The greatest hip-hop clique of all time is the Wu-Tang Clan.
The group emerged out of Staten Island in 1993 and reenergized a listless New York rap scene.
Though all nine members were fine rappers, what really made the Wu extraordinary is their diversity. Each rapper was bursting with flavor, whether it was Ghostface Killah and his mix of coke-rap and gibberish, or Ol’ Dirty Bastard with his wild, drunken style, or GZA and the intricate street tales he told.
Everyone was distinctive, unique and that made each member special (yes, even you U-God).
And, with the exception of the always-funky Dungeon Family, that diversity has been lacking in succeeding rap cliques. For the most part, rap crews have really just been a collection of like-minded rappers making like-minded music (see Roca-Fella, Ruff Ryders, Cash Money etc).
However, you can’t say that about G.O.O.D. Music, and the exceptional debut album, Cruel Summer, they drop on Tuesday.
The album, led by Kanye West, is a lively and vibrant project that is full of energy — energy that comes from the colorful cast of characters Kanye has gathered and, in most cases, nurtured.
What do these acts have in common? Not much, actually.
And yet, even though everyone has a different style, background and shape, each piece fits perfectly into Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music puzzle.
Pusha is a loud, brass criminal-minded rapper; Common is the calm, thoughtful veteran with dense rhymes; 2 Chainz is the goofy one with loud, exaggerated style and fine comedic timing; Big Sean is the slick-talking underdog; And Kid Cudi, well, Kid Cudi just belongs in Other.
Add that in with leader Kanye West, who basically contains every one of these traits, and you have G.O.O.D. Music and their debut album — and what a debut, from the crew that, for the most part, gives everyone equal opportunity to shine.
Kanye has his moments, often happily stunting on the competition (like in the celebratory “To the World,” which features R. Kelly.) Pusha, as usual, wonderfully keeps things in the gutter, like on “New God Flow,” where he brags about being Shyne to Kanye’s Puff.
G.O.O.D. Music’s newest member, Teyana Taylor, gets to show her chops in a duet with John Legend, which sounds like it's from the '80s. Even Cudi comes through with his rap/rock style (again, he goes in the Other category.)
The only one who unfortunately gets shortchanged is CyHi Da Prynce, who only has one standout verse, on one of the album’s deeper cuts, “Sin City.”
With only 12 tracks, Kanye still finds ways to mix in some outsiders, with legends like Jay-Z, Raekwon and Ma$e, who all bring their A-game.
But it’s the G.O.O.D. Music members who hold things down. With Cruel Summer, Kanye confirms that G.O.O.D. Music is the best clique in the game, and that’s not the easiest feat, with Young Money and MMG nipping at their heels.
Young Money and MMG are both pretty stacked with talent. But MMG are really just skilled rappers who are all on the same wavelength (what fun is that?) while Young Money is like a blonde porn star — heavy in the top, that’s it.
From talent to diversity, G.O.O.D Music is the closest thing to being the complete package.
It’s quite the cast of characters you’ve collected, Kanye.
My Twitter poppin, B. @Milkman__Dead