Rap groups are rapidly disappearing from the music landscape. Unfortunately, for both the fans and artists, hip-hop groups now tend to have the same lifespan as most R&B groups (which, in case you’re wondering, is ridiculously low).
2009 saw Young Buck unceremoniously dumped from G-Unit, Alfamega swiftly kicked out of Grand Hustle on his ass, the dissolution of the cult-like Dipset, and a heartbreaking continuation of the Roc-a-Fella break up/saga. Is it this a trend of money changing people? Jealous ones envy? Or is it just something that is inevitable in hip hop that an inevitable part of the process?
I posed the following question on Twitter: “Has there ever been a rap group that has NEVER broken up?” I only received about 10 answers. But I can think of at least a dozen rap crews that have broken up or changed members. Aside from the four already mentioned (ROC, Dipset, G-Unit, Grand Hustle), there’s also Terror Squad, Run DMC, Ruff Ryders, The Hot Boyz, NWA, The Geto Boys, No Limit and Murder Inc have also seen membership shakeup or downright splits at some point.
If you take a close look at all of these crews, they portrayed themselves as family. By doing that, they not only had allies in the rap game, but they endeared themselves to the fans. Many artists have gained fans (and subsequently, money and status) simply due to the close relationship they’ve had with a larger artist in their own crew. They tattooed their group’s (or group mates) names on their bodies, they’ve gone to war with other rappers and crews on their own crews’ behalf, did countless interviews, songs and videos proclaiming their family bonds, but yet they all broke up.
The main gripe always revolves around money issues. Someone, somewhere always swindled another group member out of what was rightfully his or hers, or was just plain ole greedy (NWA, anyone?). Other times, crews have broken up due to tragic occurrences. An example of this would be the death of Big Pun, because after it, Terror Squad was never the same.
Another common complaint that leads to group breakups is the issue of respect (or lack of). A group member either disrespected someone by what they said or did, or what they perceived to be done. Hand in hand with the disrespect comes the thought that it all boils down to pride..down to ego. Many rap crews have fallen, simply because others feel another person has gotten too big for their britches, and is now acting out of character (Roc-A-Fella, anyone?) All of these dissolutions have been painful to watch and/or hear about, especially when they get ugly and secrets (and half-truths) come out in order for a group member to state or to plead THEIR case in a public arena.
What I will always miss is the music that these crews made together, because at one time or another, they all had the magic touch. It was painful for me to watch the Roc break up the first time and it was doubly painful to see Beans wage his one-sided war against Jay this year. It’s comparable to picking a scab off a fresh wound. This was all simply because I grew up listening to them. They were Roc La Familia in every meaning and sense of those words to me. A G-Unit compilation isn’t the same to me without Young Buck (you listen to “I Like the Way She Do It” and tell me that the version with Buck isn’t better than the one without him). For Cam, Jimmy, Juelz, Hell Rell and the countless other members of Dipset to have issues and problems just seems incredibly weird because they were so close. Now, Dipset singles and CDs don’t even sound the same — they’re empty, hollow and devoid of that camaraderie that they once had.
I wish that all the rap crews that I mentioned would mend the fences and get back together, but alas, I know it’s wishful thinking. So all I can do is urge future crews to follow in the footsteps of the Lox, The Clipse, Outkast, Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang, M.O.P, De La Soul, The Beastie Boys and the Furious Five, and to work to stay together. Avoid the egos, the drama, the snakes in your ear telling you that you’re better than your other crew members, have an accountant watch your money, and remain friends no matter what. Because really, wouldn’t you rather defy the odds?
Words by Black Barbie