Can Rappers Form Worthwhile Groups?

In writing the review of the Demigodz’ great album Killmatic, I realized that it’s pretty rare for a rapper to have a group of his own that’s actually decent. I’m talking about groups that people came up with like Eminem’s D12 and groups they created like Snoop Dogg’s Tha Eastsidaz. Not supergroups where the roster is full of already-famous people. Let’s face it, being successful doesn’t speak to your ability to judge other people’s talents, at all. In fact, I’d venture to say that the average rapper is a horrible judge of talent in others. For evidence, see 90% of rap/sung collaborations. Or maybe these cats are just bad at nurturing the talent they find. Either way, hip-hop history is littered with bad groups fronted by good rappers.

State Property
No amount of fine Italian tailoring can make Beanie Sigel not look like he’d shoot you for three dollars worth of Tastycakes

After reaching this conclusion I started trying to think of counter-examples, i.e. solo rappers who have groups that are worth our time. Most of the rappers that came to mind had terrible groups trying and failing to eat off the rapper’s name. So I turned to my Facebook family for some suggestions. The results of this decidedly unscientific survey were surprising in the facts that I saw some obvious names that I completely overlooked, and because the other names didn’t belong AT ALL. But everyone has a right to their opinion, no matter how wrong or misguided it may be. So let’s run down how right or wrong those opinions were:

  1. Rza – I’m not sure Rza counts as forming Wu-Tang. He is the leader of the Wu, but ODB and Gza were also leaders and were making some noise before Wu started just like Rza was. But Rza pretty much made the Wu blueprint, none of their music before Wu sounds like Wu. Ok I convinced myself, +1 point
  2. Lyricist Lounge – ???????? No idea how this slipped in from the same guy who was on-point enough to name Rza. Unless a commenter can clue me in, this is a non-answer. 0 points.
  3. Eazy E – How the hell did I forget Mr. Eric Wright?! Not only was his Ruthless label the first home of Bone Thugz, but he had some sort of hand in starting the Black Eyed Peas’ career too. This was back when they made good hip-hop, so Eazy definitely counts. +1 point.
  4. Puffy – First off, this scene-stealing executive wannabe artist aka he makes good music but doesn’t actually make music in any way isn’t a rapper. He recites lyrics and produces by telling beatmakers what to do. Eazy E didn’t write lyrics either, so I’m not claiming that this is fair, but I refuse to call Puffy a rapper. And he didn’t start any groups. I asked for clarification and got the answer that he started Da Band. Yup, Da Band, the group he manufactured then forced to walk from Manhattan to Brooklyn for cheesecake . Now this is a weird situation. Forgetting the fact that Puff isn’t a rapper, does Da Band count as listenable? Sure I watched their show but that album stunk like an old crusty plunger. The tv show must have counted for something though, as the album ended up going gold. Unfortunately, that’s a total failure for Papa Puff, who disbanded the group because he refuses to accept that the 90s sales era is over. Ness and Fred were decent rappers but that’s not enough. Da Band as a whole is meh at best. 0 points instead of -1 because he ain’t no damn rapper!
  5. Kanye – Didn’t start a group. GOOD Music is a label, when they start doing group albums I’ll reconsider, maybe. It’s a good thing that they don’t count though, because they mostly suck. Cyhi and Big Sean and Pusha T are all extremely annoying and vapid. The best rapper is Common by default since Kanye decided to leave his backpack roots, and anyway Common’s been around for a long while before Kanye came about. 0 points because they’re a label, otherwise it’d be -1.
  6. Dre – Cant really say he started NWA since he and Eazy and Ice Cube were all the architects of that group. Can’t think of any other groups he started that are worthwhile. He started plenty successful solo careers but no groups. 0 points.
  7. Eminem – He was suggested for starting/adopting Slaughterhouse. I would accept that but Slaughterhouse is a super-group. Everyone in Slaughterhouse was a solo artist before the group’s formation, in fact, they were all somewhat successful solo artists. Em didn’t start the group at all, he just signed them. It was definitely a smart decision, but doesn’t apply to this exercise. 0 points.
  8. Jay-z – What did he start?. Roc-a-Fella doesn’t count because of the label-rule. Beanie Sigel started Start Property. Another non-answer. 0 points.

So this is what I get for crowd-sourcing content. Two good answers and six zeroes. But maybe all these non-conforming answers are indicative of the problem. Meaning, maybe these answers were all that anyone could come up with because I’m right, rappers suck at picking other rappers to associate themselves with or form groups with. Peep Exhibit B, my list:

  1. Snoop Dogg – The Dogg Pound and The Eastsidaz. Dogg Pound is good stuff but may be an acquired taste. Meanwhile Tha Eastsidaz had like 3 great songs but the beats were the best part of each. They cancel each other out, so 0 points.
  2. Biggie – Junior Mafia was worthless. Biggie tried to put his friends on and the only star was Lil Kim, and only long winding arguments result from trying to decide what factors actually made her a star. -1.
  3. TI – Does anyone remember PSC? Pimp Squad Clique? No? Good! TI’s way too good to have such wastes of time marring his reputation. The only worthwhile person here was Tity Boi, who didn’t show a glimpse of staying power until he left PSC and renamed himself 2 Chainz. -1.
  4. Ludacris – Another Southern rapper who’s pretty good but sure chose some losers to put his name behind. Disturbing the Peace only had one rapper worth talking about, Shawna. Like Junior Mafia’s Lil Kim, she made her name off sexual topics and was the only female in the crew. The rest are nameless except for I-20 who’s more noteworthy for his weird voice rather than anything he ever said. -1.
  5. Jay-z – This guy comes to mind because I think he still refuses to accept that Memphis Bleek is life’s greatest disappointment. But this is all about groups. So I hereby begin shunning myself for giving a non-answer. 0 points.
  6. Everyone in Wu-Tang. Wu-Tang is probably, all by itself, reason enough to never let a rapper form a rap group ever again. No group formed by a Wu-Tang member (and most if not all had at least one group at some point) is even 25% as good as the Clan. If you don’t remember Ghostface’s Theodore Unit then consider yourself lucky. Some people would argue that the first few groups were actually good. They usually cite Sunz of Man. I haven’t heard anything much from these guys but what I did hear wasn’t all that great. Even if Sunz are a good counter-example, they would drown in the sea of bad Wu-Tang affiliates. -9bajillion
  7. Eminem – D12 is actually a good collection of emcees. I don’t listen to them, but I recognize their abilities. The music they make just isn’t for me. +1.
  8. Nelly – Surprise surprise! I used to like Nelly. Singles. Back before I was old enough to drink or smoke. Regardless of how you feel about this dude’s career, I challenge you not to finish this line:

    I’m goin down down baby, your street in a Range Rover…

    Exactly! None can deny that song. So we hoped that the St Lunatics would give us more fun music. Instead we got the grating Air Force Ones anthem. Ugh! Murphy Lee was kind of ok but the group as a whole was slumtastic. -1.

  9. Beanie Sigel – State Property. The story goes that State Property was actually a bunch of random Philly emcees that Beanie Sigel put together after signing to Roc-A-Fella. I wouldn’t call them a supergroup because most outside of the city hadn’t heard of them until after the group’s formation. Beans then helped them all secure deals with his label home. They’re all varying levels of decent, from the meh O and Sparks to the pretty good Young Guns to the great Freeway.+1.

The final tally is 4 rappers who made good groups, and 13 who failed miserably. They nays have it! For those complaining, Wu-Tang’s -9 is generous because there are way more than just 9 wack Wu-affiliates. And I know that there’s likely plenty of people being left out, but I already said that this is unscientific so shut that noise up. My hypothesis stands strong! Seriously though, on average, rappers are terrible at picking who to start groups with. Interestingly, they do much better with selecting solo proteges. If you still disagree, feel free to lay out your baseless argument in a comment below. Some other examples of rappers who started good or bad groups would be cool too.

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