Hip-hop is a genre built on five cultural elements: emceeing, break dancing, deejaying, beat boxing and the art of graffiti. Since hip-hop’s birth, another element has been important in its cultivation and dissemination: the crew.
The crew used to be a rapper’s entourage, typically people to provide support, if only of the wallet-draining kind. Of late, the crew is made up of second-team rappers or hypemen who, at the very least, have perfected the look of a successful rapper. That’s not saying much, especially since hip-hop, in its third decade, has aged into a genre that values appearances over skills. The hip-hop crew remains visible, and on Tuesday when The MMG Tour stops at the Colonial Life Arena, arguably hip-hop’s most successful crew of the last five years will be on the stage. Maybach Music Group is the roster that has formed with the oversized rapper Rick Ross at its center.
Ross has continued an improbable ascendancy, particularly since his credibility and authenticity has been repeatedly questioned. When Ross signed Wale and Meek Mill, the move seemed to be counterintuitive. One, Wale, was on his way to the budget-rapper bin, and the other, Meek Mill, was known as a battle rapper. But with the two, Ross has built one of the most recognized and targeted crews in hip-hop.
A rapper’s top-tier resume isn’t complete without building a crew. Rza constructed Wu-Tang Clan into a mythological collective. Jay-Z created a conglomeration with Roc-a-Fella Records and, this summer, Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music clique had people saying “Mercy.”
Some crews fail while others prosper — for a trend cycle. It’s hard to maintain success, even as Jay-Z has found out. Here are some of our favorite crews of the last 20 years.
Maybach Music Group
No Limit Records