El-P (born Jaime Meline and originally known as El Producto) is a heavyweight producer-turned-rapper with over two decades working in the music industry. Growing up as the son of the jazz pianist Harry Keyes, young El-P was inspired to pursue a career in music of his own. That passion was congealed even more so after being expelled from several schools in New York City for having an issue with authority. The Brooklyn-born artist first got his start with Company Flow, a duo he formed alongside Mr. Len and later Bigg Jus, going on to secure a label deal with Rawkus Records and releasing their full-length debut Funcrusher Plus in 1997. Following a series of headaches at the label, El-P broke away to form his own imprint Definitive Jux, securing critically acclaimed releases such as Aesop Rock‘s Labor Days and Cannibal Ox‘s The Cold Vein (which El-P also produced), allowing the label to Rise to prominence. Balancing his career as both the head of the independent label and as a solo artist proved to work in El-P’s favor, with his work ethic mixed with his hunger for creating music helping to sculpt his reputation as an innovative creator and businessman. As a producer, El-P is revered for his futuristic tendencies, drawing from his love for lo-fi sounds and his jazz influences alike. As a lyrical force, the rapper often questions the status quo and explores themes of existentialism, politics, paranoia, the nature of reality, and other topics commonly found in science fiction. With his latest venture Run the Jewels—supergroup formed along with Killer Mike in 2013—elevating his career to newfound levels of success, El-P is regarded as one of hip-hop’s most vibrant and brilliant contributors.

Marshall Mathers III, better known as Eminem, is a Grammy Award-winning and platinum selling artist from Detroit, Michigan. As one of the highest-selling hip-hop artists of all time, Eminem is best known for his swift wordplay and signature style of angry, dark, and even violent lyrics, as well as his brazen and often crass opinions on everything from pop culture to prominent figures in his personal life.

Eminem began rapping in high school with fellow classmate Proof, participating in local battles and open mic contests. He quickly gained popularity on the local scene, inking a deal with an independent label and released his first album Infinite in 1996. The following year, his demo landed in the hands of Interscope CEO Jimmy Iovine, who immediately called in Dr. Dre to help sign the Detroit MC. Eminem’s first major label album The Slim Shady LP was released in 1999 via Interscope/Aftermath. The project was an immediate success, earning the rapper a Grammy award and a quadruple Platinum certification from the RIAA.

The two albums following—The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show, respectively— would prove even more successful, earning two additional Grammy Awards and Diamond status from the RIAA. Eminem would go on to release an additional four albums in the years following, all earning Platinum certification as well. Along with his solo career, Eminem has put out two albums as part of Detroit-based rap group D-12, and an EP as part of the duo, Bad Meets Evil. He is credited with launching the career of 50 Cent via his own label, Shady Records, and earning an Academy Award for his biographical film 8 Mile in 2003.

Evidence (born Michael Taylor Perretta) is an emcee and producer hailing from Los Angeles, California. Prior to making music, Evidence created a name for himself as a graffiti artist utilizing the tag “VANE,” as well as discovered a passion for breakdancing and skateboarding. In the early ‘90s, he coincidentally moved next door in Venice to the home of legendary producer Quincy Jones’s son, QD3, who first introduced him to the coveted art of beat making. Evidence native later became renowned for his work as part of the hip-hop trio, Dilated Peoples, along with DJ Babu and Rakaa Iriscience. After forming in 1992, the group made their major label debut with 2000’s The Platform. After collaborating with Kanye West on the group’s 2001 single, “This Way,” Evidence began to really cut his teeth as a producer, even landing a Grammy Award for his work on West’s College Dropout on the track “Last Call.” In 2007, Evidence went on to release his first solo album, The Weatherman, met with high critical acclaim. With the blessing of the other members of Dilated Peoples, Evidence began carving his own path as a solo artist, going on to sign with Rhymesayers Entertainment in 2009. He released his sophomore record, Cats & Dogs in 2011, and his third in 2014 with the Alchemist-assisted Lord Steppington.

eMC

After first appearing on Masta Ace’s 2001 album, Disposable Arts—as well as supporting him on the project’s accompanying tour—rappers Striklin plus Punchline and Wordsworth (also known as Punch & Words) discovered a like-mindedness and chemistry between them that years later would result in the destined formation of a hip-hop collective fondly known as eMC. Originally, the members had no official intentions to form a group; but after seeing an onslaught of rumors bubbling on message boards suggesting the idea, they decided their fans were, in fact, onto something. Along with Masta Ace, the group reunited in 2006 to release their first collaborative single “Four Brothers,” prior to the release of their debut full-length, The Show. Originally slated for a March 2008 release through Masta Ace’s own imprint M3 Records, contemporary tragedy hit the group when the record leaked online two months ahead of schedule.

After a six-year hiatus following eMC’s debut, news broke in January 2014 that the group had signed to the freshly re-founded Penalty Entertainment label and would be stepping into the studio as a group once again, coupling the exciting announcement with their first single in years, “Spun A Web.” Despite Punchline leaving the group before 2014 came to a close, the group reassured fans they would be carrying on as a trio, going on to release an EP aptly titled The Turning Point. In May 2015, the group followed through with their promise to release new music, delivering their sophomore full-length, The Tonite Show, via M3/Penalty Entertainment/Sony Red. Although eMC has only blessed fans with two full-length records and one EP since its initial conception in 2005, their legacy lies in the undeniable fact that there is power in collaboration.

EPMD is a rap group from Long Island, New York, comprised of rappers Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith. The group’s name is an acronym that references both members, standing for “Erick and Parrish Making Dollars.” Making their debut in the late ‘80s, their sample-heavy songs lifting from funk and rock hits helped to popularize their unique sound, among the then-popular sound that sampled more from disco.

Sermon and Smith attended high school together in Brentwood, Long Island, and with a shared interest in rap, decided to become a group. Once in college, Smith dropped out and used his financial aid money to fund their first demo, which caught the attention of local label Sleeping Bag/Fresh Records. Their debut single, “You’re A Customer”/”You Gots to Chill,” made its way to stores, and burgeoning music mogul Russell Simmons was so impressed that he began managing them.

In 1988, EPMD released their debut album, Strictly Business, through Sleeping Bag. Though it debuted at Number 80, it was certified Gold in just four months. Their follow-up, 1989’s Unfinished Business, was certified Gold as well.

With Sleeping Bag then going under, EPMD’s contract was sold to Def Jam and 1990’s Business As Usual was released, followed by 1992’s Business Never Personal.

In 1993, the group split after Smith’s house was burglarized and a suspect named Sermon as the mastermind. Successful solo careers for both spawned from the controversy, and four years later, they reunited with a comeback album Back in Business. To date, EPMD has released seven studio albums.

EPMD also created the Hit Squad in 1992 as a means to foster new talent, which would later evolve into Def Squad, the supergroup including Erick Sermon, Redman, and Keith Murray. Squad affiliates included K-Solo, Das EFX, Hurricane G and Knucklehedz.

Eric B. & Rakim are widely regarded as one of the most influential hip-hop duos in history, with the celebrated group reigning during the Golden Age of rap. Both members originated from New York, with DJ Eric B. (born Eric Barrier) hailing from Elmhurst, Queens and lyricist Rakim (born William Michael Griffin Jr.) from Wyandanch, Long Island. The pair first met in 1985 when Eric B. was working as a DJ at New York City radio station WBLS. At the time, he was actively looking for an emcee to spit over his work on the turntables, with promoter Alvin Toney recommending he link with Rakim. From there, the rest was history, with the duo joining forces to release their collective first single “Eric B. Is President,” on the independent Harlem-based label Zakia Records in 1986.

With the breakout single crafted under Marley Marl’s expert tutelage, Eric B. & Rakim grabbed the attention of larger labels, going on to sign with the 4th & Broadway imprint for their debut studio album. Their 1987 full-length, Paid in Full, has since become a staple of any diehard hip-hop fan’s collection, with the album receiving high praise for its innovation. While Paid in Full went on to climb the charts, it was noted that the album marked the beginning of heavy sampling in hip-hop, as well as the beginning of sample clearance headaches. The group ran into legal trouble, with James Brown suing them over their unauthorized and uncredited sample use.

Eric B. & Rakim then signed with MCA for the release of their sophomore record, 1988’s Follow the Leader. The duo went on to release two more studio albums, Let the Rhythm Hit (1990), which landed the first perfect 5-mic score in the Source Magazine—and Don’t Sweat the Technique (1992) before disbanding to record solo material and being met with more legal woes. In 2011, Eric B. & Rakim were nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame for the revolutionary contributions to hip-hop, but were not officially inducted. The duo has recently announced that they will embark on a 2017 reunion tour, as well as planning to reissue the four landmark albums that make up their famed discography.