Where have the rap crews gone? It’s as if these noble beasts were wiped out by a mysterious extinction. How was it that after 2003 the megafauna of the world of rap vanished? Was it an earthquake or a pandemic virus that took them out? An asteroid impact?
The truth is a little more mundane. We stopped listening. Well, that’s oversimplifying things, but the core reason behind the crews’ disappearance is that listeners stopped listening to group efforts. Granted, there are groups like Lil Wayne’s Young Money, but those acts are not much more than pomp. When I say rap crews, I’m not talking about Kanye West collaborating with John Legend and Kid Cudi. That’s simply a collaboration between the rap world’s supernovae.
When I think of rap crews, I think of groups like Wu-Tang Klan, Pharcyde, and Jurassic 5. The members become renowned, but their roots are in cooperative music, where the gestalt of the group’s sound takes precedence over the individual’s ego. The ’80s and ’90s were replete with crews. It was the norm. While all crews might not be everyone’s cup of tea — and perhaps I’m glamorizing the inner workings of “the crew” — the music that we’ve been left with by the crews of the past 20 years is a testament to incredible, well-oiled, rap-blasting machines.
If you’d like to help bring back these noble beasts, be sure to give the Pittsburgh-based Shindiggaz a listen. In 2010 the group released its first album, Saturday Morning Special. It is a throwback to the ’80s television that the group’s members grew up on, and it is a scorcher. Tight production and raw raps make the album a solid piece of work that the Shindiggaz describe on their website as “a neck-snapping boom bap that meets MCs bouncing off the walls with your fondest childhood memories of watchin’ TV, dancing on top of ’em with timbs on.” Since Saturday Morning Special, they’ve been banging out EPs, albums, and videos. You can find this living breathing crew on shindiggaz.bandcamp.com.