When hip-hop’s premier fabulist Rick Ross brings his Masters of Ceremony show to Barclays Center this weekend, he’ll fill the stage with a truly peculiar lineup of more than a dozen of the genre’s legacy acts. These are artists well past their commercial peak; it’s as if Ross is curating a show full of MCs he thinks should be getting more love than they are in 2016. Or maybe these are just the dudes who answered the boss’s call.
Regardless, the show displays Ross’s greatest talent. One of the hip-hop game’s top executive producers, Rozay might not be a gifted lyricist, but he excels in the maestro role. With a velvet voice, an exquisite ear for beats, and a knack for collecting brilliant MCs for features, you don’t have to consider Rick Ross a great MC to admit he makes dope music. Representative of the present-day evolution of the mafioso rap genre first taken mainstream by the likes of Mobb Deep and Noreaga, he’s an ideal headliner for such an event. Ahead of the Barclays show, scroll down for a primer on the lineup of legends that Ross has assembled.
Marked for stardom early on — he’s the only member of the Wu-Tang Clan to get his own track on their debut LP — Meth is world-renowned for his snot-nose suave street style and fierce microphone skills. An accomplished actor, Meth boasts a filmography that’s almost as impressive as his discography — he has dozens of feature-film and television roles to his credit. Meth’s name certainly stands on its own, but he arguably achieved his highest levels of fame as one half of a doped-up duo with his pal Reggie Noble, a/k/a.…
Arguably the dopest MC to ever come out of New Jersey, Redman took the spirit of Biz Markie’s comedy raps to another level lyrically, pushing the limits of the form while making us laugh along with him at the absurdity of life and times in Newark. Mentored by EPMD’s Erick Sermon, he would later find a kindred spirit in Method Man, teaming up for albums, films, videogames, and TV projects.
House of Pain
Their 1992 smash hit “Jump Around” never really went away, even after the group broke up in 1996. DJ Lethal would join Fred Durst in rap-rock frat Limp Bizkit, and Everlast would achieve similar levels of fame with two solo records. But “Jump Around” persists, even if it’s more likely to be heard these days at a prom or bar mitzvah than any hip-hop club.
Prodigy and Havoc arguably had as much influence as anyone in defining the Queens hip-hop aesthetic of the mid-90s, lacing together boom-bap beats with sinister piano samples and squeezing the Scarface soundtrack dry for source material. They each pursued solo projects during a long hiatus from 2006 to 2014: Havoc found continued success as a producer for other artists, while Prodigy matured from a sickly 19-year-old into a grizzled OG. But their influence on hip-hop is probably best measured by the endurance of their 1995 single “Shook Ones, Pt. II,” which to this day remains a hip-hop standard by which rappers’ rhymes are measured.
Less an MC than a Jamaican dancehall legend, Super Cat might be remembered by some for his early 90s hit “Don Dada,” or his guest appearance on Sugar Ray’s monster hit “Fly.” But for a lot of hip-hop heads, his true claim to fame is being responsible for the first official recording by The Notorious B.I.G., who jumped on the remix for his 1993 single “Dolly My Baby.”
This G-Unit affiliate is likely quite grateful to be included in this group of OGs; he’s got three mixtapes and the cocaine love song “CoCo,” a minor Billboard hit, to his name.
The rapping half of legendary duo Eric B. & Rakim, the God MC has a secure spot in the hip-hop canon. Few can claim to have had as much of a hand in shaping the genre’s lyrical form: Over Golden Age LPs like 1988’s Follow The Leader, Rakim raised the bar to a degree not seen before him, and rarely since. His late-90s comeback was impressive, if short-lived, and a Dr. Dre collaboration was scrapped due to “creative differences.” But there’s a reason cranky-old “real hip-hop” heads constantly cite Ra as the truth — even if some of the beats may sound outdated, the bars still hold up.
The Jungle Brothers were prominent members of the jazzy, Afrocentric Native Tongues hip-hop crew, which included De La Soul, Black Sheep, and A Tribe Called Quest. While much of hip-hop at the time (including their own) was rooted in jazz or funk samples, their early hit single “I’ll House You” put four on the floor. It was the first time most people outside Chicago heard hip-hop to a house beat, and foreshadowed the current climate of mainstream hip-hop, which owes as much to house music as it does to jazz, funk, and soul.
Brownsville OGs M.O.P. continue playing shows to this day, but they’ll forever be known as the dudes that do that turn-of-the-century anthem for stick up kids everywhere, “Ante Up.” The frenzied reaction the song gets at shows is more than a little surreal, considering its subject matter is focused entirely on robbery and assault.
Hip-hop in the early 90s is mostly remembered as a gangsta affair, but The Pharcyde has been holding it down for woke MCs in South Central Los Angeles since 1989. Their light-hearted debut Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde served as a foil to the Ruthless Records aesthetic dominating the West Coast hip-hop scene; they made yet another left turn with their follow-up, Labcabincalifornia, which heavily featured Soulquarian production wizard J Dilla. Spike Jonze, who directed their music video for “Drop,” also made a documentary short on Pharcyde member Derrick “Fatlip” Stewart.
Jones founded the Harlem hip-hop group the Diplomats alongside Cam’ron, and achieved some solo success, taking his 2006 single “We Fly High” to platinum status. He too has taken a stab at acting, and also directs music videos under the name CAPO.
Formerly known as Noreaga in an homage to the Panamanian dictator, Nore came up in Queens in the late 90s, not long after Mobb Deep. On his debut LP with his [?] incarcerated partner as Capone-N-Noreaga, he professed his disdain for Christianity and called himself the “Arab Nazi.” On his solo debut N.O.R.E. (“Niggas On the Run Eatin’”), he embraced his funny bone, dialing down the militance and amping up the laughs. He rode a Neptunes beat and his signature catchphrase “What What” to the top of the charts with “Superthug,” and closed out one of the all-time classic posse cuts, “Banned From TV.” He successfully went reggaeton in the mid-aughts, and these days co-hosts a popular podcast with DJ EFN, Drink Champs.
Pete Rock & CL Smooth
One of the architects of New York hip-hop’s rise to mainstream success in the early 90s, Pete Rock is one of those old-school producers that can flip a sample on a drum machine into a beat live, in real time. His early records with CL Smooth are classics of the genre, and his Soul Survivor solo tapes are all-star compilations. Recently, he’s been showing his gray hairs by telling young mumblecore rapper Lil’ Yachty to get off his lawn, but dude is enough of an OG that we’ll forgive him his geriatric gripes.