The duo. Perhaps Hip Hop in its purest form. But what makes a duo truly great? The following is Part 1 of a list of 20 great Hip Hop duos compiled for your viewing/listening pleasure.
As with lists before, this isn’t a countdown, just a list in random order.
Perhaps once you’ve been through them all you’ll be closer to understanding duo greatness, or perhaps you’ll just be enraged by the lack of a certain duo or the inclusion of one you think sucks. Either way, try to enjoy yourself. It’s Friday after all.
Let’s get rolling…
Is DJ Premier the greatest producer in Hip Hop history? It’s possible. But one thing undeniable about the man is the fact he is by far the most consistent. Active since the late-80s, Premier is still putting together incredibly well crafted tunes to this day, with a large portion of his best and most timeless works easily as part of Gang starr. Alongside the legendary and gifted wordsmith Guru, this duo has become one of most well respected and well known in music.
Slug’s lyrics are notable for his heavy use of metaphor and symbolism, openly examining his own thoughts, feelings and personal experiences when it comes to drugs, alcohol and relationships, giving Atmosphere a relatable and down to earth feel. Ant’s production is varied and perfectly complements Slug’s delivery, be it understated, powerful, or simple head-nod inspired. Together Atmosphere have created a unique and ever-present place for themselves in the Hip Hop world.
7L & Esoteric
7L & Esoteric are an influential and respected duo in the independent circuit. Active since 1996, they made a name for themselves with 7L’s throwback, boom bap style beats and Esoteric’s versatile subject matter and intricate, deeply impressive, wordplay. Ever active and involved in many important projects, their pioneering, predominantly electro-influenced album ‘A New Dope’ released in 2006 was a huge step away from their usual style and is often compared to The Beastie Boy’s ‘Paul’s Boutique’ with its influential and ambitious mix of eclectic samples and experimental production.
With the release of their self-titled debut in 1991 Prince Po and Pharoahe Monch of Organized Konfusion made an instant impact due to their intricate and complicated lyricism and delivery which was nothing less than ground-breaking at the time. However, it was their follow-up ‘Stress: The Extinction Agenda’ released in 1994 which solidified their cult status as one of the most gifted and acclaimed Hip Hop acts of the 1990s, that album now regarded an out and out classic.
Eric B. & Rakim
Erik B. & Rakim are widely considered among the most important duos in Hip Hop history. Between 1987 and 1992 the duo released four albums, with their debut ‘Paid In Full’ released in 1987 and their follow-up ‘Follow The Leader’ released in 1988 going down as two of the most ground-breaking and influential albums of all time, thanks to Rakim’s pioneering flow and wordplay, and Erik B’s inspired production.
Mobb Deep is one of the key acts to contribute to The East Coast Renaissance in the early 90s, a movement which emerged to counteract the dominance of West Coast Hip Hop at the time. Alongside the likes of Nas and Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep helped re-establish East Coast Hip Hop, making a name for themselves with their dark, gritty style. Their second album ‘The Infamous’ released in 1995 and their third ‘Hell On Earth’ released in 1996 are influential and acclaimed works.
With the release of their debut ‘Dead Serious’ in 1992, Das EFX introduced the Hip Hop world to their unique and hugely influential flow, which consisted of often adding non-words like ‘iggedy’ to the end of actual words and delivering them in a fast-paced style. This type of delivery became hugely popular at the time and is now iconic of 90s Hip Hop, solidifying the duo’s debut as an acclaimed classic and the duo themselves as important pioneers.
Everybody knows the name Blackalicious, and everybody recognises Gift of Gab, his style and ability is among the most complex and tongue twisting in Hip Hop music, possessing rhymes filled with metaphors and insane feats of lyrical skill untouched by his peers. Producer/DJ Chief Xcel is an accomplished beat maker, producing tunes with a classic and infectious vibe. Together the duo have released four incredibly well received albums and are one of the most original and respected acts in Hip Hop.
EPMD is widely recognised as one of Hip Hop's greatest duos. The release of their debut ‘Strictly Business’ in 1988 marked the beginning of a long and respected career (though not without a few break ups). From 1988 to 2008 MCs Parrish Smith and Erick Sermon released seven albums together, three of which, including their debut, are considered important, influential classics and regularly feature on top albums of all time lists.
Cannibal Ox’s debut ‘The Cold Vein’ released in 2001 is rightly considered one of the top independent Hip Hop releases of the 2000s, and is also a key album in the influential Definitive Jux label’s early success. Consisting of Vast Aire and Vordul Mega, the two MC's intricate lyricism has rarely been equalled with the duo often praised for their profound content and ability to work on multiple levels. Releasing their follow-up 'Blade Of The Ronin' earlier this year, no less than 14 years later, the pair haven’t lost any of their mind-bending chemistry.
That’s it. Part 1 complete. Make sure you tune in next Friday for the potentially controversial conclusion to this top duos list. Same time. Same place.