The Wu-Tang Clan and A Tribe Called Quest are two of my favorite groups of all time. The problem is not too many people know about either one of them unless they are really into hip-hop, so let's fix that.
The Wu-Tang Clan came on the scene in 1993 with the debut CD "Enter the Wu-Tang." The group is comprised of several rappers from Staten Island who have a deep love for Kung Fu movies, hence the band's name. The members include RZA (founding member and producer for all their albums); GZA (RZA'S cousin, the most lyrical of all the members); Raekwon (his rap is from the streets); GhostFace Killah (he has the most to say); the late Ol' Dirty Bastard (the wildest of the bunch); Method Man (the clown); Inspectah Deck (the quitest and most laid-back ); and Masta Killa and U-God.
When the band broke out in the early '90s, it did something new by bringing raw emotion to hip-hop. At the time, the Beastie Boys and Run DMC were doing the three-man party music thing. Wu-Tang busted the barrier with more rappers, gritty beats and real lyrics about urban life. It shouldn't have worked (three personalities are enough for any band or group to juggle, but eight?). It's a miracle that it worked.
Today, after several albums and the death of Ol' Dirty Bastard in '04 (R.I.P.), the members of Wu-Tang Clan are each working on solo projects, but I'm hoping the Clan comes together for one more album.
On the other side of the spectrum is A Tribe Called Quest. The band consists of four rappers: Q Tip (producer/rapper); Phife Dog (rapper); Ali Shaheed Muhammad (producer/DJ) and Jarobi White (rapper). These four guys from Queens were doing the party music that Wu-Tang Clan was so drastically getting away from in the '90s ('95 to be exact), but they sprinkled in some social commentary. Their questions are set to good beats and are always thought-provoking but never overdone or overbearing.
A Tribe Called Quest is great if you want something smooth to just chill to instead of the Wu-Tang's heavy urban sensibilities. Yet the great thing about both groups is no matter how different they are from one another, they send messages about all aspects of life through poetry and beats. So try one or try both. The Tribe and the Clan go hand and hand.