7. Smilez & Southstar
When this Orlando outfit dropped the video for “Tell Me,” it looked like yet another joint where the Black dude raps and the non-Black dude just nods along because he’s the producer/DJ (see: Chiddy Bang, Blu & Exile). Not these guys! There was the matter of the music, of course, but hey, at least they were better than the Hip-Hop Dalmatians.
6. Swollen Members
The indie-rap scene of the late ’90s and early ’00s was a wild time for Benetton-ass hip-hop, thanks to groups like Company Flow and Dilated People and labels like Rawkus. Meanwhile, up in the Great White North, Maddchild and Prevail came together under one of the most ridiculous names rap has ever seen.
Bay Area heads know the deal about these underground legends. Not only were these Blackalicious buddies a dope interracial duo, but each member is also mixed. (Lateef is Black and Puerto Rican; Lyrics Born is White and Asian.) Now, if we just could’ve stopped them from rapping aggressively at the exact same time, they might be the household names they always deserved to be.
4. The Godfathers
Pro tip: When Kool G Rap and Necro unite to make an album, just put them in the exact middle of your ranked list and keep it pushing.
3. Bad Meets Evil
Back when Royce and Eminem were super tight — and then again later, when they’d mended fences — they rode the line between horrorcore and next-level lyricism. If you were in Fat Beats in 1999, trust you were hearing this shit.
2. Color Changin’ Click
Sure, Chamillionaire and Paul Wall’s early group was so screwed and chopped they qualified more as sentient promethazine than humans, but we can’t front on anyone who refers to themselves as “the Waterboys” and makes a song called “Bobby Booshay.” You can do it!
1. Run the Jewels
Killer Mike and El-P come with a pedigree of their own — Dungeon Family and Company Flow, respectively — but for three albums and change, they’ve fashioned a soundtrack to dissidence (and dissonance) that the world most definitely fucks with. And by “the world,” we of course mean Bernie Bros.