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.
Two of New York City’s most talented and colorful collectives are The Native Tongues and The Juice Crew. The two crews were fueled, in part, by a competitive rivalry between legendary NYC radio personalities. The Juice Crew were close associates of WBLS-FM radio mainstays Mr. Magic and Marley Marl. Magic and Marley’s rival at KISS-FM, DJ Red Alert, was a mentor to The Jungle Brothers, who helped ignite the Native Tongues.
Despite a radio rivalry, these two crews coexisted with respect. Biz Markie would collaborate and tour with De La Soul, while Q-Tip and Busta Rhymes would appear together on a Big Daddy Kane single. Both crews promoted Black pride, self-love, and excellence at one’s craft. However, after this exciting East Coast Region Round 1 matchup, only one legendary crew can remain.
The Native Tongues may have never released a group project, but they remain one of the most flavorful collectives ever. In the late 1980s, the Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest developed a bond during a Boston concert. Phone numbers were exchanged, and the fellowship among the three emerging creative groups led to studio hangs and recordings. Starting with The JBeez's "The Promo" in 1988, a series of highlight-worthy, game-changing collaborations followed.
By the early 1990s, the Native Tongues grew to be a force that included Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Black Sheep, Leaders Of The New School, Chi Ali, and Baby Chris and The Violators. Over time, other artists and groups orbited this core. From standout features to background vocals and skits, the familial spirit was alive on heralded albums by Tribe, De La, Latifah, Jungle Brothers, and Black Sheep.
While the Native Tongues garnered industry-wide recognition, no posse album ever materialized. By the mid-1990s, some members suggested that the crew had given way to individual careers, possibly due to changing musical climates. However, on "Stakes Is High," Posdnuos updated to say that the Native Tongues were officially reinstated, perhaps when hip hop needed them most. Unions within the Natives continued to manifest well into the 2010s on albums by Tribe and Black Sheep, even as Dres and Jarobi formed an overtly-named side group, EvitaN. Many of these releases earned platinum and gold plaques in addition to Grammy recognition.
The Juice Crew
The Juice Crew brought the unity and spirit of the 1970s rap crews to the recording era. Hip hop radio pioneer Mr. Magic (aka “Sir Juice”) hosted a platform on WBLS-FM alongside DJ Marley Marl, who, by the mid-1980s, had become one of the most innovative producers in the genre. The Queensbridge native also possessed an incredible eye for talent; he assembled a lyrical all-star squad that eventually included Roxanne Shanté, MC Shan, Craig G, Biz Markie, Kool G Rap & DJ Polo, Big Daddy Kane, Masta Ace, and others.
The crew's love manifested on one of rap’s term-defining posse cuts, “The Symphony,” and showcased it elsewhere, including “Juice Crew All-Stars” and “Erase Racism.” With Marley producing much of The Juice Crew’s 1980s output, MCs sometimes wrote songs for other members. The razor-sharp pen of Kane penned “Vapors” and parts of “Nobody Beats The Biz.” Biz and Kane combined for three gold albums under the Juice Crew umbrella, in addition to BDK’s Grammy win alongside Quincy Jones.
In the 30 years since the seminal run of the Juice Crew, groupings of its greats have come together on stage and wax for select opportunities. Meanwhile, members of this legendary unit evolved to spawn others of note, such as Masta Ace Incorporated and Tragedy Khadafi’s mentoring hand on Capone-n-Noreaga’s “The War Report.”
Regarding its place among the great crews of hip hop, the Juice Crew helped set the gold standard for lyrical talent, competitive spirit, and the ability to balance swagger with substance.
In this celebration of hip hop and all of its talented crews, your vote decides the winner, so vote below.
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