While most people are hugging and kissing this Valentine’s Day, we at SOHH are wiping our eyes as we reminisce over the craziest and most puzzling hip-hop group splits from the past 20 years.
1. Terror Squad
Fat Joe and Big Pun were the name-brand attraction to Terror Squad, which also included fellow Bronx rappers Cuban Link, Armageddon, Prospect, and Triple Seis, along with singer Tony Sunshine. Terror Squad experienced a huge setback with the sudden passing away of Big Pun in February 2000. This essentially brought the group to an end, and while everyone else fell into obscurity, Fat Joe focused on his increasingly successful solo career. (All Music)
Terror Era? Not quite. It didn’t take long after the passing of Big Pun in 2000 before we saw the demise of the all-mighty Bronx crew. After Pun, Cuban Link would follow suit and even after the crew’s reemergence circa 2003, with Remy Ma as a frontrunner, poor records sales forced out members like Triple Seis, Armageddon and more.
2. Ruff Ryders
“I was just with Sheek [Louch] last night,” Drag-On told SOHH in 2010. “We were on the radio, just promoting our projects that we got coming out. Everybody’s still cool, you know what I’m saying? It never was no beef, you know what I’m saying? We just all had a lot of things on our plate and we just have to fulfill those needs right now. But other than that, everything else is still kosher. X is always gonna be like my big brother in this game, like, so X was the one that really showed us off. So he’s always gonna be my big brother in the game.” (SOHH)
Drag-On told SOHH there wasn’t any beef and we believe him. However, with DMX being more present on the jail block rather than sales charts, Eve‘s quest to dissociate herself from her ruff past, The LOX‘s publishing battles with Diddy and so on, its evident that these dogs have surpassed their last day as a collaborative crew.
Jay decided to sever business ties with his fellow founders; their stake in the company was sold back to Island Def Jam for a reported $10 million, while controlling interests in the remaining clothing, film, and alcohol ventures were sliced up. Jay signed a three-year contract to become president and CEO of Def Jam–a position he would leave in 2008 for Live Nation. He offered the rights to the name “Roc-a-Fella” to Dash and Biggs in exchange for the recording masters to Reasonable Doubt, but the pair wouldn’t make the deal. “We all earned those masters,” Dash says.This turn of events remains bewildering. “The people that I was helping, once they realized their dreams, they did what a criminal would do,” Dash continues. “They stabbed you in the back. Think about the frustration of building a brand for years that should be taking care of your family, and then the person that was the closest to you saying, ‘Nah, you can’t have no parts of it,’ and flushing it.” (Village Voice)
Remember the old Roc? We’re talking about Kanye West, Beanie Sigel, Amil, Memphis Bleek, State Property, Freeway, Peedi Crakk, Young Gunz, -this was the clique everyone wanted to be down with, and every aspiring rapper wanted to be signed to. However, numerous freestyles and interview bashing has revealed that what glitters isn’t always gold, and despite its perceived strength, a diamond can indeed be split.
“You know, I had went to New York, back and forth with N.W.A, and ended up being real cool with [then-Def Jam executives] Russell [Simmons] and Lyor [Cohen],” Ice Cube explained in an interview. “And they would have me come down to Rush [Management Offices] and I would f*ck with some of the biggest names in hip-hop at the time. EPMD came through; you’d see everybody walking through. From a person who was a hip-hop fan and then became entrenched in hip-hop as an artist it was cool to do. So when I went solo, I was like I wanted Dr. Dre to do AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, but Jerry Heller vetoed that. So since he vetoed that sh*t–and I’m pretty sure Eazy didn’t want Dre to do it. But Dre did want to do it; we gotta put that on record. Dre wanted to do my record, but it was just too crazy with the break-up of [N.W.A]. The break-up snowballed into some sh*t. I was talking to Lyor because I wanted Sam Sever [to produce my album]. Sam Sever did all the 3rd Bass sh*t and their beats were the sh*t at the time.” (XXL Mag)
You simply can’t take away what N.W.A. brought to the rap game. Just think about it in today’s context. Dr. Dre, Eazy-E and Ice Cube all in the same group is comparable to the Miami Heat with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Once Cube left the group and after a few disses slung at one another, N.W.A. quickly crumbled, but not without leaving an imprint on “gangster rap.”
5. Little Brother
“I was just thinking about our own situation and then I realized, when groups leave, it’s just like when a person dies. Every person dies and a baby is born. So, as Little Brother calls it quits, there are other groups to not necessarily take our place but to keep the tradition going…That’s what it’s all about — you don’t want your favorite group to force a relationship. Like, you don’t want Tribe Called Quest…If they don’t really want to be together, you want them to make another album. If they make an album just because you asked for it, it’s not going to be the same Tribe Called Quest you fell in love with. It’s going to be something forced.” (Hip Hop DX)
9th Wonder, Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh put North Carolina on the map with four studio albums and six mixtapes under their belts, and even Lil Wayne had get on a track with them. Each member has gone on to release separate projects, but after hearing news of Phonte and 9th’s personal reunion broke in January, we’ve got our fingers crossed for the trio to getback in the booth.
“I think in that situation, everybody lost,” Game said about his 2005 break-up with G-Unit. “I think when we were the mighty mighty G-Unit, we were strong and like the modern day N.W.A. and I think everybody suffered from the break. First and foremost, Yayo and Banks, and then Buck and then myself and 50. He’s not comfortable in hip-hop right now, I’m still here but it’s not what it was at its peak. Everybody is just maintaining what they have and even Dre and Em, the whole outfit. I think we would have been hundreds and millions of albums sold right now had we [stayed together.] But we didn’t and I don’t like to look back and regret, I just like to look and reflect, analyze the situation — and now it’s time to move on.” (“Jenny Boom Boom”)
What began as a three-member Queens team, 50 Cent, Tony Yayo and Lloyd Banks quickly blossomed into an all-star crew after drafting rappers like California’s Game and Tennessee’s Young Buck to would-be benchwarmers R&B singer Olivia, rap veterans M.O.P and Mobb Deep and even rapper-turned-pastor-turned-rapper Mase! Erase the Game, drop Olivia, etch and sketch out Mobb Deep & M.O.P., watch Mase disappear…again, and in 2011, we’re left with the starting three.
The duo split in January 1993, under controversial circumstances. According to interviews in The Source and Rap Pages, in late 1991, Parrish Smith’s house was burglarized by armed intruders. According to Smith, in the ensuing police investigation, one of the apprehended culprits supposedly gave up Sermon’s name as having allegedly paid them to do it. Erick Sermon was arrested and briefly detained for questioning, but no charges were filed. Still, it led to lingering tensions, and by the time of the break-up, Sermon alleged financial impropriety on Smith’s part. The duo found itself as solo artists by default. (Wikipedia)
Break-up to make-up is more like it. EPMD represented authentic hip-hop thoughout the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s. The way they broke up and later came back is beyond comprehension, especially when there is a conspiracy suggesting your own group member stood you up. Literally.
“Shout-out to my n*gga Cam,” Diplomat Hell Rell said in an on-street interview. “At the end of the day, after he closed the books, I pretty much went with my group which is Top Gunnas. Because we all know that Jim f*cked the [Dip]set up. He just f*cked the whole ‘set up. Denying the phone call, Cam called him, said he didn’t call him. He jumped on [Funkmaster] Flex and said he did call him. A whole bunch of bullsh*t like, f*cking up money man. That sh*t just had me mad man. I’m like come on man, you serious? Then he go out on Summer Jam, him and [Juelz] Santana, I love the movement, you know I love the ‘set, but they just tarnishing the name. They just f*cking this sh*t up. You know what I mean, everything that we built. That auto-tune sh*t ain’t us…Never was Dipset music, so all that other sh*t it’s just getting out of hand man. Ruger just gotta whip it back into shape man.” (Hip Hop Beef)
We’re still confused as to whether Dipset is still fully reunited. After Jim Jones and Juelz Santana demonstrated disinterest with respecting Cam’ron‘s image amidst his public war with 50 Cent in 2007, it makes you wonder if the wounds have completely healed.
9. Bad Boy
“I think the only person, man, that came away and walked off with a little bit of money is Ma$e and that’s praise God for the church, because you know on Sundays, when they be taking that offer, that’s good money. So we can’t say he’s not doing nothing. As far as any other artists, if you can tell me another Bad Boy artist that’s doing good, I’ll listen to you, other than that, I can’t waste my time trying to think ’cause I don’t think there’s one that exists.” (Daily Motion)
After The Notorious B.I.G. died, the whole Bad Boy Records roster began leaving Combs lonelier than Jennifer Lopez did in 2002. A few of Diddy’s artists traded in their rhyme books for holy books: Mase found Christianity, Loon found Islam, even Shyne began studying Judaism during his incarceration. The LOX publicly fought a publishing issue with Diddy that remained unresolved for nearly a decade, and even Black Rob has resorted to blasting Puff Daddy. But all of that is nothing compared to ex-Bad Boy ghostwriter/rapper Mark Curry, who released a Sean Combs expose in 2009. Take that, take that, take that.
10. A Tribe Called Quest
Prior to the unveiling of The Love Movement, the group announced that it would be their last album together. Fans were surprised, as the breakdown had been kept discreet. In an interview with The Source, the group cited their frustration with Jive Zomba as a significant factor in the breakup. (Wikipedia)
This crew keep teasing us, “just like Tisha did Martin”; they keep breaking up, briefly re-uniting, and then jumping ship again. We’ve enjoyed their jazzy cuts ever since their 1990 debut, and Queens emcees definitely have earned their spot as one of the greatest acts in hip-hop. Hopefully, at some point, Phife and Q-Tip will come back together to maraud our ears once more.
Honorable Mention: Fat Boys
The band was included on the Fresh Fest tours of the mid-80s, along with stars such as LL Cool J, Run-D.M.C., Whodini, and later, Public Enemy. This gave them legitimacy. They also starred in “Krush Groove,” a film loosely based on the early days at Def Jam. Their big commercial success came later in 1987, with the LP “Crushin’.” Three years later, the Fat Boys broke up, and Buffy died in 1995 due to his steadily degenerating health. Ironically his weight, which was part of his public persona and helped fuel his career as a rap star, ultimately killed him. Many of the group’s old school peers continue to receive recognition. The Fat Boys’ role in the early years of rap is downplayed, however, perhaps because of their humorous edge that made them a novelty. (Suite 101)
“First the Fat Boys break-up, now every day I wake up….” Remember that Jay-Z lyric from “Heart of The City”? Prince Markie Dee, Kool Rock-Ski and Buff Love the Human Beatbox made up the larger-than-life trio whose humorous lyrics were a delight to recite during hip-hop’s Golden Era. The Fat Boys also broke ground as one of the first rap groups to be featured in a film. The Fat Boys get an honorable mention because sadly, they are the only group on this list who will actually never reunite in full, due to Buff Love’s death in 1995.
Which of these break-ups were the most significant in hip-hop? Speak on it below.