The Onion AV Club is, for those who don’t know, surprisingly knowledgeable about hip hop and music in general. For a site whose mainstay is satire and mockery, these people take their stuff very seriously!
This article in particular was a nice little trip through classic hip hop and an interesting look through several major groups and a look at why they may have never hit the big time. Or why they lacked some staying power.
In particular, I loved that there were several groups on there that I’ve had little to no contact with. Everyone knows and is upset about the fact that Digable Planets never stuck around, or that Arrested Development peaked early. There’s argument to be made that some of the others have kept things up.
But groups like this are way beyond this:
5. P.M. Dawn
KRS-One famously bum-rushed a P.M. Dawn show after the duo’s frontman Prince Be asked of the rap legend in an interview with Details, “KRS-One wants to be a teacher, but a teacher of what?” KRS-One needn’t have worried about P.M. Dawn’s lasting influence on hip-hop, however. Like many of the acts here, P.M. Dawn was a meteorite, not a planet; it burned brightly, then died. The duo shook up hip-hop with a radically different aesthetic: Prince Be took De La Soul’s quickly discarded “D.A.I.S.Y. Age” vibe to new heights of hippified mellowness, dressing like he was perennially headed to Woodstock, performing a duet with Boy George on the group’s second album, and titling its fourth album Dearest Christian, I’m So Very Sorry For Bringing You Here. Love, Dad. In other words, he did everything in his power to push P.M. Dawn to the very fringes of the pop and hip-hop world and ensure that no one followed in the group’s nakedly sincere, psychedelic, overtly Christian path. In recent years, Prince Be has had a lot more to worry about than falling out of fashion with hip-hop fans: He’s has had two strokes, one of which led to the partial amputation of a gangrene-infected leg, though he still managed to release this year’s desperate-sounding Greatest Hits Live!
Number 10 is one that I actually kind of agree with. Bubba Sparxx. Yes, I know, I know. A dirty little secret. But I stand by the fact that Deliverance had a lot more to it than most people want to admit.
10. Bubba Sparxxx
Timbaland and protégé Bubba Sparxxx had an audacious, unique vision for Deliverance, Sparxxx’s follow-up to his major-label debut Dark Days, Bright Nights: fusing bluegrass and socially conscious hip-hop to create a whole new subgenre with deep roots in the red clay of the Dirty South. To that end, the album combined freaky Timbaland drum patterns with the playing of the Yonder Mountain String Band and Area Code 615 in a way that made bluegrass and hip-hop fans sit up and say, “Huh?” followed by “Wha?” and ultimately “Meh.” Sparxxx left Timbaland’s Beat Club label and released another winner in 2006, The Charm. But fiddles and steel guitar were conspicuously absent on the disc, and its hit single, “Ms. New Booty,” could never be accused of trying anything revolutionary, or even particularly different.
Last, a little Canadian influence for all y’all out there.
15. Buck 65
Considering how little Buck 65’s name gets bandied about today, in hip-hop circles and elsewhere, it can be easy to forget what an explosive impact the This Right Here Is Buck 65 compilation made in early 2005. The Canadian rapper-singer-songwriter was hailed as hip-hop’s next bold evolutionary step forward for his genre-mashing collision of hip-hop, talking blues, gothic country, surrealistic imagery, and art-school pretension. Buck 65 was supposed to be the David Lynch of hip-hop, a singular weirdo following a crazed muse wherever it led. But all the press and critical hosannas didn’t lead to much commercial success. Buck 65’s career didn’t blow up so much as slowly fade away.