10 All-Time Best Rap and Hip-Hop Duos

Skills, Chemistry, and Cultural Impact

What defines a great rap duo? Skills? Chemistry? Cultural impact? How about a fusion of all three and more? When two powerful hip-hop forces combine, the outcome transcends mythical proportions and occasionally produces household names that are linked forever in music lore. Here are the 10 greatest duos in hip-hop history.

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Black Star

Rap duo Black Star
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Very few groups or duos will ever be mentioned among the upper echelons based on the strength of one great album. This is a club specially reserved for unique crews like The Fugees and Black Star. Mos Def and Talib Kweli tackled both political and personal misconceptions head-on on their self-titled opus.
Essential: Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star 

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Rappers Blackalicious
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Gift of Gab's delivery is ice water, his lyrics sophisticated and mesmerizing. Chief Xcel always seems to find the soup of sounds. Over the course of three remarkable albums, Blackalicious won the hearts of fans as well as critics.

Essential: Blazing Arrow

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Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth

Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth
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Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth's critically acclaimed album Mecca & the Soul Brother still sounds amazing today. As the Mecca to Pete Rock's Soul Brother, C.L. Smooth dazzled with a fresh flow that's all his and intricate wordplay on timeless hits like "The Main Ingredient," "Straighten It Out," and "They Reminisce Over You."
Essential: Mecca & The Soul Brother

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Run the Jewels

Rap duo Run the Jewels
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El-P and Killer Mike exemplify pure group chemistry. Where some tag teams are products of industry engineering, El and Mike genuinely respect each other's work. If they weren't members of the same rap outfit, they'd probably still hang out with each other to nerd out over hip-hop and compare sneakers. There's an apparent sense of mutual respect, and that's the driving force behind the albums.

Essential: Run the Jewels 2

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Mobb Deep

Rappers Mobb Deep 2017
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Mobb Deep represents the significance of striking a chord with your audience and sticking to it. These Queensbridge boys brought dun talk and hardcore beats to hip-hop's forefront. From rapid-fire gunplay to gritty hood narratives, Prodigy and Havoc never strayed from their niche far enough to fill their wall with platinum plaques. Instead, they stayed true to their QB roots and kept their sound drenched in street-hop.

Essential: The Infamous

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Eric B. & Rakim

Rakim In Concert - Atlanta, Georgia
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It's ​a credit to Rakim that his group made this list despite having one largely quiet member. Rakim changed the game with his flow, introducing more complex rhyming patterns to the art of emceeing. He also coined several phrases and sayings that are still in use today: "It ain't where you're from, it's where you at."

Essential: Paid In Full 

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Rap duo EPMD in 2016
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In case you had any doubt about Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith's impact, here's a reminder: EPMD is one of the most oft-sampled rap groups of all-time. If that doesn't scream impact, then their catalog rife with classic songs and memorable albums should do the trick. From sample-heavy anthems to feel-good bangers, EPMD always took care of business.

Essential: Strictly Business

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The rap duo UGK
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UGK was formed in the 80s when southern rap was merely a spec on the hip-hop map. Pimp C's deft production was the duo's main source of flavor. His melodic timbre and distinctive twang reeked off his dirty south heritage. Bun B complemented his partner with a surgical flow, replete with internal rhymes and rewind-worthy metaphors. UGK was instrumental in driving country-fried rap tunes (to borrow Pimp C’s words) to the front.
Essential: Ridin' Dirty

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Gang Starr

Gang Starr London 1990
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DJ Premier may well be the greatest hip-hop producer of all-time. Guru held his forte down as ​one-half of the legendary duo GangStarr, and could still kick a mean 16 until his unfortunate demise. In fact, the only other rapper (besides Guru) who can make magic in a monotone flow is Rakim. Collectively, Primo and Baldhead Slick amassed an enviable catalog of stellar albums.
Essential: Hard to Earn

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Andre 3000 and Big Boi of Outkast
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The incomparable duo of Andre 3000 and Big Boi emerged in the bling-bling era, but you wouldn't know it by how well they ignored the trends around them in favor of an original sound.

Big Boi, an urban prophet, always stayed true to himself and his Georgia roots. Andre 3000, one of the greatest MCs of our time, brought versatility and stacks of quotable rhymes. Together, they were unstoppable.

In 2004, OutKast became the first hip-hop collective (and the 2nd rap act) to win the prestigious Album of the Year Grammy with their 11x platinum opus, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Despite their mainstream maneuver, 'Kast never stopped pushing the envelope. Beat that.

Essential: Aquemini

Honorable Mentions

Organized Konfusion, Camp Lo, 8Ball & MJG, Method Man & Redman, and dead prez