacing Biggie and Pun and there was always a debate about “Who’s the better emcee” when they get mentioned. Ball and G might be the most under appreciated rap group now that I think about it.
Run The Jewels: They have the hot hand right now with their following growing. I won’t count them out, but they not ready to be stacked up with other legendary groups yet.
RUN DMC: Legends. Trendsetters. Pioneers on how to do this. Can’t hang with the LOX though.
Beastie Boys: Respect. Legends. But without RUN DMC they wouldn’t have one of their biggest songs/albums.
Three 6 Mafia: They broke up, had a member near death, lost a member and still won’t work with each other.
UGK: All their “Die Hard Fans” start at Ridin’ Dirty and that’s the problem.
Tha Dogg Pound: They should be a lot higher in the minds of all of us.
Goodie Mob: Another group where the plan and actual don’t meet and how the breakout star bounced early.
Slaughterhouse: I love these guys, but nope.
EPMD: They try. Things just haven’t been the same since that attempted home invasion though.
Ces Cru: I’m not saying they’re not dope, but they haven’t made the impact to put them firmly in this conversation.
The L.O.X have the lyricism. They have the streets. They can make hit records if they really want to and their albums are thorough whether group or solo. Then they do great mixtapes. Their catalog is not flawless, but year to year it’s solid and lengthy. It was 16 years between the last two official LOX albums and we still got some of their best work in between that time. Who’s rapping better and more unified than The L.O.X? I say no one.
How do you measure great rap groups? If it’s a group I missed let me know. I’m open to the conversation about this.