Brotherly Love: The Return of the Hip Hop Crew

There’s an old saying that goes, “two heads are better than one.” This philosophy has translated pretty well in Hip-Hop over the years with multiple emcees and/or producers banding together – in what I have always liked to picture as some kick-ass Power Rangers-like ritual – in the quest to create some fine quality music.

Through time, the forces of Run-D.M.C., A Tribe Called Quest and the Wu-Tang Clan have wielded their mighty microphones in the mission to keep rap music on its trajectory towards good taste. Now, decades later, it would appear that the collective dynamic has made its return and just may be planting the seeds for Hip-Hop’s future.

I think it’s necessary to outline the definition of a crew, though. Nah, I’m not pointing the index towards a Young Money or a Maybach Music. However well-manifested their allegiance to one another may be, these are units that strive to up one’s career stat sheet or add yet another zero to the bank balance. You can hardly argue that Rozay cried himself to sleep the night Pill waved goodbye to the Maybachs.

Where that pure, unadulterated love for brethren lies is within families like Black Hippy, Odd Future and the A$AP Mob. It’s the California quartet of Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock that encompasses both classic West Coast gangsterisms and conscious humility; OF’s Tyler, Earl, Hodgy and co. who simultaneously embody Hip-Hop’s unapologetic, rebellious nature and unfathered lyrical talent; while A$AP Rocky and his Mob of producers and rappers transport the Houston swag and double plastic cups to a New York City that doesn’t quite know what’s hit them.

BLACK HIPPY: Jay Rock f/ Ab-Soul, Kendrick Lamar x ScHoolboy Q – “Say Wassup”

Despite the sustained success of each outfit’s foremost personality (in Kendrick, Tyler and Rocky, respectively), it’s that genuine chemistry you’ll find at the heart of each circle that eclipses everything.

Tyler, The Creator’s Goblin outlines this perfectly.

With an LP that harvested online hype unlike any other, the Odd Future chief didn’t hesitate to welcome his group members-slash-best friends to the platform on which he stood. In fact, a second thought never even sprung to mind – not a single name outside of the Golf Wang clique was featured in the vocal, writing or production credits.

ODD FUTURE: Tyler, The Creator f/ Jasper Dolphin x Taco Bennett – “B*tch Suck D*ck”

Sure, the laughable “B*tch Suck D*ck” wasn’t the posse cut everyone was waiting on, but it did measure Tyler’s willingness to put on for his crew – even for two members that don’t consider themselves rappers (Jasper Dolphin and Taco Bennett). This level of in-house dedication hadn’t been seen, at least this prominently, since the Wu shared credits exclusively among themselves two decades ago.

I know, I know — I just had to make a comparison to the Golden Age, didn’t I? But Hip-Hop is a genre that deems the present worthy based on its past, after all. Of course, it’d be difficult to argue why Black Hippy might be the reincarnation of, say, the Death Row outfit, or how A$AP Mob could be channeling the energy of a UGK (even though I’m sure they’d love to believe so); but what each collective is doing helping Hip-Hop remember one of its most precious traits: diversity.

A$AP MOB: A$AP Rocky f/ A$AP Nast x SpaceGhostPurrp – “Purple Swag: Chapter 2”

The groups we see grace magazines, drive blogs and sell out shows today are those supplying the sub-genre variants on the current rap map. Whether it be Odd Future’s skate rap appeal, A$AP Mob’s codeine-induced audio comas or even the newly-aligned M.A.R.S. supergroup (the four-headed monster of Cormega, Action Bronson, Roc Marciano and Saigon) rekindling the true school flame, it certainly echoes from decades prior when you could find the hippiest of Hip-Hop LPs like Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde by California’s The Pharcyde juxtaposed with the straight-talking, East Coast ruggedness of Gang Starr‘s Daily Operation in the same catalogue. And that’s just in 1992.

Essentially, Hip-Hop is a culture that embedded with a concept of making the old new again, both in fashion tastes (noticed a lot of snapbacks recently?) and with its flagship element of music. Taking a look in the rear mirror may be clichéd, but not when the reflection offers clues as to how the current artists may fare.

Call it rap’s natural cycle or just one big coincidence, but it would appear that with this return of the crew dynamic, Hip-Hop is experiencing an exciting renaissance right about now.