The Midwest Rap Crews: Who Will Reign Supreme?
In recognition of hip hop’s 50th anniversary, BET Digital, in partnership with Ambrosia For Heads, is celebrating the culture by hosting a bracket-style competition that allows you to determine hip hop’s greatest crew.
Rather than having “experts” tell you who is the greatest of all-time, this is your opportunity to collectively make that decision. After giving the opportunity to any and all fans to provide feedback on which crews should be included, 32 collectives from different regions, styles, and generations have been selected—all vying for that #1 spot. When the final battle is over and the last vote is cast, you will have determined who is your Greatest Rap Crew of All Time. It's time to move on to the Midwest.
Between the talent and artistry of the East and West coasts is a flavorful bread basket of Midwest mastery in rap. Although much of the Midwest received nationwide recognition later than its coastal counterparts, the center of the United States has been producing amazing art in hip hop for decades.
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While the 1980s saw introductions to movements in cities throughout the middle of the country, by the mid-1990s, some of these artists had begun competing on the charts at the highest level. This region had a wide range of distinct ways of rapping, making music, and presenting itself visually. The crew mentality was especially integral to the Midwest, as many breakthrough artists used their spotlight as leverage to introduce other talented voices.
From trunk-rattling bass to triplet flows to a soul-centric renaissance, this region covers thousands of miles and represents a range of rap styles from some of the most talented and diverse crews ever to do it.
Check out the crews representing the Midwest.
Two of the most significant breakout movements in the Midwest began just a few years apart. Superstars blazed the trail with game-changing albums featuring distinct sounds. Nelly’s “Country Grammar” and Kanye West’s “The College Dropout” set the table for the St. Lunatics and G.O.O.D. Music crews, respectively, with affiliates peppered on these releases. In the years that followed, West and Nelly worked closely with these acts to distribute attention and cultivate moments in hip hop. This round 1 Midwest matchup can leave only one crew advancing. Your vote decides which.
The Soulquarians and Griselda formed over a decade apart. Each unit combined stunning talent from multiple regions and creatively cultivated their bond in the studio. Starting in the 1990s, the Soulquarians were composed of The Roots’ Questlove, Slum Village’s J. Dilla and Common, as well as a number of non-hip hop artists. The collective set up shop for a series of incredible albums in hip hop and R&B. During the 2010s, Westside Gunn built the Griselda crew around family, who happened to share a prowess for hard-hitting lyricism rooted in authentic reality. Even two decades apart, these respective crews welcomed a far-reaching crew of artists into their orbit—which includes overlapping affiliates like Black Thought, Jill Scott, and Black Star. Each squad has achieved critical acclaim and cult followings, but only one of these heralded crews can reach the second round of this tournament.
A decade after the formation of N.W.A., two of its members lit the pathway for two superstar crews in the Midwest–Shady and Bone Thugs. After Eazy-E used his Ruthless Records label to present Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Dr. Dre made Eminem his latest protege, hip hop history was changed. Eminem and his Shady affiliates and B.O.N.E. Enterpri$e (as they were once known) made moves less than 200 miles apart—in Detroit and Cleveland, respectively. Both entities took the attention they got from making quality music and helped put others on—leading to plaques, awards, and fast-flowing rap styles. Despite their decorated accomplishments, in this Round 1 matchup, only one Midwestern massive can remain.
Three 6 Mafia and Hypnotize Minds helped lay the blueprint for artists making southern-minded Gangsta Rap that honored its city’s musical roots. Not long after Three 6 began, Yo Gotti embarked on his independent journey from North Memphis before launching his uber-successful Creative Music Group crew. While there may have been friction in these two camps for a time, those issues have been resolved as music together has been released. Both entities have made Memphis a Rap destination and built two thriving Black-owned companies surrounded by devoted crews. In this tournament, however, only one of these collectives can move past Round 1.
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