While MF DOOM (born Daniel Dumile) is highly regarded as one of the most inimitable figures in hip-hop, part of his legacy also lies within his collaborative work and in his eccentric half-dozen alter egos. Of those experimental projects, his partnership with Danger Mouse (born Brian Burton) is one of the most celebrated. Their debut project, The Mouse and the Mask, was released to critical acclaim in 2005, utilizing the collective moniker DANGER DOOM. The project was released in the UK through Lex Records, as well as in the United States through punk label Epitaph Records, marking the latter imprint’s third foray into hip-hop. Best known for his work with the Gorillaz, Beck, the Black Keys, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Grammy Award-winning producer Danger Mouse handled the instrumentation, while DOOM focused on the animated vocals and eccentric lyrical direction.

For DANGER DOOM‘s debut, Danger Mouse chose to sample exclusively from various animated shows airing on Adult Swim, Cartoon Network’s late-night programming block—with a handful of cartoon characters from Aqua Teen Hunger Force making appearances on the album, in addition to the likes of Cee-Lo Green, Talib Kweli, and Ghostface Killah. With support from the network and famed comedian Dave Chappelle alike, the project was released in October 2005 and quickly became a cult fan favorite. While the album sparked several noteworthy talking points, MF DOOM’s diss against his former collaborator, MF Grimm, undeniably stood out. The Monsta Island Czars (M.I.C.) member later responded with the track “Book of Daniel,” during which he accused DOOM of selling out.

With many hailing the seemingly unlikely pairing of MF DOOM and Danger Mouse as an undeniable success, DANGER DOOM delivered once again the following year, releasing their 2006 EP, Occult Hymn, exclusively though AdultSwim.com. Although DANGER DOOM has not reunited since 2006, their small-but-impactful body of work remains heralded as one of the most experimental and pleasantly absurdist collaborations to come out of the 2000s.

DJ Shadow (born Joshua Paul Davis) is a producer, DJ and obsessive record collector from San Jose, California. Widely praised for bridging the gap between experimental, genre-bending sounds and incorporating elements of old school hip-hop and forward-thinking electronic music alike, he is best known for his production work and for giving new life to old obscure samples. Associated with igniting the “trip-hop” movement, a term originally coined by music journalist Andy Pemberton in 1994 to describe the funk-meets-ambient-meets-hip-hop-meets jazz hybrid, DJ Shadow helped develop the signature sound associated with the innovative roster of Mo Wax, an independent label based out of London. Building a name for himself based off his instrumental music alone, DJ Shadow had already sunk his teeth into the music industry by the time his first full-length work, Endtroducing, was released in 1996. The album later found its way into the Guinness Book of World Records for “First Completely Sampled Album” in 2001 and remains one of the most integral and influential pieces of work in his critically acclaimed catalog today. Since his humble beginnings in the early ’90s, the heavyweight producer has since expanded his ever-growing discography to impressively include five solo studio albums, six compilation albums, four EPs, a handful of remix and mix albums, six live albums, and an immense array of loose singles. At this point in his career, DJ Shadow balances being a household name with being an intensely private family man, all while being permanently recognized as one of the best sonic curators of all time.

Dr. Dre (born Andre Romelle Young) is indisputably a groundbreaking pioneer of hip-hop. While he is credited with being rap music’s first-ever billionaire, a price can neither be placed on his influential legacy nor on his colossal contributions to the culture. The Compton-born producer-turned-rapper-turned-mogul life changed in a permanent way after receiving a mixer as a Christmas present in 1984, leading to his joining the World Class Wreckin’ Cru as a DJ. In 1985, already having landed on his Dr. Dre moniker, he formed N.W.A. (N***az With Attitude) with Eazy-E, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, and MC Ren. Together, the group made history, establishing themselves as the seminal artists of the gangsta rap sub-genre. Their hit single “F**k the Police” went on to find major success despite its outspoken content preventing commercial radio airplay and resulting in the label, Ruthless Records, being hit with a warning message by the FBI. Although the iconic group disbanded shortly after their 1988 debut, Straight Outta Compton, Dr. Dre went on to co-found Death Row Records where he was able to establish his career as a solo artist and release his critically acclaimed solo debut, The Chronic. Throughout his storied career, the prolific producer has worked with Snoop Dogg, Tupac, Blackstreet, Eminem, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, Xzibit, The Game, and more. With six Grammy Awards in his trophy case, a handful of acting roles in the books, his wildly popular Beats by Dr. Dre headphone line and numerous other business ventures, Dr. Dre is as renowned for popularizing West Coast G-Funk as he is for fostering the careers of a plethora of other household names.

Hailing from Detroit, Danny Brown (real last name Sewell) rose to fame after utilizing social media to his advantage in the mid-2000s, establishing his career as one of the most strikingly unique rappers in The Game. With fans instantly gravitating towards his eccentric personality and curious combination of a hustler’s mentality mixed with the antics of a class clown the rapper carved a distinctive lane of his own, delivering his unique blend of vulgar, tongue-in-cheek and jovial rhymes over forward-thinking production. Best known for his individuality and distinctive high-pitched rapping style, Brown released his debut solo album in 2010, following the release of his collaborative effort with G-Unit‘s own Tony Yayo. While many thought 50 Cent would then add Brown to his official roster, such a label wasn’t a perfect fit for the outlandish emcee. Many asserted that the lack of a formal offer was directly related to the rapper’s fashion taste, as he infamously opted for skinny jeans over what rappers at the time were stereotyped to wear. He later penned a deal with Fool’s Gold before eventually being recruited by Warp Records, leveling up his steady foundation of mixtapes and making his major label debut in 2016 with When It Rain. From providing the theme to the sitcom Fresh Off the Boat to working on a Dr. Seuss-inspired children’s book dedicated to his teenage daughter to adding to his growing discography, Danny Brown’s vibrant creativity knows no bounds.

Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Dilated Peoples is comprised of emcees Evidence and Rakaa, with DJ Babu (of the prestigious turntablist crew Beat Junkies), emerging as the trio’s final puzzle piece. First joining forces in 1992, the group organically formed after attending the same slew of local hip-hop shows. Soon after entertaining the idea of making music together, Dilated Peoples turned their like-minded motives into action, recording the singles “Third Degree” and “Work the Angles” under the ABB Records imprint. “Work the Angles” began seeing serious airtime in hip-hop radio, with the single leading them to inking a deal with Capitol Records. Making their major label debut in 2000 with their studio album, The Platform, the group quickly began living up to the hype they earned within the underground hip-hop scene in the mid-90s. With their follow-up record, Expansion Team, arriving in 2001, the group rose to prominence. The album landed at No. 36 on the Billboard 200 with the Alchemist-produced track “Worst Comes to Worst,” resulting in one of their most critically acclaimed and best known songs. Dilated Peoples’ third album, 2004’s Neighborhood Watch, featured early production from the likes of Kanye West. It moved on to sell 143,000 copies in the United States and debuted at the No. 55 slot. The group’s fourth studio album, 20/20 was released in 2006, doubling as the final installment of their deal with Capitol. After each member went on to develop solo careers respectively, Dilated Peoples ended up returning to its original form eight years later. The underground veterans found a new home on Rhymesayers Entertainment, with 2014’s Directors of Photography LP, the storied group’s most recent release.

De La Soul is a trio based out of Long Island, comprised of members Posdnous, Dave and Maseo.  The group first formed in high school back in 1987. Early on, De La caught the eye of producer Prince Paul, with a demo version of the song “Plug Tunin’,” helping to further establish their reputation and refreshing potential. Their debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising (released via Tommy Boy Records and Warner Bros. Records), is hailed as one of the best rap albums in history, with some even referring to it as a “hip-hop masterpiece.” While their debut was their biggest commercial success, the group went on to influence many more artists well above their pay grade, including the likes of Mos Def. In 2006, the group won a Grammy award for their work on the Gorillaz single, “Feel Good Inc.,” and in 2010, their debut album was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. The Registry selects records annually that are culturally, aesthetically or historically significant. After releasing eight studio albums traditionally through a label, De La Soul turned to crowdsourcing in order to fund their 9th record via Kickstarter. The project, And the Anonymous Nobody, was released in 2016, with a majority of its nearly sample-free tracks hailing from improvised jam sessions. The group scored a nomination for Best Rap Album at the 59th annual Grammy Awards. De La Soul’s legacy continues with their clever lyricism, expert sampling, lighthearted personalities, and inspiration from beyond rap’s parameters to craft their distinctive, feel-good sound.

 

Hailing from the West Coast, Defari (born Duane Johnson Jr.) is an emcee praised for both his work as a solo artist and member of the Likwit Crew, alongside King T, Tha Alkaholiks and Xzibit. Defari first honed his talents as a DJ, getting his start in 1982. Five years later, he moved on to try his hand at emceeing, but ended up putting his career on hold to advance his education. After earning a sociology degree from the University of California at Berkeley, he then went on to study at Columbia University. Upon completing his Master’s degree in History and Education, Defari accepted a high school teaching position.

Following pursuing an academic career path, he returned to music once again, recording his first demo in 1994. Along with Alkaholiks producer E-Swift, the pair recorded the track “Big Up,” which appeared on the 1995 compilation Next Chapter: Strictly Underground and helped Defari to establish his presence in the underground hip-hop scene. The next year, his single “Bionic” was released via Oakland-based ABB Records, helping garner the attention of larger labels. In 1999, Defari recorded his debut solo studio album, Focused Daily, releasing the project through a new deal with Tommy Boy/Warner Bros. Records. In 2003, he released his sophomore album, Odds & Evens, via High Times Records. Following this venture, he created a Likwit Crew spin-off group with DJ Babu of Dilated Peoples and Beat Junkies, aptly known as the Likwit Junkies. Together, they released their lone collaborative project, The L.J.’s in 2005. Defari released his third solo effort, Street Music, in 2006. Despite a decade-long hiatus from the studio, Defari maintained a healthy touring schedule, returning to the booth for his fourth solo studio offering, Soundcheck, in 2016.

DJ JS-1 is a DJ, producer, and graffiti artist that hails from Queens, NY. He got his start by participating in local DJ battles and releasing mixtapes.

In 1999, JS-1 got his national break by appearing on the MTV show “Deejay Day” and a year later at MTV’s New Year’s Eve Millennium. During filming, the DJ met the renowned beatboxer Rahzel, resulting in JS becoming the beatboxer’s DJ since then.  DJ JS-1 and Rahzel would continue to tour as a beatbox-DJ group all over the world.

The DJ has worked with some of hip-hop’s greatest. In 2001, he released “Essentials” featuring KRS-ONE and Rahzel and “Take a Loss” featuring Kool G Rap. During this time he released three albums: Ground Original in 2002, Claimstake in 2003, and Audio Technician in 2005. The famed Rocksteady Crew initiated the DJ into their ranks in 2002.

His mixtapes Mashed Potatoes and In Da Trunk have resulted in attention from The Source and MTV.com. His streak of working with famed emcees continued with The Common Collection, hosted by rapper Common in 2006.

DJ JS-1 has toured with the likes of John Legend, Common, and De La Soul, as well as Method Man, Redman, and DJ Premier.

Das EFX is an East Coast rap duo, comprised of members Andre “Dray” Weston and William “Skoob” Hines.” Introduced in the early ‘90s through their affiliation with rap group EPMD—and popularized by their lyrical prowess and fast-paced delivery— the group’s lyrics (particularly their affinity to end words with “-iggedy”) have oft been referenced in pop culture, including Beverly Hills, 90210 and Chappelle’s Show.

Brooklyn, NY native Skoob and Teaneck, NJ native Dray met while attending college in the late ‘80s, and came together through a shared interest in rhyming.  Deciding on the name Das EFX (as Das was an acronym for “Dray and Scoob,” and EFX stood for “effects”), a performance at a local talent show caught the attention of then-popular EPMD, who immediately decided to sign them.

The pair’s debut album, Dead Serious, was released in 1992 and was a critical and commercial success—fueled by their lead single “They Want EFX.” They dubbed their unique rapping style as “sewage,” and highlighted their usage of ending words in “-iggedy” with the popularity of their appearance on Ice Cube’s 1993 single, “Check Yo Self.”

For their 1993 sophomore effort Straight Up Sewaside, Das EFX decided to slow down their delivery and drop the -iggedy suffix, after other rappers began adopting a similar flow. By the time their 1995 album Hold It Down dropped, EPMD was splitting up, and after choosing a side (PMD), Dray and Skoob took a three-year hiatus from recording. Their follow-ups failed to see the same success as their previous releases, but they continue to successfully tour and occasionally record.

To date, Das EFX has released six studio albums.

Damu the Fudgemunk (born Earl Davis) is a DJ, rapper, and producer hailing from Washington, DC.

Damu began making music when he was 17 years old and bought a Boss Dr. SP-303 sampler. As he worked, he kept saving and eventually bought himself an MPC. Being from Washington, DC gave him a taste of Southern rap. Still, he gravitated towards the East Coast-New York sound, making him a bit of an outcast.

In 2007, he released his debut album Travel at Your Own Pace. The album would receive glowing reviews due in large part to the dark jazz and soul samples. During this time he continued to build his fan base through Internet videos and live street performances. Since his debut, he’s released 22 albums and EPs.

He co-owns and operates Redefinition Records, a label that also releases his material. The 2017 release, Vignettes, finds the artist blending genres through a two-hour concept album. Whether it’s gospel and electronic music, everything is tied-in together. Damu says, “Vignettes is a true example of ‘art imitating life.’ All the commentary/music is a collection of my personal experiences and those reflections applied to music to document an honest depiction of my current perspective on life and the world we share.”