Ladybug Mecca (born Mary Ann Vieira) is an emcee, singer-songwriter and DJ hailing from Silver Spring, Maryland. She is best known for her work as one-third of the Grammy Award-winning group, Digable Planets, alongside members Butterfly (Ishmael Butler) and Doodlebug (Craig Irving). After meeting in the late ‘80s and relocating to Brooklyn, the group signed to Pendulum Records in 1992. Their debut album Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) arrived in 1993 and was certified Gold by the RIAA. The project’s lead single, “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat),” eventually earned Digable Planets a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. In 1994, Digable Planets released its politically charged sophomore album, Blowout Comb, which drastically strayed from the radio friendly feel of their first record. Such a bold contrast in style and lyrical content was met with high praise from critics, but unfortunately the album didn’t match the commercial success of its predecessor. Digable Planets disbanded in early 1995, citing creative differences.

Exactly a decade later, Mecca released her debut solo album, Trip The Light Fantastic (2005), drawing from her Brazilian roots and weaving together a variety of genres, including samba, hip-hop, jazz and rock. The same year, Digable Planets reunited for a tour run and released the compilation Beyond the Spectrum: The Creamy Spy Chronicles. Mecca went on to join Dino 5, voicing the character of Tracy Triceratops on the group’s 2008 kid-friendly record Baby Loves Hip Hop Presents The Dino 5. She later joined Brazilian hip-hop fusion group, BROOKZILL!, along with fellow Dino 5 member Prince Paul, releasing their debut album Throwback to the Future in 2016. After embarking on an extensive reunion tour in 2016, Digable Planets has announced a slew of headlining gigs in 2017, further fueling rumors fans may see new music from the veteran innovators.

Lauryn Hill is a singer and emcee hailing from South Orange, New Jersey. While her early days were a part of the Grammy Award winning hip-hop group The Fugees, Hill went on to forge her own significant path in both the hip-hop landscape and beyond.

Starting out as a singer, rapper, and an actor, Lauryn Hill found herself as a triple threat early on. Bit roles in small films and a brief stint on As The World Turns led to her breakout role in the film Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit in 1993. While the film showcased Hill’s flawless vocals and a small glimpse of her rhyming skills, both would present themselves a year later with The Fugees’s debut album Blunted On Reality. The project was met with mixed reviews—as their single “Nappy Heads” was the standout track on the project, though a Salaam Remi remix of their song “Vocab” was an indicator of the group’s range. Their follow-up album The Score arrived in 1996, winning a Grammy for Best Rap Album as well as Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for the Lauryn Hill-featured cover of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.” The group parted ways shortly thereafter due to internal conflict amongst the group and an affair between Lauryn and bandmate Wyclef Jean. Lauryn went on to release her groundbreaking solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in 1998. The next year she broke a Grammy record for female artists by taking home five gramophones. After a world tour, Lauryn Hill seemingly faded into obscurity. She re-emerged in 2001 with an entirely new persona, and a year later released a project of live recordings from her MTV Unplugged episode.

Despite significant stylistic changes over the years, Lauryn Hill is still regarded as one of the most prolific emcees, absent of gender. Her ability to weave intricate rhymes with obscurely conscious references remains an inimitable trait of hers to this day. While she has recorded some sparse tracks over the years and has toured her old catalog over time, Hill has yet to release a follow-up to her solo debut studio album.

Large Professor (born William Paul Mitchell) is a New York City native best known for his work as a legendary producer to many of rap’s greats. In 1989, he joined the group Main Source, along with Toronto’s K-Cut and Sir Scratch. While they only recorded one album with Large Pro titled Breaking Atoms in 1991, it was met with critical acclaim, with many praising the album for its use of heavy jazz and soul music samples. Notably, the project also doubles as the debut of Nas, who appeared on the track “Live at the Barbeque.” Nas’s contribution to the song also was given new life, appearing on the intro track to his 1994 debut solo album, Illmatic. Following the release of Breaking Atoms due to business differences, Large Pro split from the group Main Source and went on to sign with Geffen/MCA Records. This move allowed him to begin securing major production credits, working with artists including Nas again (he produced the classic track “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” and “One Time 4 Your Mind” among others), Eric B & Rakim, Busta Rhymes, Masta Ace, Tragedy Khadafi, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Big Daddy Kane, Mobb Deep, Common, The X-Ecutioners, and A Tribe Called Quest, to name a humble few. Although his official debut, 1996’s The LP, was shelved and later self-released, his 2002 debut release 1st Class featured sole production from himself, as well as guest appearances by Nas, Busta Rhymes, Akinyele, and Q-Tip. With five solo albums to his name, Large Professor has also lent his talents to a handful of collaborative albums, including ones with Cormega, Neek the Exotic, and Akinyele.

Little Brother was a rap group based out of Durham, North Carolina, consisting of rappers Phonte and Big Pooh, and producer 9th Wonder.

The trio met while attending college in the late ‘90s, and joined forces to begin creating music and performing locally. They released their first song in 2001, “Speed,” and eventually created enough buzz to garner a record deal with indie label ABB Records the following year. This year also saw the release of what is one of their most popular songs on the underground circuit, the video game themed “Atari 2600.”

The group’s debut The Listening was released in 2003, and was critically acclaimed for their lyrical capabilities, content matter, and production. Around the same time, 9th Wonder landed a placement on Jay-Z’s The Black Album, undoubtedly garnering more eyes and ears for Little Brother as a whole.

Now with a broader fan base, The Listening’s follow up—2005’s The Minstrel Show—was well received by fans and critics. However, as their major label debut on Atlantic Records, it wasn’t considered a commercial success. By the time their third album began production in 2006, creative differences resulted in Little Brother exiting Atlantic Records, and it also saw the departure of 9th Wonder from the group.

Little Brother’s third album, Getback, was released the following year independently, as was its follow up, Leftback, in 2010. Following the release of the latter, the group decided to part ways.

Phonte, Big Pooh, and 9th Wonder all continue to release music as solo acts.

LL Cool J (born James Todd Smith) first began rapping at the age of nine, with his grandfather, a jazz saxophonist, buying him his first DJ equipment at the age of 11. He earned his nickname by being a ladies man (“Ladies Love Cool James”), which became a trademark throughout his tenure in music. Raised in Queens, New York by his grandparents following his parents’ divorce when he was four, LL became determined to get his music heard, even producing and mixing his own demos to mail out to record companies, including Def Jam, as the now-legendary imprint was being formed by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons. In 1984, his single “I Need a Beat” became Def Jam’s first release, going on to sell over 100,000 copies and prompting LL to drop out of high school to record his debut studio album, Radio. Following its release in 1985, LL became known for being an innovative force within hip-hop, with his album being received well commercially and going on to sell over a million copies. That same year he made his first cameo appearance in a feature film, with Kush Groove depicting a fictionalized version of the early days of Def Jam—with members of the groups Run DMC, Fat Boys, and New Edition all starring in the film. LL Cool J continued to add to his discography, with 1987’s Bigger and Deffer and 1989’s Walking with a Panther. The rapper’s fourth album, Mama Said Knock You Out (1990) became his biggest seller to date, landing him his first Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. By the late ‘90s, LL also became established as a serious actor, appearing in films such as B.A.P.S. (1997), Halloween H20 (1998), and Any Given Sunday (1999). Today, LL’s discography is thirteen full-length projects deep, with his acting resume even longer. In 2016, he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and continues to build his legacy as one of the hardworking and influential household names in both the music and entertainment industries alike.

With a focus on revitalizing old school hip-hop, Lootpack has been captivating underground rap fans since the beloved collective’s conception in the early ‘90s. Composed of members Madlib (Otis Jackson Jr.), Wildchild (Jack Brown), and DJ Romes (Romeo Jimenez), the longtime friends formed an official group during college, all while pursuing respective solo careers. In 1993, Lootpack made their first appearance on The Alkaholiks debut album, 21 & Over. In 1996, Lootpack released their debut project on vinyl, Ill Psych Move EP, through Crate Digga’s Palace—a label founded by Madlib’s father, Otis Jackson Sr. With their first recorded material, the group caught the attention of Stones Throw founder Peanut Butter Wolf (Chris Manak), who signed them to the iconic label shortly thereafter. Through the imprint, Lootpack released a slew of promotional singles (“The Anthem,” “Whenimondamic,” and “Questions”) leading up to the release of their first proper full-length Soundpieces: Da Antidote (officially released in 1999). Although the project wasn’t a commercial success by definition, those lucky enough to discover it responded with remarkably high praise.

Following what would eventually become their lone studio effort, Lootpack took a break from the studio, but continued to tour together as a group over the next few years. Although their first album has not seen an official follow-up to date, all three of Lootpack’s members have collaborated on other projects and established their own solo careers. DJ Romes went on to release a break beat record (2001’s Hamburger Hater Breaks) while Madlib earned significant clout as a legendary producer on the rise. That same year, Lootpack put together a documentary film to share their story, aptly titled Da Packumentary. After releasing a loose single in 2002 (“Movies 2 Groupies”), Lootpack curated a compilation of previously unreleased material in 2004, titled Lost Tapes. Next to Wildchild’s Secondary Protocol, a 2003 studio effort featuring each Lootpack member, the Lost Tapes are as close as Lootpack fans came to receiving a second album.

Robert Hall Jr., better known as Lord Finesse, is a rapper and producer from The Bronx, New York. He is the founder of the rap collective D.I.T.C. (“Diggin In The Crates”), which initially included rapper/producer Diamond D plus Showbiz & AG, but then expanded to include Fat Joe, O.C., Buckwild, and Big L.

After creating a local buzz with rapping, Finesse teamed up with DJ Mike Smooth in the late ‘80s and signed a deal with Wild Pitch Records in 1989. The pair released their debut album Funky Technician in 1990.

While critically acclaimed and featuring production from the likes of DJ Premier, Diamond D and Showbiz, the album was not a commercial success, peaking at Number 93 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.

Parting ways with Mike Smooth and signing to Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate Management, Finesse released 1992’s Return of the Funky Man as a solo effort, which doubled as his debut as a producer. Though he released one more album in 1996 (his highest-charting to date), it would be Finesse’s production career that would ultimately earn him a place in hip-hop’s elite.

Throughout his career, Finesse has produced for the likes of The Notorious B.I.G, Big L, Capone-N-Noreaga, Dr. Dre and many more.

In 2012, Finesse changed the landscape of mixtape sampling when he sued Mac Miller for $10 million for sampling his song “Hip 2 Da Game” on his 2010 mixtape, despite not having put the tape up for sale. They settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. To date, Finesse is still a prominent force within hip-hop, both on the music side and speaking on the state of the culture.