Last week Method Man and Redman put on quite the show with their appearance on the Verzuz series. The way they played their rhymes and energy off of one another had us thinking about what were some of the greatest hip-hop duos of all time.
So we have put together a list. It's split into two parts. This is part one which will cover the 80s and 90s periods. Part two will drop next week and cover the 2000s to today.
These are in no particular order, just highlighting the best.
Considered one of the best MC and producer duos in hip hop history. Often seen as pioneers of jazz rap. A lot of their records are still used in freestyles and mixtapes. Their impact is even felt beyond hip hop. Each episode of the first season of the Netflix series Luke Cage was named after one of their songs. RIP to Guru who died in 2010 after suffering a heart attack.
MC OJ & Rhythm Slave
This New Zealand duo is comprised of Otis Fizzell, son of Dick Fizzell, and Mark Williams. Otis is known for his work in graffiti art under the name of Opto and as MC Slave Mark produces. The pair met at Selwyn College during the late 80s. They are best known for their 1990 single "That's The Way (Positivity)." The song is based around a sample of "That's The Way (I Like It)" by KC and the Sunshine Band. It peaked at #12 on the NZ Top 40. Their second single "Money Worries" peaked at #36. Since their music career the two have expanded into other areas, one including being the hosts of the long running True School Hip Hop Show.
Method Man & Redman
The duo that inspired this list with their recent Verzuz appearance. What makes this pairing great is that each rapper is incredible as a solo artist and when they link up their firepower multiplies exponentially. The way they play with one another on their tracks is unrivalled. They also have found success in TV and film, their movie How High is certainly a stoner classic. Certainly this duo is found at the top of most greatest lists.
Erick Sermond and Parrish Smith make up EPMD which stands for "Erick and Parrish Making Dollars." The east coast during the 90s was certainly in no shortage of hip-hop duos and EPMD is another representation of that. Every album from the duo includes the word "business" in some fashion, and every album will also have a track with "Jane" in the title.
This duo embodied the representation of east coast hip-hop in the mid 90s. Members Havoc and Prodigy met in high school. Their second album The Infamous is consistently recognized as one of the best hip-hop albums ever made. "Shook Ones Part II" is seen as one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time. RIP to Prodigy who died in June 2017.
Holding it down for the ladies of hip-hop is Brenda Makamoeafi and Hassanah Igroegbu. The pair met at the age of 13 at Hilary College in Otara, South Auckland. Their debut single "In The Neighbourhood" is regarded as a landmark single for South Auckland and NZ music as a whole. It peaked at #6 on the New Zealand singles chart. The duo won Most Promising Group at the 1995 New Zealand Music Awards and the video for "In The Neighbourhood" was nominated for best music video at the 1995 NZ Film and Television awards. Brenda Makamoeafi (now Brenda Pua) lives in Australia, and Hassanah Iroegbu lives in Florida.
Probably the youngest pair you'll find on our list. Chris "Mac Daddy" Kelly and Chris "Daddy Mac" Smith found success at just 12 and 13 years old. Discovored by Jermaine Dupri in 1991 their debut single rocked the charts and inspired fashion choices of teens worldwide with their signature style of wearing their clothes backwards. Chris "Mac Daddy" Kelly died of a drug overdose in 2013.
Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg
Just might be the loosest definition of a duo on our list. But what can't be ignored is the contribution to hip-hop that has been made through the combined efforts of one of the best hip-hop producers of all time in Dr. Dre and an equally revered rapper in Snoop Dogg. To say that The Chronic and Doggystyle are crucial to hip-hop history doesn't even scratch the surface. These two helped define what gangsta rap was.
Easily the pole runners for southern hip-hop in the 90s and duos in general. The run this duo had is unmatched. Comprised of Atlanta rappers Andre "3000" Benjamin and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton. They are recognized for their lyricism and melodies that stood out in a hip-hop scene dominated by the east and west coasts.
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
This duo is history making. The Philadelphia pair received the first Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance in 1989. they are also responsible for the song which has been the soundtrack to summers since 1991. Even as The Fresh Prince evolved into Will Smith megastar, as he embarked on a solo career, you'll still find contributions from best friend DJ Jazzy Jeff on his albums.
Double J & Twice The T
The group is made of Samoan-New Zealand school friends Jerry Tala Brown and Jeremy Toomata. They originally met at Atahuhu college and started performing in 1988. At the 1989 New Zealand Music Awards the duo were nominated for three awards including Most Promising Group. Their debut album All Wrapped Up dropped in 1989 and produced 3 Top 10 singles on the NZ charts. The duo broke up in 1991.
Black Star features rappers Mos Def and Talib Kweli. As a duo they helped shape the sound of underground alternative rap and brought it into the mainstream. Their lyrics are full of social consciousness and political issues. Bursting onto the scene shortly after the murders of Biggie Smalls and Tupac they helped hip-hop culture move forward after the loss.
8Ball & MJG
The best duos aren't made of two rappers who are the same, the best comes from two emcees with different styles that also complement each other. 8Ball and MJG coming out of Memphis, Tennessee are certainly a representation of just that. The two met in middle school and established themselves as some of the south's best rappers in the 90s.
So there are 13 of the best hip-hop duos of the 80s and 90s eras. We'll dive into the 2000s with part two next week. But let us know if there is anyone from this era that you think we missed.