The 10 greatest hip hop duos
Hip Hop is home to some of the most talented individuals in the world. But collaboration and killer duos have made their mark on the landscape. Here are our biggest Hip Hop duos.
Eric B and Rakim
The elite, the originators and without doubt the reason so many hip hop duos have found success. Eric B providing the beats and the reality spitting perfection of Rakim just made for the most incredible combination. In an era where most MC’s were spitting fire, Rakim went for the slow burn. A different, moodier style which was exhibited perfectly on the incredible Paid In Full. Blending beats and reality, this story of hustle was a powerful window on the world. Don’t Sweat the Technique followed and cuts from their entire catalogue featured on movie soundtracks such as House Party 2 and American Psycho. To say that the pair had a seriously huge influence on every MC and producer that followed is undeniable.
Snoop and Dre
Dr. Dre has always had an eye - and an ear for talent and his Spidey senses were certainly on fire when he began to work with Calvin Broadus AKA Snoop Dogg. Stepping behind the desk, Dre produced Snoop’s debut album - Doggystyle and brought us such essentials as Gin and Juice and What’s My Name? The Next Episode, Still D.R.E. and so many others over the years. The connection between talent and producer is always so important and the connection between Snoop and Dre is without doubt symbiotic. Despite their long careers, both are still grafting in the studio so the potential of new material from the pair is always in the air.
It’s fair to say that Andre 3000 and Big Boi completely changed the game when they broke through. Bursting out of the South in the early 90’s with Players Ball - a Billboard number 1 rap hit - their use of funk, live instruments caught rap fans cold as they fell in love with a different sound to anything else around at the time. Truly bursting through with the epic Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, Andre and Big Boi made everyone’s ears stand on end. Over the years the duo continued to experiment and innovate as they truly owned that Southern Hip Hop sound. In 1995 the boys had their true star moment with Elevators (me and you) from ATLiens where they flipped the current trends in rap on their head and slowed things down with this radio smash. Going on to score hits with B.O.B. and the monster hit Ms. Jackson, the boys crossed fully into the mainstream charts and continued to show off their skills switching up their styles and going on to create that epic double album Speakerboxx/The Love Below showcasing their solo styles. Oh and don’t sleep on the movie Idlewild.
The OG’s of jazz rap. DJ Premier and Guru are the pair that brought the Gang Starr name into international recognition as they signed to Chrysalis Records who told them to basically create music however they liked. With enough freedom to create a unique sound, the pair dropped hits like Mass Appeal, Above the Clouds, Take It Personal and more. Flipping up their style and going more aggressive, Gang Starr defined a generation having been inspired by the likes of Public Enemy, Run DMC and other East Coast stars. Premier and Guru pioneered with a mix of unique rhymes and beats unrivalled to this day. Sadly Guru passed away in 2010, however their legacy remains and holds influence in modern day entertainment, just take a look at the titles of Luke Cage episodes for proof.
The kings of production Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo went by the name of The Neptunes and were responsible for several catalogues of hits., You’ll no doubt have heard us play Wreckx-N-Effect’s Rump Shaker on Mom’s Spaghetti, well the Neptunes wrote that… whilst they were still in school! Teddy Riley spotted the potential early and shot Pharrell and Chad to superstardom getting the pair in the studio with the finest in the industry. From rap to pop, the pair became the go to choice for making a hit. Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and others benefitted from their signature sounds gaining worldwide hits, whilst Jay-Z and Mystikal also tapped the duo up for some of their biggest chart successes. The pair also released music of their own including the incredible Rockstar/Rapstar and She Wants to Move. Behind the desk or in front of the mic, The Neptunes only drop bangers.
Method Man and Redman
Meth and Red truly lived the dream. Two mates who got to make music, hit the big time and had more fun than seemed possible doing it. Getting together ‘officially’ in 94, it took the top FIVE years to release material. Going on to work with legends like LL Cool J and 2Pac, the pair were never far away from the studio and even when they went to record their own material, be it solo or with others, they’d regularly refer to each other somehow in those songs. Crossing over from music to movies and beyond, Meth and Red created How High, a stoner comedy which has a threequel in production right now and also a very short lived TV series called Meth and Red. Need evidence of their pedigree? Check out their recent Verzuz event.
Jay Z and Kanye West
Two of the biggest hip hop, musical and cultural titans working together was always going to produce something special and that is exactly what it did. The height of their collaborative efforts came with Watch The Throne, which turns ten years old in 2021 and spawned huge hits including the club banger Paris - a song the pair famously played multiple times at the end of their tour sets and features on every essential hip hip playlist. Having started working together in the 90’s as West was brought in at Roc-A-Fella Records as a producer, the pair collaborated on a huge number of hits and formed what seemed to be a big brother/little brother relationship. There was the MTV/Taylor Swift incident, the collabs on The Blueprint III (Run This Town), the underrated banger, Clique and so many more before they dropped Watch the Throne hitting the peak of their success. As with all partnerships, there was friction, Channel 5 even made a documentary about it and the pair have spoken about their relationship candidly over the years. With 2021 being the testimonial year for Watch The Throne, will the pair reunite for something special? Here’s hoping.
Straight out of Queens, Cheryl James, Sandra Denton and DJ Spindarella were the embodiment of the term sass before it was even a thing. Not afraid to talk about taboos with their lyrics, Salt’N’Pepa were in your face, cheeky, charming and could rhyme with the best of them. Iconic tunes like Let’s Talk About Sex and Push It propelled them to stardom, but personally I’ve got a soft spot for Shoop and not just because it was in Deadpool! Of course their huge crossover collar with En Vogue - Whatta Man broke the charts and even featured as a live entrance for former NFL player Lawrence Taylor for his entrance at WrestleMania XI. You may recall hearing a new version of the tune recently as the girls all got together to perform in Coming 2 America.
Dr Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince
Rap stars, pop stars, TV stars and at one point the absolute kings of youth culture, DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince were at one point on top of the world. Parents Just Don’t Understand was the anthem of every teen in the late 80’s, perfectly laying out their feelings and later Summertime was THE jam for every party, BBQ or mixtape. Truly breaking through in the UK off the back of Will and Jazz being a part of the biggest show in the world - The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the duo dropped Boom! Shake the Room, which went on to be a UK number 1 and the sound of the summer of 93. Whereas the pair split in the late 90’s, they remain friends and have performed together at a number of gigs. Will Smith went on to have a successful solo career along with dominating Hollywood and the pairs influence still remains on some of the biggest pop/rap acts now.
Culturally important, innovators and influencers, Prodigy and Havoc AKA Mobb Deep have to be on this list. Commercially the pair sold over three million records and have been credited as being the leaders of the East Coast Hip Hop movement. Spotted early by the legendary Q Tip, Prodigy and Havoc went on to pave the way for the East Coasts finest such as Notorious B.I.G. Jay-Z, Nas and more. Scoring huge hits with the likes of Shook Ones and Survival of the Fittest, the duo were critically acclaimed, including scoring a legendary five mics in the Source. Their involvement in the East Coast/West Coast feud put them in the minds of many who may not have heard them before as their names were mixed in with the huge commercial stars of the time. Sadly Prodigy has passed, but Havoc continues to work on new music and the potential of music under the Mobb Deep name is still possible.