Over the weekend, the rapper Sean Price took to Twitter to propose a collaboration album between his own Brooklyn-based Boot Camp Clik hip-hop crew and Staten Island’s mighty Wu-Tang Clan. The idea has been received rapturously. But then again, theoretical hip-hop supergroups usually are. Rap’s history is littered with fanciful unions, most of which rarely get beyond the brain-storming stage: pesky little glitches like scheduling conflicts, waning enthusiasm from higher profile members, and mortality, among other things, tend to keep most supergroups from ever becoming reality. But that doesn’t mean playing rap fantasy football isn’t fun. Here’s a rundown of ten of the most desired hip-hop supergroups from the genre’s real life annals, along with the reason they never quite happened:
Wu-Tang Clan vs. Boot Camp Clik
’93 ’til infinity alert! Proving there’s still much faith in the rough, rugged, and often muddy-sounding early-’90s New York rap template, these two East Coast hip-hop powerhouses are said to be readying what will be the ultimate supergroup extravaganza. There’s immense appeal in the idea of hearing B.C.C. soldiers over RZA’s dusty production, or Method Man and Buckshot trading blunted-sounded rhymes. The live show would surely be rambunctious. If it happens, this could well be the project to steal hip-hop’s shine back from the South.
What Will Happen? The collaboration is a logistical nightmare: the idea of getting the 17 putative members (16 living, and one brilliant-but-deceased bastard in spiritual form) on the same page—or even in the same studio—is an obvious folly. A better bet: Lesser-supported Wu players Masta Killa and U-God record an album with the prolific Price, Buckshot produces, and Ghost and Raekwon phone in verses for a song that becomes an internet favorite. That, or a slew of bedroom D.J.s making their own Wu vs. B.C.C. mash-up mixtapes.
A big-budget hip-hop version of a mafia movie, The Commission was spearheaded by The Notorious BIG. Taking on the mantle of casting director, he ran through his dream crew on the introduction to “What’s Beef?”, breaking down the characters as follows: Big would become Frank White, Jigga would play Iceberg Slim, Junior M.A.F.I.A. cohort Lil’ Cease was slated to be the exotic-sounding Caesar Leo De Janeiro, Lance ‘Un’ Rivera was down to play Uncle Paulie, and Puffy got the role of a lifetime as P Diddy. Chali Baltimore, the sole female in the concept, had to settle for her original rap name (itself inspired by Geena Davis’ role in The Long Kiss Goodnight).
What Happened? March 9th, 1997, BIG was killed in a drive-by shooting. After Raekwon’s Only Built For Cuban Linx… satiated rap fans’ appetite for mafia-inspired tales in verse two years prior, the idea of The Commission faded away, although Jigga did find time to go on to allegedly stab Rivera in 1999.
All City Chess Club
“All City Chess Club was in the studio last night,” tweeted perennial nerd rap spokesperson Lupe Fiasco back in April, stoking rumors of the existence of a new generation supergroup consisting mostly of XXL magazine freshmen: Asher Roth, Wale, B.o.B., The Cool Kids, Charles Hamilton, Diggy Simmons, Blu and J. Cole. To date though, their jump-off moment, the remix to Lupe’s “I’m Beamin'”, hasn’t officially emerged.
What Happened? The curse of being an XXL freshmen has seen most of these kids struggling to find time to propel their own careers beyond the blogs, let alone bother with an extracurricular project. And when you’re a new-wave rap kid largely getting paid off the brand sponsorship game, it’s hard to split a pair of free jeans nine ways…
The ultimate theoretical “conscious” quartet: Common, Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch and The Roots’ Black Thought’s union was set to provide a lyrically-fortified antidote to rap’s shallow mainstream excess. Who wouldn’t want to listen to an album of raps kicked by gents giving out the aura that they worked down the local food co-op?
What Happened? Once Common piggy-backed Kanye West’s ride into the mainstream and fulfilled his long-term artistic goal of nabbing a bit-part in the movie Terminator Salvation, rap’s wholesome lyricists realized that what they really wanted was to do was live lavish like Jay-Z. Cue Monch attempting to cross-over by dressing up as Elvis in a video and Black Thought settling for being a rapping accoutrement on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Group War Committee
A late-’90s New York underground hardcore rap fanatic’s fantasy, this squad was supposed to present Kool Keith accomplices Godfather Don and Scaramanga (aka Rawkus recording artist Sir Menelik) joining forces with one-time Bomb Squad intern producer Scholarwise in a move designed as a (good natured) underground parallel to Biggie’s The Commission. Scholar says that Big was even slated to guest on a couple of songs, having personal history with Scara that went back to their days when they both lived close to St. James Place in Brooklyn.
What Happened? After Scara went missing (possibly out to L.A. at the bequest of KRS-One, according to Scholar) and Don allegedly found religion, the project fizzled out. The only remnants these days are a few enthusiastic ad libs on tracks from Scara’s 1999 Seven Eyes, Seven Horns album.
Terrible name aside, teaming up a feral, fresh-out-of-jail Tupac with the elderly, street-level wisdom of Geto Boys mainstay Scarface seemed like a move that would pay off creatively—not least with Face being able to tease out more of ‘Pac’s redemptive side. Studio sessions between the two were alleged to have taken place when ‘Pac took a trip to Houston.
What Happened? Tupac passed away, leaving his collaboration with Scarface unfinished. The label Rap-A-Lot resurrected some of ‘Pac’s lost vocals for 2006’s shoddy 2Faces project, but Scarface is on record as saying he had nothing to do with the release.
Child Rebel Soldiers
In 2007, the alliance of Kanye West, Pharrell and Lupe Fiasco was the hippest, most creative hip-hop conceit. With the production and rapping talent on offer, plus a healthy dose of unchecked ego, CRS was all prepped to conjure up a classic album. Lupe even told Billboard that “whoever is going to pay is going to pay a whole hell of a lot”—although he was possibly referring to the trio’s vintage Japanese denim clothing allowance and not their advance.
What Happened? Certified superstars Kanye and Pharrell seemed to lose interest in continuing to cut Lupe welfare checks. Optimistically, the group’s MySpace page still boasts that “CRS is coming!” We imagine it’s Lupe who has the log-in details.
Golden State Warriors
Fed up of being critically lauded but financially impoverished, West Coast wordsmiths Xzibit, Ras Kass and onetime Tupac roommate Saafir decided to pool resources and form the Golden State Warriors—a strategy intended to maximize the impact and support of each others’ fans in a manner that was recently replicated by the Slaughterhouse quartet (Joell Ortiz, Joe Budden, Crooked I, Royce Da 5′ 9″).
What Happened? Xzibit discovered that hosting MTV’s Pimp My Ride is more fun than being an underrated rapper; Ras Kass took up the hobby of going to jail. The small matter of a letter from the NBA telling the trio to cease or desist using the same name as a pro basketball team probably didn’t help their fledgling chances.
With Ice Cube coming off a run of three solo albums that legitimately made him a greatest rapper of all time candidate, and Dr. Dre having changed the face of hip-hop twice in quick succession with N.W.A. and then his weed-hued The Chronic, the idea of the two one-time foes coming together to rule rap was stupendous news. The song “Natural Born Killaz,” from the 1994 Murder Was The Case soundtrack was a brutal indicator of the duo’s prowess, and boded well for their Heltah Skeltah album project.
What Happened? Dre began his lackadaisical approach to releasing albums after fleeing Suge Knight’s Death Row dungeon, while Cube started to flex his thespian chops. By the time Dre was working with Eminem, seasoned rap fans knew Heltah Skeltah would never materialize. (Note: The album titled Heltah Skeltah by frequent Dr. Dre ghost-writer The D.O.C. isn’t a remnant from the Cube and Dre project.)
Swift & Changeable
Inspired by hearing one of MF Doom’s Special Herbs instrumental albums, Ghostface’s camp reached out to Nature Sounds, an indie rap label Doom had worked with, inquiring about the possibility of the metal-faced rap villain producing some songs on Ghost’s next project. This was upped into a one-off collaboration between the duo, provisionally titled Swift & Changeable, which would see the Wu-Tang man rhyming over Doom’s beats. Four songs were quickly completed, although to date the only official release is “Angelz,” a Charlie’s Angels-inspired song that was rather awkwardly shoe-horned onto Doom’s Born Like This album last year. A shame, as those early tracks showed much promise, not to mention Ghost attempting to usher pirate slang like “walk the plank” into rap’s lexicon.
What Happened? MF Doom lives by his own beat, which mostly seems to involve spending his days cultivating an impressive beer-belly and pulling the strings behind his infamous live show capers. Ghost is in the midst trying to rush out enough material to free him from the clutches of his Def Jam contract. Case closed, as it were.