Madvillain is an esteemed hip-hop group comprised of New York-based emcee MF DOOM (born Daniel Dumille) and Los Angeles’ Madlib (born Otis Jackson). The pair joined forces in 2002 when they first began recording what would become their critically acclaimed debut, Madvillainy. Madlib, Stones Throw’s prized producer, worked on the instrumentals for the project during a trip to Brazil—infamously utilizing minimal amounts of equipment and sampling from distinctively obscure vinyl. All the while, DOOM—the enigmatic emcee reputed for wearing a mask—happily occupied his Madvillain counterpart’s studio in Mount Washington. As the two were working remotely, the unfinished demo was stolen and leaked online, roughly 14 months before its slated release. Understandably frustrated, both artists chose to focus on individual endeavors, with Madlib releasing 2003’s Champion Sound with J. Dilla (as Jaylib) and DOOM releasing two solo projects: Take Me To Your Leader (as King Geedorah) and Vaudeville Villain (as Viktor Vaughn) that same year.

Fortunately, the pair decided to revisit Madvillainy later on, with DOOM drastically altering his voice to be more mellow and relaxed, while Madlib got out of changing some of the beats by convincing the label he forgot which samples he used. The album saw a proper release in 2004, and was met with rave reviews, later becoming one of Stones Throw’s best-selling albums. After becoming an underground phenomenon, the album was given the official remix treatment, with Fourtet and Koushnik both reworking the project in 2005 for two separate EPs. The album’s original creators later remixed the project as well, releasing Madvillainy 2: The Madlib Remix in 2008. The next year, it was announced that the pair were working on a second release together. However, as diehard fans can sadly attest, the project has yet to see the light of day, with Madlib explaining during a 2014 interview that it is up to DOOM whether or not they ever finish it. Despite only releasing one studio album and several loose singles, Madvillain’s legacy influenced a generation of artists and remains one of the most beloved partnerships in hip-hop history to date.

When LA’s own Murs linked with North Carolina’s 9th Wonder, it was quickly evident that the pairing was divine. Murs’s top-tier lyricism mixed with 9th Wonder’s multifaceted talents as producer, rapper and DJ yielded six studio albums to date. Each project garnered critical acclaim and fan praise, further solidifying their legacies within hip-hop beyond their respective solo careers.

Their first collaboration Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition released via El-P’s Definitive Jux imprint in 2004, with the label boss himself executive producing the project. The album was celebrated amongst the hip-hop literati, resulting in an 85 score on Metacritic. Commercially, it peaked at No. 87 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart, as well as No. 16 on the Top Independent Albums chart. Their second effort, 2006’s Murray’s Revenge, became Murs’s first release to enter the Billboard 200. Notably, the 10-track collection is free from profanity, a detail that separates the project from the vast majority of contemporary hip-hop albums. Two years later, 9th Wonder and Murs released Sweet Lord—a project where fans could access it for free online, provided they purchased each member’s solo efforts.

In 2010, their fourth collaboration Fornever was released, remaining true to their 10-track formula. Their fifth album—2012’s The Final Adventure—released via Jamla Records with only one guest appearance by Rapsody. Conversely, Murs and 9th Wonder’s most recent release—the 12-track Brighter Days—arrived on New Year’s Eve in 2015 with no dearth of cameos, as the sixth studio album featured the likes of Rapsody, Mac Miller, and more.

 

California native Madlib (born Otis Jackson Jr.) is a multitalented recording artist who infamously describes himself as a “DJ first, producer second, and MC last.” While most commonly known by his moniker, Madlib, he has released music under a variety of pseudonyms throughout the course of his career. Born into a musically gifted family, Madlib grew up exposed to a variety of musical genres, with hip-hop specifically winning him over. In 1990, his Madlib alias was born, as he joined the trio Lootpack along with his friends DJ Romes and Wildchild. Lootpack released their first project The Psyche Move EP in 1995 via Crate Digga’s Palace, a label funded by Madlib’s father. This led them to sign to Peanut Butter Wolf’s Stones Throw label, which Madlib would end up calling his longtime home. Lootpack’s debut album, Soundpieces: Da Antidote arrived in 1999. By this time Madlib was keeping busy with other projects as a producer, as well as trying out his Quasimoto alias. In 2000, he released his first project as Quasimoto, The Unseen, which featured treated and distinctively high-pitched vocals and spacious, jazzy production. The next handful of years saw many fruitful collaborations—working with his former Lootpack affiliate, Wildchild, on Secondary Protocol, teaming up with J. Dilla as Jaylib, plus releasing music with MF Doom under the name Madvillian. His production credits include De La Soul, Dudley Perkins, Mos Def, Guilty Simpson, Ghostface Killah, Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, Kanye West and more. With an extensive discography spanning over two decades, including his notable 13-part series Medicine Show—which saw the release of one album a month for a full year—Madlib is one of the most celebrated and creative artists to emerge from the early ‘90s.

Marco Bruno, better known by his alias Marco Polo, was born in Toronto, but moved to New York City to pursue his career as a producer. After enrolling in an audio engineering school in 1999—and buying his first MPC with his student loans—Marco Polo worked as an unpaid intern at the Cutting Room Studios in Manhattan once he moved to NYC in 2000. The job proved to be fortuitous as he met the legendary Masta Ace. The Brooklyn veteran emcee was looking for beats at the time, resulting in Marco Polo landing his first major placement on Masta Ace’s 2004 record A Long Hot Summer. With the beat floodgates open, Marco Polo then found himself working as an in-house producer for indie imprint Soulspazm, going on to produce for Sadat X’s Black October, as well as several projects for Boot Camp Clik. Marco Polo released his first solo beat CD Canned Goods in 2005 via Rasco’s Pockets Limited imprint. Two years later, he made his debut on Rawkus Records, releasing his production album, Port Authority in 2007. In 2009, he released a joint album with Torae, Double Barrel, on Duck Down Records. Marco Polo has since built an ever-growing list of production credits, working with the likes of Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch, Large Professor, The Demigodz, R.A. The Rugged Man, A-F-R-O, Styles P, and more. He is best known for championing the ‘90s boom-bap sound, utilizing samples, heavy bass, and expertly arranged drums in his work. Aside from producing for others, Marco Polo’s latest release Kartagina arrived in 2014 and was created alongside Polish rapper O.S.T.R.

Originally, the singer Mayer Hawthorne (born Andrew Cohen) was a member of hip-hop groups Athletic Mic League and Now On. The DJ/Producer would begin to make recordings that evoked the ‘60s and ‘70s soul music as a joke, only to have it catch on and result in a label deal with Stones Throw Records.

In 2008, he released his first official single, “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out”/”When I Said Goodbye.” Almost a year later, his debut album A Strange Arrangement (produced entirely by him) was released, breaking into the Billboard 200.

His sophomore album How Do You Do dropped in 2011 to more fanfare, with it being released under the Universal Republic Records label. Mayer’s overall nostalgic soul vibe was preserved for a wider audience making it a top 10 R&B/Hip-Hop album. The album even included a collaboration with Snoop Dogg titled “Can’t Stop.”

The follow-up to his 2011 effort Where Does This Door Go? released in 2013. Mayer would broaden his collaborative roster to include working with Pharrell Williams, producer Jack Splash, Warren “Oak” Felder, and rapper Kendrick Lamar. The effort paid off, with the album breaking the top 30 of the Billboard 200 and once again giving the singer a top 10 R&B album.

In 2016, the singer released Man About Town, continuing his soul inclinations and resulting in favorable reviews. Since then, he’s formed projects with other producers and artists under the names Tuxedo and Jaded Incorporated.

Murs (born Nick Carter) is a Los Angeles born-and-bred emcee. His moniker is an acronym holding several meanings, including “Making the Universe Recognize and Submit” and “Making Underground Raw S**t.” He formed the group 3 Melancholy Gypsy with classmates Scarub and Eligh, joining the Living Legends collective in 1996. Murs released his debut solo album F’Real in 1997 and followed up the project in 2000 with Murs Rules the World. In 2002 he joined the group Felt with Slug of Atmosphere and together they released A Tribute to Christina Ricci and A Tribute to Lisa Bonet—two projects that showcased Murs’s willingness to experiment artistically. His third solo album, 2003’s The End of the Beginning, marked his first release on El-P’s Definitive Jux imprint. A year later, he released Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition, an album entirely produced by 9th Wonder. Following this collaborative effort, Murs and 9th Wonder released a second album together in 2006, titled Murray’s Revenge, with the two later joining forces again for Fornever in 2010. In 2008, Murs signed with Warner Bros. Records, releasing his debut under the imprint Murs For President that same year. The following years saw the releases of 2012’s This Generation with Fashawn and 2013’s The Ghetto is Trying to Kill Me—a loose concept album created alongside music journalist Sacha Jenkins and Bad Brains bassist Darryl Jenifer. He signed with Tech N9ne’s label Strange Music in 2014, releasing his first solo album after a seven-year hiatus, Have a Nice Life, in 2015. He later dropped Captain California in 2017. By consistently releasing albums and collaborating with different acts, Murs continues to reinvent himself. He even challenged himself to secure a Genius World Record for rapping non-stop for 24-hours, a feat he accomplished during a live stream on Twitch.tv in 2016.

Mobb Deep is a hip-hop duo from Queensbridge, New York, comprised of rappers Prodigy and Havoc. Known for their gritty, New York City sound and unapologetic tales of their reality in the streets, the pair helped shape the scope of the East Coast hip-hop scene in the ‘90s. They are regarded as one of the most successful duos in the genre to date.

The pair first met in high school, starting a group together in 1992 known as the Poetical Prophets. A year later, they released their debut album Juvenile Hell as Mobb Deep—though they wouldn’t see commercial success until their sophomore effort The Infamous in 1995. Their next two releases (1996’s Hell On Earth and 1999’s Murda Muzik) were even more commercially successful, solidifying their spot amongst East Coast hip-hop’s elite.

Beef also played a major role in the Mobb Deep legacy, with the duo being part of the East vs. West rivalry in the ‘90s after responding to Tha Dogg Pound’s “New York, New York” track, eventually sparking a vicious exchange with Tupac Shakur, highlighted on Pac’s nefarious cut “Hit Em Up.”

In 2001, Jay Z mocked the duo by placing a childhood photo of Prodigy in front of a stadium crowd at Hot97’s Summer Jam, and debuting his diss track, “Takeover.” They responded on their album Infamy later that year with the cut “The Learning (Burn).”

Mobb Deep released two more albums in the years following—including 2006’s Blood Money during their brief run on G-Unit Records. In 2007, Prodigy was sentenced to three and a half years in prison (released in 2011), forcing a hiatus upon the group. The duo had a brief split, where group troubles were detailed in Prodigy’s first memoir My Infamous Life, as well as some public spatting over social media. By 2013, they reunited and continue to tour and record music, both separately and together.

To date, Mobb Deep has released eight studio albums together, with record sales totaling over three million. Prodigy has also sustained a successful solo career, as has Havoc, even producing for the likes of Kanye West, 50 Cent, and more.

Masta Ace (born Duval Clear) is a rapper from Brooklyn, NY, known for his storytelling capabilities and often heralded as one of the pioneers of New York hip-hop. He is also a member of the rap collective, eMC, formed in 2001 with Stricklin, Wordsworth, and Punchline.

While attending college in the late ‘80s, Ace met Marley Marl, and was given the chance to rap on his 1988 song, “The Symphony.” The track also featured Juice Crew members Craig G, Kool G Rap, and Big Daddy Kane, and appeared on Marl’s album In Control, along with two other songs that Ace was featured on.

The following year, Masta Ace released his debut single, and in 1990, released his debut album, Take A Look Around via Marley Marl’s record label. The album was a moderate commercial success and well received within the hip-hop community, as it touched upon pertinent issues like conflict with urban youth, among others.

His sophomore effort—1993’s Slaughtahouse—introduced his crew, Masta Ace Incorporated, which featured EyceUrokk, Lord Digga, Paula Perry, and Leschea. The album spawned Ace’s first Hot 100 hit, which was quickly followed up by a second Hot 100 hit when Ace did the title track of the album soundtrack for Spike Lee’s Crooklyn with Special Ed and Buckshot that same year.

Ace’s 1995 effort, Sittin’ on Chrome, was his most commercially successful album to date, and included Masta Ace Incorporated (also known as The I.N.C.). However, the group went their separate ways following its release. Ace wouldn’t release another album for six years, though he did appear on numerous singles.

To date, Masta Ace has released six solo albums, three albums as part of eMC, and one collaborative album with Ed O.G.

Method Man is a Grammy Award-winning rapper and actor, who originally got his start as part of the rap collective Wu-Tang Clan.

The Long Island native met up with Wu-Tang creator Rza in the early ‘90s after being impressed with a tape he’d heard from the producer, and the group was born soon after. After seeing breakout success with their debut album Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, Method became the first member to release a solo effort. Tical was released in 1994 via Def Jam, debuting at Number 4 on the Billboard 200 and going on to sell over one million units.

The following year, Mary J. Blige would remix the Tical track “All I Need,” leading to a Grammy Award for the pair for Best Rap Performance By a Duo Or Group.

While he continued to record as a solo artist and with Wu-Tang, Method Man began his acting career. First featured in the film Belly in 1998, Method also landed roles in prominent shows and films like Oz, The Wire, CSI, Soul Plane, Garden State and more.

In 1999, Meth and frequent collaborator Redman decided to team up for a joint album titled Blackout! The album’s success would launch a lucrative path for the duo, leading to the feature film How High, as well as numerous endorsements, tours and even a short-lived FOX sitcom, “Method & Red.”

To date, Method Man has released five solo albums, two albums as part of Method Man & Redman, a collaborative album with Wu-Tang groupmates Ghostface Killah and Raekwon, and six albums as part of Wu-Tang Clan.